Thursday, October 1, 2009
In case you had not noticed, there are abundant surveys that describe the increasing feminization of the Church -- I am not talking about theology here but about the gender of those most likely in the pews on Sunday morning and those who are seen as the spiritual teachers of faith in the household.
Let me begin by speaking personally. I grew up in a congregation where the pews were well populated with men and where there were male teachers in the Sunday school. Though my mother taught me many things, my faith was shaped more so by my father. My mother was the disciplinarian and pushed me so that I did not settle for what was easy. I will talk more about her some other day. My father hardly ever disciplined me but his generous spirit with others, his deep piety, and his daily devotions taught me in more than words the values of my Christian faith. I would sometimes sit at the top of the stairs early in the morning hours and look down on him sitting in the chair by the fireplace with his open Bible, Portals of Prayer, and folded hands. He taught me that real men pray and live out their faith.
In my own parish we have resisted the growing tide of those who see more females than males in Church. We have married men to who come to Church alone because their wives do not attend. We have many single men (of all ages, including many young men due to our closeness to Fort Campbell). We have men who sing in the choir, ring hand bells, serve as assisting ministers in the liturgy, greet at the door, sit in Bible study -- as well as the traditional male dominions of usher, properties crew members, etc...
But... we do not have any male Sunday school teachers. I wish we did. We have a couple of guys who work with younger youth but none at the high school level. I wish we did. We do have a men's club but it is more social than spiritual. I wish we had a men's prayer group or something like it.
Real men... Real men are spiritual leaders and role models for their household. This is not about ruling the roost or barking orders but embodying the faith for the rest of those within the household. Real men love the Lord, they worship the Lord in the Lord's House, they sing out the hymns, they bow their heads in prayer, they listen intently to the sermon, they bring tithes and offerings to the Lord, they kneel at the table of the Lord... and they live out what begins here in their homes, workplaces, neighborhoods and communities.
Religion is not for sissies. Faith is not a crutch for the weak. It is the call of the Lord who is strong enough to suffer to those who would take up their cross, deny themselves, and follow Him. His work has born the fruit that enables us to hear and heed this call, by the power of the Holy Spirit. The love which Scripture talks about is not some passive acceptance but the active and strong love that redeems. This is the love real men show to their wives, children, parents, friends, family, co-workers, and even strangers on the street corners.
Real men... Real men talk about the Lord -- not so much in the context of feelings but as voices that tell the story of the cross and empty tomb and the gifts that flow from Jesus' Passion and Resurrection... Real men pray -- not just when they have no where else to turn but all the time... from the table at mealtime to the morning hours before the day fully begins to last fleeting moments before sleep claims us. Real men know what they believe -- they know the catechism, the know the voice of Scripture as the familiar voice of THEIR Shepherd Lord speaking to them... Real men make no apology for the faith but defend their faith in workplace conversations and when the challenges of life and people press down upon the power of belief.
So... I issue a call to real men... come and sit at the feet of Jesus every Sunday... and then go and serve this Jesus with all your gifts, talents, and abilities until the week calls you again to the Lord's House... Think about it... about becoming a Sunday school teacher, working with youth, etc... Real men believe, real men worship, real men pray, real men practice their faith...
I know that I was mostly a pushover when it came to disciplining my kids -- they know it and their mom knows it. I know that they learned many things from their mother and I have too in the 31+ years we have been married. But I hope they learned a few things from me... maybe what I saw in my own dad as I peered down through the darkness to the chair, the lamp, and the man of faith at prayer... I hope that they learned from me that real men love and pray and forgive and share and sacrifice and have values and live what they believe (albeit within the frailty of our sinful humanity)... I hope and pray that my sons learned that from me to help them become real men and I hope and pray my daughter learned to expect it from the man she will someday bring home...
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My father was a man of great faith and a wonderful example. I did not appreciate it until much later in life - when I started to mature spiritually. He sacrificed financially to send my sister and I to a Lutheran school. I would see him studying his Bible and taking notes on the weekend. He was one of only a handful of men from the church who would make evangelism visits to those interested in the church. He faithfully attended church. He was witnessing to his children by his actions rather than empty words.
Godly men are truly needed in our world today. Your post was a reminder of just how blessed I was. Thanks.
Another added facet to the feminization of our culture is that lack of a military draft for young men who turn eighteen years of age. Imagine the difference in our culture were we to re-institute a draft? Masculinity is both inborn and is taught/caught. Recapturing "male and female He created them" will involve a transformation of both the Church and the Society.
God bless you for your focusing our attention on this issue of our times, namely gender. Perhaps the day will come again when the dust settles of our culture and ecclesiastcal collapse where men will once again be men- and there will be no need for "Men's fraternity" clubs in search of masculinity; maleness just is for those who are so made.
Fr. Daniel Hackney
Check out “The Truth About Men & Church” in the June 2003 issue of Touchstone. I have it here:
I have often found true masculinity by imitating the Head of the Bride as I have sought to head my marriage and home. He suffered for His Bride and did not lord his Headship over Her, even though He is Lord. To be head is to minister, not to be ministered to.
Our boys need real men. Our girls need real men. Our wives need real men. Weak Christians need real men. The Church and her Ministry need real men. Society needs real men.
Not overbearing, because-I-said-so, you-must-honor-me men, but men who act as Christ did when He gave himself up for the Church, not because it is commanded by the law, but because of the love Christ showed to him.
Rise up, O men of God!
The church for you doth wait,
Her strength unequal to her task;
Rise up and make her great!
Lift high the cross of Christ!
Tread where His feet have trod.
As brothers of the Son of Man,
Rise up, O men of God!
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