“Christianity’s Girly God” trumpets a new Beliefnet headline, above a lavender-tinted photo of a clapboard church. It’s a teaser for an interview with John Eldredge, who seems to have developed an entire literary career out of advocating for a Christianity more dispositionally suited for he-men like himself.
Now, my first reaction to such stuff was a kind of knee-jerk defensiveness: Who you callin’ girly, Ponytail Boy? And then I sighed at yet another pop-psych example men-are-from-Mars/women-are-from-Venus stereotyping that really does violence to complexity and diversity of human existence. I thought about the undertones of sexism and homophobia that usually accompany appeals to “muscular Christianity.” I thought of the kenotic irony involved in dismissing as “wimpy” and unchallenging Christian values like compassion and self-sacrificing love – which not only dismisses Jesus, but also dismisses the truly hard work of love and compassion. And then I had to laugh at the creative audacity of accusing an institution run almost exclusively by men for two millennia, and either tolerating or actively promoting misogyny for much of that time, of being “feminized” – sort of like kicking a woman down to the ground, holding her there with a jackboot to the neck and then criticizing her for not getting up and making the fight more interesting.
But then…after getting all lathered up about this interview, I wandered into the Beliefnet discussion forum and visited the Lutheran neighborhood, where a discussion is going on about the new hymnals in both the ELCA and LCMS, and about general hymnal vs. bulletin vs. projection worship modalities. One of the posters reported hearing a complaint from a fellow parishioner that the new hymnal in their church was “too heavy.”
I had the same reaction, reading that, that I had watching a recent news report about children’s increasing alienation from nature, following a group of suburban schoolchildren taking a field trip in a nature preserve: One kid about 10 years old – a strapping lad who looked to have a bright future in caber-tossing or bear-wrestling or some such thing – was actually weeping on camera, whining, “The grass scratches my legs when I walk through it! I hate being outside!”
Oh my God, I thought. We have become a nation of utter wimps, and we are spawning more.
I don’t think that American Christianity’s problem is with a “girly God.” It’s with a wimpy membership whose enculturated intolerance of anything resembling effort or personal discipline or discomfort, much less sacrifice, spans genders and ages and socioeconomic strata.
And – here’s more irony – whiny-ass men who threaten to stay home and pout with their football and beer because they feel that church worship is too sissified, or because they can’t always be the bosses there, are as wimpy, ineffectual and annoying as any other societal whiner. Boo freaking hoo. I’m gettin’ out the world’s smallest violin, fellas.
I don’t know about you, but loving God and loving my neighbor – even and especially the neighbors who make me want to smack them upside the head – are pretty tough assignments; not for the weak of heart or mind or will.