Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Real men don't eat quiche. Too bad. I like quiche -- my wife used to make a bacon and Swiss quiche that I still crave (even though it is probably health only in small quantities). Real men don't do gestures during songs in church. I am not making a rule but simply supplying an observation based upon experience. The folks who like to clap and wave their hands and do gestures during songs in church are inevitably small children and women of all ages (though not all of them). [Boy am I going to get flak for saying this!!!!!] I think contemporary worship -- in particular the idea that we need to DO something during singing -- is a fruit of the feminization of the faith and of the church. I think that all those syrupy, sappy, love songs to Jesus my BFF are signs of the feminzation of the faith and of the church. I think that an aversion to a hierarchical perspective on God, in which we begin with admitting that He is God and we are not, He is Creator and we are mere creatures, that God has teeth and not just tears -- this aversion to a wholly other God is a mark of the feminization of the faith and of the church.
Real men kneel. Real men bow. Real men genuflect. Real men cross themselves. Real men serve as altar boys. Real men confess their sins. Real men understand that God is not come to us to be best buds but to deliver salvation to us. Real men look to the crucifix and see the strength and power of such sacrificial love. Real men sing sturdy, rhythmic tunes that sing not of our feelings but of what God has done by His mighty acts in Christ to deliver His captive people from their sins, kill them in baptism to make them alive with eternal life, and feed them upon the food of His own flesh and blood.
All the efforts of the last several generations to soften the image of God, to make worship more about us and our wants and likes, and to shape the Office of the Pastor more a therapeutic ministry than a sacramental one -- all of this has resulted in a church in which men are more and more absent or silent. We wonder all the time "where are all the men?" If statistics are true, the church has taken on the appearance of an organization largely populated by and directed toward women. There are many who suggest that the men who are present have been given the subtle message to keep their masculinity under wraps... that those who lead the church and worship tend to emphasize feelings over objective truth in sermons and teaching, to emphasize the horizontal element of our relationships (to one another) over the vertical relationship (to God), and a more collegial style than one that possesses authority. The typical male in a feminized church has a warm smile, carefully quaffed hair, is dressed to the nines, speaks positively about everyone and everything (except when he admits his own struggles to be a man in touch with himself), and seems to equate faith with getting in touch with your real self -- oh, am I talking about Joel Osteen? It is not just me. I am reporting statements that come from across the board -- from non-denominational churches to Roman Catholics. Suffice it to say that I believe there is much truth in all of this.
Where are the men? It seems that one of the marks of men is that when women enter an area, they recede. Whether this is good or bad, there is much evidence to all of this. In the average Protestant congregation, the clergy is female, the ushers are female, the choir is mostly female, and the worship service spends an inordinate amount of words and time on feelings instead of objective truth. Now, I am not sure which came first -- the absence of men or the women who took over these jobs. Look at the governing boards of most Protestant congregations and many Roman Catholic parish councils -- what do you see? Mostly female faces. It is not the fault of women and, in fact, we might rather describe it as the emasculation of the church and the faith more so than the feminization.
I do not mean to disdain the contributions or participation of women. The very prototype of our faith is the Blessed Virgin Mary. Many of those (perhaps a majority) who followed Jesus were women. The last folks at the foot of the cross were women. Those who rushed to the grave on Easter morning were women. In every age and generation women have arisen as saints, martyrs, and examples of faith and piety for all of us to follow. So far be it from me to say anything against their visible place and role in the church. I only ask, when did we get the idea that in order for men to be in the church needed to show more of their feminine side?
Real men are men of faith and real women are women of faith and they stand together in the pew before the Mighty God and Lord whose love is strong as nails pounded into a cross and whose life is stronger than the grave that tried to imprison Him. Somewhere along the way, many churches have chosen sides and the feminine side seems to have won. Whose fault this is, I cannot say (except to admit that the power of sin and evil would use whatever resource available to weaken the Church of Jesus Christ). The point is this. We need real men every bit as much as we need real women -- in the home and in the pews.
I am convinced that strong Law/Gospel preaching, the liturgy, and the great hymnody of the Church are assets in recalling men to their rightful place along side the women in the pews. I am equally convinced that a casual understanding of God and of worship, songs of faith that sing like ballads or love songs to Jesus, and Pastors who act more like therapists and priests are hurting and not helping the cause of Christ.
I am no misogynist. I do not want to drive women away. But the way Christianity is going in America, the church seems to have chosen sides and real men are no longer welcome in God's house unless they mask their masculinity. That is how I see it.... so have at me if you disagree....
BTW, I am not hawking the book shown in the image -- just showing that it is not only men who suggest that this feminization of the church and faith is happening in America.... and other places, too!