How did the Church get this way?
© 2016 Manly Training
Christian Men (pt 3).
In the previous two parts of this series, we discussed the fact that in 2016, church membership and attendance has been mostly relegated to women, children and the elderly. Although, I do need to mention that the gender gap and age gap is closing in. In the 1970s and 1980s, Church membership and attendance from women, children and the elderly outnumbered men by 20% more than it does now. We also discovered that this is not the kind of church that God wants. So, how did the church get this way?
In order to understand this, we will need to look at some historical facts. The shortage of men was partly due to new working conditions brought on by the industrial revolution. Men were working longer hours at factories and mines, some of which operated on Sundays. Other had to leave town to find work. Women, children and aged men were the only ones left in church.
Clergymen, finding their church filled with women, began to tailor their messages to them. The vengeful God of the Calvinists was supplanted with a warm, comforting Jesus who matched the sensibilities of the predominantly female congregation. One of the era’s favorite hymn was “Jesus, Lover of my Soul, Let me to thy bosom fly.” This romantic view of Jesus was popular with women whose husbands had little time for them. But men were repulsed by Christ as lover and had no desire to fly to His bosom.
During the Victorian Era, men and women were consigned to strict gender roles, but pastors were something in between, a special class of men who were allowed to exercise feminine gifts. Pastors moved in feminine circles; preaching to women, counseling women, drinking tea and eating cakes with women. The image of the thin, weak, sissy pastor was common in literature of the day (Jane Eyre). Ann Douglas writes, “It seems highly likely that, in a period when religion was more and more the province of women, many of the young men drawn to the church were seen to be deeply attached and even similar to the women they knew best, namely their mothers.” Victorian women adored these effeminate, sensitive, caring men, but their husbands were not impressed. They steered clear of church as a result.
During the prohibition era, the gender gap was 60-40, similar to today. However, after the great depression and leading into the 1960’s, the pews were filled by an almost equal amount of women and men because that was the so-called builder generations. But when the paint dried, men began to get bored. There was nothing left to do and they left again.
Not every man has a specific reason for hating to go to church. Some just feel a general unease with it. “The style of worship is not compelling to me. It’s just the feel of the whole thing. Emotionally the style doesn’t connect with me.” Remember that Islam captures and retains more men than Christianity. Why is that?
Well, Christians emphasize Christ’s feminine characteristics while ignoring his masculine ones.
When people think of Christ, they think of His feminine side. A gentle Jesus, meek and mild. People often stress his sensitivity, his compassion, his inclusivity. Liberal churches have recreated Jesus as a benevolent Teacher who is always gentle, tender, and accepting. This Christ would never offend anyone, never judge anyone, and of course never send anyone to hell. Christians have so accepted the non-masculine Jesus that the very idea that he could be sexually tempted touched off a firestorm with the release of the film “The last Temptation of Christ.” But the bible says in Heb. 4:15 that “Jesus was tempted in every way, just as we are—yet without sin.” Nevertheless, many Christians couldn’t imagine Jesus tempted by sex.
There are two problems with this soft Jesus. One is that it is not fully accurate. It only paints one half of the picture. Two is that no man wants to follow a feminized man. Men are looking for a real man to follow: dynamic, outspoken, bold decisive, tough and fair.
It is ironic that the Jesus of Scripture is exactly like this. He was fearsome Mark 4:41 said his disciples were terrified of him and “no one
dared to ask him any more questions Mark 12:34. He was abrasive and was unafraid to offend people (Matt. 15:12). Jesus Christ is the most courageous, masculine man ever to walk the earth and we’ve turned him into a wimp.
Another reason that men are turned off from Church is that many Christian churches use feminine themes, imagery and vocabulary.
Many of the sermons and language that we use describe feminine ideals such as relationships, nurturing, sharing, feelings, and communication. Some mainline churches go so far as to strip masculine pronouns from hymns, liturgy, and even Scripture in an effort to make women more comfortable in church. We are no longer sons of God but rather children of God. Let me ask a question, why is God described in male terms if God is a Spirit? Why do the laws directly mention men and not so much the women? Linguistically, it is clear that masculine theistic terminology dominates the Scriptures. Throughout both testaments, references to God use masculine pronouns. Specific names for God (e.g., Yahweh, Elohim, Adonai, Kurios, Theos, etc.) are all in the masculine gender. God is never given a feminine name, or referred to using feminine pronouns.
Finally, The church used to allow aggressive warlike images of Jesus in hymns such as “Onward Christian Soldiers”, but by the turn of the 20th century hymns had taken a decisive move toward the feminine. In 1913 C. Austin Miles wrote “In the Garden.”
The first hymn ( onward Christian soldiers) isn’t used that much is most congregations anymore but the other ( in the garden) and others like this are. Even modern Christian worship is full of imagery that attracts women more to the church then it does men.
Songs such as; Thank You, Hold My Heart, In Christ Alone and Draw Me Close are all wonderful songs and inspired. However, if you read the lyrics carefully, they most definitely attract women much more than they do men.
It would seem as though Christ has put down his sword and picked up a daisy!
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