Monday, October 01, 2007

SOME THOUGHTS ON THE FEMINIZATION OF THE CHURCH

The "feminization" of the Church is an interesting topic introduced by one of my blogging friends [sorry Debbie..I don't know how to link yet] on her blog last week. I and a few others chose to comment on that issue and it spurred a thought in my mind that would be too long for another's blog so I decided to put those thoughts here.

Is the Church being "feminized" resulting in men having little to do with Church life? Like most issues, there is no simple or easy answer to that question at all from my perspective. I do have to say, however, that in discussing subjects such as this... definitions are everything.

I remember witnessing to a teenager one time years ago and asked him a simple [to me] question. I asked him, "have you ever been saved?" His answer was "oh yes." I was pleased. So I asked him to tell me about it. His response was "I was going under the third time in a river and my brother pulled me out." [He was dead serious...excuse the pun.] Needless to say a few definitions were in order and promptly delivered with a wonderful result when those definitions were properly understood. That may be as much the problem in our question on the "feminization" of the Church as anything else. It's definition.

For example, if by "feminization" one means you find more women involved in Church life than you do men, one would have to agree, I would think, that such a thing has been true all along. Even in the NT the women were involved with the person of Jesus, in many more ways than were men. [The tomb situation.. the Cross moment.. the teaching and washing of feet..no record the guys, other than Jesus, ever did.. to mention a few.] That may be a testimony to the courage of women as a gender and their ability to face the prospect of pain. Following Jesus brings us pain often and women may be more adept at this as evidenced by their going to perhaps the highest pain level in life in child bearing. Men will never experience that , for obvious reasons, and will, if wise, concede the point that women may be stronger than are men, where pain is concerned. That is just a thought.

If by "feminization" of the Church it is meant that men, as a gender, are less likely to be involved where relationships are concerned or small groups are being created because men don't talk as much or show emotions/feelings as do women, I'm wondering if that isn't an unhealthy generalization on false premises. [Perhaps even as my own generalization in the preceeding paragraph about pain might be if taken as a fact.]

I've always been suspicious of categorizing men and women with certain assumed gender characteristics as if they were absolutes. Women love to shop. Men hunt. The difference? Women look and look and love the looking. With men it is..I see..I shoot..]buy] I go home. At the risk of destroying any perceptions about Mary and me, [those who know us know this] Mary is the one who sees..shoots..[and would rather see and order off the Internet] and goes home. I, on the other hand, love to look and look whether I buy or not.. be it cars.. clothes..or garage sales.

Another characteristic I've heard is women are more emotional and men are more intellectual. So the movers and shakers must be male in gender if things ever get done. [Forgetting, I guess, a Margaret Thatcher and her husband whoever he was.] But, again, at the risk of alienating many, Mary is the factual, intellectual, analyzing one and I'm the one who feels the moment, acts, and thoughtfully works through the consequences later. Of course, she has helped me to measure the cost and look ahead and I've assisted her with being spontaneous and seizing the moment. It works for us. Just don't call me a "girly man" because, emotional or not, I'll bust your chops. ;)

It is obvious to all, I'm hoping, that the reverse may be true also. A woman MAY look and look and love the looking. A man MAY see, buy, and be on his way. The point is simply that the characterizations don't always hold water and, in my judgment, may be more a cultural bias, [which in and of itself is not an evil thing] than a biblical reality. But this could be a detriment to the Church if completely accepted as fact.

Do you see that definitions are important?

Then there is the possibility that by "feminization" of the Church is meant a diluting of the message of Christ. In other words, the message of commitment and sacrifice is lost and a "feel good" message is being presented and accepted. This is sometimes identified as "psycho-babble" which is a Siamese twin to "feminization" in the minds of many. The assumption here is that women will fall for this [as evidenced, I guess, by Eve's proneness to deception] but men don't/won't. But I would like to ask someone, if this is a fact, why the meetings of so many TV preachers that I believe have diluted the message are being attended by multitudes of people which, if my TV shows a correct picture, [ it's a new hi-def digital 44 inch] includes tons of men in those multitudes. Am I to assume those guys are ONLY "girly men" [there may be a half a ton of those but who really knows for sure?] and no real men are there?

I think it is part of our fallen nature and flesh to be drawn to the big.. sometimes easy.. sometimes feel good.. something that doesn't cost me a whole lot in terms of sacrifice.. kind of thing that I see happening all over in Church life today. I think most of us may be falling into that trap if we examine closely. We CAN get men together if we want. We can do it by emphasizing real "manly things" like hunting.. fishing.. [though I know women who love those things and men who don't] and sing triumphant songs with soldier lyrics. But we still wind up with a big, sometimes easy.. sometimes feel good.. something that doesn't cost me a whole lot in terms of sacrifice kind of thing. We've just changed the content.

I'm not discounting the diluting of our message that may have taken place. I think it has happened. It is damaging. I hope to address this later. But the real problem with this "feminization" of the Church thing is perhaps far beyond all these things mentioned so far. What is that problem? I think we have no genuine, satisfactory, biblical idea of what the Church and her life really is about...so we see something that appears to attract women and repel men and call it the Church and assume we've "feminized" the Church. It well may be that were we to "masculinize" [made up word] the Church we haven't solved our real problem either. So, again, what is our problem? One more time...

I don't think we adequately... biblically... understand in our day... what Church life really is at all.

What do I mean? Next time I'll say.

Paul Burleson

13 comments:

Mary in Texas said...

Paul, it's been a while since I commented, but I do keep up with your blog. My respect for you grows with each entry you make.

There is a very divisive trend in society in general, and it's taking hold in the church: using anything having to do with women as a pejorative. Hence, "feminization" and "girly-man" and "effeminate" and so forth are all used to put down men and churches by comparing them unfavorably to women.

In my opinion, authors such as the Eldridges and John Gray and Christina Hoff Sommers are feeding this and look who's gobbling up what they write: Christians! I see little to no discernment when people attack one another and other churches in this fashion; they're merely repeating what someone of influence has published. Then there are the authors in the Christian sphere: the Mousers and Leon Podles among others. They're saying the same things, except they're dressing them up with church language and claiming that they're speaking for God.

I happen to believe that human beings are far too precious and unique to slap a pink or a blue label on each of us and send us off to fit into one of two mold shapes. Yes, we're male or female, but that's not all that we are. And like it or not, not all men are essentially alike and neither are all women. We're too distinct as human beings for that.

All that to say, Paul, that I appreciate very much your wise observations about what makes you and your dear Mary unique, and what makes those man vs. woman molds not fit you well in all regards. I think the wise church loves its members, brothers and sisters of all ages, and presents them with irrefutable proof that the Savior is for them all...even if they don't fit some mold or other. Jesus, unlike too many churches, doesn't turn people away from himself simply because they don't measure up. I think the point is, NONE of us measure up (at least not in every way). That's why we need a Savior.

Anyway, Paul, God bless you for speaking the truth so graciously.

Paul Burleson said...

Mary,

I was sent a book review by a friend that is a statement in favor of recognizing the feminization of the Church and turning it around by addressing the fears, characteristics, and needs of men as men.

An example statement is "Instead men often find that Christian men talk and think like women." [That must be frightening. :)]

I would need examples of this [which were not given in the review I saw] and a working definition of...Talk and think like a woman." What's that?

It sounds to me like what someone said when our first child was born, a girl, "oh you have a girl...well keep trying." [Oh..no celebration until a boy comes along I guess.]

Too much of this smacks of a misogynistic attitude that was present in the NT historical culture when it was said "I'd rather be born a man's dog than be born a woman." But our message of Christ [the gospel] elevates and appreciates who a person is based on the reality of God's image and Grace, not gender.

In fact, the Old Covenant was perhaps based more on race, age and gender so that an old Jewish guy had it made in the shade. Whereas the New Covenant has as it's foundation neither race, age NOR gender but the finished work of Christ. I'm kinda glad God brought me along in this era.

Wade Burleson said...

As usual, excellent post. The more I read what you write, the more I realize that safe, pat answers to difficult questions are not always available. I appreciate the wisdom you display in carefully laying out all the essentials to understand an issue from all sides.

Mary in Texas said...

Amen again! As a woman, I'm REALLY glad God broght me along in this era! There have been remarkable women in every age who broke out of the cultural chains, but for the most part, women have been denied the development of one of the things that most powerfully demonstrates the common shared humanity of men and women: the intellect. God did not endow me with extraordinary outward beauty--the most common way that women have historically distinguished themselves, but any limitations on the training and development of my mind have been of my own making. When I think of the wasted intellectual potential of women through the ages, it makes me ill.

I know it wasn't only women who were kept ignorant throughout history, however; it was also the poor in general. However, even among the poor, women were considered less-than.

I hate seeing that historical sin codified and "christianized" by the church simply because it is a tradition. So was slavery.

Alycelee said...

Paul, I've been reading on several blogs, comments and elsewhere about the feminization of the church.
I have not commented prior, because frankly it disturbed me.
I often think I'm just too simplictic in my approach.
I just think men (and women) do not respond to the church, ie the gospel, because they are trapped in rebellion, at war with God. I just don't believe that has anything to do with how much (or little) testosterone one has.
Just when I think I've heard it all.
By the way, I don't like to shop, buy groceries or vacuum. Ah oh :)
Thanks Paul

Debbie Kaufman said...

Paul: I really like how you worded this issue here. I agree with Alycelee and admittedly I am simplistic too.

Paul Burleson said...

Debbie,

You and Alyce have reminded me of the fact that the NT Church was so very simple when it came to life. It was simply a Person. He was their Lord and He was their Savior and He was their life. They seemed to revolve around HIM, not truths about.. or doctrines of.. But simply Him.

In fact, I believe their power for life was in correspondence to their simplicity of relating everything to Him. They had no revivals, church conferences, books on how to do anything, or marriage retreats. Nothing wrong with any of that, but it is odd that when we spend so much time studying about things like doctrine and christian living, they spent time reflecting on Him. "You shall know the Truth and the Truth shall set you free" meant something to them. NOT you shall know doctrine and that doctrinal truth will set you free from error, but you shall KNOW [have an intimate knowledgeable experience with] the Truth [Not doctrine but Jesus since He is the Way, THE TRUTH, the Life] and the Truth [Jesus] will set you free. [to experience real life as He intends in whatever realm of life you're in, marriage, job, child raising, whatever.]

That was their christianity. That was their life. We've gotten more knowledgeable of doctrine, history, methods, and techniques of communication and less powerless that were they. I think there is something here we need to think about.

Please stay with your simplicity. I think it may be the key to God's reality being all over the both of you as I've personally seen Him being in your lives. And may God grant a baptism of simplicity to the whole of the SBC is my prayer for us as a denomination.

Alycelee said...

Paul, that last comment is a stand alone post.
Amen

selahV said...

Paul...a 44-inch screen? whoa...that is big! don't you go bug-eyed?

great post. funny, dramatic and true...in my biased opinion of the effeminate church jive.

I must agree with Debbie from Puryear's post. Men don't come because men don't want to come. Men don't serve because men don't want to serve. And the same is true for women. It's not about gender...it's about love for a Savior who died, and a person's desire to overcome the evil in this world by living a life set apart for Him--in life or in death. There is nothing more aggravating than to hear folks charge men with being feminine because they help cook a few meals, do laundry and diaper the babies. My husband did all that and still went out and shot deer. selahV

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Paul,

You have lured me from the shadows. This chauvinistic redneck could not resist this post. :>)

Seriously, some great thoughts about defining the words. I do wonder, though, would the issue of feminization of the church have more to do with methodology? IOW, if the Gospel were wrapped up in a fashion design show which gender would it be more apt to attract? It depends if the fashion design show were sponsored by Kate Smith or Sports Illustrated.

I believe the issue has more to do with the methods used than with the presentation of the Gospel.

Blessings,
Tim

Paul Burleson said...

Alyce,

At my age I may have already made it a stand alone post...and just forgot. :) Thanks.

Selahv,

My feelings exactly. I can now tell the TV is on and that is a real improvement. :) Just kidding. It is REALLY nice.

Tim,

I DO think most people are talking about methodology and NOT the Church at all. That will come out in my next post. It's a little like the fellow who wrote about the sappy love song lyrics in some of the new choruses that could just as easily been written for a barroom song. I agree with him though that is a little more the don't/do wear a tie to Church thing. It IS methodology being talked about I believe and the discussion COULD help us. My pet peave is that...WE mis-identify the Church in all this. You nailed it. Thanks for stopping by.

Lee said...

I'm posting this comment partly tongue in cheek, but partly seriously. I believe the church is referred to at least once in scripture as the "Bride of Christ."

In Revelation, somewhere, I think.

Uh, no further comment from me.

:-)

Paul Burleson said...

Lee,

How right you are. Add to that the Romans 7:4 statement that we [Brethren/Church] are MARRIED to another..[Him who was raised from the dead] and it gets a little dicey doesn't it. :)

It could be, as I will postulate a little later today on my coming post, the answer to "is the church becoming Feminized?" is "yes..no..maybe. It DOES all depend on definition. Also, I've always wondered about GUYS who are threatened by the female gender thing anyway. :)