Coming to my present congregation in the heart of one of Glasgow’s most deprived parishes I was astounded by its composition. There was hardly a man in the congregation. Never before had I encountered such a gender imbalance. This was I believe a result of many years of that neo-Protestant progressive preaching which is an engine of the feminisation of the Church.
By that I don’t mean women ministers, Anglican priestesses, girl bishops or even lady popes. It is the presentation of the gospel and the biblical message which have been feminised. The face and voice of the Church has altered and this has brought alteration in the composition of the body.
We live in a Manichean age where certain virtues and characteristics are deemed feminine and others masculine. This is generally held to be the case from academic articles to the pop psychology of the men are from Mars women from Venus variety. Progressives generally, and ecclesiastics in particular, value those characteristics deemed feminine and sideline or even denigrate those deemed masculine.This can be helpful if for instance it leads to more co-operation and less competition within the Church. Unfortunately it has also led to an eclipse of the more forthright in the Church.
Such virtues as love, forgiveness and service are rightly emphasised but, however, have been shorn of their strength and cutting edge. Love has come to be the unhesitating acceptance of any person or stance, as it wouldn’t be loving to suggest certain behaviour is sin. Forgiveness is blanket and automatic and totally divorced from repentance. Service has become a servility whereby Christians allow anyone to walk all over them.
There are very few new men in Possilpark where I live. Our guys on the whole don’t put a high priority on getting in touch with their feminine side. Can you really imagine Rab C Nesbit and Inspector Burke from Taggart swapping recipes for involtini al proscutio? Our guys are more at home playing pitch and toss than backgammon.
It is inevitable that there will be a cultural emphasis on the interpretation and presentation of the gospel. The ancient Norsemen when first converted saw the crucifixion as Jesus climbing on to His throne and then entering the tomb where He did battle with the evil one only to emerge victorious from the fight three days later. A Jesus who was a bit like them. Today’s Western progressives see Jesus as a well meaning victim who preached blanket sentimentality. A Jesus who is a bit like them.
The presentation of the gospel has to challenge the surrounding culture, but when the presentation of the gospel runs completely counter to the prevailing culture we find ourselves in difficulty. We can see the results of this today when in the church the few men around are usually seen in the pulpits preaching to mainly empty pews with a scattering of women.
The present understanding of becoming part of the Church is usually seen as a progression of Belonging, Behaving and Believing. A person is drawn into the congregation usually through existing friendships, there she finds herself beginning to take on new patterns of behaviour due to the influence of her new environment and finally she progresses to believe what is taught within the congregation.
Although I have only experiential evidence I tend to think that with men the order is different. According to my observation with men it is Behaviour, Believing and Belonging. It is first of all the challenge to behaviour which confronts a man, and when he finds he cannot change his behaviour on his own he is driven to Christ, and it is after coming to belief that he throws in his lot with Christ’s people and comes to belong.
The great advantage in this is that progressive congregations will die. I freely admit to being a bit of a Neanderthal but no matter what progressives tell us I really don’t think a wimpy Jesus attracts many women. Reality is hard and needs to be confronted with strength, and women are, I believe, much more realistic and down to earth than men the eternal romantics.