MANLINESS IN THE CHURCH

Henry James once defined life as that predicament which precedes death, and certainly nobody owes you a debt of honor or gratitude for getting him into that predicament. But a child does owe his father a debt, if Dad, having gotten him into this peck of trouble, takes off his coat and buckles down to the job of showing his son how best to crash through it. ~Clarence Budington Kelland

Recently, a friend remarked that his church has all sorts of activities, including a play rehearsal and other events, that cut into family time on Father’s Day. He wondered, “What on earth is wrong with us? Why does our culture so overtly despise men, and fathers?” Here is a man who is adored by his wife and daughters, making the very real observation that their adoration is counter to the culture in which they live. And although my optimism causes me to hold out hope that this is not true of our society, there can be no doubt that our culture denigrates men and their importance. This is not something any society can long survive.

The marginalizing of fathers is the product of 40 years of feminism first telling us that women and men are the same, then telling us that men are actually unnecessary. The thing is, every bit of research we have tells us this is not true, and even if we didn't have data, we have people's experience from which they know it's not true--at least, if they truly look at their experiences honestly, they do. Virtually every problem young people have can go back to the absence of a strong male figure in their lives. Think about this: The whole Palin/Letterman commotion, in which people actually defended Letterman by saying he was smearing an 18-year-old instead of a 14-year-old, could not have happened in a culture in which manliness is emphasized, because no man would stand for such a thing. One of the best films ever to come out of Hollywood, The Quiet Man (starring John Wayne) beautifully demonstrates the attitude of men when it comes to discussing females in the pub—at least, until recent history.

I can think of a million examples in which the cultural emphasis is wrong, and unfortunately, Christians contribute to it. When Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger landed the plane on the Hudson, everyone talked about it as a miracle. Now, Christians should want to praise God, so it's natural for us to credit the hand of God in this, but what happened when everyone called it a “miracle” was that we all completely ignored the very manly behavior of the pilot. I can't help thinking we'd be better off as a society if we referred to “manliness on the Hudson,” and said, “We thank God for men like Captain Sullenberger.” Such a subtle but important distinction.

And, as we look at how many churches essentially ignore Father's Day (while giving women roses on Mother's Day), we can see how drastically the church has been feminized. Whenever I hear feminists gripe about the patriarchal church, I laugh and ask, “Men run churches? When was the last time you were at a church?” Even though a man may be in the pulpit, women are conducting virtually every activity there. Just try to have something that is strictly men---it is borderline impossible, because women will insist on getting involved (“helping”). You could never find a men's group that didn't have some woman poking around.

Someone once told me that when God said in Genesis that a woman would “desire” her husband and he would rule over her, the word “desire” did not mean love or even “want” sexually, but that a woman would try to dominate her man (“take charge”) and a man would have to be firm. I don't know if this is a correct interpretation of the passage, but this surely seems to be reality. Back when the Promise Keepers were an item of national attention (and, inexplicably, feminists were up in arms about men who wanted to keep their promises), Christian women wanted to be supportive and immediately formed a group called “Suitable Helpers” (which sounds like an oven mitt), instead of just letting the men handle things. And therein is the problem.

It is high time for Christian men to step back into prominence at their churches. Church activities are useful when they contribute to a sense of unity, but not at the price of the family sacrificing time together, or of men taking a back seat so women can do all the driving. Ultimately, neither women nor men are happy in such a situation. Satan can use the church to accomplish his goals, too. Honoring mothers is appropriate for a church; equally appropriate is honoring fathers and recognizing how important manliness is to a society.


~Shyla Lefever