Friday, August 26, 2005

The Feminization of the Church

I'm steaming. Steam is coming out my ears, my eyes, probably my nose....taking deep breaths...in....out.....

The annual men's conference is coming up in Septembe. It looks great. Great prizes (a HARLEY!) and great fun, and great speakers, wonderful worship team too. I was feeling a bit envious, frankly. Yesterday I received a page with the workshop titles. I was looking at them and getting really happy about the topics for our church guys. And then--there it was. "Making the Church Man Friendly." I am aware of the preponderance of women in almost all churches, and I am concerned about it. That led me to an internet search (why did I do that?) that has me fuming.

Slight digression about books:

I should not do internet searches like that for the same reason I avoid the "Men" or "Women" sections of a Christian bookstore as if it they were a pit of snakes or spiders.

In the men's section (predominate colors are strong and dark, brown, deep red, black, dark green) one finds books about how every man in the whole world can only think with the wrong head, is pondering sex about 90% of the time, only keeps himself from foaming at the mouth with great effort, wants to be "wild" and rescue a damsel in distress. And still he needs someone to help him learn how to be a real manly man. Grunt, grunt.

In the women's section the predominate colors are...no, make that color is PINK. Welll, sometimes other pastels are evident too. But just count how many "women's" books are pink! Pictures of dainty tea cups, lace, ruffles, and roses are featured on book covers as if we all hanker for the Victorian era. Women, of course, never battle sexual issues. We just battle our desire to dominate. We must be taught how to be real women, submissive, sweet, yet we must empower or teach our husbands how to "lead" (something is terribly wrong with that), and we must fulfill our "highest calling"--that is to be good wives and mothers. (What if God hasn't sent a husband, or if the woman browsing the aisle is childless?) And we have to be ever more "feminine" (whatever that means). In those pink books it is a word repeated till it loses whatever meaning it ever had.

And here I thought my highest calling was to be conformed to the image of Christ Jesus!

What is this current obsession (fad?) in the Evangelical church with being masculine or feminine? And why are we so prone to these fads in the first place? Ah, that is fodder for a future blog entry.


I'll just skip those sections of the store and head over to the Bibles or the theology books, thank you very much! Give me a good, meaty tome by Andrew Murray!

Back to the feminized church. In my quest to find how to make our church more acceptable to men, I perused the internet last evening. There I read that women are taking over. Women love to sit around and talk, but men like to do stuff. Women like relating, but men like sports and competition. Women like to learn. Men like to sweat! Women like music. Especially sappy music. Men, on the other hand, like good strong lyrics. Women like sappy art too, but if we want to attract men we need strong art from classic artists. And men like to do stuff. Women like Bible studies. Men like to punch each other. And men like to do stuff. Men want to give their lives to a cause. Women, on the other hand, want to sway and sing Kum By Ya. (Okay, I exaggerated there, but the others really are all things I read.) Okay, I get it. Men like to do stuff.

Then I read that God told men to dominate and told women to help out. That God told men to subdue the earth but God told women to...uh...to help out. (Do these people read Genesis??) Oh, I forgot, it's women that like to study scripture. So much for all the male scholars.

I read that the real feminization of the church came about when we started thinking women could be leaders. It started with Indira Ghandi. We wanna be like her. Right. I read that "gentle Jesus, meek and mild" is repulsive to men. Men are looking for "the wild Jesus." I read that the church is full of pansies, "Nancy boys" and "simpering whiners who act like women" and homosexuals. I read that while we know men have dominated the clergy, male members of the clergy are effeminate! Psychological tests proved it! Ah, so that explains why centuries of men in leadership has led to a feminized church.

The insulting verbiage is not even veiled. It's in bold print for all to see. The anti-woman rhetoric is glossed over by such caveats as, "I'm not bashing women, of course..." Right. If a "feminized" man is whining, weak and simpering, what does that say about what women are like? (Note: I hate whining, I am NOT emotionally weak, and I have never "simpered" in my life.)

The insult is primarily to women, but it is to men as well. Men come off looking like sex-crazed Neanderthals.

I recently perused a Christian men's magazine. First I read how men need to step up and be men. (What does that mean, exactly? I thought God had already created the right plumbing for them.) I read how we need to make sure our boys grow up to be strong, manly heroes who can lead the battle. And play football, hopefully.

In the very same issue I read an article that encouraged the church to allow for diversity, to not expect every man to be the same or to have the same issues or interests. The author had been a quiet, musically and artistically gifted boy who was taunted and called "fag" because he did not enjoy sports and preferred quiet activities. He had struggled with his self image, and he had agonized over whether he might really be gay. He wasn't. It was an excellent piece of writing. But I was stunned that no one on the editorial staff had apparently seen that these two articles were in total opposition.

What happened to reading the Bible and finding out what God's plan is for us?


I do not read scripture about how to become more masculine or more feminine. Where are those scriptures? The Bible nowhere attempts to define those words at all. While we do have a portrait of a virtuous woman (Proverbs 31), she is not simpering. She is strong and courageous and hard-working and kind. I do not find scripture about the "wild" Jesus. On the contrary, he appears focused, self controlled and calm. I do not see scripture that says only men have leadership skills. I do not see scripture that says women all love to relate and men all love to sweat.

I do see where scripture talks about the priesthood of believers. No specifications about gender. I do see where spiritual gifts are given to members of the Body of Christ for the edification of all. No specifications about manliness. I do see that we are exhorted in no uncertain terms to die to ourselves and our old, sinful nature. We are told to renew our minds, to walk in the Spirit, to pray without ceasing, to be thankful, to rejoice, to love, to preach, to be strong, to gather with other believers--and much more.

And just for the record, I am female. See my photo. I do not think I am "masculine." My husband doesn't appear to think so either.

AND

I hate whining. I've heard just as much whining from boys or men as from girls or women. I know simpering women exist. They make me crazy. So do simpering men. Stamp out simpering!

I believe leaders come in all sizes, colors, ages and both genders. So do those who help behind the scenes.

I believe in strong song lyrics, and I sometimes lament the lack of good strong theology in our current church music. (My favorite hymn is "A Mighty Fortress is Our God." According to what I read on the web, that is a manly song.)

I believe in a gentle, meek Jesus. (If some of these manly men would study Greek they'd see that meekness is not weakness, but is strength under control.) I don't think Jesus was "wild" but I do think he was strong and was not afraid to take on evil or to speak strong words.

I believe in dying to self and forsaking sin and following the Lord with all our hearts. That means counting the cost and giving up our lives if need be. (See previous post on "Getting Saved.") According to what I've just read, men are looking for a cause to give their lives to. So am I.

Stand up for Jesus, ye soldiers of the Cross! As a child, I loved that song. Something in my heart rose up in joy at the thought of lifting His banner high and marching against the foe. I knew who the foe was.

Just a few thoughts about men and women I know. All the names are changed, just in case I share something a bit too personal.

WOMEN


Lois dislikes the color pink. She used to wish she'd been born a man because she thought men were strong but women were not. Today she is learning that she can be ALL God created her to be. She likes to talk and relate and have lunch but also is a strong fighter for justice and a champion of the underdog. She wants to change the world, and she just might. She also is a wife and a mother who really loves her family. Actually, she can be a little "wild" for Jesus. Uh oh.

Penny has a very "feminine" home, and she loves crafts. But she doesn't talk much. She does not like shopping, singing or "doing lunch." She has only once attended a women's meeting, to my knowledge. But she likes to work hard. Yesterday I saw her actually sweating as she pulled weeds.

Suzy is a pastor, a counselor, a strong preacher. She wishes she had found a man to share life with, but while she is sometimes lonely she does not spend much time pondering what might have been. Suzy loves physical work and sports. She has a hard time sitting for long, and sometimes laments her lack of sociability and "relational skills." She also has the kindest heart of anyone I know.

Wanda is a secretary. She likes pink, roses, Victorian decorating, jewelry, singing, doing lunch, and conversing. She also is a leader (she won't admit it, but she is). And she is strong and courageous.

MEN

Stan likes hunting and fishing and rough play. He also loves to talk about spiritual issues. And he prays. And he is really very gentle.

Joe is big and looks "manly" and loves sports. He likes to do things rather than talk, and he sweats a lot. So far, so good. But he owns a pink shirt. He loves animals and small children and shopping. The man is a shopping nut. And he loves kitchen gadgets. He does the laundry. He can be bossy, but knows it isn't his God-given right to be. (Okay, I gave that last one away. It's my husband.)

Ron is quiet, meek, humble, gentle, wise, and very relational. And man, he loves to go out for lunch. But he loves golfing, and he used to be a cop, so I guess he is okay.

Leo loves music. He is creative, artsy, talks a lot, has many friends. He is very "sensitive." He doesn't sweat much at all, actually. No, he's not gay. He's engaged to a woman who also loves music.

Nick is musical too. He is a quiet loner He does like to work out, but he does not appear to care much about group sports, rarely shows up for group work days, doesn't hunt, fish, camp or even drive fast.

Jack likes race cars and grilling in the back yard. He also likes cats. (Cats? Is it manyly to like cats?) He's married to Lois, mentioned above, who prefers the dog! Oh dear!

Wayne is athletic, muscular, likes sports, seems a bit "wild," hunts, rides a Harley, doesn't usually read much. Ah, finally, a real man!

Okay, I despise stereotypes.

Now, back to the issue at hand. How do we encourage men to come to church?

11 comments:

D. P. said...

SingingOwl, this is easily the best blog post I have read all week! Keep up the good work :-)

Anonymous said...

errrr...... I'll post some suggestions in my blog :) Galina

ruthiebgr8 said...

Preach it, Sister Dorcas!!!!

ruthiebgr8 said...

Perhaps the best way to encourage men to come to church is to ask them as though they were people in search of a spiritual faith-journey instead of beer-guzzling, salivating at Playboy, Neanderthals. Why do we have to "market" faith? Why can't we just meet people where they are and show them the truly Good News of our personal faith journeys?

Jennifer said...

Offer them something they can't get anywhere else....all the "neanderthal" stuff is available to men everywhere!

DP is right. You "cleared the table and threw a fit," and I appreciate your post and your counterexamples. I know women are strong, independent, and faithful, and I know men who care for the young, work hard at relating to people, and love to read. In fact, I enjoy my time with the "counterexamples" more than I like to spend time with people who try to fit the mold.

SingingOwl said...

Well, you see, that is why I was looking for ideas. Because I think that what I'm doing now is meeting people where they are with the Good News. At least, that is my goal. And yet, women do outnumber men in every church I've ever been in.

CT said...

My wife, who works in a science field, says with tongue in cheek that men must lack a religion gene, and that is why we have to give them all those church positions to lure them in. Maybe if we stopped telling men they have to be in charge of everything and responsible for everything, maybe they'd stop being scared off.

Churches can work you to death. If guys like to "do stuff," then they should be coming to church in droves. How about building a concrete building in Africa for the missionaries? My daughter did that, and tied wire and made her own bricks, too. And survived the malaria she caught there, for that matter.

I think people just don't want to be caught doing wierd stuff. And let's face it, a lot of stuff some churches do is just plain wierd.

SingingOwl said...

"Maybe if we stopped telling men they have to be in charge of everything and responsible for everything, maybe they'd stop being scared off." Interesting point! And hooray for your daughter. She sounds a LOT like my own daughter! LOL at the men who like to "do stuff" should be very happy to come to church. THAT IS SO TRUE! I could assign a corps of guys to about 20 jobs tomorrow. Hey...maybe that is what I should do? ;-)

Kevin said...

Amen, Amen!

Part of the problem with that gender stereotyping you've named so wonderfully is that we men aren't allowed much in the way of emotional or spiritual expression. We get physical and mental expression, that's about it.

Thankfully, I think more men are starting to realize they want something more than beer, football, and Playboy, especially younger men who are growing up with strong(-er than the stereotype) women and more self-aware (than the stereotype) men as role models.

Case in point: my mom is a Ph.D. scientist, and my dad is a social worker.

Anonymous said...

Excellent, love it!
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Amy said...

"Stamp out simpering!"

Hehehe