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Friday, August 17, 2018

Where Are All the Men?

Where Are All the Men?

Faithful readers of the Galli Report know of my interest in and concern about Christian men—or the lack of them, to say it more plainly. On any given Sunday women make up 60–70 percent of the bodies in church. This is not a new phenomenon, as Aaron Renn at shows in “The History of Church and Men.” I’m familiar with most of this, but I’ve not seen as good a summary as he has put together.
What this means is that either (a) men really are more evil than women, so of course they rebel against the Christian faith more stubbornly, or (b) the church has emphasized aspects of the faith that make it more amenable to women, and thus have made it seem like religion is women’s concern. I suspect the latter because I happen to believe that women are just as wicked as men—no offense intended. And the fact that Jesus attracted some pretty tough characters in his day—fishermen, zealots, and tax-collectors (along with a fair number of less-than-genteel women). These men had been hardened by life and then toughened up even more by Jesus so that they were willing to endure torture, burning, beheadings, and crucifixions (upside down in the case of Peter) for his name and his cause.
The reasons for the shift are complex and long-standing, so there is no easy solution, as in the masculine Christianity movement of the late 19th century or Promise Keepers in the 20th. But I appreciate that men like Renn are thinking and praying about it in a concentrated way.
What’s Before Identity Politics
This next piece gave me more empathy for people who are deeply invested in identity politics. I’ve noted many times how unhealthy I think this has become, but I hadn’t considered the root of the passion so many have to understand who they are and do so by fixating on their culture, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, disability, or whatever. Nathanael Blake at Public Discourse argues that it goes back to Nietzsche’s proclamation of the death of God.
Without a transcendent worldview, all that remains is what we can see and touch—that’s the only reality left to find meaning in. But we also recognize how contingent and relative: “Consequently, tribal identity is no longer a secure psychological retreat into a stable source of meaning but a contested construct. Getting ‘woke’ and engaging in identity politics are attempts to find meaning in something that is an acknowledged social construct.”
This is behind the increasingly common claim that to challenge people’s sexual behavior or gender identity is to question, deny, or attack their humanity and even their existence. This seems insane to those who still reside in a Christian cosmos, for whom sexual desire or one’s feelings about gender are not at the core of one’s identity, and for whom criticizing sinful acts is a far cry from enacting a genocide of the sinful. But to those whose experiential sense of self is only that which they have created or adopted from their culture and their own desires, this makes sense. If self-creation is the fullest expression of our humanity, then critiquing someone’s self-constructed identity is to critique his humanity.
‘The Healing of Willow Creek’
This is my attempt to understand some of the dimensions of the issues there. Many commentators have rightly focused on the need for us to think more deeply about the issues of sexual predation and abuse of power by church leaders. I wanted to focus instead on the pastoral challenges at such moments in a church’s life.
Sadly, our Catholic brothers and sisters are dealing with the same issues, but at a level of evil that is desperately wicked, as the grand jury report of Catholic churches in Pennsylvania reveals. They could use our prayers as well.
Walking for the Sake of Walking
On a lighter note is this poignant rumination of Gracy Olmstead about walking with her grandfather. I admit to having succumbed to one of the great temptations of our age, that is, doing things of intrinsic worth but for practical and useful reasons. I walk to make sure I get in my steps, to help me lose weight. That I might walk like Olmstead’s grandfather:
For Grandpa, walking was qualitative. It was about a series of stories: a process of taking in—and, when I was with him, sharing—a series of histories and truths, anecdotes and memories. My quiet grandfather, wearing his red jacket and baseball cap, seemed a fountain of information and love for this place, these streets where he had walked for decades. He didn’t just walk as a means to some quantifiable end; for him, walking was the whole purpose and point.
Grace and peace, Mark Galli
Editor-in-Chief, Christianity Today

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