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My Church Isn’t “Manly,” and I Like It That Way

I’m afraid to click on the link at Ben Myers’s Faith and Theology blog for the “MAN CHURCH.” It’s enough for me to know that these people, whoever they are, are trying to create

church the way a man expects it to be done. No singing, short sermon, time to talk with other guys, no women present, and coffee and donuts. That’s the way men want to do church. The topics of discussion will have a definite manly focus – being the best possible husband, father, employee, leader – being a real man…. This ain’t your mama’s church!

The Barth quotation Ben cites is apt, although I would suggest that one-sex groups and activities can have their place as long as they are temporary arrangements. The highlight of my wife’s year, spiritually speaking, is the annual church women’s retreat. I would never want to take that away from her because I always get a happier and healthier wife back when it’s over. There’s no question that sometimes both men and women share more freely in a one-sex group.

But isn’t the point of church that eventually we come back together—male and female, young and old, Jew and Gentile, (Democrat and Republican?)—to express our unity in the body of Christ? In the same light, my nine-year-old needs a fourth-grade Sunday school class that can address her cognitive and developmental needs, but she also needs to worship and minister with people of all ages, as she will this morning when she helps out at the church crisis closet, or as she did several months ago when she read Scripture in “big church.”

Two further thoughts. First, I’m not going to any church where there is no singing. I love singing in church! Singing is also one of the few specific worship activities with clear biblical justification, and it’s one of the few things believers are described as doing in heaven. That this “church” (or whatever it is) would throw it overboard apparently for no better reason than that’s “the way men want to do church” tells me all I need to know. People who are curious about this sort of group need to ask themselves what other crystal-clear Bible verses they’re willing to overlook in order to do church the way somebody other than God wants it done.

Second, is there a place for classic monastic communities in Barth’s vision of the church—or should there be? If there are going to be such communities, how can they be vitally connected to a church in which “there is neither male nor female”—and in which both men and women make up the worshiping faithful? How can they safeguard against becoming merely a different version of “the way men (or women) want to do church”? I’m genuinely interested in hearing from my forbearing Catholic and Orthodox readers on this one.


4 Comments

  1. mike says:

    From “The Adventures of Miles Cowperthwaite,” SNL skit with John Belushi and Michael Palin: “Gentlemen, we have on board a young man whose name is Miles Cowperthwaite! And I have promised his guardian to teach him the man’s life at sea! To show him man’s ports, such as Key West and San Fransisco! I expect him to be treated manfully! Well, Miles, have you anything to say?”

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  2. Darrell Pursiful says:

    Thanks, Mike. I remember that sketch. I’m going to assume you weren’t responding to my question about monasticism. :-)

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  3. mike says:

    Ha! No, not at all! The monastic communities I know have a healthy masculine spirit, but they manage not to descend to caricature of manliness. It’s the caricature that sent me back to Miles.

    I’ve often thought that it’s the Marian element that keeps monasteries from becoming bachelor pads. The presence of Mother makes all the difference.

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  4. Paula says:

    I always want to ask these manly men how it’s possible to make the Bride of Christ manly. (sorry, but this conjures up images of Klinger from M.A.S.H)

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