Wednesday, June 2, 2010

How the Church can make better men

My problem with the modern Muscular Christianity syndrome is not so much that men are encouraged to be manly, and not even that men need to step up and lead. No! My problem is that these efforts to attract men to these congregations are appealing to a juvenile nature of man, and not the mature industry of man. The proponents of Muscular Christianity point to specific things some men are into for amusement, but tend to neglect the more meaningful center of a man's life.

Manliness isn't cigars, beards, beer, and sports. These are things some men do for entertainment, or comfort. Manliness isn't violence, carousing, and big muscles. Manliness is character, virtue, and vocation.

The way manliness is interpreted by every man manifests itself in different pursuits. These Masculine Christians are simply trying to attract one type of man.

So what is manliness? Why rewrite the book? I'll just steal from Brett and Kate McKay:
  • Courage
  • Loyalty
  • Industry
  • Resiliency
  • Resolution
  • Personal Responsibility
  • Self-Reliance
  • Integrity
  • Sacrifice

When I see these people promoting Muscular Christianity, they're more interested in appearances (don't have sea foam paint in the sanctuary; make sure the worship leader doesn't have long hair or tight pants), in amusement (mixed-martial arts, sporting events, camping trips), and in tearing down femininity (and as a result, marginalizing women). These virtues listed above are not a natural wellspring for testosterone-fueled amusement, and appearance. Manliness does not mean misogyny.

Their big concern is men don't attend church services as often as women, and certainly not in the same numbers. They say its because the church is feminized, and isn't interesting to men. So they want to debase the Church and make it more appealing to men by appealing to these amusements, or these baser activities post-modern culture has developed in young men. They introduce mixed-martial arts themed Bible studies, and get their alpha male pastors to talk dirty from the pulpit. None of this addresses these virtues listed above. They do not develop stronger character.

The reason why men aren't leading the church isn't because men aren't amused enough by congregational structure; it is because men have become big children. They don't take responsibility, they lack integrity, and they do not sacrifice anything for anyone. These Muscular Christianity programs encourage this immature behavior to the detriment of Christian masculinity even further.

The Church isn't supposed to be an amusement for anyone, it is supposed to provide equity between all of humanity under the Lordship of Christ Jesus.

The Church must develop the young men into mature adults with manly attributes who can then lead the future generations. This takes more than movie night, or March Madness brackets.

What the Church can do:

The Church must build and facilitate industry. I'll write about this more in the future because I've been considering how the younger generations are looked down upon (institutionally) in most congregations, so I'll make it brief here. First a question: Why would men rather work on Sunday that commit to fellowship? Because they are just observers. They have nothing to add, nothing to give. Men build things, and fix things. The very nature of the modern congregation is a mess. Sunday service is a show where people go to get entertained, and the vast majority of people are passive. Muscular Christianity is trying to fix this problem simply by making the entertainment more entertaining to a certain demographic. The Church must provide a place where everyone contributes, and everyone has a place.

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