Going the wrong way

The comments on 42: Some catch-up have focused on the idea that Church and particularly prayer meetings are feminine.

Warning rant ahead!

I have been thinking about this and have come to the conclusion (again) that this is a load of rubbish. This on at least two counts.

First it is grotesque to claim that anything but warrior prayer is feminine and not for real men. Secondly, it is a total sell out to a violent world to claim that 50% of humanity cannot escape from violence & male headship and that Christian worship and Spiritual life must therefore pander to this world view.

Both these assertions (although generally proponents attempt to present them through clever marketing) are a betrayal of the idea that all humans are created in the image of God. They manipulate and devalue the humanity of Christ.

If the world is saying that the Church is feminine because it expects men to pray and that prayer includes things such as meditation, actually getting to know something about yourself and about the God you worship then the world is wrong. If Christians attempt to get men into the Church by claiming that the world is right and that it needs to be more "masculine" by accepting violent language and aggressive prayer then the Church is wrong.

I strongly believe that this butch view of masculinity is not of God and that it is not supported by the New Testament. When God chose to become fully human as Jesus the Christ it was not as some modern understanding of a butch masculine warrior (although as we see in the gospels that is exactly what many wanted him to be).

When people claim that the Church is to feminine and that men are being put off by this then we need to look long and hard at their understandings of masculine and feminine and be ready to challenge the extent to which they have surrendered the gospel to the ways of the world.

Now do not take this the wrong way. I have no objection to mens prayer meetings, nor to womens prayer meetings. I have no objection to challenging the ways of the world (indeed I believe the gospel demands it). I absolutely believe the gospel is a vital message of salvation for men and women that will transform their lives and the communities in which they live. I absolutely believe in the power of the Holy Spirit at work in God’s people. I sincerely pray and work for revival in this land and think that many of the points made by Alasdair in his posts are important and that the church has failed and is failing many communities. But to blame this on feminisation of the Church is a red herring (especially as that claim is being made about Churches in which the leadership is still overwhelmingly dominated by men).

As an aside I am pleased to say that in the Churches that I serve there is a higher % of men in prayer meetings than in Church for Sunday worship (not that either the % of men in Church or the % of worshippers in prayer meetings is anything like what I would like to see).

What I suspect is happening is that some powerful men with an agenda have seized an opportunity. They see that some parts of Christianity have a low view of the power of God to transform lives and communities today. They see Churches that do not appear to believe in the Holy Spirit at work today. They see that some churches have opened up to allow and encourage wider participation and leadership in worship & mission. Then they make a huge leap onto their own agenda and blame all the things that they do not like on "feminisation" of the church. It gives them an open playing field to fight for their own agenda of male headship.

I challenge this view and fortunately the evidence is all around to support me. Once you take scripture seriously and move beyond a few out of context proof texts the idea that the New Testament, that Jesus himself supports this masculine view is preposterous. The evidence of women throughout Scripture and Church history as well as in the world today also demonstrates the absurdity of that view.

If we are to reach a world that needs Christ more than ever before then we are going to need the God given calling, gifts and talents of every woman, man and child working together for the glory of God. Yes that means change, yes that means radical discipleship. But lets not demean, degrade and lie about it by calling it a move to a masculine Church.

9 thoughts on “Going the wrong way

  1. PamBG

    Good rant!
    (I’m trying to decide whether ‘ranting’ is a good butch activity or a ‘feminised’ one!)
    Everyone, it seems, has a magic solution for getting more people back into church. Worship bands. Contemporary language. A return to liturgy. People want every-day language, no they want mystery. Ah hah! No, it’s the women’s fault.
    Society – I mean worldly society – has given men privileges. I’m hardly surprised that SOME men of my generation, who have seen the privileges they thought they were going to have taken away from them, are having an identity crises or gender crisis. I’m not even surprised they are yelling ‘unfair!’, even though it’s not unfair.
    However, I absolutely agree with you that the concept of ‘warring’ for Jesus is unbiblical. I believe that in tomorrow’s Gospel we’ll hear James and John asking to destroy Samaria. They forgot that just a few chapters earlier in Luke, Jesus told them to love their enemies and to leave judgement to God.

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  2. Bene D

    You made a very good point.
    I have honestly never heard complaints about ‘feminization’ from denominations that have women in leadership roles.
    The warrior Jesus types don’t get interdependence, and sadly the whole community winds up being co-dependence.

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  3. PamBG

    The warrior Jesus types don’t get interdependence, and sadly the whole community winds up being co-dependence.
    Excellent point, BD.

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  4. Dave Warnock

    BD,
    Exactly “interdependence” does not fit with a particular world view of masculinity. Therefore interdependence is wrong (for men). Strange that because it takes a peculiar reading of the NT and not discover interdependence.
    All comes from starting with a culture and not being willing to challenge it with the gospel.

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  5. Peter Kirk

    Thanks, Dave. As to an extent I started this by defending “warrior prayer”, let me explain a bit more what I mean by this, even if it is not quite what is meant at Mars Hill.
    Now I don’t agree with Pam that the idea of “warring for Jesus” is unbiblical, if understood strictly metaphorically. Paul does tell Timothy to “Fight the good fight of the faith”, 1 Timothy 6:12. Military metaphors are used in several places of Christian discipleship, and of course of “spiritual warfare” against the devil. Paul writes of struggling in prayer, using a Greek word sunagonisasthai which definitely has military connotations, Romans 15:30.
    Warrior prayer involves struggling in prayer even through all kinds of setbacks for specific answers. This kind of active prayer is very different from the contemplative type. Each have their place, and there is only a weak correlation between gender and preferred prayer style; many of the best prayer warriors are women. But warrior prayer should certainly not be aggressively opposed to anyone except the devil, should never be for God to destroy or punish anyone but should always be to build up.
    Pam, I always wonder if people who reject this kind of prayer and prefer contemplation do so because they don’t really believe that God will answer specific prayers for things in the real world (something I too struggle with). Warrior prayer, by contrast, expects specific answers and perseveres until they come.

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  6. PamBG

    Peter, I actually checked to see if I’d posted on the wrong thread by mistake and, at the moment, I’m feeling like we are speaking from alternative universes.
    I thought that Dave was having a rant about complimentarian churches. The problem I have with ‘warrior prayer’ is that I see it coming from the side of the church that promotes complimentarianism (aka male headship) and that it’s purpose is to ‘empower’ and encourage macho masculinity.
    Bene Diction totally put his finger on it: ‘We don’t understand interdependence, so we’re going to fight against it. Furthermore, the model we’re going to fight for is that of co-dependence.’
    The problem I have with prayer warriors is that I’m pretty convinced that most of them are praying against me. I certainly hope that I’m right about God’s will and that God’s will is going be done in the here and now.
    On ‘contemplation’ verses ‘active prayer’, I genuinely do think it’s a matter of personal preference. I also find it a bit below the belt to be accused of not believing that God works in the world.

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  7. Peter Kirk

    Well, Pam, to me “prayer warrior” means something quite different. Maybe Mars Hill has hijacked the term for something quite different. If the war they are fighting is the battle of the sexes, or the battle against egalitarianism, I want no part of it. But I hope we can agree that the battle against the devil and all his works is something we should be fighting, in prayer. And I think that’s what the Mars Hill people are trying to say, even in their offensive video of Mark Driscoll in the graveyard, which was about getting men involved in church planting, even if their rhetoric is unclear and easily misunderstood. But there is a real need to get Christian men as well as women mobilised into God’s mission, and to the extent that Mars Hill is aiming for this I am with them.

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  8. PamBG

    I agree that we should get Christian men involved in prayer. I’m happy for it to be in ways that don’t suit me and in men’s-only groups.
    Having grown up in a US male-headship church, forgive me if I don’t trust these guys further than I could throw them.
    The reason that BD’s post really struck me is that ‘dysfunctional’ is exactly how I’ve always described the church community I grew up in. It doesn’t matter if you’re drunk on alcohol or drunk on power, the co-dependants always suffer.
    I guess everyone says ‘Well, you have to draw the line somewhere.’ I draw my line where people say that equality (based on gender, ‘race’, ability, whatever) is unbiblical. How can power-over be the Good News of Jesus Christ? The first shall be first and the last shall be last? Well done, you good and faithful servant for asking who gets to sit at my right hand on my Father’s throne?

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  9. JenS

    Folks, can we be real about the fact that women are far from equally treated and represented in our churches, even now when such supposed ‘feminisation’ is taking place? This debate is a red herring that pre-supposes women have somehow moved ahead…
    The good news and bad is that this is not a problem unique to church; it is simply a feature of our unfinished, broken and unjust world, and part of a wider web of inequalities and poverties, material and spiritual both.
    What CAN be different is Christian churches’ response: not only to do with our own structures, but about the coming kingdom of God, with which I am more concerned in the long run.
    It strikes me that the world offers us at best ‘victory’ when it comes to righting wrongs and fighting injustice; Jesus offers something far more costly and durable in ‘transformation.’ I would prefer always to be ‘more than a conquerer,’ myself.
    I note that Miroslav Volf (book: Exclusion and Embrace) has a section about gender relations and Christian living: he maintains that there are no normative gender identities in the New Testament writings, but that there is a normative ETHIC for formation and relation of real men and women. It is about mutual service and sacrifice, and points towards Jesus who moves us beyond where the world begins with us. I like Volf on this, though I think he’s still pretty optimistic.
    All blessings from the back of the hobby horse.
    p.s. no one in my congregations (I’m a methodist minister) calls me bubbles anymore.

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