May 042012
 

Several popular (though controversial) preachers have taken up a refrain of social commentary I’ve heard a few too many times. They denounce what they see as a trend of “Effeminate Worship.” (Here’s a typical message. Here’s another and another.) Apparently, modern churches have become “feminized,” unlike the old days when men were men. This means that manly men are staying out of leadership, so preaching has lost its edge and church music has devolved to sappy “Jesus is my girlfriend” songs. Those don’t interest macho masculine men, so they stay away.

I have a book that’s a good example of the way this case is usually argued these days. The first chapter is called “The Feminizing of Christianity,” and it begins like this:

(It must be the hair.)

The statement that the men in Christian countries take less interest in religion than the women requires neither argument nor proof. Not only have the statistics of church attendance been published, but also any one can easily verify the statement for himself in any congregation. The women in attendance always outnumber the men, often by several hundred percent.

Why do men stay away from church (assuming we accept that with “neither argument nor proof”)? The author explains:

There is one explanation so obvious that it seems to escape observation — the Feminizing of Christianity. When you stop to think of it, what is there in the personality of Christ, as usually presented, to attract the interest or inspire the enthusiasm of hard-headed, practical men? Of course men of emotional temperament or religious tendencies are likely to be attracted by the ideality of his character and doctrine, but the men who do the world’s rough work and have little idealism regard Christianity as all very well for women and children, but not “practical” for men.

Consider the conventional Christ, as presented by Christian art and Christian preaching. From lovely illuminated church windows and from Sunday school banners he looks down upon us, “meek and lowly”, with an expression of sweetness and resignation, eyes often down-cast, soft hands gently folded, long curling hair brushed smoothly from a central parting — all feminine, passive, negative. […]

The Feminizing of Christianity is the real reason why men are not interested. Christian art and Christian preaching need a strong tonic of Virility.

You can hear that same message, point for point, idea for idea, from most of those other preachers I mentioned. It’s like they’ve been exchanging notes: Men are staying away from church—check! That means the church has become “feminized”—check! By that we mean an excess of emotionalism and feminine traits in Christian art and preaching, which is bad—check! And down-to-earth working men today, unlike milquetoast intellectuals, aren’t interested in that—check! So the solution is to make our art, music, and preaching more virile, masculine, and manly—double check!

This is exactly the message they preach, exactly the way they preach it. The argument could have come word for word from any modern advocates of biblical manhood and womanhood.

But it didn’t. That book was published in 1904.

(It’s called The Manly Christ: A New View by Dr. R. W. Conant. Contemporary reviewers, though, remarked that Conant’s book was “not strictly a new view.” Much of the same ground was already covered in The Manliness of Christ by Thomas Hughes—in 1880. The origin of both was probably the “Muscular Christianity” fad of the late 1850s, but that’s getting a bit far afield.)

Every cultural criticism the detractors of “modern effeminate Christianity” trot out was there in 1904, not embryonically but as fully developed as today. They offer nothing new, no keeping up with cultural changes, no fleshing out concepts with fresh thoughts. It’s like reprinting an editorial on the Taft administration as a commentary on politics today. Old facts and truths and logic are wonderful things, but old editorializing on culture is used for lining birdcages.

Think about that. In its current form, this denunciation of “feminized Christianity” predates not only 1960s feminism but radio, movies, penicillin, and the Model T. They’re not offering a radical new cultural critique. They’re reanimating a musty old religious antique. It’s an outdated cultural meme masquerading as a timeless theological truth. We’re not just beating a dead horse; several generations of horses have come and gone while we’re still beating the spot where we think the first horse’s body decomposed a century ago.

The point is, when we’re talking about “masculine” and “feminine” especially in religion, the majority of our commonly held ideas don’t come from the Bible. Maybe a handful do, but not as many you think. Mostly, like this one, they’re an amalgam of cultural customs and hand-me-down moralizing, badly filtered through recent tradition.

Take another example. One of the articles I linked above lists what the author, Douglas Wilson, sarcastically identifies as signs that “Your worship service and church community might be effeminate.” One of them is, “…a clerical collar and a powder pink shirt.” To us, of course, pink is a color for little girls. But here’s another quote from the early 1900s, this one from a clothing magazine in 1914:

“The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.” (Source: Smithsonian Magazine)

In 1914, pink was the manly color and blue was “delicate and dainty.” A man who wore a pink shirt to church was “more decided and stronger.” Apparently, pink wasn’t even associated with femininity in the U.S. until the 1940s, mostly thanks to marketing by clothing manufacturers. Are we really promoting biblical masculinity or femininity here? Obviously not.

Taken to its most extreme, this becomes obsessive nitpicking and worrying and scrutinizing that something a man does might be (horror of horrors!) feminine. It can get downright laughable. I have another book in which several scholars try to explain “biblical manhood and womanhood.” Discussing the handful of scattered Bible verses that address gender takes them 575 pages—longer than the New Testament. As C. S. Lewis said in another context, this is “the discovery of the mare’s nest by pursuit of the red herring.”

The absurdity perhaps reached its nadir when Douglas Wilson listed this sign that a church is “effeminate”:

The worship music rides particular chord changes hard, with special mention being given to the shift from E Minor to C Major;

Because nothing says femininity like a chord progression with root movement of a descending major third. As a classically trained composer, the technical term I’d use for that is, “What?” Maybe he thinks men ought to go from E minor to B7 instead, since that’s the Dominant. Or to D#, which is the leading tone, because men should be leaders, and… Oh, forget it, I give up. It’s just sheer nonsense. It’s on a level with saying that men should avoid spelling words with W and F because they stand for Womanly and Feminine.

Once a debate has gotten into a state like this, it’s not only jumped the shark, it should be sent to sleep with the fishes.

What’s really behind this? It’s certainly not informed and reasonable concern for hymnology or music or liturgical content. Yet something is keeping this worn-out 110-year-old trope alive, shambling from the grave like a sermon zombie. There’s something more to it than our current culture conflict over gender roles.

Here’s where it gets ugly. In a follow-up piece, Wilson clarified his intentions, insisting that he didn’t see femininity as a bad thing; after all, the church is the bride of Christ and all that. Then he tipped his hand:

Our corporate identity is feminine. But if an individual man attempts to replicate that identity in his personal devotions, two bad things can happen. The first is that he finds he can step right into such role, no prob, and presto, we have ourselves a new worship leader.

Ha, ha! It’s funny because being feminine makes a man into a worship leader! Just like you! Get it? Pretty good, huh?

Those are the words of a bully.

This spiel about “feminized worship” is precisely tuned to please men’s instinct for self-gratification. Every guy knows it strokes our egos when someone says “You’re really manly!” And, conversely, it’s hard to think of a worse insult to a man than “You’re not a real man.”

So now, with this “effeminate worship” meme, not only do you get to say how much more masculine you are than those namby-pamby effeminate weaklings—well, you get to say those other guys are namby-pamby effeminate weaklings. You get to puff yourself up so you feel bigger, and you get to push other people down so you look bigger.

When a religious leader finds he can step into that role with no problem, then presto, we have ourselves a new case of spiritual abuse.

Someone might argue that “effeminate” is just a descriptive term for a man who’s acting like a woman, not an insult. Uh-huh. And “loser” is a descriptive word for someone who finishes last, and “fat” is a descriptive word someone who’s overweight, and “knucklehead” is a descriptive word for someone who thinks chord progressions have gender. A taunt doesn’t turn polite when someone says “But it’s true!”

No doubt Wilson would say he was only joking and we shouldn’t take his cheap shot so seriously. The Bible, meanwhile, would say this:

Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death
is the man who deceives his neighbor
and says, “I am only joking!”
(Proverbs 26:18-19)

Firebrands, arrows, and death in the hands of a madman. That’s the kind of damage this harmless “joking” can do. Cheap shots can be costly. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words may break my heart.

In fact, the Bible specifically denounces this combination of praising God and putting down people. In a diatribe on the destructive power of words, James writes:

Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. […] It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. (James 3:5-10)

From one side of our mouths we’re praising God—see, worship!—and from the other we’re tearing down our brothers. Praise the Lord with manly hymns, because God doesn’t want namby-pamby girly-men like you! Praise the Lord; you’re a pansy!

That’s built into that whole concept. Even if the bullying isn’t as blatant as Wilson’s, there’s no way around it. The inherent attitude in the terminology is mockery: “Heh heh, dude looks like a girl.” To say that to a man is to insult him, tear him down, dehumanize him, browbeat him into following your gender rules. To do that in the context of worshiping God? “My brothers, this should not be.”

If we want to know the reason men are staying away from church, maybe we just found it. Maybe they see church people as bullies. When somebody tells me I’m not a real man, I don’t want to hang out with them. I had enough of that in the locker room in sixth grade, thanks. If that’s what I’ll find in church, I’ll pass—and so will every other man who doesn’t meet that narrow, culture-blinded, anti-biblical ideal of masculinity.

Enough is enough. This whole tired clichéd pointless insulting emasculating graceless sanctimonious frippery of bellicose machismo should have been laid to rest a hundred years ago.

As with most worship wars, the problem isn’t worship. The problem is lack of worship. We’re looking at culture, not at Christ. We’re preoccupied with effeminacy, not having faith. We’re teaching gender, not the Gospel. We’re talking about manliness, not the Son of Man.

What would happen if we made our standard of “biblical masculinity” the Bible’s main character, the Son of Man himself? Let’s make a few things absolutely clear:

Showing your emotions and crying in public doesn’t make you effeminate. “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).

Finding beauty in nature doesn’t make you effeminate. Jesus told us to “consider the lilies” (Matthew 6:27).

Being gentle, quiet, kind, and humble doesn’t make you effeminate. Jesus was “gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:29).

Having an intimate, emotional friendship with Jesus doesn’t make you effeminate. “There was reclining on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23). (That was John, the rugged blue-collar fisherman, by the way.)

Liking beautiful music and poetry doesn’t make you effeminate. Jesus sang hymns (Matthew 26:30).

Even being a victim of bullying doesn’t make you effeminate. “Herod and his soldiers ridiculed him and mocked him” (Luke 23:11).

Sure, Jesus was a strong man, a tough guy with a beard who worked with his hands for a living, called out Pharisees to their faces, stared down a mob, and overturned tables. But Jesus was also a man who wasn’t ashamed of being emotional, enjoying beauty, liking music, being humble, getting bullied, crying, expressing love, hanging out with women and children.

Brothers, anybody who told you that doing those things makes you “effeminate” didn’t understand Jesus.

And if me saying that makes someone think less of Jesus, then they’re the one with the gender problem. If your doctrine of masculinity or femininity gets in the way of your love for Jesus, you’re an idolater.

The Bible doesn’t mention masculine worship or feminine worship or effeminate worship or tomboy worship. It mentions true worship. That comes from the true worshipers, who worship the Father in spirit and truth.

Being a true worshiper doesn’t mean following a list of biblical rules that will make you into someone who’s stereotypically masculine or feminine by cultural standards. It means following Jesus, and letting the Holy Spirit make you into someone who’s like Him by His grace.

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:29)

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 2:18)

Not the likeness of gender roles. The likeness of God’s Son.

Be free in who God made you to be. Let God make you more like Jesus. When you worship, don’t look at cultural rules—look at Christ. That’s all worship is.

 

——–

There’s a lot more that can be said on this subject, and fortunately, a lot more people are saying it. Here are a few more posts for recommended reading:

“Esau” Christianity? by Chaplain Mike

Complementarian Teachings Hurt Men Too by Darcy

“Effeminate”: Christianity and Gender Shaming by OutOfTheAshes

Mano-a-Mano: A Letter to Mark Driscoll by Tyler Clark

The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity review, by Daniel P. Moloney (a devastating critique of Leon Podles’ book that Douglas Wilson claims as a source)

Muscular Christianity by Clifford Putney (a fascinating little bit of history)

Muscular Christianity by Michael Horton (See, complementarian theologians critique this meme too)

The “Feminization” of the Church by Wordgazer (New!)

 

  • Sarah

     Love this. Thank you so much for sharing. It’s wonderful to see men speaking out against this hateful doctrine of “manly man christianity”.

  • Alisa Jacobsen

    Excellent, Eric. 

    My favorite is this: “As with most worship wars, the problem isn’t worship. The problem is
    lack of worship. We’re looking at culture, not at Christ. We’re
    preoccupied with effeminacy, not having faith. We’re teaching gender,
    not the Gospel. We’re talking about manliness, not the Son of Man.”

    Just give me Jesus…

  • shadowspring

    One question: Why is it an insult for a man to be called girly or effeminate?

    Answer: Because women are hateful and lowly things; its shameful to be called woman-life.

    Jesus didn’t teach that or live it, but modern American Christianity is full of it.  Get out while you can, sisters!  You are despised by the brethren.  Don’t think it’s not true because they hold the door for you on the way in to the church.

    • Belkis

      I think I’ll stay in as long as Jesus remains who he is.

    • Clarissa Hope

      Excellent point!

  • shadowspring

    ps I’m not including you in that, Eric.  Thank you for being willing to be associated with we lowly worshippers, er, I mean women.

    • Thanks, Shadowspring. Part of my rationale for writing this, of course, was to demonstrate (again) that not all Christian guys look down on women.

      • karpman

        …and that not all Christian guys are grunting, chest-beating, knuckle-dragging, hairy Neandrethals? Thank you for writing this article. I’m just relieved that I don’t have to lead worship in a loincloth, stalking around and swinging a club.

        Jim K.

        • James William

          “looking down on women” seems like a legitimate New Testament concept.  Just read some of the obnoxious teachings in 2nd Timothy.

          • Seems like, maybe, but only when it’s interpreted badly (unfortunately all too common). See the N. T. Wright link below for an alternate take.

  • Rachel S.

    I just read this to Jason, and we were once again blown away by your writing. It is unfortunate that these crazy concepts have to be debunked, but you did so wonderfully.

  • Manly men carry their wives purses. And it looks GOOD on them.

  • cheri

    With the horrendous statistics as to the percentage of Christian women who are abused by the men who say they “love” them, the “bellicose machismo” is not only idiotic, but dangerous…. Thank you for worshipful piece.

  • Victorious

    Excellent, Eric!  Thanks!

  • Good for you Eric!  I’m so tired of listening to speeches about Effeminate or feminized this, that or the other.  You watch these bullies on a tirade on the pulpit, and they claim others are ’emotional’ etc.  Its just hateful.  They know darn well calling someone a girl – or other terms is just being plain mean.  Its degrading to everyone.  These men are dangerous and poisonous to everyone.  They are too concentrated on being macho that they forget that Christlike is their true call from God. 

    My mother used to tell us that people that spent time tearing others down had issues within themselves.  When we were children she told us that they may even have awful home lifes.  More often than not?  That point was proven time and time again.  My brother and I used to pray for them, because that is what the bible taught us. 

    Who wants to go to a place of worship when they question if you are manly or womanly enough?

    • Marvelous point, Hannah. Part of being Christlike, of course, is learning to love those who mistreat us, maybe even by getting to a place where we can understand and sympathize with where they’re coming from– “Hurt people hurt people,” as the saying goes. Compassion can break the cycle of abuse.

  • Charis

    “If we want to know the reason men are staying away from church, maybe we just found it. Maybe they see church people as bullies.” -Eric

    For many years as a fully invested evangelical, I felt ambivalent about “evangelizing” and recruiting anyone else to come to church and couldn’t quite put my finger on why?  Lately, I have realized that those who don’t come to church may be blessed with a level of discernment which I lacked. 

    Last Sunday the sermon was on “the Good Samaritan” with a big initiative to “reach out” to the community.  The pastor related that when brainstorming, the women in the group said “we can’t do anything, we have noting to offer” but then had a lightbulb moment “we can BAKE!”  So the church is going to be a “Good Samaritan” by passing out pies to all the businesses in town… 
    (((((((Sigh))))))). 
    Nope, don’t want to invite my friends, male or female, to have ancient stereotypes and limitations reinforced…  And I am becoming more and more reluctant about attending with my husband and children…

    • Kiddllawson

      Wow!  That is quite a leap.  I am that pastor.  The truth is that those ladies decided to do that because that is what THEY want to do, not because they felt lead by anyone, man or woman, to something “stereo typical”.  I would not let them get away with saying they have nothing to offer the Kingdom.  I challenged them to think about what they are good at or enjoy doing and use those things to serve in a Kingdom building effort.  Those ladies chose to look for something they are very capable of doing.  They are ladies who are not in the professional circuit and truly want to serve their community with something they can do.  If someone wants to give something out of their abilities why should it matter if it’s baking bread or volunteering their training and education to a hospital or orphanage or any other humanitarian effort.  Why does it matter what a person offers for the Kingdom?  

      • Well, yes and no. I know both women and men who enjoy baking, so it’s great when any of them want to use that skill for God. On the other hand, “A woman’s place is in the kitchen” is a really offensive stereotype, so it would be unfortunate if the church unduly perpetuated that. It’s mostly a matter of context, I expect. 

        • Kiddllawson

          Yes, I fully agree that if the church unduly perpetrated that “a woman’s place is in the kitchen” then that is awful, unfair, anti-biblical and flat out wrong.  But, it is also judgmental and short sighted to see anything an individual volitionally offers God as somehow less because it is perceived as a stereotype and not an authentic, heartfelt response to the Holy Spirit.  

          I have only read this posting of your blog, so I could be totally wrong, but you seem to defend women as equal in biblical terms.  You seem to espouse the rights of men and women to be who God created them to be and to live as a child of the King regardless of how they were brought up or how society within or outside of the church sees them as.  I especially like the this posting because I am a very emotional pastor and am not at all afraid to share my emotions when Jesus moves my soul.  I am who I am and I really don’t care if someone sees me as weak.  With that being said, please keep in mind that there are men who are called to be hunter gatherers and women who are called to be domestic providers.  That is not wrong.  It is only wrong when someone else makes others feel as if that is the only way to be. And that sentiment goes both ways.  It is an absolute tragedy when someone uses the Bible to make the case that people have to act, dress speak, and live in certain culturally accepted ways.  As you mentioned, the church has been a major culprit in this area, but if a man is lead by God to chop wood for a family in need, why shouldn’t he?  If a woman is lead by God to do the dishes for a family in need, why shouldn’t she?  On the other hand, if a man is lead by God to bake a cake for an elderly person’s birthday, why wouldn’t he?  If a woman feels lead to a brake job on the pastor’s car, why shouldn’t she?  If those people choose not to do what the Holy Spirit of God is calling them to do, they would be in abject disobedience to His will.  

          I would also like to ask you to think about your general rule about attending church.  Is it really always the church’s fault when someone feels uncomfortable inviting someone else to church?  I’m not saying that my church doesn’t have any problems, but your comments seems to make the church fully responsible for an individuals choice.  The church might not be as unhealthy as you claimed, but the individual could be and keep hopping from church to church until they find the “perfect” church.  There isn’t a perfect church, because there are no perfect people.

          • Charis

            Ahh, so perhaps the longtime Christians who are leaving are the “unhealthy” ones?  How do you think a new recruit would feel if they heard those jokes from a Sunday School teacher?

             “Why don’t women need a driver’s
            license? 

            Because there is no road between the kitchen and the
            bedroom…”

            I assume  those ladies who said “all I can do is bake” may have attended the same adult Sunday School I
            did and heard the same “joke” I did?

            Sorry but I’m not going to recruit…

          • Kiddllawson

            Uh… Um… What are you talking about? .   

          • Charis

             Surprised you aren’t aware of this.  The details are not appropriate for a public forum. Answered by e-mail.

          • James William

            “women are not permitted to speak ..   …But women will be saved through childbearing”  … what part of this verse isn’t offensive and perpetuating that a woman’s place is in the kitchen

          • It depends on the interpretation and translation a lot more than you might expect. N. T. Wright, for instance, argues that in context Paul is actually arguing in favor of equal education for women. There’s an extremely interesting take on it here: http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Women_Service_Church.htm

          • James William

            He can sure squeeze blood out of a turnip.  Its a novel interpretation — one that is consistent with our new enlightened understanding of gender equality (the true view that God must surely hold and would clearly enumerate were he given a chance to revise His text)  — but it doesn’t seem to be consistent with a simple, historical, or literal reading of the passage and the many other controverted gender dialogues in the bible.  

          • I should clarify that I’m not necessarily endorsing his interpretation– I’d have to do a lot more detailed study on it — merely pointing out that multiple interpretations are possible, and the “sexist” one is only one option. (Wikipedia even has a whole page devoted to the different views on that passage!) Certainly that ought to at least make us pause before stating that a given interpretation is the “simple” one, let alone using the text as the foundation of a doctrinal system.

          • James William

            I will certainly grant your statement about a “simple” reading, since a “simple” reading today would be understood vastly different than a “simple” reading 1900 years ago.  I personally think the book should be tossed out due to authorship issues…but that is an extreme position and probably way out of the bounds of appropriate christian discussion.

          • I think we can all agree to disagree on this one — possibly even before knowing which positions we take! 😀

          • EmSoliDeoGloria

            To KiddLawson – I don’t know you and I don’t know Charis (though I’ve read quite a bit of what she’s written)… but I’ve frequently been in church situations similar to what she describes – where “what can the women do? bake!” is praised as the ideal. To your point, neither you nor my former pastor (who was prone to such stereotyping) are awful people – but I think you may not aware of how habitually using such examples can land on women who don’t tend to fit the stereotypes…

            I actually think it’s wonderful that women in your church want to use their culinary skills to bless others. And this example would be great if it were balanced with examples of women with different skill sets also using their gifts to bless others. A female financial adviser teaching a class on budgeting in the church, for example… Or a woman gifted in wisdom serving on an advisory council that counseled elders on church leadership decisions… Or a woman with a heart for seeing mercy and justice extended in and through the church served by counseling and co-counseling women / couples dealing with difficult life situations (like domestic abuse, unplanned pregnancy, addiction, etc)… 

            But the model presented in my church was one of talking about how much pastors wanted to see women use their gifts – by baking cookies for the church Christmas Eve service… or serving in children’s ministry (good things, surely)… but meanwhile, it seemed that only men served on the “financial advisory committee” and the pastor only sought the advice of men on church situations and only men could lead small groups…. When only men are invited to give advice to the pastor(s) and only women are invited to bake cookies – when men are praised for using their leadership gifts and women are praised for their kitchen skills (and “releasing the men to serve the church”), it sends a message that goes beyond praising those specific individuals. It sends a message about what is normative and appropriate for men and women to do in the church.

            My temptation in hearing such things was to withdraw to the fringes of church life. I want to be fully engaged in my church. Heck, I can even bake pretty well, but I love theology, study, apologetics, counseling and caring for people’s spiritual needs, and extending justice and mercy… I can make a difference in those areas – but rarely have seen a place for me to do so in the church…And I appreciate that you are not ashamed to be an emotional pastor. 🙂

        • Charis

           Eric, I’m sorry for this wild “tangent” (below) but I think it is related to
          your post.  IMO, some of the men (or women) who stay OUT of the church
          may be motivated by much healthier reasons than those who stay IN.

          Thanks for giving voice to my feelings and for
          helping me along a journey of healing.  Keep up the good work!

          • You’re welcome, Charis. I’ll leave you guys to sort out whatever disagreement that was on your own time, as it feels pretty much like none of my business. Either way, I’m glad the post was edifying for both of you.

    • As a general rule, I’ve found that if I’m not comfortable thinking about inviting my friends to a church, it’s probably a sign there’s something unhealthy about that church. (Unless of course we’re talking about my friends who don’t want to go to any church at all.) 

  • Aadel

    And let me just get this off my chest- as a woman I don’t have to act effeminate according to what YOU think a woman is like.  Ugh- just as bad as the manly manhood worship is the women in the kitchen with a flowery dress on.  

    I don’t fit the cultural ideal (Christian culture or wordly culture) of a “woman”.  I love theology, guns, and science fiction movies.  I don’t wear dresses or have feminine gestures (whatever the heck gestures are supposedly womanly).

    I have felt pressure to become more of a “godly wife” by changing who I am fundamentally.  But I know who I am in Christ- is that not enough?

    What happened to being authentic and coming to church “just as I am, without one plea”?

    BTW- I am sharing this article all over bloggy/social media land.  It’s awesomesauce!

    • Thanks, Aadel! Yes, this absolutely goes both ways. Why should unique individuals (i.e., everyone) try to fit into arbitrary made-up boxes and categories? 

  • Thanks to everyone for commenting and sharing! Wow! I’m delighted to see so much enthusiasm.

  • Lana

    OMgooooooooodness, these patriarchal people get on my nerves. You know, in all cultures, they recognize that we relate to god (or the gods) as both male and female. That’s why you go to places like Mongolia and Indiayou see female and male gods of each subject (example, a female godness representing consciousness and a male godness respresenting consciousness). I’m not here to say those gods have power (even the locals believe they just serve to help you find enlightenment — different story), but I do think its significant that deep inside the human soul, we recognize that when we relate to God and pray to God, each of us has some level of the masculine and feminine (not saying we are both male and female in the soul, but that in our relationship with God, we reflect the masculine and femine nature). C.S. Lewis says in heaven our souls will neither be male or female; I don’t think I agree, but it makes for an interesting argument. And I think the western church has traditionally been too strong in believing God is only man.

  • jew4jesus

    Good article.  We have an idea of Jesus presented to us by medieval painters.  He’s a white, long-haired hippy from the 1960s with a lamb on his back.  But He was really a blue-collar carpenter before His ministry started, and like Lakota Sioux author Lame Deer (not a Christian theologian) wrote, you wouldn’t let your daughter date him (due to skin color).  As I read the Bible, I see Him as NOT getting pushed around or losing arguments, except for the humiliation He had to go through in the last 18 or so hours of His life.  He understood theology better than anybody, including original culture and obviously original languages.  Paul showed that spiritual passion can co-exist with much education, and Jesus showed that spiritual passion can co-exist with real toughness.

  • Traci

    I get this.  I do understand it.  But my husband does prefer the less wishy washy (read songs with lots of passionate quiet lyrics) songs to sing in praise.  Maybe it’s because he’s a drummer and prefers upbeat stuff.  Maybe it’s because in his life before Christ he was a metal drummer and the emotional music isn’t what moves him in style. Maybe it’s because he uses plain words in speech so he prefers plain words in worship.  No clue.  But I do know that although he prefers a pastor who’s straight talking and not flowery in language doesn’t mean he thinks lowly of women.  Even though we have different worship styles I’m good with him.  I don’t mind that he’s different and I don’t think he minds that I’m me either.  We complement each other well. We’ve sat under what I guess some would call “effeminate” leadership/worship and that was fine too.  I think my point is that while there are some “manly man” ministries that may be over the top towards with a stereotype it’s important to remember that not all manly men are anti-women just because they like to do some of the things that fall within that stereotype.  I like to cook too but that doesn’t mean I’m barefoot and pregnant all the time.  There are tons of ministries around here to support men, some oriented around hunting deer together, some musically based and even one that teaches knitting classes.  I don’t see anything wrong with any of them.  Anything that encourages a man to stand strong and be the best he can be in God’s eyes is okay in my book.  I don’t want to be belittled as a woman but I do want a man who has backbone and boldly represents the God of the bible.  I just feel like people tend to assume that everyone falls on one end of the extreme.  With that comes the core of the problem.  If some want to worship in “manly” ways?  Great.  If others want to worship in “feminine” ways?  Spectacular.  The point is that as long as we’re all worshiping then we’re doing well.  Nobody needs to tell someone else how to worship because effeminate and masculine worship (and yes I know I’m using stereotypical terms for lack of better description) are both effective if the person’s heart is true.  It shouldn’t push or pull someone to church or prevent them from being part of a fellowship in general though. God will direct us to where we’re supposed to be worshiping.  He knows and He’s never failing.  We can always be the change we’d like to see in a fellowship too.  If you think that it wouldn’t hurt for people to see a man open up and worship more emotionally then be that man.  Chances are someone else might need to see that it’s okay too.

    As for being sexist:  I love to bake.  I am educated, have my degree, like to shoot guns, wear jeans to church, have made more money than my husband, and yet if I have a choice I would rather bake cookies for a neighbor than handle someone’s accounting.  Does it mean I’m not capable as a woman?  Nope.  I’m proud that my husband will offer to have me bake stuff for his work parties.  Does it mean he thinks that’s all I’m good for?  Nope.  It means that he thinks I bake delicious cookies.  Sometimes what appears to be gender bias is really just simple preference. You might find me in the kitchen on fellowship day and I’ll be super excited about something delicious I made.  The fact that anyone would ASSUME that I’m there because a church wouldn’t let me take over some man’s role is just as sexist to me as if I would ASSUME that my friend Aadel up there ^ should love to cook because she’s a woman.  As for the bullying and jokes referenced in the comments?  There are some things that are just wrong no matter what type of worship you prefer.  I don’t think that kind of behavior is at all associated with worship or your view of how manly Christ was. It comes down to your walk with the Lord.. will you be kind to others or not? 

    Thanks for the food for thought!

    • Good thoughts they are, too. I totally agree that we spend too much time trying to sort people into categories, when the whole idea of having individuals is that no two are exactly alike– people or snowflakes.

  • Hillary

    Beautiful, Eric. So wonderful. And as always, you have such a gracious and level-headed response. I truly breathe relief whenever I see a post you write, particularly in response to these issues. Thank you for taking the time and energy to do so. I hope you and Carrie are doing well. Much love to you both.

    • You’re a treasure, Hillary.

  • AbigailCW

    Great post, Eric. You do realize, of course, that the only way a “real man’s man” should dress for services is in camouflage. The women, of course, should only wear lace and frilly things. Oh, wait, the men used to wear lace and frilly things. Hmmm…kinda stuck on the what the women should wear. Gosh, men used to carry purses, too. Oh, dear! Whatever shall we do to make sure the “real manly men” stand out from the “others” and from the women??? 😉

    Gee, what happened to your name/url option for posting?

    • Myself, I like the “dandies” of the early 1800s, who believed that the highest standard of masculinity was to spend several hours each day getting properly dressed in the latest fashions. 

      (I upgraded the comment system to Disqus because it has better options for social media. If WordPress ever improves theirs– or if I start getting complaints– I might switch it back, but it seems to be working OK so far.)

      • AbigailCW

         I remember years ago finding out that men wore blouses and carried purses. I just about died. Now I don’t care.

        Dave and I used to both be staunch “no women in leadership” kind of people due to what we thought was a clear teaching of scripture. Over the years, however, we came to the sad conclusion that the scriptures have not only been misunderstood, but some have actually been intentionally mistranslated. I mean, how many people know about the female apostle, Junia? Until the 1930’s, it was understood that she was female…until a concerted effort was made to change her into a man. When Dave saw the chart done by Eldon Jay Epp in his indepth scholarly book called “Junia: the First Female Apostle”, he was floored. He could not deny the obvious…that we have all been misled.

        There are many areas in which see this kind of thing happening…not just in the area of gender. It is sad, really. At the same time, it has encouraged us to be modern day Bereans…studying the scriptures to see if these things are so. Interestingly, the scriptures they were studying were the Old Testament…the Tanakh. And the scriptures that Timothy wrote that are good and profitable to teaching, reproof, etc…yep…the Tanakh. The new scriptures were not around yet and the ones that were were not considered to be “scripture”! A lot of people do not even think about that.

        Culture is important. Another good book we have is by Jon Zens called “What’s With Paul and Women- Unlocking the Cultural Background to 1 Timothy 2. What an eye-opening book. We like how it clearly explains the seemingly contradictory statements of Paul regarding women in the assembly.

        Our paradigm has changed rather radically. We used to need things to be very black and white. Now we are comfortable with trusting G-d for what we do not understand and are a lot more open to possible interpretations that are very different from what we have understood.

        Thanks for the post, Eric!

        Abigail

  • Of course, the elephant in the room here is the question of why it’s so very shameful to men to have anything associated with the feminine attributed to them, in the first place.  Of course it’s problematic to stereotype femininity so that traits like gentleness and compassion are considered feminine– but what’s worse is that men see it as so horribly shameful to do anything considered feminine that they’d rather run naked through a wasp’s nest than get called a “girl.”   To call a girl a “tomboy” is praise.  To call a boy– or even a girl!– a “sissy” is insulting.

     Why is it that a woman doing a brake job on a car is admirable, but a man doing cross-stitch is shameful? Why are women told, “act like a woman but think like a man” as a piece of good advice– while a man would NEVER accept a suggestion that he “act like a man but think like a woman”?   Why are boys who like superhero action figures reluctant to include Wonderwoman and Hawkgirl in their games– or their collections?

    What, exactly, is so wrong with women?  Isn’t it time we began to raise our boys to not think of womanhood this way?

    • Excellent observations, Kristen. Though of course the proponents of the doctrine try to deny this, the accusation of being “feminine” wouldn’t be an accusation unless femininity was perceived as a negative quality. (If it were a neutral descriptor it would only be like calling someone “tall” or “blue-eyed.”) So there’s an implicit insult to women as well as men. How much better it would be to affirm our unique identities and celebrate our differences as individuals!

    • Clarissa Hope

      Religions were invented/created by MEN so that those Men could control other Men using their fears and insecurities against them. Women did not rate as being worth anything other than mere accessories of those controlled Men. You are so right Kristen. It all is really a bunch of ancient tired sexist carp BS!

  • DonaldByronJohnson

    I find one of the saddest aspects is that Doug Wilson is smart and yet he uses his intelligence IN THIS WAY?  It is not only stupid but childish and a waste.

    • I agree. While in fairness this isn’t meant to be an attack specifically against Wilson (his article was just the most flagrant example I found), it was pretty disappointing to see such shoddy teaching coming from someone who could hold his own against Christopher Hitchens. Thanks for the comment!

  • Lilyamongthorns

    Great post Eric. What many people don’t realize is that gentleness and kindness are listed in the 9 fruits of the Spirit!!

    • Very true! For that matter, I’m not aware that either men or women can claim a monopoly on any of them, self-control or love or patience or the rest….

  • evenhim

    They incur mocking and turn away those who seek God at a young age. With perverse over feminization of the church. Matthew 8:16 But whoso shall cause one of these little ones who believe in Me to fall, it were better for him that a millstone were hung about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Then these perverts manipulate the situation by accusing the righteous of cursing others and not using kind speech. Did god use kind speech when he spoke of hell. Did God not warn us of hell. And if you don’t believe in hell. God or no God, hell still exists in our own lives. Just because you cursed yourself doesn’t mean we can say it any nicer.

  • Jacob Marshall

    My apologies in advance: I am venting in response to your article which is nothing more than you doing the same – venting. I found your article frustrating as it is put forth as some sort of fact (see the title) yet is not an article that proves anything as you have watered it down with your opinion – it is simply a stream of consciousness that (in my opinion) being put forth as fact is misleading and belongs simply on your facebook page… This is one of the least thought out arguements I have come across. Are you blogging your opinion or writing an objective article to support a position? If you’re giving your opinion then remove your proof-texting. If you are writing a critical piece of literature then remove your opinion as you are making a mockery of great writings and solid research. You do not state your point at the onset, you put words in the mouths of those you argue against, you just seem apt to destroy a general idea without first making clear your terms or it’s. Furthermore your arguements are all over the board (what was that point you were trying to prove again???), and even then they are strung together with phrases like “everyone knows” and “i think” and “we all know.” Anyone can write anything they dislike into a corner but you come across as angry and passionate against a very general idea. State your case in succinct terms and stick to it rather than ranting until you feel like you have won. Sorry if you are offended as that is not my intention. Passion should be driven by purpose and focused through vision, your passion is evident but lacks clarity of vision! Your article seeks to destroy an idea rather than create positive change.

    • Jacob – Sorry you feel that way. For the record, though, the phrases “everyone knows” and “i think” and “we all know” appear nowhere in the article, the point of my argument is stated in a succinct paragraph that begins “The point is…” and the positive changes I wish to create can be found in the entire last section of the piece (beginning “As with most worship wars…”). I’d encourage you to try reading it again more closely and dispassionately and see if that changes your opinion any.

  • 2Girly4Words

    I am a slender, naturally girlish looking, extremely indulgent, overtly effeminate, asexual, transsexual, transvestite sissy weakling and I absolutely LOVE being so and would not trade who I am for anything. I was raised Lutheran but have been atheist since age 14. Prior to age 14, when I still considered myself a christian, often when or after I would crossdress I would ask God that if my transvestism was in any way wrong, please send me a sign and I’ll get it. Well, absolute truth: EVERY time I did that, the only things that could be construed as a sign were all very positive. One time I was sitting in Sunday school, squirming about wanting to wear the pretty dress of a girl (we were family friends and lived a couple streets apart) in class so I started feeling guilty. So I asked God for a sign and five minutes later I was standing with that girl, her mom and my mom and almost out of the blue I hear the girl’s mother tell my mom that her husband and son were gone camping for the rest of the week and that she and her daughter were too going out of town for three days right after church and would I be able to feed their dog and water their yard. Of course Mom’s and my response was that that would be no problem at all and lo and behold, by nightfall of that Sunday I was girlishly prancing around their house in the very dress that I had been squirming to wear and all went well. Another time I asked for a sign then went dumpster diving behind the local strip mall: in the very first dumpster I hopped in (used by a women’s and girl’s boutique) I find three brand new white lace cup padded bras in my size and two of them had matching panties. In the very next dumpster was a brand new sealed tube of red lipstick and a slightly leaking yet full bottle of perfume. Within ten minutes I am back home in my room at about five PM when my mom knocks and tells me that dinner and that evening ill be on my own as she has to go out and won’t return till after ten PM….ALL THE apparent signs said go ahead and enjoy and here is some help!

    • Abigail

      I read your whole comment in the email notification. You wrote that you wanted a sign from G-d. He gave one…clearly and plainly…in His word. It says a man should not wear a woman’s garments. We have a spiritual adversary that just loves to set things up for those who want to ignore the plain word. Please be careful. We can oftentimes want something so much that we look for approval and signs in the wrong ways.

      • Clarissa Hope

        The rich A-holes of that society paid their lawmakers to get that written in to the civil code in that one specific geographic place way back in that ancient time as the ‘teeth’ added to the code so that law enforcement would have a way to bust guys sneaking into the harems to screw the concubines. If a guy wanted to get laid in that society at that time his only legal choice was to pay the rich A-holes who owned the ho-houses but if a guy could not afford the rich A-holes’ prices the only way he could get laid was to dress as a chick then sneak into the harem ho-house. This became quite a problem for the rich A-holes’ as it cost them lost money but the ‘cops’ then could not just bust into tents and start demanding that the chicks liftup their skirts so the best they could do was put the tents under surveillance then bust any dude sneaking out dressed as a chick then prosecute him for dressing as a chick because they could not prove he screwed a concubine. Hence that ridiculously trite little cutesy phrase has ZERO relevance outside that one specific time and place in World history. You thinking that applies to the here and now is as ridiculous as some dork a thousand years from now thinking that the California Vehicle Code applies to his quantum matter fueled Starchaser Z73 spacecraft, 904 years after the last automobile in the galaxy was shop-canned into the wrecking yard and 962 years after the last road on Earth was dug up and re-planted with soybeans…but yeah, okay buddy, go ahead and wait for your imaginary red light in space if it helps you pretend that you are living in ancient times in another land. I’ll catch you in a few light years fool,if ever, hah!

  • You lost me in the best way at the chord progressions. Hilarious. I’m off to write a manly worship using only dominant chords! (what key? HE minor OF COURSE!)

  • Benjamin Thurber

    What I’ve read here has little to do with femininity in church and more to do with upholding the gospel of Feminism. How–dare–any man suggest a need to reconsider the way church is done. Yet, you offer nothing in the way of drawing more men into the church (Or how about missions where it’s 5:1?)

    Indeed, the Gospel does draw men to Jesus. But any pedestrian examination of the church will tell you that many men don’t want to be there. You need only look out in the crowd and see their faces and body language. One of the wisest observations as to why men don’t want to attend church, is because they’ve already been; clearly those men must be the problem…

    How you ‘present’ the gospel plays a huge role in how it’s received.

    • Benjamin— I’m not sure which church you’re talking about, but it doesn’t sound like any of the churches I’ve been to where men and women all love Jesus. What’s the good of “drawing more men into the church” if people inside the church don’t love Jesus or their neighbors? As I suggest in the last several paragraphs of the article, we need to start by loving Jesus as He is, and then talking about Him instead of spending so much time preaching our culture’s false gospel of masculinity. This is not “feminism” but the good news that Jesus offers to every sinner regardless of gender. Thanks for your comment, though.