Men and Church

Jennifer, et. al., are wondering about the feminization factor in mainline Christianity and what churches generally need to do to attract men.

Here’s one man’s reflections.

I’ve had it up to here with “getting in touch with my feelings.” I’m not advocating being a self-unaware automaton, but Jesus didn’t say, “Look into your navel everyday, then come follow me.” He said, “Take up your cross daily.” If I understand that correctly, it sure don’t mean focusing on myself. It means dying to myself.

I’ve had it up to here with trying to find explanations for sinful behavior that have to do with everything else but our own sinful choices. Decades of focusing on systemic injustice hasn’t obliterated injustice. If anything, it’s simply allowed the proliferation of irresponsibility for our own actions.

I’ve had it up to here with the unreflective belief in progressivism; that somehow just because we come later in time than the Christians that have gone before us that we know better than they did on a whole host of issues: sexuality, the family, the ordained ministry, the sacraments, Scripture, and so on. Ours is the world that has given us the reality of more than 40 million infants killed in the womb. Ours is the world that has given us the reality of billions and billions of dollars of consumer debt. Ours is the world that has given us the reality of more than half of marriages ending in divorce. Need I go on?

In other words, I’m sick to death of churches who think they have it so together they need to tell St. Paul where he’s wrong. Really.

I want a church who knows it’s full of sinners, doesn’t excuse it, and knows with that that the only way to relate to God and each other . . . and to those who’ve gone before us . . . is with humility.

I want a church who is less sure about what is and isn’t the cause of our sins, and more sure about what is and isn’t the Christian Faith.

I want a church who knows that “being all things to all men” does not mean abandoning its own unique and distinctive identity.

I want a church who is less worried about what the world thinks of us (that is to say, less worried about being “relevant”), and has the, ahem, gonads to stand up to the world and say, “You’re wrong.” Abortion? Wrong. Sex outside of marriage? Wrong. Consumerist Christianity? Wrong.

I want a church who knows the enemy isn’t the gay man, the conservative politician, big business, big government, or that guy over there, but is the Enemy, himself, Satan. (Oh, and I want a church who believes in the reality of Satan, sin and evil.)

I want a church who is less worried about attracting anything with a body temperature of 98.6 but is serious enough about what it believes that it is willing to tell me the truth to my face and risk having me walk out never to return.

I want a church that is less worried about making me fit in and serious enough about me that it will demand things of me: things I would never demand of myself, like praying everyday, confessing my sins, serving the poor, loving my wife, that raising my daughter is more important than my career (or leisure time).

I don’t want a repackaging of current fads in music, diet and health, psychology, sexuality, relationships, and so forth. If I wanted what the world had to offer, I’d take it. The marketing is much more persuasive, and it comes without any of the guilt. I want something which will warn me of the death that comes behind the label.

I want a church that will give me life.

But then again, that’s just me.

5 thoughts on “Men and Church

  1. The Bride of Christ has gonads? : )

    “Decades of focusing on systemic injustice hasn’t obliterated injustice. If anything, it’s simply allowed the proliferation of irresponsibility for our own actions.”

    Okay, but centuries of focusing on personal sin hasn’t obliterated personal sin. So I’m not sure that’s a good argument. Thanks to Jane Addams and many others, child labor was ended in the U.S., (just one example) so I think working for justice can be effective. But, as Christians, we need to worry less about effectiveness (on the world’s terms) and more about faithfulness. I think personal and structural sin are intertwined in many cases.

    I will agree that the problem with liberal mainline churches’ focus on systematic injustice is they think they can get rid of it by sheer force of effort and thus MAKE the kingdom of God appear on earth. As I said above, we can rid the world of some injustice but there’s not enough emphasis on the fact that the world has already been saved. On the here/not yet aspect of the kingdom, they overemphasize the not-yet.

    On the other hand, the “faith is all about me and my personal relationship with Jesus” evangelical stuff drives me crazy too. Carried to the extreme, I think that looks like navel-gazing.

    Great post, though.

  2. Jennifer:

    Yes, of course, my calling to attention the failure of “corporate sin” did not of itself reestablish the validity of the focus on “personal sin.” Indeed, if we have a proper understanding of the Church, all personal sin is corporate sin, or at the very least has corporate consequences.

    But my comment wasn’t so much oriented toward the failure of the move to focus on systemic sin, so much as to show that it hasn’t been any better in terms of transformation than the picture of the individual sinner.

    More to the point, however, how does a corporate entity repent? This, I think, is the blindspot of social justice theory, at least insofar as it’s been coopted by Christian activists. The only repentance once can speak of, at least realistically, is personal repentance. Unless and until the individual repents, the corporate entity–made up as it is of individuals–will not repent. Denominations can publicly beat their breasts and issue politically correct statements about racism, sexism, or what have you. But unless and until the individuals that make up that denomination do the hard work of repenting, nothing will change. I am consciously refraining from drawing specific inferences, so you’ll have to do it on your own.

    Still and all, as you point out, the other extreme is just as untenable. There is no “Me and Jesus.” It’s always “Me, and Us, and Jesus.” Without accountability to the Body, personal, individual repentance is a spinning of the wheels. Not invalid, perhaps, but not very effective.

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