Monday, May 12, 2008

The masculinization of the church, part 3

For background, see Part 1.

Men, or so I've been told by many of them, like to fix things. They also like to organize things. In addition, they like to know who is in charge. Women, or so I've been told by many men, may like these things also, but not to the degree that men do. In fact, some men argue that these are not wants, but NEEDS. If there is a problem, a man NEEDS to fix it. If there something going on, a man NEEDS to organize it. If there is a project, or a group of people, or any sort of situation, a man NEEDS to know who is in charge.

The church, unfortunately, has been masculinized because of this. What started out as an extremely loosely structured group of believers in the New Testament quickly became highly structured, organized, and hierarchical.

But I think it's only getting worse.

A few examples:

1. Men will sometimes see problems where none really exist and then rush in to "fix" them. For example, rather than being concerned about the lack of discipleship and spiritual growth going on in a typical church, the male leadership will tend to convince themselves that the real problem is that the youth group is "too small". In order to "fix" this problem, all sorts of programs are suggested for implementation, ranging from hiring a new, more dynamic and exciting youth pastor, to building a youth building, to buying an expensive new turnkey multimedia youth curriculum, to having rock concerts, etc., etc.

2. Pastors will worry that the small groups they started as a means of fostering deeper fellowship are working all too well, and will insist that all small groups be disbanded and reformed every six or twelve months, so that no one becomes too "close".

3. Male leadership will endlessly worry over who is in charge. Countless hours will be wasted in numerous board committees arguing over such ridiculous things as "Well, who is really in charge of making sure the day care center is locked up after another group uses it? Is that the janitor's job? The christian ed director's job? The trustee committee's job?"

4. "But who will be in charge?" will become one of the first responses whenever anything is suggested, even if it is as simple as making sure a kleenex box is available at the front of the church. One woman I know brought up the idea of having family fellowship dinners. She was required to write up a proposal, which apparently was discussed by the elders for almost a year. Finally they told her they couldn't find a suitable person to "be in charge" of such an undertaking. In many churches, prayer groups are frowned upon unless an elder or staff person is in charge. Women can't just meet in a home to have fellowship and pray together unless they have a "covering", i.e. a man who will exercise authority over them. Someone always has to be in charge, and it has to be someone who meets the approval of the male leadership of the church.

5. Structure, organization, and programs become far more important than relationships. I even heard of one pastor who searched online for a "fellowship program" that he could implement in his church! Finally he decided that a certain cell group curriculum would be effective in bringing about healthier fellowship. The idea of simply...well, forming relationships? loving one another? everyone functioning as a member of the Body? Who would be in charge? How could this be done without a program? In another small church, after the leadership board refused to buy a $5,000 program designed to teach people to greet visitors in a friendly manner, the pastor spend months designing his own program. It was so highly structured as to be baffling. "Greeters" were told where to stand, exactly what words to say, how to show a visitor to a seat in the sanctuary, how to walk, etc. The instructions were so complex and took so many pages that one person asked in dismay, "How can I ever memorize all this so that I'll be sure that I'm doing it right?" One woman distilled the program into, "Smile. Be friendly. Let Jesus love this person through you. Introduce him/her to others. Make him/her feel comfortable and welcome." But that's the feminized version, of course!

I have to admit that I am growing more baffled as I grow older. Isn't the church supposed to be a family? Why don't we act as one, instead of as a corporation, a social club, or some sort of organization? Why has the church become a business?

The sad truth is that many men don't fully understand the family either. I've read and heard many men who like to say, for example, that the husband is the CEO, the wife the plant manager, and the children employees-in-training. Either that, or the husband is the Captain, the wife is the first mate, and the children are all sailors. It doesn't matter that the Bible never gives these sorts of analogies. Men like them. It doesn't matter that, in the world, CEO's are forbidden from having sexual relations with plant managers, as this would be seen as a horrible misuse of power. Apparently this is a good thing in the corporate model of marriage.

Lord, save us from our families becoming masculinized. Let our families be the right blend of masculine and feminine, just as you intended. Let us not pretend to be businesses or sports teams or military units.

Lord, save us from masculinized churches. Let us be Your family, Your Body, Your bride.

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  1. I've seen that problem up close and personally, have been the victim of some pretty ham-handed handling of "cell groups" that mitigated against the relationships they were designed to support. But I never really thought of it as a masculinization. Though now that you mention it...that does seem like a one-word summary of what's wrong with the cell group movement.

    I've also seen complaints that the church is too feminine: that men are uncomfortable singing love songs to Jesus and sharing their feelings in small fellowship group meetings or sitting still for a 45 minute sermon about (essentially) relationships. I feel compassionate about that too.

  2. hmmm....perhaps you need to send some of those masculine males this way, because in many churches here its the woman doing most of the work, with little leadership. In fact some might say that the church is mostly a female establishment, with woman filling the seats and men staying at home.

    We need to remember that God made males very different than he made us females. They were created to see a problem and fix it....I would venture to say that most men step out on this duty more so than those who step up to the plate. We have men who would rather leave all the bill paying, big decisions, etc, etc to their wives instead of taking on responsibility. Where are you finding all these take charge kinda guys...I'll need to know where to look in 20 years for my daughters.

    I personally would rather have a man with some initiative and backbone (even if he faulters sometimes) than one who slithers away from responsiblity...just my personal preference.

    An interesting view none the I've never heard before, nor witnessed.

  3. Rebecca, I linked to your blog in my post about Irena Sendler, a woman I found out about from Sandy's blog.

    I said I viewed these latest entries of yours as a kind of "reverse parody" of all the trashing of the "feminization" of the church.

    I agree with your comment that we need to be the perfect blend of both the masculine and the feminine, and I kind of sort of agree that SINCE what is feminine about the church IS dismissed as evil by men such as the Baylys, then turn about is certainly fair play.

    However, I'm not going to play by their rules. I think what you have done here is a good job of table turning. But because I don't agree with characterizing problems as "boy" problems" or "girl problems," I can only take this as a parody.

    Audrey, I don't know what circles you run around in, but from the Roman Catholic church to most Evangelical churches I've been in, the men have been the ones in charge. For the most part, in my current church, they are leading well, and not as Rebecca describes. That doesn't make them less masculine, however, just not into heavy handed authoritarianism, which Jesus condemned in the gospels, and which Peter and Paul (who were manly men) said should not characterize church leaders.

    But more to the point, what you may not be aware of is there are many places online where men speak of the evils of the "feminization" of the church, and they are not strictly speaking of women becoming pastors/elders/whatever, or doing most of the work in the church, although that may be a point here and there in those discussions. But primarily, they are speaking of what they call "feminized" praise choruses, the emphasis on a heartfelt relationship with God, a sense of community and interpersonal connectedness in the church. These things they label as "feminizing" influences, and the insinuation is always there in the articles I've read that these things are bad. That men shy away from these things and (totally unlike King David, btw), don't like to get into expressing the emotional side of their relationship to God, so it's the fault of the women's feminine influence that the men stay away. Which, when you think of King David (a man after God's own heart) is PURE RUBBISH.

    The Postmodern and Emerging influences may be described in these terms as well. Never mind that it is the MEN, such as Rob Bell and Brian McClaren, who are primarily leading the way in these matters. Some of the people who oppose Bell and McClaren still have to describe these things as "girl" or "pink" evils that we need to get rid of so the church can become more "manly." By that they mean that it is the women who throw sound doctrine to the wind in favor of the ooey-gooey stuff, and all these influences are bad because they replace sound doctrine.

    They don't say this in those exact words, but that is the clear implication.

    The bottom line is, it's a false dilemma/dichotomy they make, because heartfelt praise and relationships are the essence of eternal life, according to Jesus -- who said, "And this is eternal life, that they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent." To have one, and to emphasize it, doesn't mean that one necessarily eschews sound doctrine.

  4. Audrey, here are some links which describe the language being used:

    This link has the author simply using the word "feminized" to cast aspersion on Starbucks, which he compares to the emergent church. It's just part of the lingo of many men -- everything they perceive as bad is "feminized." And that doesn't refer to feminism, btw.

    This next link nails the logical problem on the head, as far as I'm concerned. I simply said it's a false dichotomy between emotional, heartfelt worship and sound doctrine, and the author of this link claims it's a false dichotomy men make between the transcendence and the immanence of God, which might be the case and is worth thinking about. But I agree that the primary problem is a false dilemma, or dichotomy is being made between the relational and the factual, to the point where one gets labeled a "girl" problem and is "bad" and we need to get back to the "boy" stuff.

    In the first place, it's not a "girl" problem, so the label is wrong. In the second place, what they are complaining about is not always necessarily a bad thing that throws objectivity and the basic facts of the faith out the window.

    In truth -- both the relational, and the objective, are necessary, and if we must label one pink, and the other blue, I guess we must, but for heaven's sake they are both needed, and are two aspects of who we are in both our cognitive and our emotional and personal relationship to our Creator.