This is the first of three posts responding to an article in the BIOLA Connections (The Feminization of the Church; please read the article for yourself before commenting here). This is a response to this article alone, not to the authors and persons referenced in that article. The second post will suggest a biblical notion of masculinity and femininity, and the third and final post will outline a challenge to the church. This initial post outlines the argument of the article and questions specific excerpts. I do not ask these questions merely as a critique of the article, but because I want answers and I love BIOLA.
1. Christianity has become feminized.
1.1. Churches cater to women.
1.2. Churchgoers are primarily women, though pastors are primarily men.
1.3. The modern church target is middle-aged to elderly women.
“…solution is to restore a masculine ethos”
- Is the aim to “restore” the church to a primarily masculine ethos or to restore the masculine ethos, thus returning the church to the balance intended in creation where the genders exercise dominion together (Genesis 1:26-28)?
- Since the modern church is not the entire church, what, if any, research has been done on newer churches? What is the perceived target of these newer churches? Is it different? If so, what makes the difference?
2. We need to understand the gender gap historically and culturally.
2.1. Some place the beginning of feminization in the 13th century, others during the industrial revolution.
2.2. Other religions (like Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, and Islam) do not have this gender gap.
2.3. The gender gap varies across the various expressions of Christianity.
2.4. Men attend less and those who attend show less commitment.
“Other religions seem to have a gender balance or even more men than women — including Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism and Islam, they said.”
- Is not “more men” also a gender gap?
- Since these cultures often treat women as second-class humans, do we really want to go there? Why not compare Baptist or non-denominational (mentioned in this article as not having the “feminization problem” to the same degree)?
3. Churches are ladies clubs.
3.1. Stereotypical feminine traits are more valued.
3.2. Stereotypical masculine traits are seen as unnecessary or threatening.
“[Murrow and Podles] believe these differences are revealed by the Bible, biology, anthropology, psychology and human experience. // Stereotypical gender differences have become so accepted that they are assumed in standardized psychological tests.”
- While the bible is mentioned in this quote, why does the article not discuss biblical notions of masculinity and femininity? If Scripture is the Word of God, should we not go there first? Why are no interviews with biblical scholars included in the article?
- What are the biblical and creational traits of men and women? From which passages are these traits derived?
4. Feminization is evident in worship.
4.1. Love songs to Jesus are much more common than warrior songs.
4.2. Feminine spirituality, drawn from images such as bridal imagery, is more common than masculine spirituality.
“Typical praise songs refer to Jesus as a Christian’s lover and praise his beauty and tenderness. Rarely do they praise his justice or strength, or refer to him as the head of an army leading his church into spiritual battle, like “Onward Christian Soldiers.”
- “Onward Christian Soldiers”? Come on! What about “How Great is Our God,” “Blessed Be Your Name,” or “Holy is the Lord,” all listed in the top ten worship songs on CCLI (week ending 7/22/06)?
- Further, on what evidence is the designation “typical” based?
Real women do not speak this way either, yet this seems to be the implication. Why was this comment not balanced with references to other, more popular, worship songs that do not use such desperate language (such as the songs mentioned above)?
“…women mystics who popularized “bridal imagery,” the metaphor of an individual Christian as the bride of Christ. (The biblical metaphor is of the corporate church as the bride of Christ, not the individual person.)”
- Would not accuracy have demanded a mention of John of the Cross (a man), whose poetic works did much to introduce and popularize this notion?
5. Churches place a very low priority on men’s ministry.
5.1. Ministry opportunities provide insufficient challenge and purpose.
5.2. Most in-church decision-making processes downplay or ostracize a masculine, risk-taking, results-oriented method.
5.3. Outreach and mission opportunities are few.
Referencing Murrow, “He said Jesus focused on men, knowing that women and children would follow.”
- Since first-century, Middle Eastern culture was patriarchal (women and children had little choice) and twenty-first century America is not patriarchal, on what basis is this claim made for our culture? Further, what does the presence of women in Jesus’ entourage (Luke 8:1-3) tell us about ministry?
- Is the problem feminization or is the problem an internally-focused maintenance ministry? Would not an externally-focused mission more adequately challenge both men and women?
6. Sermon topics and purposes appeal to women, not to men.
6.1. Emotional and relational topics draw the feminine, while intellectual and challenging topics draw the masculine.
6.2. Purposes such as emotional or relational repair draw the feminine, while declarations of truth and challenges to action draw the masculine.
“Many churches emphasize Jesus’ softer teachings, like his love and his desire to save, and they ignore the doctrines of sin and hell, according to Podles. But men dislike liberal Christianity — ‘a mild religion of progress and enlightenment’ as opposed to a battle between good and evil, Podles said.”
- Where is the biblical support for these categories (softer and “not softer”)?
- Why is emphasizing “his love and desire to save” (which involved intense opposition and an excruciating death) categorized as “softer” and compared to “a mild religion of progress and enlightenment”? Is the author truly comparing these? Is the comparison inadvertent?
7. Churches attract pastors who appeal to the feminine.
7.1. Pastors are more therapists, than they are proclaimers of truth.
7.2. Churches are lacking in much needed strong male leadership.
7.3. There is an increase in female clergy and gender-neutral bibles and hymns.
Quoting Pearcey, ““If religion is defined primarily in terms of emotional experience and is therapeutic, then who is it going to attract as ministers?”
- So, is the author claiming that an emotional and therapeutic religion is feminine? By what biblical understanding of femininity is this concluded?
- Are not both out of balance?
- Would not a “masculinist” movement be just as unbiblical as the feminist movement? Does change really require another unbiblical pendulum swing?
8. Restoring a “masculine spirit” will bring gender balance to the church.
“[Murrow] and other leaders in the men’s movement, like Gardner, believe a masculine spirit will bring men, and gender balance, to the church.”
- A pendulum swing brings balance only for a moment. This has always been the case. Why do we assume such things will continue to work?
- Why are we attempting to counter a cultural distortion of femininity with a cultural distortion of masculinity? Where are the biblical considerations?
The next post will suggest the beginnings of a biblical notion of masculinity and femininity.
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