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johngalt1
02-05-2014, 02:41 AM
In a time when churches of every description are faced with Vanishing Male Syndrome, men are showing up at Eastern Orthodox churches in numbers that, if not numerically impressive, are proportionately intriguing. This may be the only church which attracts and holds men in numbers equal to women. As Leon Podles wrote in his 1999 book, "The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity," "The Orthodox are the only Christians who write basso profundo church music, or need to."

Rather than guess why this is, I emailed a hundred Orthodox men, most of whom joined the Church as adults. What do they think makes this church particularly attractive to men? Their responses, below, may spark some ideas for leaders in other churches, who are looking for ways to keep guys in the church.

Challenges. The term most commonly cited by these men was "challenging." Orthodoxy is "active and not passive." "It's the only church where you are required to adapt to it, rather than it adapting to you." "The longer you are in it, the more you realize it demands of you."

The "sheer physicality of Orthodox worship" is part of the appeal. Regular days of fasting from meat and dairy, "standing for hours on end, performing prostrations, going without food and water [before communion]...When you get to the end you feel that you've faced down a challenge." "Orthodoxy appeals to a man's desire for self-mastery through discipline."

"In Orthodoxy, the theme of spiritual warfare is ubiquitous; saints, including female saints, are warriors. Warfare requires courage, fortitude, and heroism. We are called to be 'strugglers' against sin, to be 'athletes' as St. Paul says. And the prize is given to the victor. The fact that you must 'struggle' during worship by standing up throughout long services is itself a challenge men are willing to take up."

A recent convert summed up, "Orthodoxy is serious. It is difficult. It is demanding. It is about mercy, but it's also about overcoming oneself. I am challenged in a deep way, not to 'feel good about myself' but to become holy. It is rigorous, and in that rigor I find liberation. And you know, so does my wife."

Clear Disciplines. Several mentioned that they really appreciated having clarity about the content of these challenges and what they were supposed to do. "Most guys feel a lot more comfortable when they know what's expected of them." "Orthodoxy presents a reasonable set of boundaries." "It's easier for guys to express themselves in worship if there are guidelines about how it's supposed to work—especially when those guidelines are so simple and down-to-earth that you can just set out and start doing something."

"The prayers the Church provides for us — morning prayers, evening prayers, prayers before and after meals, and so on — give men a way to engage in spirituality without feeling put on the spot, or worrying about looking stupid because they don't know what to say."

They appreciate learning clear-cut physical actions that are expected to form character and understanding. "People begin learning immediately through ritual and symbolism, for example, by making the sign of the cross. This regimen of discipline makes one mindful of one's relation to the Trinity, to the Church, and to everyone he meets."

A Goal. Men also appreciate that this challenge has a goal: union with God. One said that in a previous church "I didn't feel I was getting anywhere in my spiritual life (or that there was anywhere to get to — I was already there, right?) But something, who knew what, was missing. Isn't there SOMETHING I should be doing, Lord?"

Orthodoxy preserves and transmits ancient Christian wisdom about how to progress toward this union, which is called "theosis." Every sacrament or spiritual exercise is designed to bring the person, body and soul, further into continual awareness of the presence of Christ within, and also within every other human being. As a cloth becomes saturated with dye by osmosis, we are saturated with God by theosis.

A catechumen wrote that he was finding icons helpful in resisting unwanted thoughts. "If you just close your eyes to some visual temptation, there are plenty of stored images to cause problems. But if you surround yourself with icons, you have a choice of whether to look at something tempting or something holy."

A priest writes, "Men need a challenge, a goal, perhaps an adventure — in primitive terms, a hunt. Western Christianity has lost the ascetic, that is, the athletic aspect of Christian life. This was the purpose of monasticism, which arose in the East largely as a men's movement. Women entered monastic life as well, and our ancient hymns still speak of women martyrs as showing 'manly courage.'"

"Orthodoxy emphasizes DOING. …. Guys are ACTIVITY oriented."

No Sentimentality. In "The Church Impotent," cited above (and recommended by several of these men), Leon Podles offers a theory about how Western Christian piety became feminized. In the 12th-13th centuries a particularly tender, even erotic, strain of devotion arose, one which invited the individual believer to picture himself or herself (rather than the Church as a whole) as the Bride of Christ. "Bridal Mysticism" was enthusiastically adopted by devout women, and left an enduring stamp on Western Christianity. It understandably had less appeal for guys. For centuries in the West, men who chose the ministry have been stereotyped as effeminate. A life-long Orthodox layman says that, from the outside, Western Christianity strikes him as "a love story written for women by women."

The Eastern Church escaped Bridal Mysticism because the great split between East and West had already taken place. The men who wrote me expressed hearty dislike for what they perceive as a soft Western Jesus. "American Christianity in the last two hundred years has been feminized. It presents Jesus as a friend, a lover, someone who 'walks with me and talks with me.' This is fine rapturous imagery for women who need a social life. Or it depicts Jesus whipped, dead on the cross. Neither is the type of Christ the typical male wants much to do with."

During worship, "men don't want to pray in the Western fashion with hands clasped, lips pressed together, and a facial expression of forced serenity." "It's guys holding hands with other guys and singing campfire songs." "Lines about 'reaching out for His embrace,' 'wanting to touch His face,' while being 'overwhelmed by the power of His love'—those are difficult songs for one man to sing to another Man."

"A friend of mine told me that the first thing he does when he walks into a church is to look at the curtains. That tells him who is making the decisions in that church, and the type of Christian they want to attract."

"Guys either want to be challenged to fight for a glorious and honorable cause, and get filthy dirty in the process, or to loaf in our recliners with plenty of beer, pizza, and football. But most churches want us to behave like orderly gentlemen, keeping our hands and mouths nice and clean."

One man said that worship at his Pentecostal church had been "largely an emotional experience. Feelings. Tears. Repeated rededication of one's life to Christ, in large emotional group settings. Singing emotional songs, swaying hands aloft. Even Scripture reading was supposed to produce an emotional experience. I am basically a do-er, I want to do things, and not talk about or emote my way through them! As a business person I knew that nothing in business comes without effort, energy, and investment. Why would the spiritual life be any different?"

Another, who visited Catholic churches, says, "They were conventional, easy, and modern, when my wife and I were looking for something traditional, hard, and counter-cultural, something ancient and martial." A catechumen says that at his non-denominational church "worship was shallow, haphazard, cobbled together from whatever was most current; sometimes we'd stand, sometimes we'd sit, without much rhyme or reason to it. I got to thinking about how a stronger grounding in tradition would help."

"It infuriated me on my last Ash Wednesday that the priest delivered a homily about how the real meaning of Lent is to learn to love ourselves more. It forced me to realize how completely sick I was of bourgeois, feel-good American Christianity."

A convert priest says that men are drawn to the dangerous element of Orthodoxy, which involves "the self-denial of a warrior, the terrifying risk of loving one's enemies, the unknown frontiers to which a commitment to humility might call us. Lose any of those dangerous qualities and we become the 'JoAnn Fabric Store' of churches: nice colors and a very subdued clientele."

"Men get pretty cynical when they sense someone's attempting to manipulate their emotions, especially when it's in the name of religion. They appreciate the objectivity of Orthodox worship. It's not aimed at prompting religious feelings but at performing an objective duty."

Yet there is something in Orthodoxy that offers "a deep masculine romance. Do you understand what I mean by that? Most romance in our age is pink, but this is a romance of swords and gallantry."

From a deacon: "Evangelical churches call men to be passive and nice (think 'Mr. Rogers'). Orthodox churches call men to be courageous and act (think 'Braveheart').

Source: http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/42390.htm

Just Some Dude
02-14-2014, 02:45 PM
Was kind of hoping to watch a debate (not flame war) ensue on this subject.

One Bad Pig
02-14-2014, 03:49 PM
I do enjoy the challenge or Orthodoxy. I'm much, much better at praying regularly since I converted.

There is some really good music in the West that I still miss to some extent, but I don't miss the feminine/emotional penchant or the rampant commercialism, forgettable music and generally shallow lyrics of modern worship.

Jedidiah
02-14-2014, 06:26 PM
Maybe it is just Alaska (Where men are men and women win the Iditarod.) but save the Liberal Lutheran church I fell into when first saved, I have not been in one of those feminized churches you are talking about, Johngalt1. My pastors have been hunters and fishermen, the leadership has been all men (well except for ministries to women). Perhaps here in the last frontier things are just different.

Cow Poke
02-14-2014, 06:36 PM
Maybe it is just Alaska (Where men are men and women win the Iditarod.) but save the Liberal Lutheran church I fell into when first saved, I have not been in one of those feminized churches you are talking about, Johngalt1. My pastors have been hunters and fishermen, the leadership has been all men (well except for ministries to women). Perhaps here in the last frontier things are just different.

Likewise in Texas -- sure, there are plenty of "praise and worship" churches where, in my opinion, it's all about "themes" and "feelings". But we still sing "the Banner of the Cross" and challenge our men to be Christian Soldiers.

Carrikature
02-14-2014, 09:29 PM
Likewise in Texas -- sure, there are plenty of "praise and worship" churches where, in my opinion, it's all about "themes" and "feelings". But we still sing "the Banner of the Cross" and challenge our men to be Christian Soldiers.

You can find those churches, but I think they're fast becoming the minority.

Jedidiah
02-15-2014, 01:46 PM
That is why this country is so liberal today. Too little Christ and too much feel good stuff.

Quantum Weirdness
02-15-2014, 04:19 PM
"Guys either want to be challenged to fight for a glorious and honorable cause, and get filthy dirty in the process, or to loaf in our recliners with plenty of beer, pizza, and football. But most churches want us to behave like orderly gentlemen, keeping our hands and mouths nice and clean."


What's wrong with being an orderly Gentleman? I agree with the rest of stuff though.

Cow Poke
02-15-2014, 04:22 PM
“A preacher must be both soldier and shepherd. He must nourish, defend, and teach; he must have teeth in his mouth, and be able to bite and fight.”

Martin Luther

Paprika
02-15-2014, 09:29 PM
I think the article tends to set up a false antithesis between the 'feminine' and the 'masculine' while conflating the emotional with the feminine- all of course viewed from a highly Americancentric perspective.


"Orthodoxy emphasizes DOING. …. Guys are ACTIVITY oriented."
...
"Guys either want to be challenged to fight for a glorious and honorable cause, and get filthy dirty in the process, or to loaf in our recliners with plenty of beer, pizza, and football. But most churches want us to behave like orderly gentlemen, keeping our hands and mouths nice and clean."


Some of us take the intellectual route.

Cow Poke
02-16-2014, 03:44 AM
I think the article tends to set up a false antithesis between the 'feminine' and the 'masculine' while conflating the emotional with the feminine- all of course viewed from a highly Americancentric perspective.



Some of us take the intellectual route.

Discipleship is all about "action verbs", like....
James 1:[22]*But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

Paprika
02-16-2014, 04:20 AM
For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.

Cow Poke
02-16-2014, 04:26 AM
For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.

Ah, Scripture wars!

1 Chron 26:[18]*At Parbar westward, four at the causeway, and two at Parbar.


Take THAT!

Paprika
02-16-2014, 04:35 AM
With their own hands compassionate women have cooked their own children...

:fencing:

One Bad Pig
02-16-2014, 01:52 PM
I think the article tends to set up a false antithesis between the 'feminine' and the 'masculine' while conflating the emotional with the feminine- all of course viewed from a highly Americancentric perspective.
I don't see the difference between East and West as "masculine v. feminine" so much as "balanced v. feminized". I don't see the article as conflating the emotional with the feminine; I see it as one more reason that guys are relatively less comfortable with Western churches that emphasize emotion. There is emotion in the East; it's just not a major component.

Some of us take the intellectual route.
Me, more or less. I wasn't unhappy with my Baptist church (aside from a gradual move from hymns to worship music); it was reading about Orthodoxy that drew me to it.

T-Shirt Ninja
02-18-2014, 09:41 AM
Personally, I love being Orthodox and I understand why men are so attracted to it. One aspect I love is the music. I was an evangelical Protestant for a long time and went to plenty of modern worship services. I ended up not liking the songs and found the lyrics to be a lot of "Jesus is my boyfriend" which I felt probably connected well with women but not so much with me as a man. The hymns in the Orthodox Church connected with me on a deeper level that just made a lot of sense.

Just Some Dude
02-18-2014, 03:28 PM
Seems like we got a lot of complaints about modern hymns and such in this topic.

Wilkowsky
05-13-2014, 01:56 AM
This has been a revelation to me. Just a few days ago I thought that Orthodox church is just Catholic Church for Russian people. Now I'm fascinated by it.

Thank you for this bit of information.

One Bad Pig
05-13-2014, 06:21 AM
This has been a revelation to me. Just a few days ago I thought that Orthodox church is just Catholic Church for Russian people. Now I'm fascinated by it.

Thank you for this bit of information.
You're welcome! :smile: I think this is the website (http://www.orthodox.pl/) for the Polish Orthodox Church.

We just recently celebrated the life of a Polish Orthodox saint, the martyred priest Vasily Martysz (http://oca.org/saints/lives/2014/05/04/148978-new-martyr-archpriest-vasily-martysz).

johngalt1
10-29-2014, 07:37 AM
I think there this particular issue especially that the relationship with Jesus takes erotic overtones due to the innovation of some catholic writer in the 12th century:
http://podles.org/files/Church-Impotent/ChurchImpotent_Chapter6.pdf

Jedidiah
10-29-2014, 12:43 PM
I think the article tends to set up a false antithesis between the 'feminine' and the 'masculine' while conflating the emotional with the feminine- all of course viewed from a highly Americancentric perspective.

Some of us take the intellectual route.


Discipleship is all about "action verbs", like....
James 1:[22]*But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

I don't see these two as mutually exclusive. Doing does not needfully involve getting "dirty." It will at times but I see women active as well as men. I am inclined to see the "divide" as "balanced v. feminized." I am with Sparko on that.

johngalt1
10-29-2014, 08:03 PM
On one hand its action but masculinity also involves risk. You will notice that the more riskier the profession the more male-dominated it is.

Buzzword
01-08-2015, 11:59 AM
I think the article tends to set up a false antithesis between the 'feminine' and the 'masculine' while conflating the emotional with the feminine- all of course viewed from a highly Americancentric perspective.
Some of us take the intellectual route.

Agreed.

I personally reject most of the assumptions regarding male preference and behavior in the OP, especially regarding any and all military reference.
As a descendant of Bible-Belt Evangelicals, I've already seen far too much reference to military behavior and warlike attitude in non-Eastern Orthodox churches to support any kind of militancy in an Eastern Orthodox setting.

Where is a God of agape in all this marching and standing at attention and us-against-them mentality?
Where is a Christ who comes to redeem us, to as John Wesley put it, "bring us into better relationship with God, each other, and God's created universe"?
Where is a Spirit to lead us into all truth and a familial unity of spirit?

I don't see it in this depiction of Eastern Orthodoxy.
Which, of course, is just a small study group's depiction of it, so it's not to say that Eastern Orthodoxy can't answer my above questions.

But in my experience as an American Christian who was raised in a series of evangelical churches, the spirit of militancy in no way helps us reach out and connect with people.
The military is there to stand the wall, defend the home, what have you.
Its purpose is not to bring in, but keep out.

How can there be any reconciliation between US, much less between us and the Father, if our mindset is entirely militaristic?

One Bad Pig
01-08-2015, 12:08 PM
Agreed.

I personally reject most of the assumptions regarding male preference and behavior in the OP, especially regarding any and all military reference.
As a descendant of Bible-Belt Evangelicals, I've already seen far too much reference to military behavior and warlike attitude in non-Eastern Orthodox churches to support any kind of militancy in an Eastern Orthodox setting.

Where is a God of agape in all this marching and standing at attention and us-against-them mentality?
Where is a Christ who comes to redeem us, to as John Wesley put it, "bring us into better relationship with God, each other, and God's created universe"?
Where is a Spirit to lead us into all truth and a familial unity of spirit?

I don't see it in this depiction of Eastern Orthodoxy.
Which, of course, is just a small study group's depiction of it, so it's not to say that Eastern Orthodoxy can't answer my above questions.

But in my experience as an American Christian who was raised in a series of evangelical churches, the spirit of militancy in no way helps us reach out and connect with people.
The military is there to stand the wall, defend the home, what have you.
Its purpose is not to bring in, but keep out.

How can there be any reconciliation between US, much less between us and the Father, if our mindset is entirely militaristic?
:huh: You seem to be focusing on a particular bit of the article you don't like, and misreading that. The "military" language in the article is more in line with Paul's - we fight not against flesh and blood. It's not an "us against them" mentality at all.

Buzzword
01-08-2015, 12:47 PM
:huh: You seem to be focusing on a particular bit of the article you don't like, and misreading that. The "military" language in the article is more in line with Paul's - we fight not against flesh and blood. It's not an "us against them" mentality at all.

The problem is not Paul's choice of military language, given that he was writing to people living in and under the control of a militaristic society but the overemphasis upon it, in both the article and in too many individual congregations in our now non-militaristic (at least in its more enlightened moments) society.

Especially the implication throughout the article that all men automatically prefer militaristic settings and practices (again, the focus on physical extremity mentioned several times in the OP).

This in addition to the false dichotomy, or really false opposition, between masculine and feminine which Paprika pointed out, in addition to the implication that male = masculine and female = feminine, at all times, all places and all circumstances.

I would contend that many men are not leaving Western churches because the procedure has been "feminized," as much as they are leaving because a greater sense of individuality has gradually pervaded Western congregations (at worst leading to a constant "come to Jesus" orientation in church services with no room for growth, at best leading individual Christians to work out their own salvation and not worry so much about the splinter in their brother's eye), and many heterosexual males prefer a pack-oriented setting in which they can find their place in the pecking order and work from there.

Which may explain the increase in male attendants of Eastern Orthodox churches, if those churches are successfully bringing those men into the communal worship experience and giving them a sense of their place within it.

And more power to them.


Of course, this avoids the overall issue of PEOPLE of all genders abandoning traditional church attendance in record numbers, especially the 18-35 set.
Obviously needs are not being met across the board and/or believers and seekers are being alienated.

pancreasman
01-08-2015, 02:59 PM
That is why this country is so liberal today. Too little Christ and too much feel good stuff.

Your country is SO liberal with republicans gaining a majority in both houses in the mid term elections.

Darth Executor
01-08-2015, 03:08 PM
Your country is SO liberal with republicans gaining a majority in both houses in the mid term elections.

Republicans are the less liberal party. They're in not conservative in any meaningful sense of the word.

Cow Poke
01-08-2015, 03:11 PM
Republicans are the less liberal party. They're in not conservative in any meaningful sense of the word.

Still trying to parse that second sentence, but, yeah.

pancreasman
01-08-2015, 03:16 PM
Still trying to parse that second sentence, but, yeah.

So Republicans aren't real conservatives. Ok. Does the US have a real conservative party? Maybe the Tea Party?

Cow Poke
01-08-2015, 03:19 PM
So Republicans aren't real conservatives. Ok. Does the US have a real conservative party? Maybe the Tea Party?

It's interesting... there used to be a lot of conservative democrats, and liberal republicans, but it seems GENERALLY the democrats are more consistently liberal, and the republicans, as DE said, are less so. There certainly are some conservative republicans, but I try not to use the labels interchangeably.

If I mean conservatives, I try NOT to use the label "republican", and if I mean liberal, I try NOT to use the label "democrat". :shrug:

My Dad is about as conservative as they get (he's 95 now) but was a democrat for the first half of his life, because that was the "God and country" party.

Buzzword
01-08-2015, 03:22 PM
So Republicans aren't real conservatives. Ok. Does the US have a real conservative party? Maybe the Tea Party?

Fortunately the TP isn't a real party.
Not to say that either of the "official" parties are any better, but at least they're not quite so open about their foaming-at-the-mouth extremism.


It's interesting... there used to be a lot of conservative democrats, and liberal republicans, but it seems GENERALLY the democrats are more consistently liberal, and the republicans, as DE said, are less so. There certainly are some conservative republicans, but I try not to use the labels interchangeably.

If I mean conservatives, I try NOT to use the label "republican", and if I mean liberal, I try NOT to use the label "democrat". :shrug:

My Dad is about as conservative as they get (he's 95 now) but was a democrat for the first half of his life, because that was the "God and country" party.

And it doesn't help that "liberal" or "conservative" don't give much actual information.

I consider myself fiscally conservative and socially liberal, but even THOSE labels aren't enough to actually encapsulate my views in their totality, given that there are individual fiscal issues on which I am liberal, and individual social issues on which I am conservative.

Just goes to show how badly labels fail.

Cow Poke
01-08-2015, 04:03 PM
And it doesn't help that "liberal" or "conservative" don't give much actual information.

I consider myself fiscally conservative and socially liberal, but even THOSE labels aren't enough to actually encapsulate my views in their totality, given that there are individual fiscal issues on which I am liberal, and individual social issues on which I am conservative.

Just goes to show how badly labels fail.

Well, yeah, there's that! :smile:

One Bad Pig
01-08-2015, 06:55 PM
The problem is not Paul's choice of military language, given that he was writing to people living in and under the control of a militaristic society but the overemphasis upon it, in both the article and in too many individual congregations in our now non-militaristic (at least in its more enlightened moments) society.

Especially the implication throughout the article that all men automatically prefer militaristic settings and practices (again, the focus on physical extremity mentioned several times in the OP).
I still think you're confusing asceticism with militarism. Many (especially monastics) in the Orthodox tradition have gone to extreme lengths (by Protestant standards) of ascetic labors while at the same time being quite pacifistic.


This in addition to the false dichotomy, or really false opposition, between masculine and feminine which Paprika pointed out, in addition to the implication that male = masculine and female = feminine, at all times, all places and all circumstances.
If the article is guilty of over-emphasizing the masculine for men, it is in response to the over-feminization of the evangelical church in the USA. It seeks to restore some balance, not create rigid boundaries between masculine and feminine.


I would contend that many men are not leaving Western churches because the procedure has been "feminized," as much as they are leaving because a greater sense of individuality has gradually pervaded Western congregations (at worst leading to a constant "come to Jesus" orientation in church services with no room for growth, at best leading individual Christians to work out their own salvation and not worry so much about the splinter in their brother's eye), and many heterosexual males prefer a pack-oriented setting in which they can find their place in the pecking order and work from there.
:huh: Individualism and a pack-oriented setting are sort of polar opposites. I'm having difficulty parsing this paragraph.


Which may explain the increase in male attendants of Eastern Orthodox churches, if those churches are successfully bringing those men into the communal worship experience and giving them a sense of their place within it.

And more power to them.
One thing Orthodoxy does well IMO is foster a sense of community. It also helps one to focus on one's own sins.


Of course, this avoids the overall issue of PEOPLE of all genders abandoning traditional church attendance in record numbers, especially the 18-35 set.
Obviously needs are not being met across the board and/or believers and seekers are being alienated.
There are two genders. Individualism is a big reason why people leave, but it also can draw people back. I essentially left church at 18 and came back at 24. And though some denominations in the US are hemorrhaging members, those tend to be the groups trying hardest to be "relevant" to today.