Monday, 26 July 2010

Church FAIL

A couple of readers have pointed me to this sublime aberration: Man Church. The website describes it as "church the way a man expects it to be done. No singing, short sermon, time to talk with other guys, no women present, and coffee and donuts. That's the way men want to do church. The topics of discussion will have a definite manly focus – being the best possible husband, father, employee, leader – being a real man.... This ain't your mama's church!" Whoa, totally manly! But where are the guns, the fast cars, the barbecued meat? Where are the lap dancers? (Oh, I forgot: what men really want is "no women present".)

There's a memorable passage in Karl Barth's dogmatics about the perversion that results whenever special men's or women's groups are formed (he's not talking here about sexual relationships, but about wider forms of sociality):
Everything which points in the direction of male or female seclusion, or of religious or secular orders or communities, or of male or female segregation – if it is undertaken in principle and not consciously and temporarily as an emergency measure – is obviously disobedience. All due respect to the comradeship of a company of soldiers! But neither men nor women can seriously wish to be alone, as in clubs and ladies’ circles. Who commands or permits them to run away from each other? That such an attitude is all wrong is shown symptomatically in the fact that every artificially induced and maintained isolation of the sexes tends as such – usually very quickly and certainly morosely and blindly – to become philistinish in the case of men and precious in that of women, and in both cases more or less inhuman. It is well to pay heed even to the first steps in this direction. (Church Dogmatics III/4, 165)
This testimony is true. It's why, in the church, I have always refused to participate in those grimly edifying "men's groups"; and why, in spite of my natural fondness for female company, I even find myself avoiding the "women's groups"!

Man Church – or any variation thereof – is an ecclesiological FAIL. In the body of Christ, "there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no 'male and female'; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:28).

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