Monday, August 24, 2020

A Church Impotent

As the Church became more and more feminized, the predominance of feminine emotions encouraged both mystics and the theologians who counseled them to attempt a subtle change in Christianity to make it conform more to the desires of the feminine heart. A change of emphasis here, a neglect of inconvenient Scripture there, and soon a religion takes a shape that, though difficult to distinguish from the Christianity of the Gospels, somehow has a quite different effect. Pantheism and universalism, for instance, are the heretical exaggerations of feminine attitudes, but how far can one go in stressing the immanence of God and his will to save before Christianity is left behind? When does bridal receptivity become passivity, and when does passivity become Quietism? There have been differences of opinion over where to draw the line. The authorities win in the textbooks, but the mystics have often won the battle for popular influence.

Leon Podles, The Church Impotent

Over the last few weeks I've finally had a chance to read Leon Podles book, The Church Impotent. I think its an interesting book which raises some interesting topics, particularly with regard to the diminishing numbers of men attending church. Though, for all the books merits,  I think it misses its mark mainly because it mistakes effect with cause.

First Things did a review of the book years ago which I felt was unfair, picking on the details which ignoring the big picture. The is clearly a problem with the lack of men attending Church, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the Church is "feminised". Women, for example, seem to have a greater preference for sweet things than men, but it doesn't mean that sugar is feminine.

The big argument in the book is that because of the theological developments in the theology of bridal mysticism, which arose meaningfully in the Middle Ages, the Church has assumed a feminine nature which is repellent to men. Very crudely put, the argument is that men are put off the Church because it is a bit "gay". Real men, find the concept of being the "bride of Christ" really off putting and hence don't attend. For men of weak masculinity or "beta" sexuality this really isn't a problem hence their preponderance among the men that attend.

The problem with this view is that equates the worship of God equated with the the attendance to a theater show: you go if you expect some kind of pleasurable benefit from it, otherwise you stay away. It's a very sociological approach but it ignores the religious dimension of the problem.

That's not how it works. 

Worship is an obligation and the aesthetics of it are in many ways irrelevant. Sure, aesthetics may aid or detract from the experience but the underlying principle is that you're there to bend the knee, not go to a show: its duty, not entertainment.

As I see it there are two reasons why men are not attending Church:

a) They don't want to when they know they should be going. (Rejecting Grace)

b) They don't even know that they have to go to Church. (No Grace)

I think that the average European male in contemporary times is more likely to have (b) for an excuse rather than (a). Most men don't reject religion as much as they see it as irrelevant. They don't care enough to be repelled and the reason why men don't go to Church is because they don't feel the "pull of God." i.e. the movement of Grace. Now this "pull of God" may be felt in a variety of ways, either as a duty, sense of peace  or closeness etc. It all boils down to the notion that he needs to attend Church for whatever religious reason. Most men have no such sense. Hence it is my contention that it is a lack of Grace, rather than the feminisation of the Church which is responsible here.

I pulled the above quote from Podles book because while I feel his idea of a feminised church is wrong he does ultimately hit the mark with regard to the problem. Because of a variety of theological and cultural factors i.e. excarnation, bridal receptivity, clericalism and the idealisation of the contemplative life,  the Church has been infected with a Quietism which, while formally rejected on the books, has been hugely influential in theological developments and religious practice.  The Church is not so much feminised as it is quietistic and passive.  The feminisation follows the Quietism as women seem to enjoy this modality of religious practice.

Now Quietistic modes of worship may be more suited toward the female temperament but sort of irrelevant if God doesn't want the Church to embrace quietism. Furthermore, the fact that women attend Church more than men distracts from the fact that there has been an overall decline in Church worship. The big problem is the emptying of the pews not the proportions left. But if church attendance is due to pleasure rather than a sense of faith or Grace, how religious is the actual participant? What I'm saying if the clergy starts  Church starts saying stuff that women don't want to hear, how likely are they to stick around? You've got to distinguish between people who believe and people who go there  because they enjoy it. And it's not that faith and enjoyment are incompatible, it's just that enjoyment without faith misses the purpose of the whole exercise. Going for the music or "peace" is not the same as worshiping God.

Church going and holiness may be correlated but they're not necessarily contingent. This is where I think a fundamental mistake is made. The logic being that more church-going equals more holiness and therefore women are more religious than men. But that assumes that being a church groupie shares something of the same stuff as the saint. But as women like these have shown, you can say a lot of prayers and attend lots of Masses and still be widely off the mark.

The lack of men in the Church should be a sign that there is something wrong with men or there is something wrong in the Church. Podles should be commended for recognising this, the problem is that he gets the specifics wrong. The problem isn't the feminisation of Christianity is its slow conversion into a Buddhist equivalent.

Another  significant factor, in my opinion, which hampers analysis of this problem is the conception of the "Church". For Catholics, in particular, the Church is thought of the ecclesiastical and clerical apparatus; bishops, monks, priests, nuns, cathedrals, etc.  But theologically this is incorrect since the laity is a fundamental constituent element of it. When Christ spoke of Satan never prevailing against the Church  it's interesting to speculate if what He meant was that the faith would survive in its lay element while being corrupted elsewhere. The reason why I bring this up is because its always assumed that the ordained members will be the last men standing defending it, it's never assumed that it may be the plebs who hold the line.

Finally, astute readers will not in the article linked just how close Quietism is to Buddhism, and a Buddhist Christianity is not Christianity. Why should God draw men to a warped Christianity?

A  significant factor in my opinion which hampers analysis of this problem is the conception of the "Church". For Catholics, in particular, the Church is thought of the ecclesiastical and clerical apparatus; bishops, monks, priests, nuns, etc.  But theologically this is incorrect since the laity is a constituent element of it. When Christ spoke of Satan never prevailing against the Church  it's interesting to speculate if what he meant was the faith would survive in its lay element while being corrupted elsewhere. The reason why I bring this up is because its always assumed that the ordained members will be the last men standing defending it, it's never assumed that it may be the plebs who hold the line.




15 comments:

MK said...

First, let me say I really enjoyed this post.

Second, I fully agree with your position that there is a problem and that how men interact with the Church are key to the solution.

I'm with Daniel Amneus; he wrote The Garbage Generation; Amneus (like many with a Darwinian bent) believes only with a strong legal & support from society are normal men able to become part of family. So family is where Church begins and ends, not clergy.

Where the Church has failed? In not not protecting/supporting maen in family formation even as the State hammers men. So normal men, knowing that only the very elite can full-off family today, simply walked (or been pushed) away. It's the only rational choice for most.

Who to blame? Everyone. But I do blame the clergy for not socially restricting female behavior, especially once women entered the workforce. But more importantly, for not providing community leadership for the laws/culture we need to protect the average male in marriage/family matters. Basically, to be a male advocate, and a female critic, could save the West. But the complete opposite has happened, because the Church merely has aped the state in sucking men dry for its own largess. And the men responded: screw you all! And while it was not heroic, it was "just" they do so.

So it's just a Darwinian pinch-point: those rare men with family support and/or elite qualities will men marry well and keep the Church and culture barely alive. But the bulk of men are checking out. Likely won't end well.

Anonymous said...

It is probably incorrect to say that less men in Church is due to feminized Church is the only or even the main reason decline of Christianity in the West. Nonetheless, it is exactly what I perceive. I feel awkward when I hear time and time again about how we should love as Christ does, how God is always with us, almost no mention about hell, or how difficult the life and God's commandments are for us, how being a parent is difficult so if we fail it is not that bad because, you know, it is difficult. I sometimes wish to slap him in the face when I see the priest to smile with the oh so loving smile and hear him asking people to call him by name, not using his title "father" but it is fine to call him "father" if we want. This is one particular example I encountered recently. This shoulder tapping feels gay but women seem to be ok with that. And the priest is very good and honest man, he genuinely feel this is all ok, this is what we all want. This is what love means.

A few of my Catholic friends probably think it is very humble attitude not to engage in conflict with bully, for example. Just show love and temperance and the bully will somehow "understand". I know they are really not like that and if push come to shove a real bull would emerge so I usually ask them how could we win the battle at Vienna.

I think that while priests are trained in Catholic dogmas, theology etc., they are raised liberals and it is imprinted in their minds as in ours. And I don't mean liberal as political persuasion but a state of mind. They feel bad about authority, about hierarchy, about justice because all this stuff feels foreign to the internalized feelgoodism, nurturing environment, the basic goodness of human being and that everything will be nice if only we are nice. This all is very female which returns us back to the feminization of Church.

I am not sure about the Christian Buddhism. I don't see why should Buddhism be more appealing to women. I doubt it is. I think it is the element of Church militant what is missing, the warrior ethos.

Purple Tortoise said...

Research surveys and my anecdotal experience indicate that some Protestant churches have as many or even more men than women. What these churches have in common is an emphasis on systematic and detailed knowledge of the Bible and doctrine and an emphasis on living comprehensively and concretely according to the moral code expressed in the Bible. Men are drawn to knowledge and duty rather than religious experiences and feelings. I wonder if the same is true for Roman Catholicism.

Jason said...

Anonymous, with all respect, if what your priest is doing is overly effeminate or not proper to his sacramental role, then you need to inform him of that. Privately and politely, of course. If laity are afraid to offer constructive criticism, as well as assist their clergy who are often incessantly put down and rightly feel overwhelmed, then they partly deserve clericalism and the associated ills of modern Catholicism.

Full disclosure: I'm an agnostic with great admiration for the Church, so feel free to disregard my admonition.

The Social Pathologist said...

@MK

Thanks.

I don't think that the bulk of men are checking out as much as they don't care. I don't even think that they're interested enough even to be repelled by the Church. But I suppose that misses the bigger point of what I'm trying to get across, namely that that the lack of men is a sign of a problem that goes deeper than the sexual polarity of the Church. I think it would be just as bad as if was a masculinised church. i.e women didn't want to attend.

@Anon

A few of my Catholic friends probably think it is very humble attitude not to engage in conflict with bully, for example. Just show love and temperance and the bully will somehow "understand". I know they are really not like that and if push come to shove a real bull would emerge so I usually ask them how could we win the battle at Vienna.

The inability to assert yourself righteously in the face of evil is a direct consequence of Christian Buddhism, i.e. Quietism.

Here is a very good article dealing with the subject which may explain the problem in better ways than I have. (Written by a pastor from the Assemblies of God)

https://www.apologeticsindex.org/2985-quietism

and another more wordy article from the 1950's

https://draft.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=29137904&postID=6181050468815999235

What's really interesting is that Quietism seems to be highly congenial to women. The idea of total subordination to a loving personal male figure seems to tap some kind of psychic strand in women. Interesting it's a short step to New Age spirituality from Quietism, and we all know how women buy into this big time.

The important point here is that a heresy has entered and the fact that women are appreciating it is incidental to its nature. Quietism and femininity are not necessarily contingent and are coincidental in this situation.

@Purple Tortoise

Thanks for commenting.

Men are drawn to knowledge and duty rather than religious experiences and feelings.

I think there's something to this. GK Chesterton once said that men talk to the subject while women talk to the person. I think that men respond better to God as a "lawgiver" than a "personal" Jesus. Yet, in modern times, the moral law is either de-emphasised or "forgiven" away. I think that the decline/neglect of this aspect of Christian worship is definitely contributing to the problem. Trad Catholics tend to emphasise this latter dimension though I really can't tell if it has made these groups more masculine.

@Jason

If laity are afraid to offer constructive criticism, as well as assist their clergy who are often incessantly put down and rightly feel overwhelmed, then they partly deserve clericalism and the associated ills of modern Catholicism.

That's a good point, though in practice Jason, those most likely to complain are usually those least qualified to do so. I sometimes feel quite sorry for the priest when they start getting harangued by the Church groupies.

Anonymous said...

@ SP

Thank you for the links. The second link returns to this page, though.

So you think the modern Church mimics eastern religions in vain hope it will enhance personal spiritual life? Perhaps. I would still argue this shift to Quietism happened due to feminization or emasculation of men because the same dynamics can be seen outside of Church.

Today, the Church doesn't lead she merely follows. She mimics democratic procedures in her management. She mimics feminism and cult of youth in her attempts to enhance role of women and youth within Church etc. It's like she tries to catch the spirit of times and got frozen in sixties. It is very much a Beta behavior to borrow from red piller's vacabulary and I wonder where it came from if not from feminized men that entered the Church. No second or third son of baron is entering the Church in current year...

But I live in Europe so my experience and perspective might be different.

@ Jason

He is not my priest but I think I will tell him anyway if get the opportunity.

The Social Pathologist said...

@Anon

Apologies for the link.

Here is where it was meant to link to:

https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=7775

So you think the modern Church mimics eastern religions in vain hope it will enhance personal spiritual life?

I don't think that it mimics the eastern religions as much as it equates spirituality with holiness. The problem is the recognition of "carnal" holiness. For instance is the man who prays a lot better than a honest christian judge who consciously aims to give righteous rulings? In comparing the (religiously observant) Pharisee to the Samaritan, it's the Samaritan who gets the praise from God.

I think "old skool" Protestantism did "carnal" holiness a lot better than Catholicism which tends to concentrate more of the spiritual/clerical element. One of the really interesting things in the link above is just how many of the senior clergy got on board with Quietism.

I don't think feminism per se caused the Quietism. The apparent feminisation resulted from theological developments which, in turn, resulted in a religious environment which was highly conducive to female participation. Quietism is a female friendly heresy.

But as the above links show, the net result of Quietism is a passivity, and I think that why the Church doesn't lead. Furthermore, there is no doubt that the Church is heavily influenced by contemporary mores.


MK said...

It's like she tries to catch the spirit of times and got frozen in sixties.

About a decade ago in this area, for sure. But most boomers are retiring elsewhere and/or dying here and taking their '60 vibe with them. So it's more of a transition time, power vacuum here...I think warmer climes may not be so lucky though :-).

John Rockwell said...

I notice when I listen to Hillsong its very cringeworthy. I wonder if that same strain of turning the Majesty and Glory of God into inanity was already present in the Middle Ages.

I hate to keep looking to the Orthodox. But it seems that they seem to retain a lot of the Gravity of Worshipping a Holy God and retaining their Men better:
https://journeytoorthodoxy.com/2010/10/why-orthodox-men-love-church/

In the Ikons they even have our King himself and many Saints being portrayed wielding a sword. And I think God will be more likely to drawn Men to that Christianity:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gAsysbwX5bI

And I do wonder the East and West Schism is Divine Providence to preserve healthy branches. Like God dividing the diseased limbs from the healthy.

Anonymous said...

John Rockwell:

100% of my interaction with Orthodox outside of the internet has been with Greek-Americans in the Northeast. They are identical to Italian and Irish American Catholics in every meaningful sense as far as liberalism goes, the fact that their church kept more of their liturgy intact and lacks girly hymns doesn't seem to have made any difference.

Protestant to Orthodox conversion seems to be a way to adopt 99.9% of Catholic theology and doctrine while still getting to dislike Catholics. Then you get parishes that are mostly made up of conservative Protestant converts, which, due to self-selection bias, feature more conservative preaching and attitudes then the average RC parish. The converts take this as proof that Orthodoxy is the true faith.

John Rockwell said...

@Anonymous


"100% of my interaction with Orthodox outside of the internet has been with Greek-Americans in the Northeast. They are identical to Italian and Irish American Catholics in every meaningful sense as far as liberalism goes, the fact that their church kept more of their liturgy intact and lacks girly hymns doesn't seem to have made any difference. "

As for Greek Orthodoxy I am not exactly sure why this branch is pozzed. But while this same rot afflicts all.

It does seem that there isn't a central node for that to negatively impact all of Orthodoxy.

MK said...

It does seem that there isn't a central node for that to negatively impact all of Orthodoxy.

If you attend a traditional Byzantine parish, you get to see both sides without the anti-RC bias (they are under the Pope but still use the EO liturgy, have an EO culture, and don't really like RC culture/liturgy so there is some bias). My family attended for years, hell, almost converted because of the RC liberal crazies where I live.

The only thing we learned 1) the RC liturgy (when done properly) was simply better (esp the readings), and 2) the same old modernist BS is always present, 3) ad orientem is better and the RC NO mass should return to it. But the people and culture remain the same in our culture no matter what people say they believe or what denomination one goes to. The big difference we found was the EO is forever talking about the past and not caring much about the future...and getting older by the day. Forgettable. YMMV.

John Rockwell said...

@MK

Sounds good. That you turned found a good Parish. Really dig the Traditional Byzantine Parish.

Although I do believe the Vatican as it is will be able to reach its tendrils into all RC over time.

Anonymous said...

@ SP

Now the link is working, thank you. Gonna read it later.

I see what you mean and there is something to it. In my view spirituality and prayer indeed is closer to holiness than any other endeavor because the communication with God, with the Holy, is direct goal here. I see this as different from merely fulfilling duties of one's estate or even doing it with God and His justice on mind. Honesty makes difference, too. That's how I read the story about good Samaritan. If the Pharisees were honest they would be praised by God more than the Samaritans.

That said maybe the Church really underestimates what you call "carnal" holiness.

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