Sunday, November 18, 2007
For something completely different, I found this topic and the comments on "The Feminization of the Church" extremely interesting. This is from an Episcopal/Anglican discussion site, and it started as a commentary on the fact that the Church of England ordained more women than men last year, but the topic is really much broader. The comments came from men, women, at least one ordained female orthodox minister, and covered practices in multiple Christian denominations. There is even a link to a study on Jewish converts.
Some of the comments are fascinating just because of their honesty:
Can a Christian denomination survive women’s ordination? It would be incumbent on the innovationists to prove that. Evidence for: The Assembly of God church. Evidence against: Sweden. My inclination is that the Anglican church will go the way of the Lutheran church in Sweden where 1/2% of Swedes attend church on a given Sunday (most of those being immigrants). Liberal feminized theology has effectively killed Christianity in that country....
So it is back to - children, kitchen, bedroom - is it? How striking that conservative religious thinking which fairly demands that women be mothers, at the same time disses them for being womanly, motherly, and accuses them so heartlessly of some creepy sounding but quite vague crime, like that of feminizing religion?...
Are we to believe that true religion is an innately masculine endeavor which has been now been violated and invaded by outsiders?
This tracks with a claim made by military strategist Martin van Creveld in his book The Transformation of War, that wherever a profession is broadly opened to women, men will find it unattractive and will cease to pursue it as much as they had before....
In the 400 year period of the Judges in Israel there was only one female judge, Deborah. She was well quialified and a good judge and God used her. One woman, in 400 years! In order to have an exception to a rule there was be a rule. I’ve known two clregy women in my 71 years who, by their ministry, attested to their being Called by God to minister as ordained clregy. I’ve known a score of men whose minisrty attested to their being Called by God to minister as ordained clergy. One the other hand, I’ve known a couple of man and scores of women who, by their inability to articulate the Gospel and by their lives the inability to live in obedience to Jesus, have clearly attested that they had not been Called by God and ought never to have been ordained. To not serve when is Called is a temporary problem; God wins in the end as He did with Jonah. To attempt to serve when not Called is a very dangerous thing to do....
God has not Called me to be an ordained clergy person, for which I am very thankful, but if He should do that, He will provide a way for me.
I would like it to be that women could be priests and not have an adverse effect on male participation in church. I would like to be a proponent of women’s ordination....
But my walk through this world tells me it doesn’t work. I think the Bible got it right the first time.
Perhaps I can speak for young men, being 24. I know that the last time I attended an Episcopal Church with a priestess (I was 22), there were stuffed animals on all the pews, but no families, and no young men my age there....
I’m not sure why, yet I know that when a female priest is running church, I just simply don’t want to be there very badly.
Perhaps we young men in western societies already have active mothers in our lives, and frankly, not enough father figures.
I really have no great desire to be in touch with my feelings. To be a man is to know that if you really expressed your feelings, you’d be locked up for some of the more salacious criminal articles.
I have no desire to lectured to by someone who knows less than I do. I stopped going to a particular church because the rector persisted in discussing economics. Her theory of economics might have best been described as Seussian-Marxist ("I have none and you have two/ Let’s share everything, skippy-do” and “Tell you what, just for a laugh/ Let’s break everything in half").
It’s bad enough when the ignorant discuss theology, but I’ve been lectured on law, history, business and politics by total idiots from the pulpit. The conservative clergy generally restrict themselves to Scripture, about which they generally know something.
This is part of my favorite comment:
Personally, I think that a church led by women will be overly concerned with interpersonal relationship, and insufficiently concerned with truth. Women are by nature much more averse to conflict, and much more willing to value peace and harmony. But this inverts the natural order of the Church. It’s first function is not to concern itself with the temporal needs of its members, but with preaching and teaching Truth. The Apostles created deacons so that they could focus on prayer and teaching. This inversion is I think an accurate definition of the feminization of the church. It elevates the responsibilities of deacons above the responsibilities of elders.The thing is, I believe the above to be true. And if it is true, it has major implications about the ability to preserve a standard theology over time by means of a largely female priesthood. There is a saying about hard cases making bad law, and I think that addresses the heart of this problem. Women have a major gift for ministry on the individual level, but I am not sure that this translates to maintaining the body of a theology (which is basically a rules system) which will be viable over time.
Truth angers people. Doctrine divides. Women as a rule do not like these outcomes. Men are more willing to value Truth over harmony.
Probably one of the reasons I found this topic and the comments so intriguing is that I have been reading tons of credit-related quarterlies and remittance reports. In less than ten years, the rules system for granting credit broke down so hugely that it looks like a credit implosion of unprecedented magnitude is looming. Systems of rules based on longer term experience are a very important part of maintaining a viable society.
Systems of social rules, whether religious or secular, are somewhat analogous to POH's. Modern societies involve continuous modifications to the "airplane" which arguably cause parts of the POH to need modification, and some POH's, of course, included errors to begin with. Many people throw out the entire POH and figure they can learn how to fly the airplane on their own. And some "flight instructors" (college professors) are busily writing POH's, based on theoretical considerations, for airlanes they have never flown or even seen.
We are all test pilots now.
But yes, modern life changes actual circumstances a lot, so the rules have to change as well. How we accomplish that is the question. I am guessing that it requires a little more care than was given to bank regulation in the last ten years.
In trying to delineate why it is harmful I can only express it in terms that resonate with a particular type of male, and as such I do not speak for all, only the my breed.
First and foremost is the matter of what the church discusses. As a person trying to be a good Christian and understand what they hell I am supposed to do (and why), I want the wisdom of the ages that the church has to offer on difficult topics. I expect that what I am told is going to occasional make me stop and think and reevaluate my approach to life. I note that male dominated churches discuss these issues, the issues where I am not sure about right and wrong.
Female dominated churches wither lead by a man or female, do not. Instead they deal with stuff that is to me minutia, of little importance and couched in terms that turn me off. The subjects are “non-threatening” in as much as they do not require one to examine difficult areas, nor do they require you to face unpleasant topics. Instead they deal with areas of little disagreement and as such offer nothing but inane platitudes. I suppose to women this is feel-good thing, but to males it is kind of like being stuck back in second grade with the most irritating preachy schoolteacher.
To provide an example of each before proceeding further: At my old Methodist church (on the way to becoming female dominated) they had a special service where some important doctor of Methodism came to speak. I went expecting something worth listening to. The learned doctor went on for about an hour about how bad racism was. Gee, it never occurred to me. Now for those of you who are not Methodists, Methodism is not a nest of Klu-Klux clan types, rather the opposite. So why the lecture? Well it was safe, and it did not require us to think about some difficult area and ultimately as we left we could all think how wonderful we all were because we were not racist. Hopefully on the way out we would drop some serious cash so the good doctor could enlighten other poor souls on the way back to his 675,000 dollar condo.
Contrast that to the most recent sermon by the little church I now attend, a nest of patriarchal types. The sermon was on charity and what it really meant. The minister discussed what Christ example was, and that the church taught this meant when we were asked by those in need we should ideally give as Christ would give. He then discussed that duty we owed our family and that which we owed strangers, if we wished to emulate Christ. He also discussed the misuse of charity; that is when someone is a moocher. So how this is different you might ask, seems basic like the issue of racism? Well he dealt with some difficult issues. The church says when asked you give to those in need. Your needs do not include a new kitchen set your wife wanted when your neighbor is starving or has real need. On the other hand, your family has real needs and those are your first duty, before your self (crap, seems like that new assault rifle I wanted is on hold). The charity of Christ was not a simple donation to a charity or church so you could feel good, but to offer what is needed to a down and out person when you run into them, instead of turning aside. Often that is time and kindly ear, an offering of one’s self. It does not matter if they are responsible for their plight, you should help them if you can. A the same time you must not enable them to do harm out of good wishes, you must demonstrate good judgment, keeping the final result in mind (no giving cash to crack addicts).
Note the above requires a bit more thought, evaluation and work rather than just feeling good about not being a racist. It is also much more helpful, as it clarifies what a Christian is supposed to strive for. As any one who has ever tried to do when helping someone who is down and out, it can be a difficult and fruitless venture, that makes one less willing to try again once one sees how difficult it is. This sermon summoned one to try again, if one finds oneself in that situation again.
So back to my thesis: Women dominated churches do not deal with real issues, they become feel good places for female audiences. Once they appeal to that audience, males have no interest in them and leave them to the target market they have sought out.
I attend a more patriarchal church. And this post is supremely fascinating to me. Thanks, Mama!
Do women speak on "soft" things because women are afraid of the "hard" topics or because no one wants a woman to speak a hard topic. And how much of this soft-talk is female orientation or just plain lack of access to and practice at the pulpit?
Accomplished women also have difficulty in church. I have a relative who is a VP at a Fortune 500 company. Is she supposed to sit in the pew and be quiet in church like the first age of the church, as though society hasn't changed?
Will the change in the church culture kill the church? And then, should we expect the same in the business world?
Also, I've had men pastors speak on sweet things. It's not just the providence of women. To me, churches in general have gotten sissified and the gender of the pastor has little to do with this trend.
People don't want to hear hell, fire and brimstone. It's bromides or nothin'. Joel Osteen ain't the manliest of men. It seems people go to his church or go nowhere.
Dr. M, I guess the reason I put this out there is that I am pondering the same types of questions as you mention.
churches in general have gotten sissified and the gender of the pastor has little to do with this trend
That's true, and the problem is a sissy church doesn't help men or women. I guess to me the question is whether sissy doctrine is a function of our overall society, or of a strong female presence in the priesthood/ministry. Is it necessarily true that women will always produce a sissy theology, or is it the case that abandoning all those hard and difficult theological questions produces a sissy theology? I don't know the answer to that question, and I suppose I am looking for insight.
Well I suppose I have to answer this as I see it, and remember that I am one guy, so I do not speak for any but my type of fellow. Also I am flawed, so my answers reflect my world view alone. Let me take your points one by one and respond to them:
“Also, I've had men pastors speak on sweet things. It's not just the providence of women. To me, churches in general have gotten sissified and the gender of the pastor has little to do with this trend.”
Agreed. Notice I said Female dominated. I did not say Female pastor only. The Methodist church I mentioned did have a male pastor, it was only halfway to being female dominated, which is among the reasons I would attend. I agree with your comment above. But I do note that this seems to be the response of the church to its target audience, which is increasingly single women.
“Do women speak on "soft" things because women are afraid of the "hard" topics or because no one wants a woman to speak a hard topic. And how much of this soft-talk is female orientation or just plain lack of access to and practice at the pulpit?”
Well speaking on my own experience, it is the former rather than the latter. It has nothing to do with access but everything to do with inclination. Sorry, but that is the way I see it. I like women who are willing to talk about all the tough stuff, hell every guy I know likes that sort of women. We are not afraid of strong women, we just can’t find them wandering about as single women. Now as I get older and see more of life, the reason is that like it or not, women by nature are not (except in a few cases) willing to get out there on their own without a man to back them up. It comes down to that. The fact is that women who I have known to be strong and willing to take a stand were the ones that had a guy there that they knew would back them up if they were in danger. It really makes sense, since in reality without civilization or a husband women are slaves to the first chap that wanders by and takes a fancy to them. Women know this deep down and instinct is hard to kill.
Now by now you might think I am some sort of Neanderthal who just wandered by a computer screen and had some literate person jot down my misogynist thoughts for me. Not the case. For example, while I was spending all that time pondering the real way to take care of charity, my wife wandered off spending her time taking care of people in the real world. She didn’t need that sermon; she just does it on her own. Pretty dammed nice female trait I would say. Ahhhh…but there is a rub. She is able to do this because I am there and she knows no one can touch her, physically or mentally without first coming through me. When I met her she was not able to do this, as her own life was far too difficult for her as a single women, her own needs had not been met. Once she had the trust and knew she was safe and I was that safety, then she was able to extend a hand to help others. It seems to me 9 times out of 10 that is the case. So, I know lots of women who are strong and well versed on a number of topics, Maxed out Mama being one of them (I read this site for her economic coverage). I knew another woman of a 142 IQ who could pretty much take on all comers mentally, but who chose to change the world one person at a time. . For some reason these women do not want to be preachers, their life is spent ministering to folks on personal level. That is a female grace we men will never master and god bless all women for that. It is every bit as noble as being a preacher or church leader. The females I see drawn to the clergy somehow have a chip on their shoulder, as if they want to remake the world in their own utopian image. That isn’t what church is about, its’ about keeping imperfect people from straying too far from the straight and narrow.
“Accomplished women also have difficulty in church. I have a relative who is a VP at a Fortune 500 company. Is she supposed to sit in the pew and be quiet in church like the first age of the church, as though society hasn't changed? “
Well I am no expert on churches, though I have done a little reading on the church history. I would mention that from a male point of view competency in one area of one’s life does not extend to other areas, unless you have proven yourself to the peers of that area of competence. Men like hierarchy, because to us it seems to work. It is assumed that if you enter a new club, group or social organization you will go through some sort of hazing and will have to prove one self. That is taken for granted by men. Women do not take that for granted, or so it seems to me, they expect that if you have established yourself in one sphere you will be granted respect in others. Fat chance! In a church the mighty must start at the bottom, just like every one else. If she has a spiritual gift, it will eventually be seen and will make itself known. Make no mistake; women are the ones who keep such institutions as the church going, by keeping all of the day-to-day affairs running, identifying whom within the church needs help and ministering on the personal level. It seems to me women are so naturally attuned to this and naturally good at it. If there is anything to the Christian church, many who are now meek and serving shall find a crown of gold waiting for them, while those who now lead cheerfully carry their train. One does not have to lead in a church to be of value or to be valued.
Lastly I would say true society has not changed, it is going through a transition. It will either return to some variant of the former patriarchal society, or it will crash. Matriarchal societies are noticeably poor and unstable, as the young males do not have the restraining hand of their fathers, which every young man needs and it is why we love and honor our fathers. Few men I have known and respected did not feel it was the strong arm of their father in both deed and example that made them what they are. Slightly off topic but perhaps not. I do not think functioning society has changed much since the 1950’s.
“That's true, and the problem is a sissy church doesn't help men or women. I guess to me the question is whether sissy doctrine is a function of our overall society, or of a strong female presence in the priesthood/ministry. Is it necessarily true that women will always produce a sissy theology, or is it the case that abandoning all those hard and difficult theological questions produces a sissy theology? I don't know the answer to that question, and I suppose I am looking for insight.”
Agreed with your first point and I do not have the true answer to the question, except to use Occam’s razor. Sissy theology seems to have come hand in hand with women taking over the clergy. One cannot fight nature; we are part of it and subject to it. So I would say, based on history, there are certainly women who are likely to be very good at a macroscopic pastoral duty, but likely so few as to be the exception.
The only caveat I have is that it seems that the change in adding women clergy occurred at a time when women rejected old truths that had been recognized for generations. It might be that if the current crop of “popular ideas” and “liberation theology” that seem so out of balance with the real world will be tempered. Once the sort or feminist screed has shaken out and women are free to be women and not compete with men again, they might well make good preachers, though of a different sort then men. In its current guise it is a disaster.
Anon, I don't take your comments as misogynistic at all. In fact, I take them seriously. It will do no good for the future of the world, if women win in the church but souls are lost for Christ. I just don't know that that would happen.
It is an interesting hypothesis.
The socialistic dogma being draped in a Christian cloak would drive any thinking person from the Church and from Christianity, too. Is feminism to blame for this? Ultimately, I believe it's a lack of male leadership. It was men who passed Roe v. Wade. It was that decision that changed the cultural tide. It was the state that took over the role of men. The societal decay has made it so no one, man or woman, is comfortable with a strong, authoritarian anyone exerting power. That is why the Left snivels in front of Bush and hates him, too. He symbolizes the authority that alternately terrifies and consumes them with envy. The rise of gangs, the Jack Ass videos, etc. provide evidence to me that young men hunger for masculine role models but adopt a hyper-masculinity not tempered. They are not comfortable being fathered, though. There is an anarchic strain spawned by Boomers that rejects all authority. The vacuum being created is worrisome. Something will fill.
Rather than being a leader on the cultural front, the church reflects the culture. Still, it would be nice if the church could be a place where manly men and strong women felt like they could benefit. It's tough for a woman to rule the world and then get consigned to the kitchen at church. And on some level it seems wrong and off-putting to women who want a church to call home, too.
There are neither strong male or female leaders. And I've written extensively about that before. Our culture rejects stereotypical female and male traits. We are neutering ourselves out of existence.
Still, the church
I think the modern feminist movement has pushed a neuterization of our culture.
The essence of femaleness, the essence of masculinity is being pressed through an androgynous mould where we end up with wussified metrosexuals (all grooming and sexual grazing) and butch babes (all power grabs and gonads).
The emphasis both ways is self and self-gratification, either through money accumulation and/or sexual conquest. Is this the ideal those bent on gender-equity have fought for, lo, all these years? That men and women are essentially flawed and must "evolve" into one genderless, narcisstic being?
I'm not sure this "neuterization" was the goal, but that is where we are in America now. The result has been confused, used, materialistically wealthy and spiritually empty people seeking meaning everywhere but where it can be found: through faith, family and fidelity.
Anon, I think your comment about your wife not needing the sermon about charity addresses something about the differing style of men and women. I'm going to admit that men often baffle me when they seem to need to intellectualize things too much. It's not that you and your wife apparently think differently about what to do, it's that you need somehow a different verbalization of it. This might actually be due to some very fundamental differences in the way men's and women's brains work.
However, continuing on with your example about the sermon on charity and some of the earlier comments on "feelings" in feminized churches in the original thread, is it possible that women ministers tend to skip the intellectualization point?
Because if I were talking about Christian charity, I'd do it this way:
A) Jesus requires charity from us, and it is based on the "Love thy neighbor as yourself" maxim.
B)Therefore it is necessary for me to meet every person with the recognition that I must be conscious of their needs as much as my own. (Here, you see, is where the feelings come in because I'd continue on in this vein.)
C)Therefore if I meet a person who is confused, impatient and angry at work or in the grocery store, or someone who asks a lot from me, it's necessary for me not to react solely out of my own needs but to recognize also what might be motivating the other person.
I am guessing that to you this would come down to the "feelings" thing again. A man would probably continue on with laying out rules, whereas for a woman the basic principle is enough and she feels free to wing it from there. Necessarily, this gets into a lot of stuff about how individuals are feeling.
Anyway, if this is true, a female minister might have problems talking to men successfully. What is in fact strong doctrinally might come off to men as wimpy lalala sissified stuff.
Thanks for even remembering the post! Wow! That means a lot as busy as you are. Please give me a heads up if the stock market looks like it will completely crash.
As to your post, I thought it was a keeper! Gender is at the heart of our very natures. Trying to eradicate it is like a dog trying to get around all day by walking only on its hind legs.
And remember, there's another faith out there. One that's been called "The Real Man's Religion", reveling in its hypermasculinity. If Christianity is for women and sissies, men will look elsewhere, and the Kaaba still beckons from the Arabian desert. Can you hear it? "Men of the World! Convert and Conquer! You have nothing to lose but your chains! Al'lah'u Akbar!"
As a follow-up to the Martin van Creveld reference in the post... For those who do not know his work, he is perhaps the greatest military historian of our time. He has written aprox 2 dozen books, and is frequently invited to speak before War Colleges and intelligence agencies around the world. No matter if you agree with him or not, his views deserve attention.
For a list of his works, go to
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