I’ve been loosely following Therese’s discussion of emasculation and I thought the discussion might come ’round to where I’m at here today. But it hasn’t. Yet. The title of this post matches a title of a book that is currently gathering no small amount of buzz around the Christian community. We were actually thinking of giving it a read for the Methodist Men’s group, but someone said the book was more for women!
I’ve looked around the Church for Men website, and it’s an interesting read with some rather startling statistics. Such as 25% of married women attend church without their husbands. Or that while 90% of men in the U.S. say they believe in God and 4 in 5 identify themselves as Christian, less than 2 in 6 are in church on a given Sunday. Or that by the age of 20, 90% of young men have dropped out of church, and many will not ever return.
The latest article there points out that men flock to the religion of Islam while they tend to avoid Christianity. Instead, church is identified as for “women and little old ladies of both sexes.” Indeed, we don’t have to look too far to see this phenomenon in action.
Square1 used to identify very strongly with the Christian faith, even having a blog dedicated to Christian discipleship. However, her husband had a blog dedicated to….um….civil unrest? He shared some very deep dissatisfaction with the way this country is going and how it is led. And he was definitely NOT interested in any wimpy, namby pamby religion for women and old ladies. So he joined the ranks of the fastest growing religion in the world; Islam. and today his blog is about his new journey.
Jesus started His ministry with 12 other guys and dealt primarily with men. He seemed to have little problem getting men to identify with Him. So what happened? Somewhere along the line, Christianity became a religion that appealed more to women and totally NOT to men. The author of the book/blog has some interesting ideas of what the problem is, and what to do about it. But I’m going go my own way for a bit.
First off, the institution of the church has very little to offer men of today. Last Sunday, most services extolled on the values of motherhood and how wonderful mothers are. Interestingly enough, Mother’s Day is one service that has more men in it than any other as the guys do it to make their wives/mothers happy. But what about Father’s Day? First off, the guys will take the day off…from church. While the women get roses and flowers on their day, men will get books or reminders of how they need to be more accountable and how they need to devote more time for family. For women, it’s about honor. For men, it’s about obligation. While the preacher exhorts men to seek first the kingdom on their day, women are held up as the pillars of the family and faith that they are on Mother’s day. No minister ever enjoins women to be better mothers on Mother’s Day and yet this happens all the time to men! A bit of a double standard, don’t you think?
Every so often, in a blue moon, in exceedingly rare occasions, you might hear a sermon about sex. You might hear all about the harm of pornography, and consorting with prostitutes and the sin of adultery. You might hear about how sex is God’s gift to us, and of course is reserved for those that are married. Men are exhorted to love their wives, and wives should respect their husbands.
But 1 Corinthians 7 is never taught. Ever. Probably because the preacher’s wife will never have sex with him again if he does. And yet look around. This is a HUGE problem! Thanks to the institutional religious programming, women think sex is dirty, disgusting and certainly unholy and impure. And men are made to feel guilty for being men who might actually enjoy getting busy once in a while.
Meanwhile, the Muslims are promising 70 virgins for their self-sacrifice! Muslim women literally wear their submission wherever they go, which seems to inspire their men to greater faithfulness and devotion. Although the 70 virgin promise doesn’t hurt, I’m sure.
Now that I think about it, I remember a time in my fundie days when we had prayer meetings. The women there did cover their heads with bandana head scarves as a sign of submission to God and it was inspiring to see that sort of devotion.
Am I the only one who felt like Huck Finn having to attend the widow’s church? Obviously not, since most guys dump church as soon as they leave home and get out on their own. This makes church a good place to pick up chicks, except you’ll be expected to continue that behavior indefinitely.
Men like more participation than a typical worship service allows. Most congregations don’t take kindly to a guy in the stands second guessing the preacher’s choice of scripture. Or bringing hot dogs and peanuts to a mass. Or making any changes that rock the boat.
Jesus and His posse were ways on the move and they were definitely rocking the boat. Their fellowship was dynamic and organic and always they had no idea what would happen next. This was an adventure of a lifetime involving danger and risk which required real strength and fortitude. Tell me what in a modern church service requires real strength and fortitude? Compliance, docility, passivity, submissiveness, being quiet, being safe, keeping busy; these are all things the modern church values. They are also the values of women and old ladies of both sexes.
Men need space to argue, debate, challenge, compete, strive, and basically sharpen each other to a keener edge. Instead, modern church services tend to dull and lull men until they literally can not keep their eyes open.
So to address the question Therese posed, a good way to emasculate a man is by wearing down his edge and turning him into a compliant dullard. Nagging tends to have a wearing effect. An institutional sermon sometimes has a tendency to sound like just another nag session.
I’m all about relationships, but it has to be real. I need to be able to sharpen another person by calling them on mistakes, and they should do the same for me without worrying about whether it’ll jeopardize the relationship. Men can do this while women seem to struggle that way, often taking criticisms more personally and getting all hurt and wounded. Men can struggle, disagree, compete, debate and fight and still have a beer together at the end of the day. Not that any of those things are encouraged or even allowed in church.
The modern institutional church has as much to do with the emasculation of men as any of the other forces that were brought up in Therese’s discussion such as the feminization of the larger culture (which has taken over the church as an institution), the absence of male role models in society and culture, the increase in single mother-led households and the urbanization of our society. Men are not attracted to institutional church because they find it instinctively in opposition to the way God created them. We’re designed to have a very active, engaged and dynamic relationship with our Creator, and yet the modern institution fosters and cultivates passivity paired with institutional busy-ness. This may be why some men have gotten attached to the CGM congregations because the goal-centered, mission-oriented, market and purpose driven paradigm is something with which they can somehow identify. It has little to do with relationship to their Creator, however, and more to do with being part of something that has worldy significance.
So basically, when looking at masculinity and spirituality, men have 3 choices:
– Modern institutional churchinity in the liberal, feminized flavor
– Modern churchianity in the CGM flavor
– A more fundamental form of religion, such as Islam
Which is why the relational flavor has more appeal to me. There is room for guys to get together and relate as guys. There is room for being part of something significant but one does not have to digress 800 years into the past to do it, or chop off people’s heads.
For a good podcast discussion, click here and listen to these guys discuss the disconnest between men and organized Christianity.