An Argument Made Into a Post
Have you ever been driving your car, arguing with someone who wasn't there? For the past few days, I have found myself arguing with Dan Edelen of Cerulean Sanctum. I read one of his re-posts last week. It is called Another Look at the Church's Missing Men, and was originally posted on April 20, 2005. I've decided the best way to stop arguing with Dan is to write this post.
I read Dan's blog on a relatively regular basis -- sometimes I agree with him, often I do not, but reading blogs I disagree with is a means of clarifying my own thoughts. I must say that there is very little that I agree with in this particular post, so rather than taking up Dan's comment space, I'll make my arguments here. I don't know Dan, but from reading his blog, I think he has a pretty strong personality, and can handle me disagreeing with him.
I've often find Dan's use of generalizations to be distracting and incorrect, and have told him so in his comment section, and I'll repeat that concern here. I am always disturbed by statements such as "All men...," "All women..." or even "Most men or women...." We are more than our gender -- we are children of God. To reduce us to only a generalization is to ignore our uniqueness. I think generalizing is easy -- a quick way to make a point, but is often misleading, and can construct barriers between people. I'll do my best in this post to avoid them, but if some sneak in, forgive me.
Go read Dan's post if you like -- you may not want to take my summarization of his points as completely correct. Dan is -- as many bloggers are lately -- trying to explain why he thinks that there are more women in churches than men. He breaks his argument into two parts -- men's impatience with the absence of the Holy Spirit in their churches, and men's career issues.
Dan says that "the main reason that men are not in church is that they simply are not seeing the Holy Spirit move in power." He believes that women 1) are more willing to be satisfied with the relational aspects of church and 2) have a less refined "B.S. detector." Sorry, Dan, I have a pretty refined B.S. detector, and right now it's pinging like a Geiger counter. Any of us are kidding ourselves if we are sitting in church waiting for the Holy Spirit to fall like dew. In the movie Six Days and Seven Nights, Quinn, played by Harrison Ford, says, "It's an island, babe. If you didn't bring it here, you won't find it here. " That's an exaggeration, I know, but we are not called to sit around, waiting to find God. Frederick Buechner wrote, "When your spirit is unusually strong, the life in you unusually alive, you can breathe it out into other lives, becoming literally in-spiring." That's our calling -- men and women -- to reflect God to each other. The Holy Spirit isn't like dew, it's found in the doing.
In the triangle that Dan (and others) are describing, there are three characters -- the man (or woman or me), the people of the church and God. I'm pretty sure that God has the Holy Spirit "figured out," so we can't blame him. Why is it that so many people (men and women) are willing to blame the OTHER person when he / she doesn't feel the presence of God? Get up out of the pew and DO something about it. Very few churches, I think (I hope), would turn down someone who said, "I want to work on a habitat house" or "I want to paint a room" or "I want to plan a church event." Raise your hand, stand up, get INVOLVED. Make your place in the family. If you want to see the Holy Spirit move in power, then stop sitting around, waiting for it. MOVE.
Dan goes on to say that part of the problem is that the evangelically defined role of men in family life is to be the sole breadwinner -- the man's identity is very much wrapped up in his career. The church does little to address his career concerns. He further explains what he believes the church defines the role of men should be in this post. The list is long, and if my church had expectations such as this for me, then I would find them unrealistic, as well. According to his list, men are to be the sole breadwinner of the family, while also meeting home and church expectations, while women are to focus on child care, including, most likely, home-schooling.
I have to explain that my church isn't facing these problems. We have a strong ministry of men (and women). We also don't have the expectations for the roles of men and women that Dan discusses. I would theorize that this makes a profound difference in the way that anyone -- man or woman -- would experience life as a member of a church. Men in our church are involved in every aspect of ministry. I actually counted today, as I prepared material for our Christian Education Sunday celebration, the number of men and women involved in the Christian Education portions of our programming -- 33% of them were men -- even in these traditionally "female" tasks. It's amazing what happens when everyone feels free to use whatever gifts God has given him or her for the edification of the Body of Christ -- to be in-spiring. We stop feeling the stress to meet someone else's definition of who we should be, and we listen for the Voice of God to define our calling.
We are all men or women. We are not masculine or feminine by what we do, but instead by who we are. I am not less feminine if I get my hands dirty and hammer a nail (I might be more bruised, but I am not less of a woman). A man who walks into a nursery of infants and takes care of babies for an hour is not emasculated. That's beyond ridiculous. You know why I think the men of my church are involved in Christian Education? I think it is because they saw jobs that needed to be done, so they did them. Doing these jobs shows them to be brave, to be authentic, and to be men of integrity. It demonstrates to the children of our congregation that any of us can fill any role in God's family. It shows me that the Holy Spirit is moving with power among us. See how that works?
Dan had more to say, and so do I, but this post has reached its limit. Tomorrow -- how women choose husbands and the "caste" system among men.
Image: Morning sun on VA hill (9/11/06)