We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer
Therefore let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in favor of that side will be cast the vote of truth. --Basil of Caesarea
Once you learn to discern, there's no going back. You will begin to spot the lie everywhere it appears.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service. 1 Timothy 1:12

Friday, August 26, 2016

The Feminization of Christianity


In my last “Random…” post I noted at the end that the individual is NOT the Bride of Christ as so much of the church has been teaching (originating from Roman Catholicism).  This “bridal paradigm” has been getting stronger and stronger over the years, especially due to all the “Jesus is my boyfriend” songs as well as the teaching at IHOP.

I came across an excellent article explaining the history of this feminization of the church and how we’ve gotten to where we are now with women becoming more and more as leaders, leading to more and more apostasy.  I highly recommend it (I haven’t looked at the others in the series yet, but will be doing so ASAP).

I have to agree as to much of why men aren’t engaging with much of today’s “Church” services, in that the various “worship” songs are so vacuous and/or having God the Father or Jesus as buddies or boyfriends, which is a real turn-off.  

Here are some thought-provoking quotes from the article:

The imagery and language of a romantic, intimate relationship is also very common in modern “praise and worship” songs that have lyrics that are sometimes almost indistinguishable from those that are heard on “secular” radio.

Murrow contends that the idea of individual-believer-as-bride is simply unbiblical, writing that “The Bible never describes our love for God in such erotic terms. The men of Scripture loved God, but they were never desperate for him or in love with him.” Podles believes that the rise of bridal imagery is part of what led men to start abandoning the faith during the late Middle Ages. Both feel that the ethos embodied in the bridal analogy continues to be a factor in why the Christian gospel attracts more women than men.

Podles and Murrow contend that making the goal of the Christian faith to, as the former puts it, develop a “rapturous love affair with Christ” just doesn’t resonate with most men, who struggle to relate to Deity as a blushing virginal bride. The idea of Jesus as committed companion and loving protector is more appealing to women, they say, while men are looking for a leader — a mighty, conquering king to suffer, rather than cuddle, with.

Under this theory, the rise of bridal imagery not only made the Christian narrative less compelling to men, it also pushed the faith’s overall ethos in a more feminine direction. The values associated with brides, especially in centuries past — love, protection, comfort, passivity, obedience, dependence, receptivity – came to dominate the ethos of the Christian gospel, and be privileged over its more masculine qualities of suffering, sacrifice, and conflict.

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[M]odern sermons tend to deemphasize the contrast between heaven and hell, sin and life, grace and justice, sheep and goats. There are less martial analogies, fewer calls for Christians to take up their cross and become soldiers for Christ. There is less emphasis on the need to suffer, struggle, and sacrifice for the gospel and for others, and more emphasis on how the gospel can be a tool towards greater self-realization and personal fulfillment. The gospel is presented not as heroic challenge, but therapy – the way to “your best life now.” The focus is on rewards over obstacles. All gain, no pain.

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This one addresses a phrase I detest — “personal relationship.”

Indicative of these changes, Murrow says, is the way “the kingdom of God” has fallen into disuse in describing the church, in favor of the “family of God.” In the former, the ethos is more mission directed; in the latter it’s more’s relational. Each member of the “family of God” has a relationship with each other, and with Jesus Christ. And not just any kind of relationship with the savior — a “personal relationship” — a term whose popularity Murrow thinks contributes to the gospel’s lack of appeal to men:

“It’s almost impossible to attend an evangelical worship service these days without hearing this phrase [personal relationship with Jesus Christ] spoken at least once. Curious. While a number of Bible passages imply a relationship between God and man, the term ‘personal relationship with Jesus’ never appears in the Scriptures. Nor are individuals commanded to ‘enter into a relationship with God.’

Yet, despite its extrabiblical roots, personal relationship with Jesus Christ has become the number one term evangelicals use to describe the Christian walk. Why? Because it frames the gospel in terms of a woman’s deepest desire—a personal relationship with a man who loves her unconditionally. It’s imagery that delights women—and baffles men.
When Christ called disciples, he did not say, ‘Come, have a personal relationship with me.’ No, he simply said, ‘Follow me.’ Hear the difference? Follow me suggests a mission. A goal. But a personal relationship with Jesus suggests we’re headed to Starbucks for some couple time.”

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Ah, the problems with “praise and worship” music; this section really hits the nail on the head.  

In the late 20th and early 21st centuries “praise and worship” music replaced hymns in many Christian churches. But while Murrow sees some good in this type of music, overall he thinks “P&W” may have even less appeal to men than the hymns of old, and “has harmed men’s worship more than it has helped”:

“the evidence seems to indicate that, while P&W is very appealing to some men, it’s a turnoff for many more. Before P&W, Christians sang hymns about God. But P&W songs are mostly sung to God. The difference may seem subtle, yet it completely changes how worshippers relate to the Almighty. P&W introduced a familiarity and intimacy with God that’s absent in many hymns.

With hymns, God is out there. He’s big. Powerful. Dangerous. He’s a leader.

With P&W, God is at my side. He’s close. Intimate. Safe. He’s a lover.

Most people assume this shift to greater intimacy in worship has been a good thing. On many levels, it has been. But it ignores a deep need in men.”

That need, Murrow says, is to reverence a God that’s “wholly other.”

Instead, men are to relate primarily to God as a lover, and Murrow observes that the kind of language used in praise and worship songs – “Your love is extravagant/Your friendship, it is intimate/ I feel I’m moving to the rhythm of Your grace/Your fragrance is intoxicating in this secret place” – “force[s] a man to express his affection to God using words he would never, ever, ever say to another guy. Even a guy he loves. Even a guy named Jesus.”

Since many men don’t find the language of praise songs very compelling or natural to mouth, those that attend churches with P&W music have stopped participating in one of the major components of worship services, ceasing to sing at all. Indeed, if you look around at the audience of a typical megachurch, most men are simply silently watching the praise band rock it out.

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Don’t forget about the “Feminine Aesthetics.”  

A frilly, Victorian design sense took over churches in the 19th century, and still characterizes more traditional churches today. Murrow describes this aesthetic to a T:

“Quilted banners and silk flower arrangements adorn church lobbies. More quilts, banners, and ribbons cover the sanctuary walls, complemented with fresh flowers on the altar, a lace doily on the Communion table, and boxes of Kleenex under every pew. And don’t forget the framed Thomas Kinkade prints, pastel carpets, and paisley furniture.”

The industrial, mall/movie theater-like design of modern megachurches is an intentional attempt to throw off this staid, foo-fooey aesthetic, in favor of an atmosphere that, if not distinctly masculine, comes off as more gender neutral.

The artwork that adorns churches, as well as church materials, took a turn for the feminine during the 19th century as well. In 1925, author Bruce Barton wrote that the way popular culture typically presented Jesus was as “a frail man, undermuscled, with a soft face—a woman’s face covered by a beard—and a benign but baffled look, as though the problems of living were so grievous that death would be a welcome release.” Other critics of popular images of Christ argued that the weak, pallid, ethereal Jesus seen in many paintings bore little resemblance to the nomadic, rugged, whip-cracking carpenter depicted in the scriptures.

Still today, the most popular images of Jesus typically show him holding a lamb, surrounded by children, or talking to women. One rarely sees Jesus depicted as hanging out with men (unless it’s “The Last Supper”), overturning tables, or calling Pharisees vipers.

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Read the whole article — it’s a real eye-opener.

7 comments:

Rebecca said...

Of course, if we obeyed the second commandment and didn't make pictures of Jesus, it would solve a lot of problems re the above article. However if you try to tell that to fellow Christians, they think you're a legalist fanatic!

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with this post.

The "bride of Christ" imagery has definitely been taken too far. You're right, no individual believer is the bride of Christ. I used to know someone who believed that. I tried correcting her to no avail.

Honestly, as a woman, I find all this stuff nauseating. I asked my husband how he felt singing "oh, I'm running into your arms..." like that one goofy p/w song says. He said he can't stand it. I can't sing it either. Those lyrics make me bored on a good day... and from your RAAH, the satire about "how to write a Christian song"... that was, for me, about 25% funny, and 75% heartbreaking because it was so unfortunately true. "Water" references, and weird, but vague feeling-based references... that's all CCM seems to be. Honestly one of the themes I can't stand: "brokenness". So many of these insipid CCM songs all are about "brokenness" in some form or another.

I can't identify with the saccharin, feminized view of God. He's altogether holy and apart from me, not anything like the "going to starbucks" version described above. Maybe I'm just cut from a different cloth, but I'm not looking for the "close" Jesus. I more relate to the conquering King.

Frankly, as much as this feminized Christianity is irritating, I also can't stand the worldly Jesus idol, either, where the sanctuary looks like a rock concert, and everyone is super casual (including the pastor, because he needs to be "relevant"), because we see God as a buddy to hang out with, and rock it out..

Another problem, churches where machismo or authoritarianism are mistaken for real masculinity.

Ah well, like Rebecca said, we're all just legalist fanatics here.

-Carolyn

Doug Evans said...

Wow - the more I think about it the more I can see where feminization looks more and more like a satanic device. The author is right, Jesus said "Follow me" not "Marry me", we are to pick up our cross and suffer for Christ, not sing happy clappy "Jesus is my boyfriend" dittys until we are raptured out of harms way for no reason other than we were born at the right time.

Here is the nexus of cheap and easy grace, of NAR buffoonery, of Osteenesque nonsense, of megachurches with programs rather than reverence, of lesbian bishops and women atheists who seem confused when asked to leave the pulpit.

Could you imagine if Spurgeon walked in on one of these self improvement seminars.... I mean modern worship services? if he heard one of the growing number of "God gives me personal advice" pastorettes? Oh, the hellfire and brimstone he would preach come next Sunday! And his sermon would probably end "I tried to warn you!"

I thank God and praise Him for His mercy in leading me to a small church where actual hymns are sung from actual hymnals, were a male preacher with 31 years of service to his country at sea teaches about love, and grace, and repentance, and salvation, and sin, and damnation - six items, five of which are ignored by the feminized churchs

Anonymous said...

The article was an interesting read.
I get the feeling though that the overall site is more about (a certain type of) manliness than about holiness. Why no mention of Spurgeon, Lloyd-Jones, MacArthur? Why quotes of C.S. Lewis and Ignatius of Loyola?
Why almost just literature on the list of 100 must reads for men? With the exception of the bible near the bottom of the list?
To play poker, to tell a joke and to know how to dance are some of the 100 skills every man should know? You should know how to play one song on the guitar because "the chicks like a dude who can play the guitar"?

Jacco Pippel.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Hi Jacco,

I've not had a chance to look over that site yet, so I appreciate your heads up. I did scan the home page and wasn't sure if there was more satire or seriousness, however I do know there are too many legalistic groups who have defined "manhood" more on the lines of how the secular world defines it, and if you're not into sports and hunting and "roughing it," then very often you aren't really considered "manly" enough.

I don't mention Spurgeon -- maybe a couple quotes -- because I don't like Calvinism and he is practically a god to Calvinists. So does that make my site problematic? I like MacArthur and too many non-Calvinists pan me for citing him.

I have no problem with citing C.S. Lewis for particular teachings, but I do so with a caveat about his belief system. Perhaps there is some Catholicism in the background of the site's owner.

Anonymous said...

Hi Glenn,

I don't mention Spurgeon -- maybe a couple quotes -- because I don't like Calvinism and he is practically a god to Calvinists. So does that make my site problematic?

No not at all. You mention Lloyd-Jones and MacArthur, so you pass for having two of three (tongue in cheek) ;-)
Now more serious. It was just three men whose books I would advice every man to read. I'm not a calvinist, although I did grow up going to a Dutch Reformed Church in the Netherlands.
As you mentioned, manhood is on that site more defined along the lines of the secular world. Though I think that even in the secular world not every man will feel comfortable with this kind of manhood.
Come to think of it, it probably isn't a Christian site. That doesn't mean their idea about femininity in the church should be discarded, but I don't think you'll find a solution for it.

Jacco.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Jacco,

You may be right -- they might not even be a Christian site! I need to get a chance to look at the other articles in the series (I'm buried trying to catch up on stuff from taking 9 days off!); I thought this particular one was right on the money about the feminization of the church.