24 June 2008

Lactose intolerance

A while back I read Leon Podles' The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity. Although I'm not convinced that he really needed the Old Icelandic and Beowulf references to make his point, it was good. Western Christianity has gotten fluffy and emotional and too many pastors are too wimpy to play football. Issues, Etc. picked this up at least once also; I remember an article in their supplementary magazine in which Pastor Wilken amusingly pointed out that dudes traditionally don't close their eyes and sigh between verses of gooey love songs to other dudes, even if the other dude is Jesus.

But I respectfully here submit my objection to the use of the word "feminization" to describe the phenomenon. "Feminine" has been used as a proxy in this argument for vacuous, sentimental, insipid, emotion-driven, and a lot of other uncomplimentary adjectives that I wouldn't want used about myself. While these adjectives have become unfortunately accurate in describing many churches, and they are follies to which women are generally more susceptible, summing them all up under the term "feminine" insults half the human race. This use of the term also cheapens positive attributes and virtues traditionally considered more feminine--gentleness, compassion, patience, nurture, etc (and aren't these the things we all love in our father confessors?). Finally, the church is our mother. I don't think it behooves us to speak of a feminine church as a problem.

I'm not denying that the problems identified by the "feminization" police are very likely to arise when women are in the majority in church. But any pastor can tell you women nearly always are the majority, and many churches are still able to maintain doctrinally robust theology and practice. Furthermore, anybody with a male baby boomer in her life knows that the ladies aren't the only ones tearing up when the Clavinova croons sweet and low. Insipidity will spiral out of control in any congregation if it's allowed to, headed by men and women who care more about atmosphere than what they're being served. The problem isn't women devouring men, but milk drinkers out-bawling the meat eaters. Those of us in houses full of milk drinkers know how easily this can happen.

In these metrosexual latter days it's not just the pastor who can't play football. Until the shaggy, skinny dudes with square glasses who have never even considered enlisting are destroyed by forces of history, faithful people must be vigilant in defending the church against the broad and easy road of just loving Jesus so much that we can't handle his hard teachings, worship like reverent adults rather than manic children or moony adolescents, or face the pain of repentance head-on.

It's the church's business to confess that male and female he created them, and it was very good. To villify one sex through a lazy circumlocution serves neither.


scottandrosie said...

Also odd that while "feminization" has taken on the wimpy connotations that you mentioned, I don't think we usually think of die-hard "feminists" as being that way. If anything, feminists often get thought of as "feminazis", which definitely doesn't take on those adjectives---either the bad ones, or the good ones you mentioned.

Scott Adle

Dizziness said...

Hence my preference for the term "emasculation" over "feminization".

Rebekah said...

MOB, in the right mouth, mention of either sex can imply a wide variety of insults. :P

Diz, that's better, although I think the discussion would be most profitably moved away from sex and into maturity, rationality, responsibility, etc. Tell me I'm emasculated and it doesn't make me think I've done anything wrong. ;)

Dizziness said...


Too true. Masculine is an ephemeral concept these days. Attributing the intended virtues is a good idea.