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J.A.A. Purves

I'm no longer writing this book ...

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What about the truism that God has no gender, and that he is both loving father and loving mother

Well, it would be a pretty unBiblical truism.

So I discovered that trying to individually respond to everyone’s specific comments on here may be unrealistic unless I have more hours in the day. In trying to do this, I’ve found that on finishing responding to page 2, we are now on page 6. At which rate, by the time I get to finishing page 4, we’ll be on page 12 and etc. Honestly, I’ve been a little overwhelmed by the response, that while, mostly negative, has, at the same time I know, taken time and effort. Thanks everyone for that, and as I keep reading and thinking more on this, I’m actually curious where this discussion will lead. So I am reading and considering all of everyone’s comments, and will try to get to all the major things being pointed out here eventually.

In the meantime, in doing so, two things generally come to mind,

1 - While I am not deciding on this yet, it has occurred to me that the terms "feminization" or "effeminization" may have caused a number of the misunderstandings in this thread. I’m wondering now if I had started out with the idea of the "esmasculation" or "demasculation" of American culture or men, if as many of you would have thought that I was criticizing women. At the moment, I’m not convinced I should be semantically picky enough to care. If the book I write is more aimed at a popular readership, rather than a academic readership, I have a hard time imagining most readers wanting to intellectually differentiate the emasculated guy from the effeminized guy.

(Merriam-Webster Dictionary - effeminate: (1) having feminine qualities untypical of a man: not manly in appearance or manner, (2) marked by an unbecoming delicacy or overrefinement

emasculate - (1) to deprive of strength, vigor, or spirit, (2) to deprive of virility or procreative power

feminize - (1) to give a feminine quality to, (2) to cause (a male or castrate) to take on feminine characters

(Medical Dictionary - demasculinize: (1) to remove the masculine character or qualities of, (2) to castrate, emasculate

The problems I’m thinking of incorporate all of the above. Sometimes the loss of a masculine trait is replaced by a feminine trait, and sometimes not. So admittedly, at the same time, it could be said that the loss of masculinity does not always necessarily equal acting like a woman (or like a little girl, or thanks to Scharzennegger a girly man).

2 - Before deciding if the culture as a whole is losing a balance and becoming more effeminate, don’t we have to agree that

A - There is the existence of certain primarily masculine and feminine traits.

and

B - There is thus the existence of certain primarily masculine and feminine character flaws?

For example, struggling with pornography could be said to be a primarily masculine character flaw, and struggling with addiction to Harlequin romance novels could be said to be a primarily feminine character flaw.

I've been convinced that it would be pretty presumptuous to take it upon myself to point out character flaws that are primarily feminine. So on one hand, that is NOT something I have any experience, interest or right to really be criticizing at all. I’m just not interested in that. On the other hand, what do you do when for one example, guys you know don’t struggle with porn, but instead struggle with an addiction to reading Harlequin romance novels?

The first thing I can think of, is that keeping a sense of humor about it all would be absolutely necessary. Also necessary would be the demand that criticizing an overly feminized culture should not equal criticizing women. Just as criticizing an overly masculinized church or culture wouldn't necessarily equal criticizing men or masculinity itself.

Edited by J.A.A. Purves

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Well, it would be a pretty unBiblical truism.

Not necessarily. The Triune Godhead is genderless. Now, within the trinity, two persons have male associations. There's God the Father, who claims such gendered language as metaphor (though it's worth mentioning that the OT every now and again uses feminine-styled metaphors to describe God's actions, though he's primarily understood in the masculine). Then there's God the Son, who is quite literally male, genitals and all. But there's good reason to see the Holy Spirit as being associated with the feminine gender.

For example, struggling with pornography could be said to be a primarily masculine character flaw, and struggling with addiction to Harlequin romance novels could be said to be a primarily feminine character flaw.

One could see trends along those lines, yes. But you have to work out whether those trends are informed by cultural conceptions of masculinity/femininity and how that informs development of conceptions of self, or whether it's something inherently biological. There's a lot of gray area there.

Also necessary would be the demand that criticizing an overly feminized culture should not equal criticizing women (since they are two different things entirely). Just as criticizing an overly masculinized church or culture wouldn't necessarily equal criticizing men or masculinity itself.

But this goes back to the key unaddressed issue. You act as though "masculine" and "feminine" have absolute connotations that can then be used to describe a culture. But, by and large, the connotations of "masculine" and "feminine" are very much products of a culture, not something beyond them. Their connotations shift from culture to culture, and even within a culture there can be some disagreement. You need to have a global and historical perspective on these ideas.

Edited by Ryan H.

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Ryan H. wrote:

: There's God the Father, who claims such gendered language as metaphor (though it's worth mentioning that the OT every now and again uses feminine-styled metaphors to describe God's actions . . .

Yeah, e.g., in one of the Books of Moses (Deuteronomy, I think?), there's a brief reference to God "giving birth" to Israel.

: Then there's God the Son, who is quite literally male, genitals and all.

Heh. Reminds me of how I was talking to my priest's wife about the sexuality of Jesus some years ago, and she mentioned that she always thought the sexualization of God was implicit just in the fact that Jesus, in our icons, has a BEARD. The angels on our iconostasis -- Michael and Gabriel -- are generally referred to by male pronouns etc., too, but they are depicted as beardless, and are arguably somewhat androgynous.

: But there's good reason to see the Holy Spirit as being associated with the feminine gender.

Do you find this anywhere in the tradition, though? (And no, Bono's soundtrack to In the Name of the Father doesn't count as "the tradition". ;) )

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2 - Before deciding if the culture as a whole is becoming more losing a balance and becoming more effeminate, don’t we have to agree that [...]

More questions, hopefully helpful.

Is it better for men to have masculine character flaws than feminine ones (and vice versa)? Does the aficionado of cheap romance novels have the extra problem of not only having trouble with a lust-driven obsession, but with having the wrong kind of trouble for his gender?

How do gender-common traits relate to gender roles?

What is the utility of specifying generally male or female character flaws in the first place? Does such a designation still make sense if we look closely at the issue and decide that there is more variance of 'character flaws' within a gender set than across genders?

Edited by KShaw

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Ryan H. wrote:

: Sure. Off the top of my head, the Book of Wisdom contains some key examples.

Such as...? I know that Wisdom is often described in female terms, in Job and elsewhere, but I'm not sure that we can make a direct correlation between this metaphorical/representational figure and the Holy Spirit.

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I know that Wisdom is often described in female terms, in Job and elsewhere, but I'm not sure that we can make a direct correlation between this metaphorical/representational figure and the Holy Spirit.

Oft-cited is Wisdom 7:22-29:

For wisdom, which is the worker of all things, taught me: for in her is an understanding spirit, holy, one only, manifold, subtle, lively, clear, undefiled, plain, not subject to hurt, loving the thing that is good, quick, which cannot be letted, ready to do good, kind to man, steadfast, sure, free from care, having all power, overseeing all things, and going through all understanding, pur, and most subtle, spirits. For wisdom is more moving than any motion: she passeth and goeth through all things by reason of her pureness. For she is the breath of the power of God, and a pure influence flowing from the glory of the Almighty: therefore can no defiled thing fall into her. For she is the brightness of the everlasting light, the unspotted mirror of the power of God, and the image of his goodness. And being but one, she can do all things: and remaining in herself, she maketh all things new: and in all ages entering into holy souls, she maketh them friends of God, and prophets.

It's also interesting to note that the patristic references to The Gospel of the Hebrews--which many of the Church Fathers deemed to have been written by Matthew (Jerome quotes it as though it was authoritative)--quote Jesus as saying, "my Mother, the Holy Spirit, took me by one of my hairs, and carried me to the great mountain Tabor."

Edited by Ryan H.

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Wisdom 7:22-29 wrote:

: For she is the breath of the power of God, and a pure influence flowing from the glory of the Almighty . . .

Hmmm, okay, "breath" and "spirit" are generally the same word, both in Hebrew and in Greek, yes?

: . . . and in all ages entering into holy souls, she maketh them friends of God, and prophets.

And this bit reminds me of the bit in the Nicene Creed where we sing that the Holy Spirit "spoke through the prophets."

Ryan H. wrote:

: It's also interesting to note that the patristic references to The Gospel of the Hebrews--which many of the Church Fathers deemed to have been written by Matthew (Jerome quotes it as though it was authoritative)--quote Jesus as saying, "my Mother, the Holy Spirit, took me by one of my hairs, and carried me to the great mountain Tabor."

Many? So far I can find references to this quote only in Jerome and Origen (and Origen, at least, seems to have hedged his bets by saying "if any accept the Gospel of the Hebrews").

Of course, assigning the Spirit to the female gender may or may not pose a problem of sorts when we consider the role the Spirit played in "overshadowing" Mary and impregnating her. :)

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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So I am going to make this as uncontroversial as I can.

To an outside observer, this thread may seem a pretty good proof of (Persiflage's) concept. He comes in with a blunt thesis and sets it out, fielding comments. He is met with cries of 'offensive' and 'ignorant'--one could even say 'brutish'--is teamed up on, and there is even, at one point, an attempt to psychoanalize him, the thought being he must not be a happy man romantically. In the classical Western conception of sexuality, and in the rather mainstream and un-fringe-like understanding Persiflage pronounces, one of those things would be considered manly, and one would most decidedly not be.

Food for thought.

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Ryan H. wrote:

: It's also interesting to note that the patristic references to The Gospel of the Hebrews--which many of the Church Fathers deemed to have been written by Matthew (Jerome quotes it as though it was authoritative)--quote Jesus as saying, "my Mother, the Holy Spirit, took me by one of my hairs, and carried me to the great mountain Tabor."

Many? So far I can find references to this quote only in Jerome and Origen (and Origen, at least, seems to have hedged his bets by saying "if any accept the Gospel of the Hebrews").

Quite. But while Origen and Eusebius ultimately catalogued it among the "contested writings," of those two, Eusebius personally deemed it to have been written by Matthew. Papias, too, attests that Matthew issued the Gospel of the Hebrews, and notes that the story of the sinful woman first originated there.

Some scholars regard this referenced Gospel of the Hebrews as a proto-Matthew (Aramaic Matthew) which was translated and expanded into the Greek Matthew that grew to have widespread use throughout the early church and is thus what we have today. But since Epiphanius testifies that the Ebionites held onto the pro-Matthew, changed it around, and then assigned it the title Gospel of the Hebrews, things get questionable in that regard, and it may be this corrupted version of Matthew which Origen is quoting above, rather than the original.

Edited by Ryan H.

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So I am going to make this as uncontroversial as I can.

To an outside observer, this thread may seem a pretty good proof of (Persiflage's) concept. He comes in with a blunt thesis and sets it out, fielding comments. He is met with cries of 'offensive' and 'ignorant'--one could even say 'brutish'--is teamed up on, and there is even, at one point, an attempt to psychoanalize him, the thought being he must not be a happy man romantically. In the classical Western conception of sexuality, and in the rather mainstream and un-fringe-like understanding Persiflage pronounces, one of those things would be considered manly, and one would most decidedly not be.

Food for thought.

To which outside observer? I suspect only those that agree with his perspective. I mean, to an outside observer, this thread may also speak negatively of those that would advance such notions. It depends on who the "outside observers" are, wouldn't it? In fact some have been as equally blunt and assertive in their challenges to his thesis. So, one could suggest that this thread actually disproves the thesis.

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It depends on who the "outside observers" are, wouldn't it?

Indeed. That's why the qualifier's included. I just found it an interesting thing that I don't think would be as apparent inside the conversation. I'm also not saying you need to draw a specific conclusion from that.

In fact some have been as equally blunt and assertive in their challenges to his thesis. So, one could suggest that this thread actually disproves the thesis.

You could certainly suggest it, but I don't think the general movement's that way.

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Not sure about Aramaic, but OT Hebrew has no "neuter" gender, so all nouns are gendered by default. "Shekinah," fwiw, is a feminine noun.

Scottish Gaelic is similar - you literally cannot say "It's raining." Whatever "it" is (the sky, the weather - not sure, really) is feminine, so a literal translation is "She's raining."

This isn't how gender works in Semitic languages. Nouns appear in gendered forms, and these nominal forms may or may not have an actual gender component depending on whether they refer to something that naturally has gender or not. For example, book, light, wind, house, etc... These all have masc. or fem. endings, but obviously aren't male or female. So, if you want to make case that something like "Shekinah" is male or female, you will have to demonstrate that from context rather than its lexical gender.

Ryan H. wrote:

: Sure. Off the top of my head, the Book of Wisdom contains some key examples.

Such as...? I know that Wisdom is often described in female terms, in Job and elsewhere, but I'm not sure that we can make a direct correlation between this metaphorical/representational figure and the Holy Spirit.

This gets tougher in that the Wisdom tradition becomes associated with Christ in Paul's theology. So at least the Christian-biblical branch of the wisdom tradition becomes masculine. I have always found it really odd that you will only find distinctly feminized forms of reference to members of the godhead in non-canonical literature.

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Not sure about Aramaic, but OT Hebrew has no "neuter" gender, so all nouns are gendered by default. "Shekinah," fwiw, is a feminine noun.

This isn't how gender works in Semitic languages. Nouns appear in gendered forms, and these nominal forms may or may not have an actual gender component depending on whether they refer to something that naturally has gender or not. For example, book, light, wind, house, etc... These all have masc. or fem. endings, but obviously aren't male or female. So, if you want to make case that something like "Shekinah" is male or female, you will have to demonstrate that from context rather than its lexical gender.

And just to clear, the Holy Spirit of the Bible is not feminine and is not a goddess. That myth was fictionalized in the Da Vinci Code (the search for the divine lost feminine), promoted by Gnostic heretics in early church times, perhaps played around with by Origen, and promoted by feminists who helped get out the modern "Gender-Neutral" Bible. All references to God and Christ in the Greek, use masculine pronouns. The Holy Spirit in the Greek New Testament is referred to by neuter pronouns. The Hebrew noun "Shekinah" does not describe the Holy Spirit or even appear one single time in the Old Testament. You can't take one Hebrew noun like "ruach" out of context in order to say that the Holy Spirit is feminine, otherwise, by that disregard of grammar, you might as well say that "Elohim" means goddesses (because it's lexically feminine plural when taken out of context). Regardless of whether you believe the Bible or not, anyone taking first semester Hebrew would be able to tell you that's wrong.

Christians like Rob Bell, who play around with the idea of a "divine feminine" in the Bible are forsaking doctrine (and elementary school level rules of interpreting Scripture) for something that sounds or feels nice to them instead. This particular point is close to a rabbit trail on this thread, except I think it could be applicable on the issue of the church. Example: when feelings, relationships, intimacy, comfort and harmony are all values that are overvalued in the church, other things like doctrine and challenge are devalued. If the choice comes down to (1) possibly hurting feelings and disrupting the comfortable atmosphere in the church, or (2) taking a stand on doctrine, even if it means conflict; well, a church that has lost balance toward overvaluing good feminine values will always choose #1 at the expense of doctrine.

God created men and women both in His image - meaning the masculine and the feminine (when right) are both reflections of His character. But God is always a "he" in the Bible. This is a fact not even open for debate. This is, however, irrelevant to the feminization of culture and the church, except in so far as it reflects a loss of some values due to the overvaluing of other values (i.e., again see Rob Bell).

Edited by J.A.A. Purves

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More questions, hopefully helpful. Is it better for men to have masculine character flaws than feminine ones (and vice versa)?

Not better. Except if some men find that they struggle primarily with feminine character flaws, then that might be educational as to what may have happened to them.

Does the aficionado of cheap romance novels have the extra problem of not only having trouble with a lust-driven obsession, but with having the wrong kind of trouble for his gender?

So yes, that would be two problems instead of one.

How do gender-common traits relate to gender roles?

While they obviously relate, they are also two separate subjects. Or, more broadly speaking, the existence of masculine and feminine character traits inform the discussion about gender roles just like they would inform the discussion of how a culture is losing a balance between the two.

What is the utility of specifying generally male or female character flaws in the first place? Does such a designation still make sense if we look closely at the issue and decide that there is more variance of 'character flaws' within a gender set than across genders?

Its usefulness would only come into play if, oh say for instance, you found most of the men in your particular generation exhibiting both more feminine character traits and character flaws. The solution for a guy struggling with reading too many romance novels could be different from the solution for a girl doing so.

Ryan H - To slightly switch gears, in all of this, one has to concede that ideas of "male" and "female" are deeply bound up in culture, and anthropological survey reveals that while certain constants seem to hold (largely ones that can be directly corrolated with distinct male/female physical and biological factors), there is some sharp variety as well. What Persiflage seems to hold as "masculine" versus "feminine" does not hold universally across cultural and historical lines, and it's not as though there is a clear Biblical definition of these qualities, either.

Point being, biology, anthropology, psychology, and sociology all tell us that there is a clear and distinct difference between men and women. Thus the funny news stories about when scientists come up with some new difference between men and women (like how both react to and deal with stress), a difference that every person on the street will tell you has been pretty self-evident to anyone in history living in the real world.

So the challenge to Persiflage, as I see it, is that he needs to provide an explanation/argument as to why his notion of masculinity is to be pursued over others, and there has to be an awareness of complicating questions, too.

Agreements about gender differences are not something new. The purpose of my book, if it survives, is not going to be to prove the difference between primarily masculine character traits and feminine character traits. The purpose of the book will be to instruct readers on how to resist cultural trends (pressuring you to rid yourself of those undesirable masculine traits), resisting schools that systematically try to rid your sons of their normal masculinity, resisting trends in church towards overvaluing the feminine to the loss of the masculine (many worship songs are just one ridiculous example), acknowledging that there are problems with being masculine because of the responsibilities that come with it (whether to provide for your family and children is never even up for discussion), and (if you are female) to encourage, not discourage, the guys around you to act like themselves (and raise sons as sons, not as kids who get some equal choice between whether they want to be feminine or masculine).

One could see trends along those lines, yes. But you have to work out whether those trends are informed by cultural conceptions of masculinity/femininity and how that informs development of conceptions of self, or whether it's something inherently biological. There's a lot of gray area there.

Most people who don't intellectualize it like both of us are doing probably think there's less of a gray area. Does culture affect conceptions of masculine and feminine? Of course it does. So one of my book's goals would be to encourage guys to not be a product of their culture, but to make their culture a product of themselves.

But this goes back to the key unaddressed issue. You act as though "masculine" and "feminine" have absolute connotations that can then be used to describe a culture. But, by and large, the connotations of "masculine" and "feminine" are very much products of a culture, not something beyond them. Their connotations shift from culture to culture, and even within a culture there can be some disagreement. You need to have a global and historical perspective on these ideas.

You are right to a certain extent. I am assuming that the differences between men and women are objective facts. Sure, there are also cultural conceptions of what is or what should be masculine or feminine.

Anders - What I don't agree with is that the evidence for feminisation, especially in the Church, is undeniable. I grew up in church, being forced at boy's events to do "manly" things, such as working with tools in a very "Home Improvement" kind of manner, or dipping into car engines. Both things that I don't have much interest in, but were considered important to ensure the masculinity of the kids. I'm not particularly handy, or into cars, but I don't think that means I'm particularly effeminate. I grew up in a house with 4 men, and only my mother as a representative woman. I like sports, but I also like cooking, film, and using Facebook.

That church you grew up in sounds very different from most American churches today. So I understand where you are coming from, and your enjoyment of cooking, film and Facebook does not necessarily make you feminine.

The evidence just doesn't look so dire from where I am. So, I suppose the question is what does balance look like?

In your average American church, feminine values are being overvalued. The problems that result from this are long and numerous. The most evident of which would be, for those who notice, the problem that less men are now attending the Christian church than ever before in American history. And yes, I would say this is both the fault of men and the fault of the church. So balance does not look like what we have today. I'm also working with the assumption that "balance" does look more like the New Testament church than it looks like today.

Edited by J.A.A. Purves

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Anders is correct. While there may be areas of culture where masculine overcompensation is on the decline, (1) this is largely a positive step, not a negative step. (2) This should not be a reason to conclude that masculinity itself is on the decline. Gender roles are, to some significant extent, innate.

On your whole "masculine overcompensation" idea - I've read this stuff before. And while I think it's kind of silly, I find one thing particularly interesting. This sort of thing doesn't seem to apply to women. I have never heard of "feminine overcompensation." And even some of these studies, which challenged gender identity among people in different tests, reported that, while the women didn't respond, the men did respond. When their femininity was challenged, the women didn't try to act more feminine. When their masculinity was challenged, the men did try to act more masculine. You know, that honestly sounds like some sort of significant psychological difference in character traits.

Some men get criticized for trying to overcompensate for something by acting more masculine. Women don't get criticized for the reverse, and indeed, don't really feel the need to act more feminine in the first place. When do you say a guy is overcompensating anyway? Do NFL football players have this problem? For all the disparagement NFL players have taken on this thread for not being good role models for children, in our culture today, the NFL does sort of provide a masculine sub-culture of refuge for them. In any other culture in history, what would these guys be doing? Probably hammering battle-axes into other guys' skulls (whether in war, in the gladiatorial arena, or elsewhere). I don't see them overcompensating for anything. Is a kid engaging in "masculine overcompensation" when he decides to fight the bully on the playground that beat him the day before? Or is he just acting with the courage that a boy should learn to develop?

Edited by J.A.A. Purves

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Again, i feel like you're talking about men and women as if they were two separate species. Why is that?

On a less serious note, I couldn't have the foggiest why you feel like you feel. Nor can I ever think of a response to someone who asks me why they feel like I'm saying something that I'm not.

Now, hold on a sec - all American churches? Even "most" would have to cover Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Episcopalian and Greek and Russian Orthodox. There are Mennonites and Quakers and lots of other denominations that ought to be included in "most American churches,." "Most" sounds like you might mean "most of the white evangelical churches that I have attended and/or know about." Does your statement include primarily black and Latino congregations/parishes? Are you referring to a wide swath of American geography, or maybe trends that you've seen in the states where you've lived? Are you taking into account populations in both rural and urban areas, and, if so, where are they located?

I am asking these questions not to bother you, but because they're important . As I've noted previously, it sounds like you're talking about a subset of white, middle-class evangelical church culture, which is... a subset. (I also believe - rightly or wrongly - that the most of the men who are complaining about the so-called "femininization" of the church come from an even smaller subset of this culture. fwiw, I also believe that trying to stretch what Leon Podles says about Roman Catholic churches to include Protestant denominations is... well, probably not wise. Sounds like an entirely separate book to me - one he hasn't yet written.)

Nope. I'm not saying this just because of my own personal experience. Try this, from David Murrow -

The typical American churchgoer is a woman. The U.S. Congregational Life Survey pegged her as a fifty-year-old, married, well-educated, employed female. An ABC News/Beleifnet poll found taht a worshipper is most likely an older, black female who lives in the South. Figures from the Census 2000 and a study by Barna Research estimate a weekly gender gap of more than 13 million in America's churches. The U.S. Congregational Life Survey concurs: "While the U.S. population is split fairly evenly between men and women, there are more women (61%) than men (39%) in the pews. This difference is found in every age category, so the fact that women live longer than men does not explain the gender difference in religious participation.

Today 20 to 25 percent of America's married, churchgoing women regularly attend without thier husbands. After Thom S. Rainer studied two thousand American congregations, he noted, "Most churches indicated that their members included a significant number of churched wives who were married to unchurched husbands." He told the story of a woman named Carol, who loves her Sunday school class because "every woman in the class is in the same boat I'm in. We're all married, but our husbands don't attend church."

To my knowledge, there is no Christian sect or denomination in America that attracts more men than women ... This section highlights some results from the National Congregations Study (NCS) ... nondenominational churches are the least likely to report a gender gap. Just 25 percent of these independent congregations report a large surplus of women. Among the major denominations, Baptists are the least likely to report a gap. (Before you Baptists start celebrating, not that more than half of your congregations report a substantial gender gap.) Other Protestant, Pentecostal, and Catholic churches are more likely to be gapped, and the liberal mainline churches are the most likely to be gapped. An astonishing 80 percent of Episcopal churches report a noticeable gender gap ...

The Catholic Church is having a particularly hard time attracting men. An ABC News/Beliefnet poll found that just 26 percent of U.S. Catholic men attend Mass on a weekly basis, compared to 49 percent of Catholic women. This poll was taken before the worst allegations of sexual abuse by priests came to light. But no one has it tougher than the traditional black denominations. A staggering 92 percent of African-American churches in America reported a gender gap, the highest of any faith group. Observers such as Edward Thompson and Jawanza Kunjufu confirm that 75 to 90 percent of the adults at a typical African-American congregation are women. Contrast this to black Muslims, who are overwhelmingly male ...

Which faith groups in the U.S. have a reverse gender gap? Surveys indicate that atheists, freethinkers (a form of atheism), agnostics, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, and no religion attract more men than women. Food for thought ...

The gender gap exists all over the world. Although some evidence suggests that Eastern and Greek Orthodox churches in Europe and Asia do not suffer a gender gap, every other branch of Christianity does. No variant of Catholic or Protestant chruch is immune. Research finds a pattern of male absence going back at least a century in the churches of England, Wales, Spain, Germany, and France. Asian, Australian, and African churches also attract more women than men on a typical weekend.

For more, read the rest of chapter 7, and then 8 and 9, of David Murrow's Why Men Hate Going To Church. The sources he's using for his research include other books (like the one by Podles), ABC News, "The U.S. Congregational Life Survey - Key Findings" (October 29, 2003), the "National Congregations Study of 1998", the "American Religious Identification Survey" from the Graduate Center of University of New York, the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, a number of Gallup polls, and attendance statistics from all the mainline congregations.

Edited by J.A.A. Purves

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Ryan H. wrote:

: Some scholars regard this referenced Gospel of the Hebrews as a proto-Matthew (Aramaic Matthew) which was translated and expanded into the Greek Matthew that grew to have widespread use throughout the early church and is thus what we have today.

Modern scholars, you mean? They're presumably not in the majority, since most scholars that I'm acquainted with tend to follow the hypothesis that Matthew copied much of his text from Mark and the so-called Q source(s), which were already in Greek.

I'm vaguely reminded of the introduction to Matthew Green's commentary on Matthew, where he notes that all of the EXTERNAL evidence (the traditions passed on by the Church Fathers, etc.) points to Matthew being originally written in Hebrew by the apostle for whom it is named, etc., whereas all of the INTERNAL evidence points the other way.

e2c wrote:

: We're not just our biology . . .

Of course not. But like C.S. Lewis (as noted above), we can take this concept further and note that sex and gender, themselves, are not merely biological either.

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e2c wrote:

: if you're dealing with Protestantism, you've got to figure in the historic "peace" churches: Mennonites, Church of the Brethren and related denominations; also the Quakers.

[ chuckle ]

I grew up Mennonite, so I'd hardly cite them as a community that somehow OPPOSES the notion that there are differences between the genders.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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Most people who don't intellectualize it like both of us are doing probably think there's less of a gray area.

All the more reason to educate them.

I am assuming that the differences between men and women are objective facts.

And that is the most significant problem with your book proposal.

Edited by Ryan H.

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So, if you want to make case that something like "Shekinah" is male or female, you will have to demonstrate that from context rather than its lexical gender.

She-kinah. Duh.

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Is a kid engaging in "masculine overcompensation" when he decides to fight the bully on the playground that beat him the day before? Or is he just acting with the courage that a boy should learn to develop?

He may be acting with some courage, but I'd certainly counsel him to muster even more courage and resist responding to violence with violence.

That's how I was counseled. And I'm grateful that I never stooped to taking angry swings at bullies.

Okay, with some reluctance (as I'm trying not to start new fires, but to offer some food for thought), here's a bit about my experience, which influenced my own definition of "masculinity."

I'm not bragging; I had watchful, wise family members and teachers "coaching" me, reminding me to "turn the other cheek." So I see it as grace. I certainly *wanted* to fight back. It would have been easier to strike back. But striking back usually only provokes the bully to respond more violently, with worse consequences. Moreover, any satisfaction that comes from striking back is not the healthiest kind of satisfaction to cultivate.

I walked home from school with a lot of bruises when I was a kid. In physical ed. classes, we lined up alphabetically, and I was put next to the class bully who made a routine of punching me in the arm until it was black and blue, but as his mother was the head of the P.E. program and not known for sensitivity about anything, I didn't have an effective way to complain without the bully only becoming more aggressive. But I was surrounded by parents and teachers who taught the virtue of "turning the other cheek." As my father was a teacher, I respected his instruction, and other teachers as well. And I'm grateful for that.

I was also taught to see playground violence as a combustible mix of arrogance, meanness, stupidity, and insecurity. And I also learned that these behaviors are often inspired by what the bullies experienced at home, from their own siblings or parents, or from lives that made them feel they had control over very little. This was supposed to make me feel compassion for them, but I struggled with that lesson for a long, long time, and I'm still practicing that perspective.

That didn't stop me from feeling miserable for being bullied. But the bruises I suffered ended up being far less significant than what I might have suffered (or become) by learning to fight back. I felt good about graduating without having ever been in an actual fight. By the grace of God, I was surrounded by teachers and voices of wisdom that convinced me to steer clear. I admired the way they showed enough strength to be slow to anger. Some of them would respond to the disrespect of rebellious students with quiet authority, with powerful words that showed they could control their tempers. That exposed the immaturity of the jerks... and sometimes it made the jerks realize that they were going to have to shape up if they wanted to be treated as adults.

And by the time I got to high school, I saw the behaviors that began as playground fights evolving into far more dangerous confrontations. Certain athletes ended up duking it out with athletes from other schools in the parking lot after sports events. The idea of opposition on the court easily translated into something more than a test of skills; it translated into enmity. And there weren't any winners in those fights.

I stopped equating a fighter's fervor with masculinity... unless the "fight" was against violence and chest-beating arrogance.

I grew up in one school, watching classmates grow from elementary school through college. I'm sure there are exceptions. But the guys who grew up defining their masculinity by their performances in physical conflict were not the guys who developed hearts for reconciliation and relationships. Some of them ended up seeing the world as a constant case of Us Versus Them, and they're more inclined to participate in the kind of political "dialogue" that involves broad-brush stereotyping, trash-talking the other side, and an eagerness to believe the worst about people who vote differently than them.

And it's not stereotype -- in almost every specific case I can think of, those guys have one kind of movie that they like: movies about violent heroes who have the "courage" to rise up and kill for the sake of vengeance, or something they find a way to call "justice." For them, the return of Rambo was the most fun they'd had at the movies in years.

Here's a good role model for masculinity: Greg Mortenson.

It's taken unbelievable strength and courage for him to do what he's done... befriending the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan, working with them to improve their communities and build schools so women and girls can become educated. He'd begun convincing the U.S. military leadership of the virtue of restraint, showing them the rewards that can come from educating the girls and women of the Middle East. He's proven to them that by changing our tactics there, we can promote peace by helping young people grow up to see the lies of extremism and the foolishness of terrorism. And the results he's achieved back up his teaching. Read Three Cups of Tea and Stones into Schools. That is the kind of man I hope my nephews and nieces look up to.

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Modern scholars, you mean?

Yessir. There are some contemporary scholars who reject the Q-source hypothesis. Not many, but some.

I think you can still find scholars defending the Farmer-Griesbach hypothesis. And I think there are always some scholars who cast doubt on the whole source critical enterprise with respect to the Gospels, arguing that convergences among the Gospels have more to do with mutual interdependence on the same matrix of oral tradition than direct dependence of one Gospel upon another.

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SDG wrote:

: And I think there are always some scholars who cast doubt on the whole source critical enterprise with respect to the Gospels, arguing that convergences among the Gospels have more to do with mutual interdependence on the same matrix of oral tradition than direct dependence of one Gospel upon another.

That's a highly implausible thesis, given the strong word-to-word correspondence between the Greek texts. Oral tradition doesn't generate THAT kind of accuracy. (And wouldn't this oral tradition have been Aramaic originally, rather than Greek?)

I think it's pretty much a given that the Synoptics borrowed from each other in SOME way. The only question is whether Matthew got there first, which would allow for some sort of Hebraic proto-text, or whether Matthew borrowed from Mark and/or Luke and/or their sources, in which case the notion of a Hebrew original is pretty much ruled out.

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