The contention of the ‘Why men hate going to church’ movement is that church has become feminised. From David Murrow’s website:
With the dawning of the industrial revolution, large numbers of men sought work in mines, mills and factories, far from home and familiar parish. Women stayed behind, and began remaking the church in their image. The Victorian era saw the rise of church nurseries, Sunday schools, lay choirs, quilting circles, ladies’ teas, soup kitchens, girls’ societies, potluck dinners, etc.
Modern day church activities are ‘an emotional hothouse’ and focus on being ‘verbal, studious or sensitive’, none of which are ‘natural for men‘. You’d hardly call this science – even social science is a stretch – but much of it seems to resonate with men and so Murrow gives some suggestions for manly church. Laying on hands during prayer is a no-go: men need their space. And you need songs which are about ‘doing’ rather than about intimacy.
Here’s the thing though: neither physical contact nor intimacy are ‘feminine’ in all cultures. For example, Tanzanian men LOVE physical contact, including with other men. (Actually, so did western men not too long ago!) Also, they spontaneously sing, including love songs to Jesus, not just in church but even walking along the street!
Are Tanzanian men just less riddled with testosterone? Or are these propositions about men in church more cultural than innate? Read more
Hanna Rosin’s The End of Men documents the rise of a much greater proportion of women in the workforce following the downturn in traditionally male jobs such as construction due to the US recession. I haven’t read it yet but there are some things in there worth having a discussion about. In particular, I’d like to see a discussion of her concept of ‘cardboard men’ and ‘plastic women’: what is it about how society views masculinity and femininity which has led to greater flexibility on the part of women, and less on the part of men? Read more
I noted in the comments of this post recently that Christians can unfairly interact with a caricature of feminism. I get annoyed when people speak about the Christian faith in unsympathetic or un-nuanced terms so I think it’s important to interact generously with others, to hear how they define themselves. In that spirit, let me point you to this article (language warning) by the very funny Lindy West. It’s a pretty neat summary of feminism and its different forms over the years.
I think there are considerable resources within Christianity for the feminist. The overwhelming dignity and value that the Genesis creation story assigns to women is unique in ancient creation accounts; likewise, there’s very little room in a passage like Eph 5 for men to assert their dominance over women; 1 Cor 7 is an outstanding example of mutuality in marriage. Here, I’d like to consider Lindy’s definition of Third Wave feminism (if it exists!) here. Read more
I was waiting for this day. The day when my favourite feminist blog Jezebel discovered CBMW.
Hugo Schwyzer’s a thoughtful writer but I confess I did feel a little sorry for CBMW — they just have such a PR problem! Take Schwyzer’s quote about their fight against ‘feminist egalitarianism’. That’s an in-house Christian term, referring to a particular Christian position. It’s not, as I suspect many modern feminists would hear it, an attack on equality or basic human rights! But while ever CBMW continues to interact with a mere caricature of feminism, Schwyzer’s criticism holds. And it’s particularly poignant in this article where it seems marriage is elevated over singleness.
But it’s worth taking a step back and being a little self-critical at this point, because I count myself both a feminist and a complementarian. How does that work? As Schwyzer points out, the former seems to encourage women’s independence from men and the latter seems to discourage it. Read more
Andrew Errington has kindly reproduced the entirety of his talk on gender at Sydney Uni EU. It’s a great example of how to talk about this issue for a few reasons:
- He recognises his own privilege and doesn’t dismiss it. Instead, he redirects the conversation towards how Scripture has affected and shaped him, however biased his reading may be.
- He interacts generously with feminism. He highlights its achievements, its evolution and the fact that it’s an ongoing discussion. Feminism is diverse, subtle and thoughtful.
- He carefully exegetes culture before he gets to the Bible stuff. It can be easy to jump to the Bible’s answers without first understanding our culture’s questions but you end up just attacking straw (wo)men. It takes patience, love and humility not to. And is much more productive in the long run!
- His Bible stuff is is multi-dimensional. Creation, corruption and redemption are all on view and taken seriously.
Last weekend, Arthur and I went down to Geelong to see a John Williamson concert. A mate of ours is a big fan of Aussie country music (and I’m a bit of a closet fan mysefl!) so we went with him. For the most part, I tried to enjoy rather than analyse the experience, but I did have one or two slip ups! In particular, I started thinking about the portrayal of women in Williamson’s songs. Read more