Every Friday in Sacred Space, Brad Williams explores the place of popular culture in the local church.
Some sections of the evangelical church are so fueled by testosterone right now that I fear the bride of Christ might become a bearded lady. Hardly a month goes by where high profile evangelical pastors extol the virtues of manly combat in MMA or fail to miss an opportunity to make fun of girly music leaders. This week is no exception. Doug Wilson decided to put out a post titled “Your Worship Service Might Be Effeminate If..“, and then he went on to list a plethora of things that are neither feminine nor unmanly. I find this list ridiculous, and I find the attitude behind it laughable. How is it that a church culture with all-male leadership, bearded awesomeness, and a general masculine flair still has room to lament a sissified church culture? How much manliness does a church need?
To put my cards right out there on the table, I’m going to confess that I am a thorough-going complementarian. I believe that the elders/pastors of the local church should be filled only by qualified men. (I put that out there so that I will have the opportunity to offend everyone in this article.) However, I find the type of bravado put out there concerning the new “manliness” by folks like Mark Driscoll and now Doug Wilson to be a terrible hindrance to my cause, which I believe is very important.
First, let me point out that the church’s worship cannot be effeminate. Nor should it be masculine. Nor should it be feminine. The worship service should be designed to allow men and women to worship the Almighty as, well, men and women. What the gathering of the church does is allow men and women to express their adoration of God for His offering of His Son Jesus as a propitiation for our sins. So the pastor, the music leaders, the responsive reading guy, the prayers—these things are all done to remind us of the glorious truths of the Bible, and people are free to respond to that however they might best express themselves. That could include dancing half-naked in front of the ark of God, or it could include a man getting his ugly cry on because of the glory of God has broken his heart. Or, he could stand at parade rest and sing lustily and make battle noises, I guess. Either way, you ought to leave that dude alone, brother.
So technically, the worship of the church cannot be effeminate. Only individual men can be effeminate. But what that exactly means is a bit of a mystery to me. To avoid that, does it mean he has to grow a beard? Quit wearing preppy cardigans? No gold bracelets? Wilson tries to help us spot effeminate worship, but things like this only leave me more confused:
Your music minister is more concerned that the choir trills their r’s correctly than that they fill the sanctuary with loud sounds of battle
The worship music rides particular chord changes hard, with special mention being given to the shift from E Minor to C Major
I had no idea that music was supposed to sound like the sounds of battle! I’m quite sure that Douglas Wilson has never seen a real battle, and if he has, he is mad for thinking the screams of the dead and dying and bomb blasts are what we are trying to accomplish in the ministry of music. And key shifts are girly now? This is a shock to me as well. My favorite, however, is this one: This list is printed out and handed around at your church, and at least three people are mortally offended. Yeah, so if we are offended by the list, then we may be effeminate.
Here’s what is so bad about the list, beside it being nearly non-nonsensical:
First, worship cannot be effeminate, only men can.
Second, how shall we define effeminate worship? As awesome as kilts and claymores are, they reveal more about Wilson’s fantasy life than they do the proper conduct of a real man in worship.
Third, the list is probably offensive to women. I don’t want to speak for them, but the list seems to indicate that feminine worship is undesirable. It may be undesirable in a man, if we can figure out what that looks like at church, but surely it is to be commended in women! Wilson’s manly dreams for the church reach so high that he naturally assumes that women are happy worshiping in masculine worship.
In the end, I’ll throw Wilson a bone. I don’t like “Jesus is my Girlfriend” type songs either. It isn’t because they are too mushy; it’s because they are generally lousy songs and theologically thread-bare. I’m not nervous about intimacy with God, and I actually enjoy singing pretty songs to God that demonstrate my desire to know Him more intimately. And if that sort of intimacy makes a man nervous, then he might have forgotten that he is part of the bride of Christ. That’s the same sort of nasty aloofness that keeps men from kissing their sons and telling them that they love them. It’s the same lie that makes men think it is unmanly to weep or confess weakness.
If that’s the kind of culture Wilson wants to cultivate, count me out.