Monday, June 19, 2006

Comments on a comment

I love comments. Comments are great, because they are kindling for thoughts I might not have had otherwise.

John (from Locusts and Honey) left a comment on a post recently which I really thought was interesting. While I do like comments, I'm not so fond of responding to them in the comment section -- I always feel like the chain of communication is broken. So, instead, I thought I would put my thoughts here.

First, go take a gander at Locusts and Honey if you haven't already. I enjoy John's blog (I think he co-authors it). John does something fantastic each week. Somehow he reviews the list of Methodist Blogs (they are listed in my sidebar -- and, yes, look how many there are) and writes a short summary of posts each week. This is a great way to scan the blogs to see what might be of interest each week, and I am completely at a loss a to how he does it.

Anyway, on to the comment. I wrote a few days ago about some church signs I saw on the way home from vacation. One of them was on a Baptist church. It said, "Men of God wanted. Apply inside." I thought this sounded very exclusive (in that it failed to invite half the population).

John's comment was interesting, though:

Maybe because it's so hard to get men to come to church these days.
I wonder if we will reach the point one day when the clergy is considered a properly female profession, like teaching, nursing, or librarianship -- that men who enter it are oddities.

First of all, one of the great things about signs on a church is that they are so open to interpretation. I never would have considered that this Baptist church was asking men to come inside because they had a shortage. My lack of this reaction, I'm sure, is because I don't see this phenomenom in my church. Our church is full of active, Christian men. We don't have a shortage of men. A shortage of younger members, yes, but that is not gender specific.

If the members of this church are looking for men to correct a gender bias, then perhaps this sign is not the best method of recruitment. I could ask if men are less likely to personally ask another man to come to church, but the more I think of that, the less convinced I am. It's a very stereotypical comment, and I have a feeling that my husband would be much more likely to invite someone to our church than I would -- if only because of our personalities.

My own reaction to this sign is based on my assumption that Baptist church members are more likely to equate men with the spiritual head of the family. Why bother to invite women when it's the men that are responsible for leading his family to God? (If you don't know me, I'm being sarcastic.)

I guess I'm particularly sensitive to comments like these. I was even a little bit worried during our sermon yesterday. Joe spoke about the role of fathers in their families. Sitting in the row behind me was a young woman who is a single parent. How would she feel to hear that the spiritual development of a child can't be complete without the influence of a father? I know this isn't what Joe meant -- I know he meant that fathers have a crucial role in family life. I think, though, that while every one of us is indispensible to God, God will find a way, no matter what the circumstances. I always get a little twitchy when I hear phrases like, "the role of women," "the role of men," etc. Phrases like this seem to leave no room for "the role of God" in defining what we are to do.

Since I've gone on and on, you may have forgotten the second half of John's comment -- "I wonder if we will reach the point one day when the clergy is considered a properly female profession, like teaching, nursing, or librarianship -- that men who enter it are oddities."

Professions which are historically considered "properly female" -- teaching, nursing, librarianship -- are only that because, I think, so many professions were closed to women. Women who were called to be doctors, lawyers, businessmen, policemen, firemen, professors, scientists, ministers, politicians, etc, found these roads to be difficult, if not impossible to follow. Women who needed to "work outside the home" did so in these "properly female" positions. If men entering these professions now feel that they are an oddity, then consider how women felt when entering medicine or law at the turn of the previous century -- or even later. I hope that as we begin to lose the concept of what is a "proper profession" for one gender or the other to follow, then no one will feel like an oddity as he or she follows the path for which God has equipped him or her. If men feel like an "oddity" in these historically female professions now, it is only a sign of progress. By that I mean that it is a good thing for these men to be forging into these "properly female" professions. Soon enough, they won't feel like an oddity at all.

Consider other "properly male" professions. As I type this, two female medical students are sitting across the table from me. Do men feel threatened that their "properly male" profession will become all female, and become closed to young men? No, I doubt it.

Our church, which I mentioned before has no shortage of active Christian men, has one male and one female pastor. I doubt anyone could find a man in our church who is intimidated by our female pastor or who feels that his role in the church is threatened by her. She is called by God to do what she is doing, as are the other female pastors that I know. Why would anyone wish to stop her? How could anyone dare to stop her?

Thanks, John, for the kindling, and keep up the good work (and here, I'm not being sarcastic).


Anonymous Brett said...

I think John's point is that many men leave the "spiritual stuff" to the wife. I can think of several examples of mothers who bring her children to church while her husband works in the yard or plays golf or just stays home.
This isn't the case in my Sunday School class, but I was talking to a SS teacher at another church last week. He said that there is a couple who have been attending faulthully for years. The man made a comment one week that he only came to support his wife, and she was the one that pushed the kids spiritually. He was very surprised at the statement, not becuase the man wasn't being a "spiritual leader" but because he thinks it is showing a trend that men are leaving spiritual things and the spiritual well being of their children up to their wives.

5:19 PM  
Blogger John said...

Thanks for the plug!

Brett has expanded on my view: that many men have simply dropped out of spiritual lives.

5:42 PM  

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