Tag Archives: Feminized Church

What is the “feminization of the church”?

Church sucks, that's why men are bored there
Church sucks, that’s why men are bored there

A friend who shall remain anonymous sent me this article from The Art of Manliness about the feminization of the Christian church. The article is long and detailed. I want to mention one point briefly, and do another more fully.

Brief one first:

While Christians of the past two centuries have complained of a lack of virility in their pastors, there’s also been a statistically certified lack of other kinds of male mentors in the church as well. For example, a survey done in 1920 found that 73% of Sunday School teachers were women, and still today women are around 56% more likely than men to participate in Sunday school and to hold a leadership position in a church (not including the role of pastor).

Does a lack of masculine role models at church negatively effect the recruitment and retention of masculine members? Edwin Starbuck, a prominent psychologist in the early 1900s thought so, positing that “the boy is a hero-worshipper, and his hero can not be found in a Sunday school which is manned by women.” Murrow agrees, citing the research of Dr. Michael Lindsay, who found that:

“the number one reason high-achieving men don’t go to church is they don’t respect the pastor. Those men who did go to church often chose a megachurch because they saw the pastor as their leadership peer. ‘Respecting the senior pastor is vital to predicting whether a man is actively involved,’ Lindsay says.

“Men respect pastors who are properly masculine,” Murrow opines. “They are drawn to men who, like Jesus, embody both lion and lamb. They find macho men and sissies equally repulsive.”

I wrote an article last week where I criticized the education system for being unfair to boys. It turns out that the church and Sunday schools are also unfair to boys. (Not in all cases. My friend Mary teaches Sunday school, loves apologetics, and goes out of her way to affirm the different male nature in her boys).

Here’s the longer passage:

Research has shown that women are more likely to imagine God as characterized by love, forgiveness, and comfort, while men picture him in terms of power, planning, and control. With more women than men belonging to Christian churches, it’s not surprising that the religion’s theology, and the messages heard from the pulpit, have come to emphasize the former qualities over the latter.

Podles argues that men think in terms of dichotomies and conflicts — in or out, black or white. They tend to be more orthodoxic and privilege rules over relationships. Women (and more feminine men) tend do the opposite, and wish to overcome differences and assuage conflict, for the sake of greater acceptance and peaceable relationships.

Consequently, modern sermons tend to deemphasize the contrast between heaven and hell, sin and life, grace and justice, sheep and goats. There are less martial analogies, fewer calls for Christians to take up their cross and become soldiers for Christ. There is less emphasis on the need to suffer, struggle, and sacrifice for the gospel and for others, and more emphasis on how the gospel can be a tool towards greater self-realization and personal fulfillment. The gospel is presented not as heroic challenge, but therapy – the way to “your best life now.” The focus is on rewards over obstacles. All gain, no pain.

[…]Murrow observes that the modern tenor of the gospel turns the faith’s original message on its head: Whereas Jesus “promise[s] suffering, trial, and pain…today’s Christianity is marketed…[as] the antidote to suffering, trial, and pain.”

Indicative of these changes, Murrow says, is the way “the kingdom of God” has fallen into disuse in describing the church, in favor of the “family of God.” In the former, the ethos is more mission directed; in the latter it’s more’s relational. Each member of the “family of God” has a relationship with each other, and with Jesus Christ. And not just any kind of relationship with the savior — a “personal relationship” — a term whose popularity Murrow thinks contributes to the gospel’s lack of appeal to men:

[…][D]espite its extrabiblical roots, personal relationship with Jesus Christ has become the number one term evangelicals use to describe the Christian walk. Why? Because it frames the gospel in terms of a woman’s deepest desire—a personal relationship with a man who loves her unconditionally. It’s imagery that delights women—and baffles men.

[…]When Christ called disciples, he did not say, ‘Come, have a personal relationship with me.’ No, he simply said, ‘Follow me.’ Hear the difference? Follow me suggests a mission. A goal. But a personal relationship with Jesus suggests we’re headed to Starbucks for some couple time.”

[…]“The National Congregations Study found that self-described liberal churches were 14 percent more likely to have a gender gap than conservative ones.” Even when they don’t know it, Murrow says, men “long for a harsh affection—the love of a coach who yells at his players to get every ounce of effort; the love of a drill sergeant who pushes his recruits to the limits of human endurance; the love of a teacher who demands the impossible from his students. As Western society feminizes, it’s getting harder for men to find this kind of love. “

My own view of God is that he is “The General”: the master planner who achieves the salvation of all who can be persuaded without violating their free will. My soteriology is middle knowledge, and my view of God is that he is a great strategist, and a tactical genius. He is expert at orchestrating complex situations where  those who seek him meet the right people, find the right evidence, and have the right experiences. (Read Acts 17:24-28) I respect God as a leader, and look to him frequently to intervene in situations where his honor or his purposes are at stake. I do not expect God to care more about my needs and feelings as he does about achieving his goals.  With respect to God’s purposes in the world, my happiness is expendable. (And I think stating that view offends the feelings of feminized people, but it’s Biblical)

Are women pastors and leaders really liberal? Here’s an example of a female pastor arguing premarital sex and gay rights in the radically leftist Washington Post. This is very common with women in the church, who tend to value compassion over moral standards – acceptance over boundaries. Women generally accept abortion slightly more than men, and gay marriage a lot more than men.  A significant number just aren’t interested in what the Bible says about morality. Women tend to think about how moral standards make people feel, and they don’t want people to feel judged. They don’t usually understand that moral standards and boundaries are there to protect the weak, and to avoid imposing costs on the community to clean up the messes caused by selfishness and recklessness (i.e. – following your heart).

William Lane Craig: churches should focus on apologetics to attract more men

Church sucks, that's why men are bored there
Church sucks, that’s why men are bored there

I saw that Triablogue quoted an interesting passage from William Lane Craig’s newsletter.

Here it is:

One overwhelming impression of these engagements is the way in which the intellectual defense of Christian faith attracts men. Both at Texas A&M and again at Miami every single student who got up to ask a question was a guy! I wondered if the girls are just shy. But then I remembered a lengthy clip Jan and I watched of cast members of Downton Abbey doing a Q&A with an audience in New York. Almost every person who came to the microphone at that event was a woman! It wasn’t until late into the evening that a man finally asked a question, which was remarked by all the cast members. Why the difference between that session and the ones I experienced?—simply because the Downton Abbey program is highly relational, which is more appealing to women, whereas my talks were principally intellectually oriented, which is more appealing to men.

Churches have difficulty attracting men, and the church is becoming increasingly feminized. I believe that apologetics is a key to attracting large numbers of men (as well as women) to church and to Christ. By presenting rational arguments and historical evidences for the truth of the Gospel, by appealing to the mind as well as the heart, we can bring a great influx of men into the Kingdom. I’m so pleased that the church in Canada seems to be awakening to this challenge! I’m convinced that we have the opportunity to revolutionize Western Christianity by reclaiming our intellectual heritage.

I could tell you many, many stories of what it was like for me being shut down by churches who were overly sensitive to the desires of women. In college, I and the other male students had every attempt to bring in scholars to lecture or debate shut down by female leadership. Every single week it was prayer walks, testimonies, hymn sings… over and over. Eventually, the more manly Christians just quit going. Later on, I witnessed apologetics being shut down in the church from the top down and from the bottom up, as well.

I remember one week an excited male friend invited me to his church because his male pastor was giving sermons using Hugh Ross and Gerald Shroeder books. He was trying to tie in the existence of God to cosmology. Well, I showed up the next Sunday to hear, and was disappointed. I could tell that the pastor wanted to go back to that subject, but he never really did. Later on, we found out that a female parishioner had complained that too much science and evidence had ruined her experience of feeling good and being comforted.

I could go on and on and on telling stories like this. To this day, I cannot stand being in a church unless that church has organized things like apologetic training classes, public lectures, public debates or public conferences. But that’s the minority of churches. The fact is that churches are attended far more by women than by men, and pastors are catering to women more than men. Not only will apologetics not be mentioned, but elements of feminism will creep into doctrine (egalitarianism) and all political issues will be avoided. Church has become a place to have good feelings, and it is far divorced from anything like evidence or politics which might be viewed as judgmental and divisive. And yet those are the things that men like to talk about most: right and wrong, public policy, evidential apologetics.

How can we get single men and husbands to be interested in church and ministry?

Church sucks, that's why men are bored there
Church is ineffective and impractical, and that’s why men are bored there

Consider this passage from William Lane Craig’s April 2013 newsletter, which made me very excited and happy. (H/T Triablogue)

Here it is:

One overwhelming impression of these engagements is the way in which the intellectual defense of Christian faith attracts men. Both at Texas A&M and again at Miami every single student who got up to ask a question was a guy! I wondered if the girls are just shy. But then I remembered a lengthy clip Jan and I watched of cast members of Downton Abbey doing a Q&A with an audience in New York. Almost every person who came to the microphone at that event was a woman! It wasn’t until late into the evening that a man finally asked a question, which was remarked by all the cast members. Why the difference between that session and the ones I experienced?—simply because the Downton Abbey program is highly relational, which is more appealing to women, whereas my talks were principally intellectually oriented, which is more appealing to men.

Churches have difficulty attracting men, and the church is becoming increasingly feminized. I believe that apologetics is a key to attracting large numbers of men (as well as women) to church and to Christ. By presenting rational arguments and historical evidences for the truth of the Gospel, by appealing to the mind as well as the heart, we can bring a great influx of men into the Kingdom. I’m so pleased that the church in Canada seems to be awakening to this challenge! I’m convinced that we have the opportunity to revolutionize Western Christianity by reclaiming our intellectual heritage.

Now, I hear a lot of complaints from women in the church and pastors in the church about men not being interested in going to church. I think that the problem is that church is hostile to men’s natures. Men thrive on conflict and competition. Men prefer strict rules and moral judgments. Men prefer to shame people who underperform, rather than coddle them. Men are practical and results focused. So how should the church accommodate the different nature that men have? Apologetics is one way to appeal to the male nature.

Let’s take a look at it.

Pastors: church as it is now is abrasive to men’s male nature

In a recent William Lane Craig podcast, at time 8:47, the WLC tells Kevin Harris about how he and his wife Jan asked about six of the young men who attend his “Defenders” apologetics class which morning service they attended: traditional or contemporary. ALL of the young men said that they attended neither service, because they go to church to learn something and the service has no educational value to them. The only attend the Defenders class. The apologetics class taught them things they could actually use – things they could actually use to think better, and fight better. This is my experience as well, although I am looking for a better church that does have some appeal to men. I might even have to move to find a decent church that has apologetics.

There is absolutely nothing going on in most churches that is valuable to a man. Men, by and large, only pray as a last resort, after we have done everything we can to solve the problem ourselves. We pay the most attention to the parts of the Bible that help us debate with non-Christians, or that give us things to do. We like to find evidence in the real world that connects with what the Bible is saying. We are interested in planning, execution and results. We are not very interested in feelings, singing, devotions, or bending the rules to make people doing bad things feel good. Now that’s not necessarily true for all men, but it is true for the majority of men.

And lest some people worry that fighting makes enemies, it doesn’t. Fighting with non-Christians has two effects: 1) they respect Christianity more, and 2) they want to be your friends and talk to you about spiritual things. Atheists see your standing up for what you believe in and living consistently with it indicative of authenticity. That is not the exception, Christian women and pastors – that is the rule. Atheists don’t think that standing up for what you believe in makes Christianity look fake, they think it makes Christianity look authentic. Well, at least the ones who are worth talking to think that.

Wives: don’t choose men who had no interest in advocating for Christianity before you married them

A related problem I see is the problem of wives marrying the wrong men then complaining that the men they freely chose to marry are not interested in church. This is actually the woman’s fault. Most women don’t think about what is best for God when they think about who to marry and have children with, they think about what makes them feel good. They don’t have any kind of plan where they match the man’s ability to the roles he will play as husband and father – they just pick who makes them feel good. This works about as well as buying and selling stocks based on which make you feel good, or choosing electronics and computers based on the color, or choosing a job or a church based on what the building looks like. The Bible lays out a few minimal requirements for a man: chastity, self-sacrificial love, providing for family, leading on moral and spiritual issues. Most young, unmarried women don’t value those things. If a woman picks a man who doesn’t make any demands on them, and who doesn’t judge them, then she cannot depend on him to show spiritual and moral leadership later on in the marriage. So don’t pick a man like that.

Wives: men respond to attention, recognition and approval from women

The reason that most husbands don’t engage in Christianity is because most wives (not my married friends of course) haven’t approached Christianity as something that is objectively true. Men don’t create illusions for themselves in order to feel better – they are more practical than that. Men only invest in things that they think are true, and where they can see that their practical efforts will make a difference. Men are turned off by the view that Christianity is just something that helps families and communities bond, and makes people feel comfort. We think that’s weakness, and we abhor weakness. Once men get the idea that a woman thinks of Christianity as feelings-fulfillment, we stop trying to achieve anything for the Kingdom of God. Men don’t want to be roped into Christianity if all it means is helping people get along and feel good. But they very much want to be roped into a demanding relationship with God where their efforts to achieve results count with God and gets them recognition and approval from their wives.

So how do wives learn to recognize and approve of what men do as Christians? Well, women need to learn apologetics and they need to practice debating with non-Christians. That will teach them to value conflict and competition, and to see how engagement and authenticity drives relationships with non-Christians forward. If women show an interest in objective truth, moral goodness and theological correctness, then men will become interested in these things, too. They will do it because men are addicted to pleasing women, and they want to help women more than anything in the world, second only to pleasing God. Men will enthusiastically engage in whatever will get them praise and recognition from women, and that means that women have to care about Christianity beyond their personal emotional experience of it and beyond their social cohesion experience of it. Initially, wives must be ready to praise and encourage their husbands, and then once the husbands get it, then they will be self-motivated and move out on their own. It will be self-sustaining.

The importance of teaching Sunday school lessons as history

Sherlock Holmes and John Watson are going to take a look at the data
Sherlock Holmes and John Watson are going to take a look at the data

Lindsay has a post up about it at Lindsay’s Logic.

She writes:

Those of us who grew up in church have many fond and nostalgic memories of the Bible stories we were taught. We remember David and Goliath, Sampson and Delilah, Noah’s Ark, Jesus and the Feeding of the Five Thousand, Baby Moses in the Bulrushes, Zacchaeus the Wee Little Man, and many others. The problem is, we often have the same fond memories of many other childhood stories like Cinderella, The Frog Prince, Jack and the Beanstalk, and The Emperor’s New Clothes. Both sets of stories were short, entertaining, and had some moral lesson. They were often surprising or funny. They had kings and miracles. Their heroes did great and marvelous deeds. Unfortunately, we may not have understood that one set of stories was completely made up while the other is entirely true historically.

Now, many of us grew up and learned the difference between truth and fairy tales. We know that the Bible is true. We take it seriously now. But some children grow up and are told (often in school or in college) that the Bible is just a collection of myths. At best, it was a collection of tales passed down for many years and full of wishful thinking and primitive beliefs (or so they are told). And if those people haven’t learned better – if they have not been shown the historical evidence for the truth of the Bible – they often fall prey to this faulty view.

To help prevent this from happening, it is important to teach the Biblical account, not Bible stories. They aren’t “stories,” they’re true. There are several very serious problems with teaching the Biblical account as stories.

This is the one that rang true for me:

3. The Biblical account is not given its proper historical context

A big part of helping children (and others) to understand the historical nature of the Biblical account is including discussion of its historical context. Don’t just emphasize the moral lesson, talk about it as history. When children are taught about George Washington, Nero, Florence Nightingale, Genghis Khan, or any other historical figure, we talk about when they lived, their culture, their motivation, their language. In short, we put them in historical perspective and we talk about them as real people with real lives. Why don’t we do that with Biblical figures?

How often do you hear someone talk about what year the Flood happened? Whether dinosaurs were on the ark? Who Cain married? Why Eve didn’t freak out when a snake talked to her? Where the Garden of Eden was (there’s no way of knowing that, by the way)? Have you ever wondered why Jonathan didn’t hate David? Where the different races came from? Why God instituted animal sacrifice? Why Jesus came when He did? Why the particular 66 books of the Bible are Scripture and other ancient texts aren’t? These and many others are questions that today’s young people wrestle with. And they often are not getting answers.

If we neglect to talk about the Biblical account in realistic terms, we aren’t preparing our youth to answer the questions they will undoubtedly have. If they go long enough with unanswered questions, if they can’t figure out how what the Bible says can possibly make sense, many will start to wonder if it is really true. While we may not be able to answer every question definitively, we can at least have a serious discussion and offer reasonable possibilities for consideration. Without such reasonable discussion, why should they find it reasonable to believe it?

I never went to Sunday school, and that might explain why I never had this problem of outgrowing Christianity the way that kids outgrow fairy tales. Maybe it comes down to who is teaching in the Sunday school? Are the Sunday school teachers being selected because they are rational people with STEM degrees, STEM careers and some sort of practical outlook on life? Or are they very emotional, irrational, and desire-driven? Seems to me that we ought to be placing people who are more interested in the good old divisiveness of truth and facts in the Sunday school, and keeping out the people who are more interested in feelings and community stuff. I’ll never understand why the church seems to lack respect for practicality, and want to put in all these impractical touch-feely people to teach the young instead.

I remember when I was a teen, I served as a volunteer camp counselor with an older Catholic woman who was just starting her second year of college. She was raised in a very devout, sheltered Catholic family, and would not even say swear words like the s-word. She had this Sunday school, fairy tale view of Christianity. And she liked to tell me that God was a “she” and that Hell wasn’t real. After all, if religion is just about making up stories that make you feel good, then you can change it to be whatever you like best. She studied English in college and got into all kinds of radical feminism, anti-war, Marxism, and gay rights material. After a couple of graduate degrees that drove her further to the secular left, she eventually got a job teaching the young in a Catholic school. But her descent into secularism and leftism started with this super-nice, polite, fairy tale view of religion-as-niceness, rather than being about history and fact. She just had never been taught to make connections between the Bible and the real world, so her feelings were constantly allowed to override the truth claims of the Bible.

I think the bottom line is that the more we make Christianity about feelings, the more young people will leave it when they hit college and find out how the world works (not really) from their never-worked-in-the-private-sector liberal arts professors.

I was on vacation last week, and after bingeing on video games for 3 days (hello, Darkest Dungeon), I decided to spend the rest of my time studying JQuery, AngularJS and Bootstrap. I did this learning at the kitchen table, with training videos playing on the laptop, and me entering commands in the NetBeans IDE and seeing what the output was in the browser via the Chrome NetBeans Connector. At times, I would stop the video lecture, call my parents over and show them things that I was trying that were “off the beaten path” to find out how the components really worked. I also messaged JoeCoder with questions, since he is a client-side programmer, and I am primarily a server-side programmer. I was even able to put JQuery to work right away in my ad-blocker (uBlock Origin) which uses JQuery expressions to select elements to block. The point is that I was learning, and learning means being free to experiment and try things out. But always, it is about practice, not feelings. No one cares how you feel about code, they only care what you can use it to accomplish in the real world. The point of it is that teaching is not meant to make you feel good, or make students like you, or make people in think that you are really spiritual after all the drunken sex you had in college, hooking up with atheist guys. The point of teaching is to convey useful, accurate knowledge that can then be put into practice immediately to achieve good results. Sunday school should be more like learning how to program, not about singing, coloring, having fun, feeling good.

The trouble with avoiding controversial topics

Young people usually only get one side of every issue - because we don't tell them the other side
Young people usually only get one side of every issue – because we don’t tell them the other side

Lindsay blogs about it on her Lindsay’s logic blog.

Intro:

According to these definitions, a controversial topic is simply one on which many people disagree. In some cases, this may be due to the topic being merely opinion. If you are asking which ice cream flavor is the best or which sports car is the best or which season of the year is the best, these are all matters of opinion and there is no right answer. There is no absolute truth in these cases because the inherent question is about what people prefer. Different people prefer different things.

But in spite of the fact that there is a lot of disagreement on the best ice cream flavor (vanilla, in case anyone was wondering), we don’t usually try to shut people up when they express an opinion, even if it differs from ours. And we usually don’t call these opinions “controversial.” In fact, I have never heard anyone refer to ice cream flavors as a controversial issue. (What a conversation that would be. “I like vanilla best.” “Oh, don’t talk about ice cream flavors because they’re so controversial.”)

When people talk about something being “controversial” they usually do it when it’s not just a matter of opinion, but they want to believe it is. They want to use the disagreement out there to avoid taking a side on an important topic.

Sometimes they don’t want to take a side because it’s unpopular. If they take a side, the people on the other side might not like them.

Sometimes they don’t want to have to put the effort into studying the issue. Laziness makes them avoid finding out which position is the correct one.

Sometimes they don’t like the implications involved in taking a position. What if believing one way or the other means they have to change something about their life? Perhaps give up something they enjoy or do something they don’t like?

Sometimes they have the mistaken idea that a “controversial” topic doesn’t have a correct answer and thus neither side should be dogmatic.

Some see taking a side on something that evokes a lot of disagreement as somehow “divisive” or “polarizing” and therefore bad.

Whatever the reason, these people want to stay “neutral” and not take a side. And, often, they don’t want to hear anyone else’s position on the matter either.

And this is where I want to turn this topic to parenting. I have met people who fell away from their faith after being raised in a Christian home, and this is what I’ve noticed about them. The parents are usually uncomfortable with listening to the other side of “controversial” issues. Does God exist? Too controversial. Is there unjustified evil and suffering? Too controversial. Should abortion be legal? Too controversial. Are non-Christian religions false? Too controversial. Is premarital sex morally permissible? Too controversial. Nothing can be discussed, because we all have to feel happy – and be seen by the neighbors to BE happy. So shut it and keep smiling.

It reminds me of this post from Beyond Teachable Moments, where the author was interviewing a woman who lost her faith in college before returning to the faith.

Read this:

 Throughout the phases of my childhood, expose me to different types of social situations with people from all walks of life. I think having experience talking with a wide range of people with differing worldviews is so important. In other words, get me outside the safe Christian “bubble”, but do so with the support of parents and with an open discussion of why people think/believe differently and why we believe what we believe. Do not just tell me “believe this because I told you it is true or because I said so.”

Learn what is going on in popular culture within my peer group. What are kids my age thinking, watching, and listening to? Be involved; don’t view every outside influence as a threat, but help and encourage me to analyze situations and make decisions accordingly. Don’t try to shelter me from everything. I need to develop confidence and a foundation in the little things if you expect me to be able to take on the big things at university.

Don’t use me to make you look good in front of other people at church, I can see straight through that. It does not feel good and drives me far away. What matters is what is going on inside, not what is projected. Looking perfect and going through the motions does nothing. The very basis for Christianity is what is going on in the heart. Only by letting Jesus work in your heart can actions follow with true authenticity.

If every topic is off limit in the home, then the child will very likely drop Christianity like a hot potato when she hits college. You do not teach a child how to debate controversial topics by shushing them in order to maintain your happiness – or to keep up appearances. It’s even worse when the shushing is done with screaming and arguments. Controversial topics must be discussed openly and respectfully. Work has to be done by parents to study these issues. Debates (like WLC debates) must be watched by the whole family. Both sides of issues must be represented properly. But how many times does this happen in Christian homes? And how many times does this happen in the Christian church? You can attend an evangelical church for from birth to death in America and never hear one iota of useful information related to controversial topics. The parents don’t know, the pastors don’t know, and that’s the way they like it.

Many Christian parents are happy for their kids to “be nice” and “look good” while they are home even if they go wild in college. It’s so “unexpected” they will say later. They did such a good job – took them to church every week, and they got their Bible memorization and praise hymn singing badges. Somehow, we have convinced ourselves that not knowing anything and not teaching anything about controversial issues is a great parenting technique. Parents and pastors are sure that it’s more “pious” to just believe things without evidence, and not discuss and debate alternate points of view. And easier, too – leaves more time to for “devotional” activities, which don’t require study. The more we spiritualize Christianity instead of debating it, the more likely our children will turn on God.

The most alarming thing is when I tell Christian parents and Christian pastors this, and they start to make excuses about how faith is beyond reason and evidence. How do you stop a problem like this when the parents and the pastors are more focused on looking good and feeling good than they are on knowing whether what they believe is true? You can’t. We have to recognize that this pious refusal to get down and dirty with the truth claims of Christianity is motivated by laziness. It’s not praiseworthy at all to chase Christianity into some mystical realm beyond the reach of logic and evidence. Yet this is the dominant view in Christian homes and churches.