I am a great fan of Chalcedon’s idea of AATW as a kind of lay apostolate but, in truth, in many ways, it always has been. This has always been a place where people, but especially strong willed men have felt free to discuss Christianity. And if you read through our archives, you’ll find that it is different than what you’ll find in church.
Servus Fidelis in one of his very apt comments (here) said:
Catholics, just don’t do Protestantism very well, and though we now have multitudes of clubs and activities for the laymen to get involved, clearly a small number are interested in the least at joining. Those who do try to join everything. They are a small core of folk that develop and are top-heavy in the over 50 crowd. Hard to get the young ones to join anything voluntarily and even more unusual that they are truly enthusiastic.
I would add that most of us Protestants don’t do Protestantism very well either, we have all the same problems. Why is that? I think there are several reasons.
Someplace I read that Jesus preached to women and children but, he tested men. Men are competitive creatures, we are quite willing to fight for our beliefs, even as Jacob wrestled with God himself. I suspect many of the older guys here relate quite well to that phrase, I surely do. We like to win, or at worst lose honorably. We do it here, forcefully, and yet without rancor. Usually we find that we mostly believe the same thing in different words, anyway.
But, something else I’ve noticed about almost all of us is that we are not all that enthused with our church’s physical worship experience. I am certainly amongst them. Frankly, I find little in my worship service that brings me in, other than certain things, like the Eucharist, that are necessary to my faith. But even this, I find in a degraded state, in the last few years.
Could it be that over the centuries, our churches have become the province of women, yes, some of our denominations restrict the ministry to men but, behind the scenes almost all is done by women, and the church has become a reflection of that. Sort of a softer, gentler Christianity. In an article on Church for Men it said
Every Sunday, without even realizing it, we send subtle signals to guys: you are in feminine territory.
The signals start in Sunday school. Think of the pictures of Jesus you saw as a child. Didn’t they suggest a tender, sweet man in a shining white dress? As our boys grow up, whom will they choose as a role model: gentle Jesus, meek and mild, or Arnold Schwarzenegger, the action hero? The irony here is that the real Jesus is the ultimate hero, bold and courageous as any man alive, but we’ve turned him into a wimp.
There are signals in the sanctuary. Let’s say a common working stiff named Nick visits your church. What’s the first thing Nick sees? Fresh flowers on the altar. Soft, cushiony pews with boxes of Kleenex underneath. Neutral carpet abutting lavender walls, adorned with quilted banners (or worse: Thomas Kinkade paintings). Honestly, how do we expect Nick to connect with God in a space that feels so feminine?
Nick looks around at the men. Some are obviously there against their will, dragged by a wife or mother. Others are softies. Research finds that men who are interested in Christianity are less masculine than average; seminarians also exhibit more feminine characteristics than the typical male. Even the vocabulary of churchgoing men is softer. Christian men use terms such as precious, share, and relationship, words you’d never hear on the lips of a typical man.
The signals keep coming during the service. Nick may be asked to hold hands with his neighbor. He may be asked to sing a love song to Christ, such as, “Lord, You’re Beautiful,” or “Jesus, I am so in love with You.” Someone may weep. Then Nick will have his male attention span put to the test by a monologue sermon. When this torture test is finally over, Nick is invited to have a personal relationship with Jesus.
Let’s spend a moment on that last one: a personal relationship with Jesus. That phrase never appears in the Bible. Yet in the past 50 years it’s become the number one way the evangelical church describes the Christian walk. It’s turned the gospel into a puzzle for men, because most guys don’t think in terms of relationships. Let’s say Lenny approaches Nick and says, “Nick, would you like to have a personal relationship with me?” Yuck! Men don’t talk or think like this, yet we’ve wrapped the gospel in this man-repellent package.
I think most of us guys see Jesus more as a guy who we would like to sit down and have a whisky and a cigar (or a beer) with and figure it out. Because, He was a real man, and one heck of a leader, who has many lessons to teach us. Anybody who thinks St. Peter thought about singing “Shine, Jesus, Shine” is simply delusional, although I can see him chiming in on a chorus of “Onward, Christian Soldiers”. Can’t you?
Somebody said that church is for ‘little old ladies, of both genders”. But that drives away the forceful men, as well as the young ones. That doesn’t leave much for us does it?
I suspect we’ll continue this discussion after the holidays.