Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Message Isn't Working

I've written that Christmas is one of the hardest seasons for me in my mixed faith marriage. This year was better than last, and while I still had a couple of rough days, we made it through the holidays relatively unscathed. The marriage is feeling good, the family is feeling good, I'm feeling good.

I guess I should have remembered that sometimes the bad isn't simply related to memories or what's going on in my mind. Sometimes it's related to stuff that people say.

The church service started with a clip from the movie Courageous. It struck me as fairly patriarchal, but I chalked it up to being grumpy because I was operating on a couple hours of sleep. I didn't really think that much about it, especially when the sermon started and seemed to be about having courage in the new year. A weak tie-in, but I can be pretty forgiving of stuff that I've done myself.

Then it took a bit of a turn.

The pastor started talking about how men were the ones to lead their families. Because if a man didn't do that job, "who else would?"

Then he asked the men to stand. And prayed over them. And invited them to yank their wives away from finishing their make-up to get to church early for weekly prayer. And said that the entire month of January would have sermons related to being a better leader, because that's the man's job.

'Father Knows Best 1955   ' photo (c) 2009, mem45414 - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/Yeah.

I have written before that I hate stuff that belittles men. And I think that the Church has an obligation to pray for men and women as they deal with the stuff of life. And I guess that some women are late putting on make-up, after they get every other person in the family ready to head out for church.

But if I had been in the aisle, I would have walked out. Because I'm just plain tired of this stuff.

The pastor is about to embark on a month-long sermon series that is going to neglect every woman there who either A) doesn't have a husband or B) doesn't have a husband who attends church with her. And in a less dramatic way, is going to tell the women who do have husbands who attend church that their role in their family is less than that of their husband.

This isn't cutting it. It didn't back in the day and it isn't now.

In 2007, about 26% of all children are being raised in single parent homes, and of those, 84% are women. As of 2006, 25% of marriages in the US are interfaith marriages and these marriages have a significantly higher chance of ending in divorce.

More women are attending church than men. However, in the past 20 years, significantly more women have stopped attending church (11% fewer women to 6% fewer men).

The same message isn't working.

It didn't keep men in churches, and now it's driving women away from churches.

There are so many divisions that occur between the sexes already. We are faced every day with messages that tell us that we're different, that we're incompatible, that we're unequal.

In my own marriage, I'm already acutely aware of the differences that exist between us. It's obvious in the empty seat beside me. Pointing it out does not encourage me and it doesn't bring my husband to church.

I think there is plenty of room for courage in the Church. But it needs to extend beyond simply changing the packaging.

Real courage is going to require examining the message itself. When we turn from a divisive and exclusive message to one that really embraces oneness and unity.


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