Friday, June 06, 2008

The masculinization of the church, part 5

For background, see Part 1, and the other posts in the series.

According to organizations like "Church for Men" and "GodMen", and a growing number of men who like to flatter themselves by claiming that they are "Biblical partriarchs" instead of just ordinary Christian guys, the big problem with the church in America is that it is feminized. Frankly, their arguments have never made much logical sense to me. For the most part, it is a lot of hysteria, a lot of whining, and a lot of childish silliness with some paranoia mixed in. A man can't simply say he doesn't like pews, or that church pews have outlived their usefulness, or even that church pews were a bad idea to begin with --- if he is one of the hysterical or whiny "blame it all on the women" types, he has to insist that church pews are a sign of the feminization of the church!

Back in the 50's and 60's, conspiracy theorists loved to shout that the communists were taking over everything. Today, in a growing number of evangelical fringe groups, they love to shout that the feminists are taking over everything. (I actually happen to know some real feminists --- as in, they self-describe themselves as such and are very well read on the subject --- and they think these guys are hilariously misinformed. But that's for another series of posts --- and another writer.)

Certainly it is true that many churches are no longer as extremely male-dominated as they were a generation ago in our our country. Today, in a number of churches, women are not confined to children's Sunday School, the kitchen and the "missionary circle" as the only way of being involved in church "ministry". A growing number of male church leaders are willing to act on the belief that women, as well as men, are capable of receiving the Holy Spirit, and that spiritual giftings for women can include more than mercy and helps.

It is also true that many churches in American are filled with more women than men. But, then again, there were more women followers of Jesus who were there at the Cross, and His women followers were the first ones there at the Tomb after He arose...

It is also true that there are churches that have fallen into heresy and that some --- but certainly not all or even most --- of these heresies involve expressions of feminist spirituality.

But all that being true hardly means that we need to run around like Chicken Little and scream shrilly that the feminists are taking over the church. Unless, of course, we are those men who operate with a very simple paradigm:

Feminine = bad
Masculine = good

That is what is really behind all of this hysteria about the church being too feminized. No one is arguing that the church was too male-dominated, too masculinized, and that this feminization is providing a healthy balance. No one is arguing that the church should reflect all of its members, male and female. Instead, those who believe that the church is becoming feminized see this as a bad thing, an extremely bad thing.

The problem with the church, they say, is that it is not masculine enough. Because, of course, being masculine is good. Being feminine isn't. It is as if men need less redeeming than women, as if their masculine natures are either less fallen or more easily redeemed. And one cannot help but wonder if, in their worldview, women are ever truly redeemed. Being feminine is seen as somehow more fallen, less able to be be an image bearer of God, less able to be led by the Holy Spirit, less able to be empowered by Him for His glory.

What is good about our culture and about the church is therefore seen as being masculine. What is bad and weak about our culture and the church is seen as being feminine.

Of course, this means that the proponents of the "church should be masculine" view sometimes have to make some great leaps of logic. As a commenter on this blog pointed out, referring to an article on the Bayly's blog, "I was especially amused to read the phrase, speaking of the Bride of Christ, 'she has been emasculated.'"

Yes, it is amusing.

But it is also sad. To say nothing of the fact that this view demeans the very image of God.

And it misses the point.

The problem with the church in America is not that there are too many women in church. It is not that the male leadership is not masculine enough. It is not that, to quote one disgusting article, there are "girly-men in the pulpit". The problem is not a lack of testosterone.

It's a lack of Jesus.

So, yes, I don't really believe that the problem with the church is that it is too masculine. I think the problem with the church is that it reflects its human self-proclaimed leaders (who are usually male) more than it reflects its Head. I was using a certain amount of irony to make some important points.

But I am also quite convinced of a truly radical notion that I have: that women are called to be --- and can be --- just as Christlike as men. Even more wild and crazy, I believe that when God declared His creation of male and female as good, He meant that even femininity was good. Call me a heretical simpleton for taking Scripture so literally, but there you have it.

And the solution to the problem with the church in American? Ah...well, that's the subject of a whole 'nuther series...

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  1. Check out this blog entry. In fact, that whole blog looks interesting. In the comment section, someone said "Jesus lover of my soul" songs were feminized, and I just couldn't resist making two rather sarcastic replies to that remark.

  2. Rebecca,
    You hit the nail on the head:

    It's in everything. In marriage, a man is good while a woman has to fight her personality and subdue it.

    I don't believe in fighting for women's rights within the church because it goes against the message of the Gospel. Jesus never told us to uphold our rights, but he did tell us to uphold the truth, and the truth is that both men and women were made in the image of God. Both are saved in the same manner, and both receive of the Spirit.
    I guess they forgot to read Galatians. Maybe they feel they don't have the problems the Galatia church had back when Paul wrote the letter. I wonder, really.

    Thanks for a very good post.

  3. Rebecca,

    For so long I have been wanting to tackle this issue and I just can't come up with any other word but "grrrr". :-)

    Thank you for putting this so succinctly. I agree with you that the problem is NOT too many women in the church or pews or pastels or flowers or kleenex or not enough avenues for men to serve!

  4. Frankly, when I was very young, women and kids went to church and it was like pulling teeth to get the men to participate in ANYTHING. Christinity wasn't considered manly. Father Theodore (I was Catholic back then) used to emphasize that Jesus and the apostles weren't girly-men -- they were big and strong, because farmers and fishermen had to be, in order to do their jobs -- and that real men didn't have to be afraid to put aside the lift-heavy-objects-and-grunt mentality, and pursue spiritual things -- it wasn't unmasculine or emasculating to do this. Gradually more of the men started coming to church, and they still do in the rural Catholic parish in which I grew up. The service is the same as it always was, neither "masculinized" or "feminised", but now they have both men and women taking part and serving the Lord, and children too, and things are going rather well there!

  5. Yet another example of the reason I wrote this series comes from the Bayly brothers blog just today:

    We believe that worship music should be unashamedly masculine. This may be the hardest pill for people to swallow. Men should not have to check their sexuality at the door and only ever posture themselves as women in relation to God the Father. Not only is that disgusting, it’s unbiblical. The church corporate is the Bride of Christ, but we are to relate personally to God as sons to our Father. The absence of masculine worship lends itself to the absence of themes central to the Christian faith—warfare being an obvious example. Compare the content of worship songs today with that of the Psalter and you’ll start to see that something has gone horribly wrong.

    What if someone were to say the following:

    "Women should not have to check their sexuality at the door and only ever posture themselves as men in relation to God the Father."

    Yet, isn't that what we are asked to do by so many churches? Isn't that what we are asked to do when worship music is "unashamedly masculine"? (I'm trying to figure this one out. Maybe they've taken a page from the "Godmen" songbook. If so...ick...some of that is defintely not worship music --- at least not worship of God!)

    Can't a hymn or worship song just be that, focused on God and not on us? Must we have "boy hymns" and "girl hymns"?

  6. very good post - can you tell I'm enjoying your blog? :-)