My wife, in addition to contributing regularly to NRO, is the editor of the Patheos Faith and Family Channel. In one of their newer initiatives, they’ve started a series of web shorts called “Minivan Confessions” — short observations about life and faith sometimes literally filmed in the car line at school or on the way to a kid’s practice. Anyway, this recent edition caught my eye (though it was not filmed in a minivan), it asks the question, “Does church need to be more manly?”
For those who don’t have 93 spare seconds to watch, writer David Murrow essentially says that church shouldn’t be more manly, but that it should be less “artificially womanly.” In other words, the contemporary evangelical church emphasizes a “personal,” “passionate,” or “intimate” relationship with Christ. This relationship emphasis – on a “man who’s in love with you” – is not only bound to be more appealing to women than men, it’s also biblically flawed.
I largely agree with this assessment, and would add that the problem is not just that the church emphasizes this intimate relationship with a man (after all men have no reluctance to form deep bonds with other men), but that it speaks of this relationship in overwhelmingly emotional terms. This translates even to evangelical speaking, writing, and music, all of which are primed to create a specific kind of emotional response. I’ve seen even otherwise-normal men walk into a church pulpit and suddenly adopt a soft, gentle voice they’d never use in everyday life — sometimes seemingly unconsciously.
Furthermore, it’s a pattern doomed to become self-reinforcing. As churches grow more female-dominated, pastors, writers, and musicians write for their audience, which then inevitably grows even more female-dominated.
The answer isn’t “muscular Christianity” but — to borrow C.S. Lewis’s term — “mere Christianity,” the faith itself balanced not by the demands of the current religious market but by its own, biblically-defined terms.
This is far too rich a topic for such a short blog post, but I welcome you to continue the discussion in the comments.