Tuesday, February 07, 2012

One of those Christian posts:Rants on Masculine Christianity and Leaving the Church

Hubbabaloo on the internet re: John Piper's comments about "masculine Christianity." Read the transcript here.

There are so many good links and comments on this topic that I don't know where to start, but I'll begin here, with a quip from Slacktivist Fred Clark

"P.S. Piper wants the church to have more of a “masculine feel.” The Bible says that the church is “the bride of Christ.” Can we conclude, then, that Piper has reversed his opposition to same-sex marriage?"

(Pause for big grins and snickers.)

Rachel Held Evans starts things off by calling for men to respond, because women have dealt with this long enough and at this point, it's a waste of breath to be defensive. Let the men have a stab at it...

Some of her commenters are pretty awesome. I particularly liked Pastorpeck, who pointed out that the same logic could be applied to racial or class identity. For example, Jesus was a poor Middle-Eastern oppressed Jewish male from the period of the Roman Empire. Therefore Christianity should have a poor, Middle-Eastern oppressed Jewish culture in the Roman Empire kind of a feel. Is that a mouthful?

J.R. Daniel Kirk gives us a bizarre image of the "nursing Jesus" in Revelation.

Disoriented Theology combines Piper's comments with a recent Barna group study that's been making waves about women and the church. Interesting comparison, made more so by this post, from Christianity Today, highlighting six reasons young adults are leaving the organized church. It's a quick read, and sure to start discussion.

Of those six reasons, three are quite pertinent to me and are key factors in why my husband and I have yet to find a church we are willing to attend on a regular basis: isolationism, shallowness and doubt. He might identify with other factors, but these three are common themes in our post-church discussions.

1) Isolationism. The self-proclaimed evangelical communities tend to be quite inbred and narcissistic, focusing more on snagging new membersfrom the existing Christian community (cannibalizing other churches) and updating their appearance, be that via new pews, carpeting, fixing the stained glass, or, the Brazilian favorite, upgrading the sound system. Many churches plan such a packed social calendar that it's impossible for those who aren't part of the church to hang out with church members, if said members are being "good Christians" and attending all functions. Kind of defeats the purpose, doesn't it, when you're so tied up with church-y stuff that you're not available for anyone outside the church? And let's not mention that all fun, if not sinful, must include worship music, a sermon and lots of interjection of the word "Jesus" or "Amen" while sipping copious amounts of Coke Zero. (Imbibing potentially damaging food-grade chemicals and massive quantities of caffeine is SO not the same as drinking a beer.)

2) Shallowness. Let's just say I bring a notebook with me to church services and most times, my scribbled pages aren't full of notes or things to research post-sermon. Half the time, we're not even receiving lowest-common-denominator sermons. We're in waters so shallow, it's a wonder our toes are even wet! I can't remember the last time I went to a church where the sermon made me think. Encouraged me to think. Gave me something worth thinking about. Depressing. This is why I'd rather just read and discuss with hubby at home...and yet, we need fellowship with others! What to do?

3) Doubt. Piggybacking on shallowness, weak preaching and teaching lead to a place where there is zero room for questions and doubt. This is because so many churches are maneuvering on seriously shaky theology and they simply can't allow any space for questions which might challenge their preconceived notions. Loving the Lord with all your heart, mind and spirit is now: Love the Lord with all your emotions and your pocketbook and don't trouble your pretty little mind, no.

Do I sound bitter? Guess I'm part of that new trend...not leaving the church yet, but unsure where to invest. As a woman, my gifts and talents aren't wanted by most churches. They would like me to sing. And help out in nursery. And I can be a missionary, because the ban on women preaching/teaching doesn't apply to those the powerful don't think are important (the poor, children, foreigners, anyone not Caucasian). Ooh. Ouch. But as a person for whom the life of the mind is crucial, and thought and doubt and questioning are integral to developing a vibrant faith, I'm a threat to the established order. I make them uncomfortable. And so the gifts and talents that bring me so much life are left fallow in the confines of the church...

Mr. Bugigangas and I have talked about starting an English language Bible study with a few friends or acquaintances who are also in Rio and starving for something deeper than the local churches have to offer. If that sounds like you, contact me and we'll see if God isn't stirring something up...

*Disclaimer: This is a generalized rant and I'm not poking fingers at any specific church; there are only three English churches that I know of in Rio, and we're kind of limited to them by virtue of hubby's language acquisition, but we've attended scores of Portuguese-speaking places as well, so this is a compilation of my experiences over the years.


Anonymous said...

I think this problem is everywhere. When you look at the NT, most of Christ's time was spent talking with people in places OUTSIDE of the established church of His day. One thing we would do over is skip all the "required attendances" that filled our calendar when you kids were younger. It took us years to realize that we weren't going to get an attendance pin from God. Life outside of Egypt is SO much better, and we never want to go back. Hopefully, you will get some takers on the Bible study idea. Love, Mom

anne said...

I loved my church, as a kid. I even loved it as a teen. As a college student, I had experienced other churches/faiths/outlooks, but I still loved "my" church. (as in my home parish church) But I have never found, anywhere, a place that I feel the same about. Obviously, there's alot going on there...and of course, I have come more fully into whatever it is I believe, so that might be limiting in the "standard" structure...
but on some level, I feel bad that my various kids never had the sense of belonging that I had in my home church. It really didn't have anything to do w/ "belief", as much as community. Ours wasn't, at least then, a pushy church, obviously you belonged, so obviously, you held w/the basic tenets, and no one poked at you...
I have watched folks trying to find their niche, --some do, some don't, some make do. Sometimes, it feels like it should be lonely, being on the outside of all these groups, but really, it's not.

Ellen said...

What about in Isaiah when God describes himself as a mother who cannot forget the child she is breast feeding? I think its important to see how God describes HIMSELF, not only how the prophets and disciples described him. A lot more gender-neutral than we might think.

And, I wonder about going to only English language churches? I started attending a Spanish-speaking church in Winnipeg, and found the church AMAZING and the people so encouraging; worship is worship in any language and when I knew the Bible passages used in the sermon I did my best to follow along, and if I got a little lost, I just re-read the passage. And, it'd be a great way for him to learn Portuguese!

Ellen said...

I read the "Six Reasons Young People are Leaving the Church" and kept thinking the line from C.S. Lewis and the old man in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe: "Why don't they teach logic in these schools?".
Why isn't the Church THINKING, using it's BRAIN? why IS it behind on world-issues, debates, technology and thing relevant to anyone who isn't living in a convent???

lauren said...

Hi Jenna,

I´ve been reading you for a few years and was wondering if you´d ever write something like this. I know so mny women, in Brazil and the US who´ve left all kinds of churches (and temples, ashrams, synagogues) because of misogyny.

I can only imagine how difficult it might be to have to leave something that has been a focus of your life.

--jenna said...

I know. So glad you left Egypt too...slavery really didn't become you!

When you find a community like that, it really sticks with you, doesn't it?

I think there's selective proof-texting going on most of the time; reading about God as a nursing mother is off-putting to someone who only wanted a god with a big penis and a judge's gavel. As far as Portuguese-language churches go, it's fine for worship, but it's important to V- that he understand the sermon. And for that, we still need English. :)

I wouldn't say that I've left the church...merely that at the moment, we haven't found a local church that we want to attend on a regular basis. Misogyny IS a real problem in certain circles, but thankfully, is starting to receive the challenge it rightfully deserves, so maybe we'll see good changes in the coming years. I hope so!