Wednesday, December 13, 2006

God don't want no girly-men

The preacher stands before his congregation on Sunday morning, notes that the pews are more than half-empty again, and that the majority of those present are women. This scene repeats itself from coast to coast every Sabbath and has some wondering, "Is church too feminine for men?" Then, from out of the wilderness, a testosterone-drenched voice roars, "Let men be men!"

This is the cry of GodMen, "where faith gets dangerous". They say that traditional worship practices make men passive and challenge their members to return to "biblical patterns of masculinity". They remind us that Jesus could be rough and tough if the situation demanded it (as in the time he drove the moneychangers from the temple). Their main concern, though, seems to be that traditional Christian worship makes men too meek and mild, incapable of the aggressive Christianity they see God demanding:

The Bible describes and encourages a kind of rugged masculinity that is not the same kind of masculinity that is promoted in most church services and religious organizations. So when we tell Christian men that they are "fully authorized," it's our way of telling them that though the church doesn't necessarily want them to become more assertive, bold, and confrontational in order to become redemptive forces for good in a world at war with truth and goodness, the God of the Bible does.

They exhort Christian men to "Grow A Pair!"

We've been beaten down
Feminized by the culture crowd,
No more nice guy, timid and ashamed
We've had enough, cowboy up
In the power of Jesus name
Welcome to the battle
A million men have got your back
Jump up in the saddle
Grab a sword, don't be scared
Be a man, grow a pair!

Given the general impression that many church activities (at least in my experience) tend to be female-oriented, it's not necessarily a bad thing to seek more male involvement. Yet it seems to me that men get more than enough encouragement to pursue their aggressive side in the everyday world. The most valuable lessons we draw from Jesus are those of balance and of toleration, lessons that could be lost in the in-your-face blaring of the GodMen.

Then there are those who get the entirely wrong message, as did this GodMan follower:

But some men at the conference run into trouble when they debut their new attitudes at home. Eric Miller, a construction worker, admits his wife is none too pleased when he takes off, alone, on a weekend camping trip a few weeks after the GodMen conference this fall.

"She was a little bit leery of it, as we have an infant," he reports. "She said, 'I need your help around here.' "

Miller, 26, refuses to yield: "I am supposed to be the leader of the family."

Someone might remind Miller that running off to go camping with your buddies while your wife is left home to struggle with caring for an infant may not be the best example of family leadership.

"Boys will be boys", they say, and there's nothing wrong with standing up and being strong in order to defend who we love and what we believe. But church is one of the few places left that teaches the basic values of tolerance, civility, and decency we need if we are to live together as a society. Encouraging some of man's more aggressive characteristics in order to fill the pews doesn't seem like such a good idea. At the very least, it isn't cool to belch, fart, and scratch your balls in the middle of the minister's sermon.

(Via Talk To Action; their article contains links to additional images and video.)