‘Iron Strength and Infinite Tenderness’: Herbert Gray and the Making of Christian Masculinities at War and at Home, 1900–40
In December 1949, the outgoing honorary chairman of the National Marriage Guidance Council (NMGC), the Rev. A. Herbert Gray, wrote to thank his colleagues for their presentation of ‘a first class lawn-mower’.1 The gift was a fitting metaphor for a man whose numerous publications on interwar Christian family life seemed to epitomise Alison Light’s renowned depiction of the anti-heroic ‘suburban husband pottering in his herbaceous borders’.2 For in stark contrast to most churchmen’s reluctance to discuss the dilemmas of modern marriage, Herbert Gray, a Free Church Scottish Presbyterian minister with unusually liberal views, pioneered an influential pastoral theology of married love during the 1920s and 1930s and, with it, a strikingly affective, sexualised construction of modern Christian masculinity. As this chapter will argue, his harrowing experiences as an army chaplain in World War I did much to inspire this important later work. Authoring over 30 books and essays on the socio-political relevance of modern religion, of which more than half were devoted to sex education and relationship counselling, Gray successfully anticipated governmental concerns over the perceived breakdown of family life and established himself as the venerated prophet of the marriage guidance movement: ‘To say that I admired and honoured him would not be enough … I truly loved him’,3 observed his friend and NMGC co-founder David Mace in 1948.
KeywordsHegemonic Masculinity Successful Marriage Western Front British Soldier British Masculinity
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