Thursday, September 14, 2006

An Argument Completed

Why are some churches experiencing a decrease in the number of men they have as members? Does it have anything to do with men's choice and pursuit of careers? I want to spend one more post continuing my discussion of Dan Edelen's discourse concerning the church's missing men (see yesterday's post for links).

Dan discusses the idea that a caste system exists for men in churches. He says, "Men are categorized by their work and valued accordingly. The doctor and the mechanic are not viewed as having the same worth, even within many churches. Again, this system does not plague women to the same extent." I have a few counterpoints to this statement:

  • If this is the case, then it certainly isn't anything new. Since the beginning of Christianity, it has been a danger. Consider Paul's warning against our tendency to make unfair distinctions between people:
    In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. (1 Corinthians 11:17-18).
    Or these words from James:
    My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, "Here's a good seat for you," but say to the poor man, "You stand there" or "Sit on the floor by my feet," have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? (James 2:1-4)
    My point is that if these divisions have existed in the church for over 2000 years, then we can hardly blame a recent decrease in men's church attendance on them.
  • If these divisions exist, then they are certainly not biblical. We should be speaking out against them, not accepting them as a fact of church life (to be fair, Dan doesn't say that we should be accepting them, either).
  • I did a scientific survey of the men (uh, man) in my car, and his judgment is that he hasn't found these divisions to exist in our church. One man's witness.
  • I think in some churches, where the expectation isn't that men will work and women will stay at home, that women who do not work outside the home are facing this same attitude. Again, it is an attitude that should be countered, not accepted.
Dan also makes the following statement:

Women marry with an eye to financial security, but this is not the case for men. Therefore, the onus is always on the man to bring in money. To meet this need, the man is usually the one striving to succeed in his career. Our society continues to reinforce this for men, while placing less burden on women to reach the pinnacle of success in their field.

If you know me, then you know that my head is spinning at this point. Where do I start?
  • "Women marry with an eye to financial security...." In one sentence, he has reduced women to materialistic creatures who ignore the whisper of God and men to commodities who are judged by their earning potential and can be purchased by an "I do." In my life, at least, financial security was no where on the list of my reasons for choosing my husband -- truthfully, I never thought about it. I can't believe that I am unusual in that.
  • I am perfectly capable of creating my own financial security, thank you very much. A man is not required.
  • I believe that financial security in a marriage is the responsibility of both partners -- even if only one of them has a career.
  • To believe or to assert that career women are not concerned with success in that career is a fallacy and a falsehood.
Dan's premise is that career is "the one thing we still use to define a man," and that the church doesn't speak to this issue, so men are left thinking that the church is not meeting their needs. I think that instead of trying to speak to the issue of career concerns so that men will be interested, we need to make sure that, at least in church, men (and women) are NOT defined by their careers.

On an Emmaus walk, one of the items you are asked to "leave at home" for the weekend is your job. You are asked to avoid discussing it, so that it does not become a barrier to the development of relationships between the people on the walk. Before I went on a walk, I didn't understand how this would make any difference at all. During my walk, and especially at the point near the end of the weekend when we shared our career paths with each other, I came to see that it makes a huge difference. Perhaps while at church we need to leave these distinctions behind.


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