Will the real shepherds please come to the manger
The infant Christ survived Herod’s plot to kill him because Joseph was a good dad full of faith.
We are right to honor Mary. She was a godly young woman.
But don’t forget Joseph. God honored human fatherhood by entrusting the protection of His son to Joseph.
The best gift you, brothers, can give your children this Christmas is a godly, healthy, and present father. And, by the grace of God, it is often a gift that gets handed down to your grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Normal men don’t feel comfortable in churches for the same reason they don’t want to linger in the women’s clothing section at a store.
It is natural and fitting to have a sense of where you naturally fit—and where you don’t. Female spaces are good, and should be honored, just as male spaces shoudl be.
The problem is that the church should not be a female space.
In our book, It’s Good To Be A Man, we observe that the Church is the household of God (1 Timothy 3:15). It is the place most focused on serving Him and magnifying His name. It is a spiritual family fathered by the heavenly Patriarch. Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, is Himself a man. Paul, commissioned by Christ, commands Christians to “be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13).
So churches should be places where effeminate men are nurtured into godly manhood, as grace restores their masculine natures.
The Church, of all places, should not just welcome patriarchy—the rule of fathers to magnify the name of the Father—but celebrate, cultivate, and teach it.
Yet in most modern churches, nothing could be further from the truth. The Western Church is overwhelmingly comprised of women—of both sexes. And this has gone on for generations, with most churches’ numbers skewing northward of 60% women even in the 19th century.
A major reason for this is that the men in the pulpit have been recognized even since the Regency period as “fops.” Think of Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice. Spurgeon noted this in his day also, and warned his students against it:
There are silly young ladies who are in raptures with a dear young man whose main thought is his precious person; these, it is to be hoped, are becoming fewer every day: but as for sensible men, and especially the sturdy workmen of our great cities, they utterly abhor foppery in a minister. Wherever you see affectation you find at once a barrier between that man and the commonsense multitude. Few ears are delighted with the voices of peacocks. It is a pity that we cannot persuade all ministers to be men, for it is hard to see how otherwise they will be truly men of God. It is equally to be deplored that we cannot induce preachers to speak and gesticulate like other sensible persons, for it is impossible that they should grasp the masses till they do. All foreign matters of attitude, tone, or dress are barricades between us and the people: we must talk like men if we would win men…
—C.H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students
Spurgeon puts his finger on the chief problem with these preachers: their peculiar kind of vanity. These are men whose identities are bound up with what silly young women think—or sometimes foolish old ones (cf. 2 Timothy 3:6). They are dependent upon female approval for their sense of self-worth and self-security.
This desire for female validation is often pursued irrespective of a woman’s character, because such preachers imagine that women are of a higher and purer spiritual nature than men. If you ask them in what ways women especially sin that men don’t, they will seldom have an answer—but often be scandalized by the question.
The effect that fops like this have on “men’s men” has been ably summarized by Spurgeon above—they will not talk like men, and so they will not win men. Thus they have repelled manly men from their pews. This creates a vicious cycle of men leaving, women therefore becoming more and more influential and important, and the preachers increasingly deferential to feminine sensibilities and preferences.
This is how the “eleventh commandment” became so established in the Western Church:
Thou shalt be nice, and never unmannerly.
Of course, what is mannerly ultimately comes down to whatever makes the women of both sexes feel good. Wearing yoga pants to church is no violation of the eleventh commandment, because doesn’t she have a beautiful figure? But it is an egregious violation to point out that she may just as well have painted her legs, because it isn’t very nice to make her feel so discomforted, and what kind of pervert notices a woman’s beautiful figure anyway?
This feminine-normative mindset is why men’s sins are always attacked strongly from the pulpit, but women’s sins are barely mentioned. Even the idea of specifically feminine sins does not exist as a category in most pastors’ minds. It is why men’s ministries are just women’s ministries with bacon. It is why a woman can do anything an unordained man can do, and if she gets popular enough to start doing what only ordained men are supposed to do, you had better not notice that she is unordained—or a woman.
But this is not how it is supposed to be. God’s Church is not supposed to be effeminate; a place where men may either check in their testicles with the usher in skinny jeans, sign a waiver promising not to upset the women, and softly croon about their boyfriend Jesus—or they may be escorted to the door by a mob of valiant heroes who will defend m’lady’s honor at any cost.
It isn’t a real choice to lay aside your masculinity, or lay aside your Christianity. Christianity is innately masculine.
There is another mindset related to the “foppish minister,” and that is the tendency to intellectual pride.
There is a connection between the rise of effeminacy in the church, and the establishment of a professional clergy. Going into the clergy became an easy way for soft men to gain respectable status in society, when previously they would have been unable to compete with other men. Indeed, soft boys could be groomed by their mothers to go into this safe, coddled, intellectual world.
There is a deep irony to this, given that the term pastor is Latin for shepherd. When you compare the shepherds of scripture, who lived out in the field and had to defend their sheep from bears and wolves using nothing but slings and sticks, you get a pretty different picture. A lot more like this:
And a lot less like this:
Be that as it may, the professional “intellectual” class that now comprises the clergy is characterized by a desire for academic respect, and scholarly vanity. This makes them easy marks for propaganda.
Naturally, the educated man does not believe in propaganda; he shrugs and is convinced that propaganda has no effect on him.
This is, in fact, one of his great weaknesses, and propagandists are well aware that in order to reach someone, one must first convince him that propaganda is ineffectual and not very clever.
Because he is convinced of his own superiority, the intellectual is much more vulnerable than anybody else to this maneuver, even though basically a high intelligence, a broad culture, a constant exercise of the critical faculties, and full and objective information are still the best weapons against propaganda.
―Jacques Ellul, Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes
Highly educated reformed Christians (and their wannabes) are highly susceptible to propaganda, and their intellectual vanity is fed by a feedback loop of social media.
Never before have we had such ready access to the thoughts and opinions of so many people. And never before have we been able to so tightly curate which voices we hear—until all we really hear is ourselves.
This is a dangerous loop. Ellul again:
Those who read the press of their group and listen to the radio of their group are constantly reinforced in their allegiance. They learn more and more that their group is right, that its actions are justified; thus their beliefs are strengthened. At the same time, such propaganda contains elements of criticism and refutation of other groups, which will never be read or heard by a member of another group… Thus we see before our eyes how a world of closed minds establishes itself, a world in which everybody talks to himself, everybody constantly views his own certainty about himself and the wrongs done him by the Others—a world in which nobody listens to anybody else.
Obviously not only pastors are susceptible to this. But the fact that they are so susceptible has had disastrous consequences for the church of late. Eric Conn wrote about this a couple of years ago in The Feminization of the American Pulpit.
If we are to reform, we must avoid these mistakes. That means both avoiding the vanity of the intellectual class—perhaps even doing away with the idea of a professional clergy class altogether—and changing our practices on the ground:
Read and listen broadly, instead of just consuming information from sources you know you will agree with. Find out what other people, especially ordinary folks, are thinking and saying. Weigh it.
Fellowship broadly—venture out from your branch of the tree that is the Church, and see what others are doing and thinking. Ask them why. Listen to their responses in the hope of gaining insights, rather than in the hope of finding fault.
Consider your critics. "Steel man" (as opposed to straw man) your opponents’ arguments. Walk to judgments, instead of running, and be ready to change course or backtrack instead of getting pot-committed. The inability to change your mind in the face of new evidence is not praiseworthy; it is the sign of a weak and fragile man.
Women know less about politics than men worldwide. The gap increases in countries that have done the most to promote gender equality.
New Zealand moves to ban smoking for future generations. Nobody born after 2008 will be permitted to buy tobacco products.
On Fatherhood and “Healthy Masculinity” (H/T Bnonn’s dad)
A couple of money quotes:
I, too, worked a tech job 3,000 miles away from my family, the kind located on a plush campus with floor-to-ceiling windows and on-demand gelato. Then suddenly the artifice was stripped away, and my time was no longer broken up by campus bike rides or leisurely strolls to the office sushi chef. I was alone facing the silence of the day, and I found myself confronted by questions I hadn’t asked since my early twenties: What am I for? Why am I doing any of this?”
There’s this fashionable notion that women without children or husbands are happier. Let’s assume that’s true and not just a decontextualization of some rogue statistic with perfect headline potential. That would only be true in a society that can support it: a stable society built by people who make sacrifices and raise kids so that the childless rest can enjoy their lives. And importantly, it would only be true of some people, people who are aberrations to the norm. If everyone’s single and childless, then society stops being able to function. It’s like being a celebrity. If everyone is a celebrity, then nobody is a celebrity. Being unshackled from adult responsibilities is only attractive in a world that demands them in the first place.
We share these sort of things to shed light on other comments we make, which might otherwise seem over the top…
Seventeen percent of evangelical women between the ages of 15 and 44 have had sex with another woman, according to data gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and analyzed by Grove City College sociology professor David Ayers. Among evangelical men, the percentage who’ve had sex with other men hovers around 5 percent.”
We are not suggesting that this study should be believed as gospel, especially being reported in Christianity Today, which is just an evangelical-facing department of the woke regime. But it is our impression that many pastors are waaay out of the loop on how quickly things are degenerating amongst professed Christians, even in their own churches, and this article points to a trend that cannot be denied, even if the exact numbers aren’t accurate.
An interesting question to ask here is around framing. Are human children dumber than apes? Or are we hardwired perform rituals that go beyond mere pragmatic efficiency?
Talk again next week,
Bnonn & Michael