Girly Churches

The divide between C.P.Snow's Two Cultures is nowhere more obvious than in the churches. American churches are unashamedly and completely contained within one of those two cultures. The church is operated by and for the exclusive benefit of Feelers. Thinkers need not apply. They won't tell you so, but they expect Thinkers to leave their brain at the door.

The churches I grew up in (and continue to patronize) emphasize as part of their doctrine, that there is such a thing as absolute Truth and that God abhors lies. Then they turn around and insist that their ``Christianity is a relationship, not a religion,'' and (almost proudly) that ``the church is full of hypocrites, and if you find one that isn't, don't join it, because you'll spoil it.''

Thinkers are not hypocrites. The highest Thinker value is to tell the truth, even when it is uncomfortable. It is Feelers who are hypocrites, who value ``relationship'' (meaning affirmation) over truth, and are thus willing to hide the uncomfortable truth and to live a lie for the sake of pleasantry.

What this means is that the churches are implicitly (and often explicitly) promoting Feeler values and deprecating Thinker values. This is not just the conservative Bible-oriented churches, but all of them. Even more so the more ``liberal'' churches who make no claim to adhering to Biblical absolutes. Absolutes are a Thinker value, but even the self-proclaimed abolutists give it second place after ``relationships'' (the Feeler value).

As a consequence, the Feelers feel affirmed in the churches, and the Thinkers are not. The only Thinkers are reluctantly there because of their wives, or else for some reason have decided to try to pretend to be Feelers, to live the values promoted in the church -- at least while they are inside the building. This kind of disconnect gives rise to people like Ken Lay, who was a member in good standing in his church on Sunday, and on Monday as the head of Enron was able to bilk his investors out of millions of dollars.

Ken Lay was exceptional. Most church members are real Feelers, who are mostly women. Count the skirts. The proportion of women in the churches matches the proportion of women Feelers. Church involvement is -- nevermind what the Calvinists tell you about election -- a voluntary activity. The people who feel welcome come, and the people who feel out of place stay away.

Even more exceptional is my friend ``Bill,'' an over-the-edge Thinker and a technologist, married to an unrepentant Feeler wife, ``Martha.'' There are many people like this couple, but Bill has done his spiritual homework. He studied Greek and Hebrew, and he knows that the Christian message is true. That's a Thinker value. Because it is true, he cannot just ignore it and stay home. He cannot merely come and pay up his ``fire insurance'' but otherwise sit passively in the back pew. Bill survives by pretending to be crazy. He also helps people with their computer problems, which tends to mitigate and compensate for their distrust of all things Thinker.

``Dan'' is another technologist married to a Feeler, but he has been successfully morphed into a Feeler by the church. He still insists that he tests out as a Thinker, but his religious conversation is about relationships. He tries to engage unbeliever Thinkers, but they brush him off with devastating put-downs like ``Everything you've given me as to why you believe is based on either emotion or credulity of unsubstantiated ancient texts... None of this even begins to prove that Jesus loves me.'' The educated Thinker needs truth and reason, not love and relationships.

Promise Losers

People have started noticing the gender disparity in church. The Thinkers out there in the real world couldn't care less. It's not their problem. But the men in the churches feel outnumbered. Where are the guys? So they start new ministries to attract men into the churches, and to keep them there once they come. Thus was born the ``Men's Movement.''

The guys in the Men's Movement (MM) don't have a clue. They are all Feelers themselves, so they do not understand that all the guys who don't come have very different values than they themselves do. All of the MM stuff is about ``showing your inner feelings,'' in other words, becoming Feelers. Some of them try to bring in ``manly'' activity such as physical exertion, going fast, making loud noises and breaking things, but its focus is still on relationships and feelings, not truth and justice.

A few years ago there was a run of ``chick flicks'' which emphasized romance instead of going fast, making loud noises and breaking things. One memorable example was ``Sleepless in Seattle,'' where the guys were explicitly discussing the difference between chick flicks and guy movies. In this ridiculous scene the guys teared up and got all emotional over their guy movies the way the women had done with their heart-throb movies just a few minutes earlier. I was not surprised to see in the credits that the director was a woman. Guys don't cry over their great guy movies; women do that. Guys get their adrenaline going, but not their tears. The Men's Movement in the churches is like Sleepless, a Feeler effort to somehow make men into Feelers.

The movie industry has moved past chick flicks to ``date movies'' with both romantic elements for the women and adrenaline elements for the guys. Follow the money. The MM is now trying to do the same, but their adrenaline activities are still only a thin veneer over a Feeler agenda. They are not trying to get men to be men, they are still trying to make Feelers out of them. The movie industry does not expect the guys to like the romantic scenes (except to look at the naked women in them), the guys pay for the adrenaline, but the MM still wraps their adrenaline activities around Feeler devotionals, which is the product the guys are expected to buy into.

Promise Keepers (PK), founded by former Colorado football coach Bill McCartney, is probably the most visible of the Christian MM organizations, drawing over a million men into their stadium rallies during their prime. They identify ``Seven Promises of a Promise Keeper'' as their core teaching. Promise 2 is essentially a Feeler value, promoting relationships:

A Promise Keeper is committed to pursuing vital relationships with a few other men, understanding that he needs brothers to help him keep his promises.
Promise 4 emphasizes love:
A Promise Keeper is committed to building strong marriages and families through love, protection and biblical values.
The Bible commands that husbands love their wives, so in principle this is not wrong. But the PK team does not always clearly explain that Biblical ``love'' is about self-sacrifice, not the emotional romantic feelings or erotic arousal denoted by the English word. Unqualified as it is here, any reader seeing the word ``love'' will think ``romance'' and ``sex'' but not ``self-sacrifice.'' Romance is the intended meaning. Self-sacrifice is buried in the details to satisfy theological pedants, but is otherwise ignored.

In a widely cited blog posting, Barry Yeoman recalls his visit to a Promise Keepers rally. He says:

Speck and his friend hold on tight, weeping -- and when the tears subside, he turns to me and throws his arms open wide. ``Love you, brother,'' he says. I want to love Speck back ... What I do love is his ready affection, a rare commodity in American men. So I give into his hug.

[Another speaker] urges us to build lifelong friendships with one another, relationships so close that we can confess our addictions and weaknesses, knowing we'll receive unconditional love in return...

Did you get that? This is about relationships and unconditional love. Those are Feeler values. He concludes in awe over ``what it's like to see 50,000 men cry.'' Sounds like Sleepless all over.

Much older than PK, but with much of the same Feeler emphasis is the Christian Men's Network. Their website claims, ``the late founder of CMN, Dr. Edwin Louis Cole, authored one of the first books on masculinity and men's issues in the modern Christian men's movement some three decades ago. Maximized Manhood is now the most widely read men's book in the world.'' I have not read this book, but it's interesting to find in one of its Amazon reviews this Feeler line:

Thanks Cole for showing us the true definition of manhood-Jesus Christ! He's our model, our role-model, our guide, our friend, our father that gives us a godly intimate hug right when we needed it!
Another reviewer quoted from the book in his blog:
Love is of God, and true love is always giving. God's love desires to satisfy the objects of his love.
True Biblical love is indeed always giving. I think it was C.S.Lewis [I can't find the reference] who reportedly said, ``The truth is so big, it's hard to miss all of it.'' But Cole's love is not rooted in God's holy attributes, it just wilts into an unconditional affirmation.

There is a better way. The MM should not be trying to make Feelers out of the (men) Thinkers, it should be trying to get the church back onto the agenda promoted in the Bible, which is substantially a Thinker agenda.

It is not necessary to read their materials to recognize if a particular program is wrong-headed or Biblical. A reliable clue is whether a particular event is Feelers trying to attract men or Thinkers speaking Truth, and you can tell immediately by looking at their marketing emphasis. Feelers need to feel affirmed in their masculinity, so they will market their event to men only. They will invite some macho speaker and serve some anti-quiche meal like steak or big game. Thinkers don't need to do that, they are concerned with Truth, so they will market their event based on a truth-oriented topic like apologetics, women not excluded. Some women might come, but not many, and the guys don't care. In fact the guys wish their women did come and learn why guys hate church.

I Worship Me

I read somewhere that sales people are taught to use the client's name often. People like to feel important, and using their name contributes to that sense of importance. Even the anonymous broadcast TV ads focus on personal feelings. Super salesman Hank Trisler expressed the principle this way: ``People buy on emotion, then justify with facts.'' The advertizing industry has obviously fine-tuned this principle to perfection. ``Have it your way,'' they urge. ``Do your own thing,'' and ``It just feels good.'' It's all about affirmation.

The churches have caught the same message. The classic old hymns are about God, but the new ``praise songs'' are filled with first-person pronouns. Jesus, we sing, ``thought of me, above all.'' Theological existentialism got its start in the last century promoting the ``I-thou'' relationship between me and God. That is certainly important, but in the Bible, the focus is on God, while the modern existentialist praise songs focus on me.

Count the pronouns. If there are more ``I'' and ``me'' and ``my'' pronouns than any other, then song is self-oriented.

The first and greatest commandment, Jesus tells us, is to ``Love the LORD your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.'' On another occasion he said, ``If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.'' The focus of our attention is to be on God, not ourselves. That actually sits more comfortably with Thinkers than Feelers, but it's the Biblical value.

The second great commandment ``is like unto it,'' to love your neighbor as yourself. Some teachers perversely twist that around into a command to love yourself. What utter nonsense! Nobody needs to be commanded to love themselves, they already do, as the Apostle Paul reminds us [Eph.5:29]. Even so-called self-loathing is a focus on self. There is no Biblical command to love yourself, that is a given.

And yet we sing about ourselves in church. Count the pronouns.

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rev. 2014 January 13