Jesus was a feminist and so am I

 

I find myself living in an interesting tension. My Christian friends chide me for my overtly feminist views, while the atheist-feminist circles I move in despair at my commitment to what they see as a patriarchal religion. It would be much easier to choose one or the other; Christianity or feminism, but I believe they should be – and are – utterly compatible.

Empathising with my non-religious feminist community is easy. From an initial glance Christianity does seem overtly male; its language is strongly masculine, using terms like father and son rather than mother and daughter, to describe two thirds of the Trinity. The key players in the religion are mostly men: the patriarchs, the Jewish priesthood, Jesus, the 12 apostles and St Paul. Their stories are recorded in a sacred canon of texts, the Bible, written down by (you’ve guessed it) men.

Add to that a few voices from Church history like St Augustine, who once said that “women should not be educated in any way; they should be segregated” and it’s not exactly rocket science to grasp why many forward thinking women are initially suspicious of Christianity. I’ll be honest, I have found the dominant male imagery of the Christian story difficult to embrace at times.

The Church has also directed its fair share of criticism toward me for being a woman who is passionate about teaching theology, and for campaigning on issues of gender equality. Suffice it to say, it has not been an easy journey. So, why do I stay? Because I believe those masculine impressions of Christianity are not, by any means, the full story. When you take a long hard look at the life of Christ, you see a radical revolutionary. Jesus didn’t just overturn the tables in the temple, he overturned the cultural norms of his society and sent them crashing to the ground. The way he related to women was a key part of this.

In an era when women were uneducated, not given a legally valid voice, and treated like property, Christ refused to bow to those cultural stigmas.

He talked freely with women to the shock of those watching. He encouraged women to engage in theological study. He also chose to appear to Mary after he rose from the dead, making her the first official witness of the resurrection and the person who delivered the news to the male apostles.

Many of Jesus’s followers were female. They were not included in the 12 apostles, but the community surrounding him was far larger than that. Women were also among his key financial supporters, paying the bills for him, his team and their mission.

So, Jesus treated women with dignity, equality and respect. But how about St Paul? Initially he may seem difficult for a feminist to embrace, but a deeper look into his writings suggests this is not the case.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul highly commends Junias, thought by many scholars to have been a female apostle. Paul also penned the powerful statement in Galatians 3:28 that there is “neither male nor female, for all are one in Christ Jesus”.

Many believe that these words transcend his culture-specific concerns about uneducated women teaching in Church.

Christianity and bra-burning

Even if I can convince my feminist friends that the Christian faith embodies radical equality for women, it is still a hard sell to persuade my Christian friends to embrace the term “feminist”.

They ask: “Isn’t it a shrill, harsh movement of bra-burning and man hating?” Yes, feminism has been caricatured by the media of the 1960s and is sometimes presented as abrasive and anti-men.

But the real meaning of the term needs to be reclaimed: true feminism is simply a belief in the total equality, dignity and value of women.

Christianity and feminism are often misunderstood by one another; each side needs a PR overhaul to slough off the old stereotypes and see with new eyes. Far from being an oxymoron, the two perspectives are deeply compatible.

I look forward to the day when eyebrows will no longer be raised at that notion, but in order to achieve this the Church must continue to move forwards in living up to the high standard set by Christ himself.

Hopefully he’ll continue his work of turning over temple tables in our generation, until women have an equal voice and an equal place inside the doors of his house.

———————————————————————————

[Read the original version of this article on the BBC website here]

  • Anonymous

    Wow.  The “feminisation” of worship?  What should we have?  A few rousing choruses of  “I’m a man, yes I am”  and then copius back slapping and loud guffawing? 

    One of the major ways my wife AND I were brought back to the kingdom back in the early 90’s was through the music of the Vineyard and guys like Brian Doerksen and David Ruis.  (I’ve never met Brian, but I do know David and if you want to go up to him and try calling him a “girlie man”, you go right ahead)

    Both of these gents spoke from their hearts in their worship about what Jesus had done for them and how much they loved the Lord.  This is actually the first time I’ve even heard of this topic and I’m honestly surprised that this has even come up.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dale.huntington Dale Huntington

    I’m not really sure why guys have decided that steak and hunting are the only signs of Biblical masculinity.  Kudos for pointing out our emotional, Biblical warriors.  

  • April T

    Wholeheartedly agree with your comments about the masculinization of the church.  And wow, yes, how often have I felt as a woman that I’ve been tolerated and not treated as an equal.  *sigh*  

    God is neither male nor female.  He is Spirit but we are made in his image.   Both sexes reflect God’s glory.  I totally agree with the comments above regarding the passion and the exuberance that is expressed in the Psalms.  I’m not sure one of the Psalms was written by a woman and yet there is great joy, great exuberance, great passion expressed in those Psalms.  “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty, my soul longs, yearns for the courts of the Lord.”  Does someone call that ‘feminine?’  I hope not … it’s the cry of the heart of a worshipper.  

    We are the Bride of Christ.  Men, you’re a Bride.
    We are sons of God.  Women, we’re a son!  And everything that it meant in the 1st century to be a son … we have that inheritance …. it’s awesome!  

    Instead of separating ‘male’ and ‘female’ worship we need to stay focused on the center and that is Jesus!  

    Vicki, I’m sad that you’ve been asked to show your worship list to see if it was ‘too feminine.’  
    We’re all vessels of God, we all have unique gifts … and if we’re criticizing styles as being ‘too masculine’ and ‘too feminine’ I feel like we are falling off the cliff of ‘straining at gnats and swallowing camels.’  We’re totally missing the point!  God, help us!

  • http://twitter.com/iamrichanderson Richard Anderson

    Some interesting thoughts, I like it….but I wonder, you ask the question “Has the Church really been ‘feminised’ or do we just have an incorrect view of what femininity and masculinity mean?”. I’m not sure that femininity or masculinity need defining or viewing in a different light. I think most people know the differences between men and women and their various strengths and weaknesses. I wonder if we need to rather look at a definition of what the Church really is? What should the Church look like? Do we have an incorrect view of the Church? What does Jesus want His Church to look like? What does that mean for me whether I’m female or male and what does it mean to us as a community? 

  • http://twitter.com/Shamrockofgod Adam C. Harper

    The modern concept of what it takes to be a man is often times rooted in pride and arrogance.  God’s concept of of a man is humility, meek, yet strong and a leader…much like we see in Christ.  A man is supposed to look very much like Christ and love his spouse as Christ loves the church…so what would that look like by the modern concept of manhood?  Christ shows unconditional love, and yet it almost seems that a man is “whipped” if he loves his wife in a similar way.  I believe the strength that many men try to portray (often physical) is actually the strength we are to have spiritually by leading in humility, love, firmness when necessary, yet gentle. 

    Jesus was a “macho man”, maybe not by modern standards…but isn’t His standard THE standard? 

    Whenever we find our standards do not match up with Christ, it is never that Christ has fallen short…it is that we have become misguided in our perspective.

    This includes what it takes to be a true man.

  • ALS

    Well, I have to think about this awhile before making another comment, but I just want to put out there that not all women are particularly comfortably with some of the words we use to worship Jesus. I, for one, have a hard time with some of the “lovey-mushy” lyrics (will give examples later), this is a spur of the moment comment. For now, I’m just sayin’….

  • StefanieCulver

    I find this very interesting especially for hundreds of years the church has been run by men, so does that mean the feminization of the church would be their fault? I think for years Satan has been playing with men to not be emotional especially since science has been proving that its emotions that help us cope with issues and help us remember things clearer and to be able to bond healthily to others. Why is it emotions are only feminine? What I see in the scripture, strong, powerful men like David or Paul were very much in-touch with their “feelings” and “Manly”. The scriptures where very man driven, there are very few scriptures about womens lives then there are for men, so wouldn’t we be looking at the emasculating of the church? Unfortunately because of womens lib and the way the enemy has been steeling both male and female identities this is a struggle with in the church body.
    On top of that I feel that we are soo blessed in this day and age with the men and women who are worship leaders that are hearing God’s heart and are leading us to the throne room of God each time we worship, like Matt Redman, Joel Houston or Kim Walker. By what they write to me does not seem male or female it seems more of the point of uniting us as one, no gender is important as it is, us just worshiping our God and King. What we should be looking at is, does worship give God his due glory? and do we honestly know how sacred worship is? We are the ones privileged to worship our God in Spirit and in truth and does that mean we need to worship in a “gender right way”? How far are we going away from true worship if we are worried about it being “gender appropriate”. If worship leaders are just leading us in worship, not worried about what please people to sing but what pleases God, this wouldn’t even be an issue. When we go to worship God its ALL about Him not about us. So the big question is what does God want to hear from us? To me worship isn’t about getting people in because its “popular” or that it makes me “feel” good, its about pointing to God and being in awe!
    Thanks Vicky this is awesome that you put this up.

  • Robinj

    I think this could be a cultural issue more than a biblical one. As you see David had no problem expressing his deep intimacy to the Father. Anyone who has experienced the Father’s jealous, ravishing love cannot deny the truth that God is the greatest romantic lover of all & has created us with a desire to connect with him using all our faculties as humans. So to call it feminine is inappropriate.

  • http://imadeintruth.com Imade Borha

    I appreciate your unique perspective on this situation  After several controversial tweets I had to explain my view on this subject as well: http://imadeintruth.com/post/11443868620/a-non-rant-on-the-over-femininity-of-gospel-music

  • http://www.facebook.com/grigg.haws Grigg Haws

    A real man is ok with Jesus you are beautiful etc. A person with much Christian understanding at all understands that God is neither male or female but both in character. there is no gender in heaven. there is quite a bit of feminization being peddled to men by the entertainment industry etc. and by the psychobable industry.  Just as a man needs to learn to be tender and soft to his wife, he needs to learn to be soft sometimes with God.  There are plenty of songs that Rock out, that  guys can also dig.

  • http://mamapsalmist.com/ mamapsalmist

    I LOVE the discussion going here!  

    My personal theory is that if men worshipped without getting all in a tizzy about what some other guy might be thinking, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.  STOP worrying about what other people think of you, just for an hour or two on Sunday morning, and worship God.  It’s not uncomfortable to sing those lyrics if you are thinking only about Jesus.  If those lyrics don’t reflect the way you feel about God, sing some that do.  

    It’s a little harder for women to just relax and worship when our song lists are being inspected and scrutinized, but we should be doing the same thing.  People tend to relax very quickly when the people around them are relaxed.  

  • Mark Howe

    1: I think it’s a mistake to try to deduce too much about the male psyche from #machoworshipsongs, unless it’s also ok to assume that Bridget Jones’ Diary and Sex in the City are reference material on the female psyche. The main thing that hashtag shows to me is that men are very happy laughing at stereotypes of themselves.

    2: But, some of the hilarious contributions were no sillier than what people actually sing in church. Why is “Jesus, my hunting and fishing buddy” any less appropriate than “Face to face, hand in hand”? The first is clearly bizarre for half the congregation to sing, while the second is, err, exactly the same.

    3: I’m sorry, but I’ve never been able to take Song of Songs seriously as a basis for worship since David Pawson pointed out that one commentator sees “two breasts” as signifying the Old and New Testament, with clear implications for the location of the deuterocanon. Ok, an attempt at a missions conference to turn it into a handbook on outreach didn’t help either. Surely, in 2011, we can recognise that Song of Songs is first and foremost – gasp – erotic poetry. Solomon is indeed very happy with expressing candid and intimate feelings… to his lover. And, as it happens, many candid and intimate things happen between me and my wife, but I don’t especially want to do all of those things in front of a videoprojector and 500 other worshippers.

    4: Yes, there was and still is much patriarchal behaviour in the structure of church. But churches have been female-dominated on the ground for as long as anyone can remember. The fact that those churches have tended to be male -led tells you nothing about how male the worship style is. If we’re going to deconstruct, surely the main thing it shows us is that men take their careers seriously, which in this case means putting on the best possible show for the congregation they actually have. It’s in some ways similar to the way that many men still don’t cook in domestic circumstances, but most of the world’s top chefs are men. Very few men wear dresses, yet a lot of top fashion designers are men. The vast majority of men are disenfranchised by church leadership too, so could we please stop kicking them because of our frustration with some dead white males?

    5: Yes, some men need to be more open. But that doesn’t have to mean being open in exactly the same way that women are open. To take one example, so much of church -including so-called church 2.0 – seems to involve sitting around in groups and “sharing”. For many men, especially those who haven’t been forced through tertiary education, this is a slightly less appealing prospect than having their fingernails extracted. But those men can and do open up in other situations – often while they are ostensively doing something else with other people. So getting men to open up might mean the church talking less and doing more. Which doesn’t immediately sound like such a terrible, bloke-ish idea, does it? I mean, wouldn’t a lot of women like the church to do something useful too?

    6: I think that, behind all this, there’s an unspoken but pervasive assumption that masculinity is about farting, fornicating and football, and that men need to be “saved” from their masculinity by becoming more  spiritual (which, in practice, seems to mean adopting more stereotypically female traits). But the male heroes of the faith I see in Scripture don’t seem that metrosexual to me.

    Yes, David played a harp and wrote intimate poetry (although none of the Psalms seems to me to go anywhere “Yahweh is my boyfriend” territory). He played his harp when he wasn’t killing wolves with his bare hands, slicing off Philistine foreskins and generally doing a good impression of Rambo across much of 1 and 2 Samuel. Solomon was indeed a much more sensual kind of guy – which is how he ended up taking lots of foreign wives and then writing the most cynical book in the Bible. Jesus was a carpenter, not a Feng Shui consultant with perfect nails. Paul talked and wrote a lot, but he did some pretty insane travelling and some high risk confrontational ministry too. John Wesley got up to pray af 5am… before literally riding his horses into the ground through his “driven-ness”.

    But I see little space for those kind of qualities in most churches. If we’re going to deconstruct this, maybe it’s a case of the patriarchal leadership using a caricature of female spirituality as a technique to castrate potential male competitors in their congregations. I suspect that the truth has more to do with habit and conflict aversion. Whatever the reason, wouldn’t it be good if people who want to change the world NOW felt that their place was in the church, rather than camping on its doorstep?

  • http://twitter.com/Batty_Towers Sara Batts

    Perhaps the problem is partly that there are some bad songs out there. Songwriters might not be making the leap between words that are great sung one-to-one and words that when sung in public are, frankly, silly.

    I find it hard singing ‘Jesus is beautiful’ because for me beauty is a physical attribute. I can’t see Jesus, so how can I use that description? (even after a kind friend talked me through all the uses of ‘beautiful’ in the Bible). ‘Jesus love songs’ do veer into uncomfortable territory for me too because they use language more suited to a physical relationship. It’s partly why I have come to prefer Hymns A&M – tried and tested, less personal and more about God than me.

    In terms of stereotypes… I don’t think we should be too worried about an afternoon’s Twitter banter. I think most of know that huntin’ shootin’ fishin’ beer drinkin’ is not an adequate description of masculinity and strength. Without that common stereotype the ‘masculine songs’ would not have been funny. As with everything, real life is a bit more complicated than that. Some women like beer and football (me). Some men like gin and Downton Abbey.

    I frequently feel in church like the Punch cartoon (That’s a fanastic suggestion Miss Jones, perhaps one of the men here would like to make it) and have long since stopped trying to use my actual talents. Instead I will clean & make tea, because that’s what women do. My church now has a men’s group that meet in the pub. The suggestion for an equivalent women’s meeting? “Wine and Wives.” I’d have cried, if I hadn’t been laughing so much.

  • http://twitter.com/vicardave Dave Meldrum

    Vicky, I think you talk much sense here – light rather than heat. I post as a man who’s copes with 20 minutes of sung worship but it’s not my ideal. That’s nothing to do with not liking singing or feeling the worship is ‘feminised’, but more to do with the style of music
    But I think the idea that certain types of worship song alienate men is just an excuse. Well, maybe the songs do – but I suspect that’s more because men’s and women’s minstries in the church seem to buy far too easily into secularised ideas of masculinity and femininity, and then baptize them with a Chrisitian veneer – for example, John Eldredge’s (spelling?) books, which contain so many generalisations and assumptions based on what we see in the world around us….then find a text to justify it. So this is then transplanted to prejudices about worship songs.
    To digress: If there has been a feminisiation of lay-work, including worship, in the church, then it’s more than likley it started around the time of the industrial revolution as men left their home parishes to work away from home and left children and church to the women. This, then, has a sociological root – it’s not about worship songs.
    So maybe some of the imagery used in worship songs does alienate some men, especially ones not so close to faith. But then it’s probably the same for non-Christian women, coming to a church setting where most leadership, speaking in churches & conferences etc is done by men. The men who ‘struggle’ with worship are seeing a vision of what the redeemed looks like – more alive, more engaged with ‘other’ parts of ourselves we pushed down and denied in our unredeemed humanity. 
    There’s a challenge to us in our worship, I’m sure – but I don’t think it’s about gender, it’s about how we explain it to those who aren’t yet swimming in the stream of faith, and are splashing their feet in the stream…which to them is strangely alienating & refreshing at the same time. But for Christians to say they are alienated by ‘feminised’ worship is, I think, lazy and ultimately shallow.

  • http://twitter.com/tomdg13 Tom di Giovanni

    Great topic. First thing to say is that it appalls me that the church still oppresses women in the ways you describe, making you feel tolerated rather than equally valued. This is simply wrong, anti-scriptural and un-Christian. I don’t think it’s just the church’s men who are responsible for this either. I was very uncomfortable at a worship conference I went to last  year that in eight bands, while there were women leading and singing backing vocals, I didn’t see a single woman on stage playing an instrument. Why is this? Vicky, the church needs you! (Actually, I did spot you in the audience …)
    One of the women in my band at church recently commented that a lot of my song choices were very male. Not in the lyrical sense you talk about, but (apparently) there are other aspects of songs that might make them male or female. I guess worship should aim to be balanced or gender neutral, and should cover the whole range of human experience, male and female, regardless of the gender of the worship leader.Another thing that I don’t understand in all this is why, even with all the awful treatment the church has dished out to women over the years and continues to do so (please don’t stop highlighting this!), nonetheless most of our congregations still have more women than men.  What on earth must we be doing to put the men off? In that context I don’t think the odd lyric of “Jesus I love you” is either here or there (he is My Best Friend, after all).  And I don’t think it helps either to misrepresent godly maleness as fighting, drinking, power-tool-wielding or whatever – as other comments have rightly said. But if only I knew the answer …

    Random thoughts from a male worship leader who likes reading chic lit – make of that what you will.

  • Bendy

    Did anyone analyse how many of the songs that were labelled ‘feminine’ were written by men?

  • http://nickssanctuary.com Nick Payne

    The whole #machoworshipsongs thing was based on a “serious” issue? Wow. I mean wow.

    I’ve never had a problem with singing emotionally deep worship songs… in fact I love doing that. The only time I object to feminisation is when an existing song is changed to suit modern sensbilities. Prime example for me would be “Father God, I Wonder”. To me singing “Now I am your son, I am adopted in your family” means more to me than singing “now I am your child”. Being a son… I have an insight into what that kind of relationship means and it matters a lot to me. I think rather than getting hung up on the opposite gender imagery archetypes, we should embrace them. I have no problem learning more and more what it means to be a lover of God or part of his bride… women should have no problem learning the concept of sonship.

    All that matters is that we grow into a more wholesome fully developed relationship with God… and the more we restrict that to our own human sensibilities, the more slanted and self centred our relationship risks becoming.

    I do think there are cases where over-feminisation is a problem in society, but worship of God is certainly not one of them.

  • Philip of samaria

    Completely agree with this comment. As the Corrs once had it ‘everybody’s searching for intimacy’. Look beyond the stereotypical things people may say, pouring out your love to the creator goes way beyond consciousness of gender or of anything else frankly. We might be more concerned that what’s called worship degenerates to mere catharsis with a cleverly concocted set of cute phrases set to cute tunes that get us in the mood but stand for nothing. Worship’s gotta be about truth and action coming from it or it’s just a pop concert

  • Mark Howe

    Someone said “most of them”, and I said it was a red herring. See above – professional men excel at delivering consumer products for female markets in many spheres. The question is surely whether that’s the market and, if so, why. The gender of the composer seems irrelevant to me, unless we believe that only men can talk to men and vice versa, or something.

  • http://ontoberlin.blogspot.com Hannah Mudge

    I think that it’s less a case of the church being ‘feminised’ and more a case of people projecting cultural ideas about gender on to worship, style etc. I always remember a comment from a guest speaker at our church once that if so many men today can get incredibly emotional over something such as a football match, why not anything to do with Jesus? That it shouldn’t be seen as somehow wrong if men want to express their love for God, or weep, etc etc. I think it is definitely a case of overlaying modern ideas about masculinity and femininity onto how ‘godly’ men and women should behave.

    The ‘Jesus you are beautiful’ songs are uncomfortable for many people to sing, not just men! I think that some people find them too ‘slushy’, or not reverent enough because of the language they use. If a song is cringeworthy, *I* will feel uncomfortable singing it. Something I notice in general on a Sunday is that men often seem to be less confident about singing than women, less inclined to ‘belt it out’ unless they are a *very good* singer. I wonder why this could be and again whether it has anything to do with preconceived ideas of masculinity.

  • http://www.musicademy.com/blog Marie from Musicademy

    Good thoughts Vicky. As you say, this debate has been raging for a while. Here are a couple of posts where we’ve covered it at Musicademy in the past:
    http://www.musicademy.com/2011/05/the-feminisation-of-worship-songs/

    http://www.musicademy.com/2009/09/the-mandy-test-romantic-lyrics-in-worship-songs/ (and there’s a great Asbo Jesus cartoon to go with this one!)

  • Daniel F

    Maybe a controversial thought, but maybe the issue isn’t so much the “lovie dovie” nature of worship music today. I think that men don’t mind singing that Jesus is a beautiful saviour, or expressing emotion, or praising God for how wonderful he is.

    I think the real issue is that many (though not all) mordern worship songs lack theological rigour and accuracy. I think that generally (again, not always) men are more interested in theological accuracy and content. I just feel from my experience that something that winds up men is when you sing a song to a great tune, but where the Cross, forgiveness for sins, the redemption that comes in Christ isn’t mentioned. Modern hymns tend to pick one point and then have lots and lots and lots of repeated verses. And lots of songs are “I” songs, about what “I” do as a Christian. I think that may be why I generally tend to prefer the older hyms: things they can power out and they have a depth and width of content that modern worship songs often lack.

    Hopefully haven’t steriotyped too much. I may be wrong, this is just how I see it from my perspective.

  • Mark Howe

    But we each relate to God with our own identity, which is largely socially defined. That’s not slanted, it’s the only basis on which we can relate. God made us social beings and put us in families and commnities. Worship isn’t about forgetting who we are or where we are, it’s partly about being released to be who God has really made us to be where God has placed us. And, in the creation narratives, about the only specific given is that God made humans in his image – both male and female.

  • Pete Phillips

    Classic post. The hashtag is #machoworshipsongs. Agree with much that is said. I think the issue is when men are forced to always express emotion rather than also celebrate truth and praise and values in singing or when the songs manipulate us into emotion.

    But there are plenty of churches without men who don’t sing worship songs. Machoworshipsongs will not bring revival. Engaging men in real community where their gifts, skills and humanity are valued is the only way.

  • http://twitter.com/revpamsmith Pam Smith

    Hmmmmm – if the church is feminised that may be because Christianity has offered opportunities to use their gifts and skills which the secular world by and large denied. 

    When I was 7, I found a book in the school library that I read again and again – it was (very politically incorrectly) titled ‘White Queen’ and told the story of Mary Kingsley, a female missionary. I had no connection with the church or Christianity at the time apart from school assemblies but I still found the (no doubt heavily edited) story very exciting. I only learnt later that at the time a woman who had a sense of calling to devote her life to full time God’s work would probably have to go abroad as a missionary or become a nun to fulfill it. 

    So maybe the howls about feminisation – wherever they come from – do have something to do with threat, as women become more able to take up traditionally male leadership roles in the church. (I know some churches have had gender equality in ministry for some time,  but there are also churches which don’t ‘permit a woman to teach’ so across the board women are still not on an equal footing.)

    The Twitter banter from my perspective kicked off with the suggestion that worship songs should be more like football chants as men like going to football matches.  I have no idea where this suggestion came from or whether it was serious!

    It struck me as so wonderfully ironic that the way ahead might be to adapt the church to appeal to such a stereotypical image of manhood and my own contributions – and I suspect those of other people – were satirising that and not men.       

    It interested me that a lot of the beer/woodwork jokes were coming from men and I wonder if that expressed a certain amount of frustration that men are already stereotyped in the church as emotionally constipated ‘Doc Martin’ type characters who only attend because they’re scared of their wives. 

    If that’s really how we see men in the church no wonder they don’t get much out of attending.   

          

  • http://phillsacre.me.uk/ Phill

    “It’s partly why I have come to prefer Hymns A&M – tried and tested, less personal and more about God than me.”

    I think this is one of the problems with modern worship songs: too much of the time they’re talking about the way we feel, where a lot of old hymns are talking about truths about God. Not saying one is right and another is wrong, but I think you have to have a balance. 

    I’m also not sure that male stereotypes are correct. What is masculinity? And what would encourage the “average bloke” to come to church? The stereotypes are about men being into beer, football, cars, and women. So… we make our church services more like Top Gear? Maybe blow the pulpit up, while simultaneously holding a race to see who can get to church fastest – someone in a Nissan GTR vs someone in a boat? Not sure that would really work.

  • Mark Howe

    I’m probably both lazy and ultimately shallow. But I think I do have a little experience about what it means to straddle cultures, as I speak a language my parents do not speak to all my neighbours and to my children. I speak and write French fluently. I can “do French culture” quite well. But here’s my dirty secret. When the front door is shut and no-one is watching, my wife and I watch Dr Who and Monty Python in English, because that’s what really “works” for us. You see, that’s how lazy and ultimately shallow I am!

    All normal-range men and women can operate in social contexts they don’t find natural to a greater or lesser extent – we give clinical names to those who can’t. But it doesn’t mean that everyone feels at home in all those settings, any more than fluency in French makes French my “heart language”.

    Church does culture, big time. If the target is attending services and participating (by that strange, passive definition of “participation” we use in blended worship), I can tick that box. But most of the time it doesn’t “work” for me. Maybe that does make me axiomatically lazy and ultimately shallow. But that assumption on the part of people who lead worship strikes me as a little smug and self-serving. It could just be that some of the concerns expressed by those you claim to serve are legitimate…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=555341714 Gill Stanning

    I’m afraid you are stereotyping massively. The ‘feminine’ attitude you describe doesn’t resonate with me at all, whereas the ‘masculine’ absolutely does. I get really angry when worship songs are low on theological content and feel as if I am unable to engage. The centrality of the cross is a big issue for me. Conversely, I have known male worship leaders who much prefer the more emotive stuff and actively choose it. Time to stop labelling this as female/male…it really isn’t an accurate portrayal of what is actually going on here.

  • http://thingsfindothinks.com AndrewF

    Hehe.. fresh from another recent dialogue about church music (although singing is worship, does calling it that give the false impression that the rest of life is not also worship?)

    I saw a couple of the #machoworship posts, and they were amusing because they ran with a dodgy stereotype. More seriously though, I just think the whole question of ‘is it masculine /feminine enough?’ to be completely missing the point! It seems to be the result of a self-focused (perhaps ‘seeker sensitive’?) culture where we think, not only that worship is about me, individually, but that church is about meeting my perceived wants. Perhaps there has been too much focus on the personal aspect and not enough recognition that when we join together to sing, we are doing so congregationally (together – we should also have songs to one another that encourage eachother and proclaim the gospel to one another), and to proclaim who God is and what He has done.
    Having said that, I am wary of so-called ‘God is my boyfriend’ songs, whether sung by guys or girls (though I wonder if I need to re-think this in light of the fact that Jesus is my betrothed?). I tend to think that if I could substitute ‘Jesus’ or ‘Lord’ with my wife’s name, or she with mine, then there’s something a little amiss. I think it’s the difference between emotion and sentimentality.

    I like singing emotionally. I get very stirred by  lots of songs (hymns quite often, actually) and some of my most memorable times of singing were on Boys’ Brigade camps with a couple of hundred other guys belting out songs like ‘Salvation belongs to our God’ (one more tangent – I think church bands are often too loud – you should be able to hear the congregation!).The emotion, I think, needs to come as response to gospel proclamation, and declaration of what God has done, and, I think that predominantly, songs need to be written so that congregations can sing them together, not just as a group of individuals having a private moment (there’s a place for that, but if a song is all about how the song-writer feels, parts of our congregations are not always going to share that feeling. The gospel, however, is true no matter how we are feeling).

  • Jo Royal

    I read through this post and the comments that followed with a degree of trepidation – because I know how easily gender conversations like this can wind me up.  It’s the stereotyping that does it.  What is it in a  worship song that makes it ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ and who decides this?  Does it really matter?  Shouldn’t our focus be on worshiping God in Spirit and in Truth – remaining true to who we have been created to be?  Shouldn’t we also aim to be a community of worshipers – that may well include sacrificing our own ideals for the sake of others.  So what if *I* find it difficult to worship using the given words – if others around me are engaging with and worshiping God through them.  Isn’t this what being part of a community is about?  I am sure there are other times when I am able to fully engage with what is going on, that others find difficult.  The only time I really cringe over the ‘mushy’ songs is when we are worshiping at a service specifically planned as outreach.  When we ask people who don’t yet have a relationship with God to sing about how much they are in love with him etc is it any wonder they feel uncomfortable and out of place – and that goes for male and females alike.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gohbyname Patrick Goh

    For what it’s worth my view is that there is a big difference between maleness and macho’ness – the world/church can definitely do with a lot less macho’ness.

  • http://twitter.com/RevTankard Kerry Tankard

    Forgive the rambling below: 
    As someone who participated in the great #machoworshipsongs
    event of yesterday afternoon, not as a serious exercise but simply as a lot of
    fun (sorry – hadn’t  realised it was supposed to be serious), I’ll make more
    serious points here.

     

    Are masculinity and femininity “real” or simply social
    constructs? It strikes me that I’m a man who exhibits what some would define as
    feminine and masculine characteristics, but I do that in the physical gendered
    body known as a man. Why do we have to label things beyond that? My penis gives
    me no real authority in the kingdom
    of God. It is only in the
    construction of human communities that happens (and I include many expressions
    of church within that category) and that will always need to be challenged. The
    simple fact that men want to label some songs “feminine” baffles me. The
    biblical teaching of neither male nor female, slave nor free, is not about
    gender, but power and privilege. None of us come before God with greater priority
    because of gender, and the church should be a full reflection of that, not an
    antithesis.

     

    As for worship songs, and their feminine or masculine
    content, I will simply say this: I just want music that actually is poetic,
    creative, honest, and has a tune that doesn’t sound like fourth rate American schmaltz
    or AOR. It strikes me that the problem with much worship music is that it is simply
    banal. I can’t think of anything worse than sitting and listening to a CD of
    worship music. In most cases it’s just plain awful. Just because a song
    mentions God, or Jesus, does not give it aesthetic quality. In fact, if
    anything, that it dares to mention God or Jesus, at all, should mean that it is
    transcendent in its quality, not diabolical. Worship songs, and yes I use them
    alongside traditional and modern hymnody, seldom deal with real emotion for men
    or women. It’s often just crap! Now this may be a highly subjective opinion, down
    to a preferred style of music in my case, or simply a preference for more
    challenging lyrical terrain, so no-one need take any notice of my opinion. There
    are obvious exceptions, don’t get me wrong. For me one of the most powerful and
    imaginative writers of recent times is Bernadette Farrell. Her work is considered,
    rich, poetic, and moving. Beyond that I would much happily return to the folk roots
    of 18th century or to a wall of guitar noise. To reduce the problem
    to men not coming to church because songs are too “feminine” I suspect is just
    missing the point. The reasons will be historic, and in that related to gendered.
    One strange cause I would suggest, from my experience of older men, is actually
    related to the war. Some men left the church following there war time
    experience. This may seem irrelevant to the current context but the reduction
    of one generation of males in the congregation will invariably have affected
    those that follow. Some men do need to get beyond beer and football, if you
    want to do stereotypes, but I like beer and football as do many women; but I also
    like beauty, poetry, music, art – are these masculine, or feminine, or simply
    good-things?

     

    I do know of one situation where a group of men gathered at
    a church just to do jobs together – while working together they shared. That
    was part of their worship. They were wonderfully embodying an essay on the
    erotic and building a wardrobe written by a black woman. They wouldn’t know
    that – but how enriching.

     

    If anything, surely the greatest stereotype here is that singing,
    and songs about God, are deemed feminine. What a load of genitals!

  • http://www.god-loves-women.webs.com/ God Loves Women

    Thank you for your post.  I feel mightily concerned by the whole masuclinity/femininity debate as it boxes people into their genders, and often stops them from being all God wants them to be.  I believe the model for humanity, either masculine or feminine should be Jesus, not David.

    David was a murderer and rapist (Bathsheba was not his affair, he raped her).  The Bible even states that Josiah, rather than David was Israel’s greatest King and David wasn’t allowed to build a temple because he had fought to many battles.  I am not saying we shouldn’t appreciate David as a man after God’s heart but it must be Jesus we look to for how we should live.

    I think perhaps the reason men are not in Church has more to do with the masculinity the world insists men should have.  From birth we treat our daughters and sons differently and tell our boys not to cry or “be a girl”.  Masculinity is no more fixed than any other human trait, it is society that wants to box men (and women) in this way.  A box that Jesus refused to be pushed into.  In essence men are told that commitment, vulnerability, emotions (beyond happiness and anger) and gentleness are girly and should be avoided for “real men”.  Surely it is the challenge to this masculinity that will enable men to access Church, rather than conforming to the world’s view of masculinity.

    We need to understand also that there are very serious consequences to the men/women debate.  Abuse and violence against women happens because of abusive men’s views of women and men.  They perpetrate abuse against women because they believe women are inferior.  Perpetrator programmes to intervene with abuse of women do so, in part. by challenging the set understandings of masculinity and femininity.  Organisations trying to engage men in ending abuse of women do so by breaking men out of the “man box”.  This is not only about worship songs, this is about women being murdered, abused and raped.  (I know this may sound dramatic, but it really isn’t)

    Perhaps we should also consider the power dynamics, from the fall of humanity until the present day men have held the power in all areas of society including the Church.  Jesus did not model this, instead modelling egalitarianism and mutuality.  Even though Jesus did this, very quickly the Church reinforced societies view of men as the ones who must hold the power.  We must be careful when we talk about the lack of men in church to remember that men still hold the power in church.  I feel Vicky that your comparison of men’s worship song problems and women’s lack of voice in the church does not really do justice to the true harm that does to women. Women are devalued and put down.  They are refused the ablity to use their gifts,and in some places expect to be raped of beaten by their husband because “that’s what Christina women do”.

    Perhaps a more important question is how do we challenge all gender boxes and work on the model Jesus gave?

  • Bendy10june11

    Yes I read it. Your point 4 insinuated that women don’t take their careers seriously by stating men do. I’m sure that’s not what you meant but it is how it came across.

    Representing the diversity of the kingdom is important in all spheres of the church. When one aspect dominates then we are all poorer for it as it is not the full expression of the image of God.

  • http://finallyhuman.com Ian3008

    Great post! I want to tackle the questions firstly be rephrasing the question:

    What if the idea of ‘masculine’ worship songs is really a cry for worship songs which pack more of a punch? Now, I’m not saying the Gospel of Christ’s love for us and our engagement with that lack gusto, just that perhaps, more often than not, the music is somewhat flat and predictable. Maybe the drama and suspense and mood is stripped out of the music by the ever-present ‘acoustic-electric’ guitar and soft synth keys. 

    Perhaps the masculine psyche doesn’t realise that what it wants is not fewer emotional songs, but songs which really push the boundaries about what it is acceptable to ‘feel’ in Church?

    I love that you raise the idea of skewed masculinity in your post. Do we want to form our worship in such a way as to justify a broken masculinity? The Church must respond in the negative! Perhaps the great depths of a man’s heart and the feelings unique to his experience have not been explored in this current context. 

    We know that many hymnodies of history HAVE connected with the men of their day (even the working men!) and this must encourage us to find new expressions today. 

    However, I must disagree with one leading youth pastor and speaker who, when faced with this very same question, stated that he didn’t think anyone ‘filled with the Spirit’ could find fault with singing ‘I love Jesus’.

    If that were the case, then I must lack the Spirit of God?!

    To conclude, I’d like to raise the point about the Christian’s call to submit to the community. It is not edifying to have a church ‘worship war’. And frankly if a man can’t cope with a few tedious and flat worship songs to the point where he leaves the church or moves churches, I would ask a few questions of the sincerity of his faith.

    Thanks.

  • Philip of Samaria

    Well I have to rather approve ‘updating’ to child from son.. The point about son is a cultural one – with it go the priviledges and worth in that particular culture. Sons are special, daughters are not. The real point I think scripture is pointing to is the special worth of EVERY child rightly related to God by Grace. I dont want to have to decode that for any woman that doesnt get the reason she’s a son! Gonna have to write a song on that one someone!

  • @drgeorgemorley

    YES – the phrase ‘feminization of the church’ classically refers to the withdrawal of the church/Christianity to the ‘domestic’ realm of emotional, moral life as opposed to the external, public realm of facts [think Descartes, Kant etal]. Women and Christians belong in the realm of emotions and values, men in the world of facts. So, historically men have been responsible for the feminization of the church, no doubt about it!
    Interestingly, it’s the same separation that #occupy is all about – the removal of morality from the public sphere to the individual and domestic!

  • http://mrben.jedimoose.org/ mrben

    Wow. So many questions. Not going to try and answer everything (or respond to all the comments), but here are a few thoughts off the top of my head.

    1. For those trying to understand how the church became this way, despite being “patriarchal”, it’s worth a read of David Murrow’s book “Why Men Hate Going To Church”. It’s not a perfect book, but it’s definitely a good starter.

    2. Let’s underline the stats here – virtually every church, regardless of denomination, geography, theology, or whatever, has a gender gap of roughly 60/40. In the UK the most unreached people group is the 18-35 year-old male. 

    3. We need to make a separation here between people at various stages of faith. It’s one thing to ask a man who has a deeply personal faith, and can relate to loving Christ, to sing love songs to Jesus. It’s quite another thing to ask a non- or new Christian man to sing it. 

    4. Men and women _are_ different. This is true, both biologically and scripturally (regardless of your theological position on how these differences should be addressed ecclesially). The question is therefore whether or not these differences are properly reflected in our churches – and that’s not just about the songs we sing. 

    5. Society is failing men massively. It has created a generation of men who want to prolong their adolescence well into their 30s (if not beyond). These “men” want to have all the benefits of adulthood, but avoid all the responsibilities. The church should be able to show these men a better way, but if we’re either failing to reach them, or fail to retain them once they’re reached, then it’s not going to happen.

    6. According to the latest stats (well – according to Carl Beech’s stats ;) ) if you reach a father then 93% of the time the rest of the family will come to faith, compared to only 17% for the mother. (http://www.cvm.org.uk/blog/carls-thoughts/93/ ). Reaching men should be regarded as a priority, not to somehow create a church that is filled with men, but because it is evangelistically effective across *both* genders. 

    That’ll do for starters. Bring on the flames ;)

  • @drgeorgemorley

    Great post and comments!
    Here’s how it is for me – Jesus is not my boyfriend, and I don’t want to pretend that he is. But I DO want to learn to love him more and express that love more articulately.
    I value hymns and songs that are about God/Jesus Christ/the Holy Spirit, that help me inch towards a deeper understanding of the mystery of it all… and I really struggle with ones that are about me – even the covert ones which look like they’re about God but are actually all about his effect on me.
    Worship leaders – please bring me God!

    Although this is an important gender issue, I think it is derivative of a bigger cultural thing. Traditionally, the ‘feminization of the church’ refers to the Cartesian (etc) separation between the ‘feminine’, domestic realm of values & emotion and the ‘masculine’, public realm of facts. The church got largely pushed out of the public realm (or perhaps it went willingly) and into the domestic realm, and we’re still trying to sort ourselves out.

  • http://simoncross.wordpress.com/ Simon

    It really is a tragic irony that the church is both a patriarchy and also deemed too feminine.

    There are surely a whole load of issues involved in this – from the crisis at the heart of masculinity, which certainly needs addressing, but need a serious amount of gender politicians to sort out, not just new songs writing – to the whole question of what we consider to be, and use as an act of worship.

    As somebody who loves music, I find myself often profoundly uncomfortable in sung worship services, not because I have a problem with saying ‘I love Jesus’ or thinking of myself as a bride or etc, but because lyrics are inane and ‘me’ centred, and I also get the distinct impression that I am not the only one claiming to be giving my all for God, while knowing that I am not. Moreover the music is very often pappy and unimaginative, and I’m afraid that worship leaders are sometimes self indulgent with fantasises of themselves as sub pop stars.

    A serious revision of the way we express praise, and what we consider to be worship is very much in order, but to be truthful I dont see it happening any time soon. Personally I find greater depth in silent acts of worship these days, which isnt to say we shouldnt sing, but is to say that as we all know, singing isnt the only act of worship to be used in gatherings.

  • Mark Howe

    So, as I asked on Twitter yesterday, which stereotypically masculine traits do you think women most need to take on?

    (I’ll resist the temptation to get into how come Jesus, who, unlike Paul, chose entirely male leaders, is somehow the perfect model of gender neutrality.)

  • Mark Howe

    The problem with updating that particular metaphor is that the Bible does say and mean “son”, not “child” – and that this is actually a statement about gender equality before God. Being treated as a son was a good deal, and Paul uses that metaphor just after saying that in Christ there is neither male nor female. (Strangely, no-one wants to update Galatians 3:28 to say “In Christ there is neither person nor person”.) If you remove the gender-specific language from that metaphor, the power of Paul’s argument is weakened, and you then have to keep telling your congregation why the Bible doesn’t mean what the words seem to say. Encouraging biblical literacy and reading for comprehension seems like an altogether better plan to me.

  • Mark Howe

    My point four responded to the claim that church leadership is male dominated. If that’s right, it’s male careers we are talking about. If that’s not right, why does every other comment here say that it’s right?

    It also responded to the assumption that male leaders obviously lead in a way that suits men more than women. Again, I affirm that Jean-Paul Gautlier is a man, but I don’t want to wear any of the dresses he designs. Almost by definition, successful leaders of either gender lead in a way that “works” on some level for their (female-majority, children-of-Christians majority) congregations.

  • Bendy

    I wasn’t aware Jesus chose all male leaders. He chose disciples and had followers. I would think women were not in the 12 because if they were then they may have been stoned to death for being prostitutes. 

    Every individual needs to be themselves. Not one os us needs to ‘take on’ traits – we simply need to be. However soceity bombards us with messages telling what and who we should be. We need to have a firm foundation and security in our identity in Christ to be released from the stereotypes that others attempt to foist upon us

  • http://twitter.com/ilovethebeard Joshua Bowker

    Philip, I think I agree with you. But you might want to quote someone other than The Corrs to curry a little more favour with the ‘machismo’ side of the argument…

  • http://twitter.com/revpamsmith Pam Smith

    I used to attend a very ‘right on’charismatic city centre service a few years back. It was fronted (apart from an occasional backing singer) and led entirely by men and included a full complement of the usual worship songs including the ‘Jesus is my Boyfriend’ type. incidentally. 

    While we were singing ‘Can a Nation Be Changed?’, I was struck by the fact we were all singing prayerfully – if not rather piously – the repeated line in the chorus 

    ‘We’re on our knees again – we’re on our knees again…’  

    but not a single person that I could see WAS on their knees.

    I pointed this out to one of the men who ran the service.  That’s why I’m so popular. :D 

  • Cameron Kinloch

    We should look more to people like David and Solomon, and be able to be open. More importantly though, masculine or feminine worship shouldn’t the the issue. Our worship is for God, not us, so it doesn’t matter if we don’t like a some lyrics or even the style of a song. If we are worshipping truly from the heart, God will be what is important. Unfortunately many people have forgotten this, and have lost their authenticity in worship.

  • Ali

    Sorry but women are just as concerned about theological accuracy and content – I can’t begin to understand why you would think otherwise.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Doug-Michalak/1493781234 Doug Michalak

    Great comments!  I think we need to remember that both chauvinism and feminism find their roots in the Fall and capitulation to the sin nature.  What is popularly considered to be ‘male’ and ‘female’ today are WARPED characteristics of our original makeup–not the realities themselves; and so our goal should be, as you expressed, to simply push into a worship response to our God.  In Him, we will find what truly makes us human, both male and female.  I agree, let’s not worry about worldly qualifications and instead just passionately respond from the heart.

  • Charlottedeaves

    Great blog! I found this interesting because I write songs. I have had many conversations with people how high worship songs can get. This conversation has particularly been with some of the ladies- I feel it’s right that if women find singing some sort of worship songs difficult surely the men would find it really hard. I feel it’s important that songs are written for all ranges.
    However I think overall worship is about being united with one another, expressing our love for God is the most important thing feeling free to worship and letting the Holy Spirit minister to all during worship and songs.:-) Very interesting blogs you must take lots of your time to research and write them every blessing Charlotte X

  • http://twitter.com/harrywalls4 Harry Walls IV

    One of the things you said early on was how you’ve never seen anyone asks a male worship leader if his songs would be suitable for women to sing. I think part of the reason that is (at least for me) when I was in college that was a big deal. “When you are choosing keys for your songs, make sure that the range isn’t too high for a woman…” We had this whole, almost theory lesson on the acceptable church range for the singing congregation. On the other side, I led a men’s retreat earlier this year and after the first night, a man came up to me and said, “I’m so glad that you’re singing these songs in Man Keys.” They have a female worship leader at the church he comes from. 

    I think the thing that has to happen, and I think you do well in this article, is we need to really confront the issue. Ask men questions about what it is they are really looking for. From a humorous standpoint, we got the #MachoWorshipSongs hashtag, which I spent a bit of time taking in this week. But I think if we get down to the heart of the matter we will find that maybe there are some skewed views of what femininity and masculinity are. That has, will and will continue to cause some resistance in the song portion of our worship seeing that worship is a time where true emotion can be expressed. I guess dealing with it is just another part of our job, huh?

  • http://twitter.com/mslingsby Matt Slingsby

    I think everyone here would agree that worship is for God, but in a sense that is one of the issues raised.  Many men know that the songs they are singing (as part of worship) are for God, and so find the language used distracting when it closely resembles that which they would use to their wife/girlfriend.

    For example, I would never say to my wife: “You alone can rescue, you alone can save”, but in a poetic moment I might say: “…I’ll let my words be few – Pam I am so in love with You.”

  • Brent Vernillion

    Vicky, I think this article is excellent because it raises great questions and I think you give great answers. Personally, very rarely do I hear a worship song and say or think, “that is a chic song”. I pastor and my wife leads worship (writes a lot of our own stuff) but I cannot ever remember thinking that after a worship service in which she has led or any of the other great female worship leaders who I think are awesome. I have, however, had the feeling after a few sermons over the years that the preacher (man) had displayed Jesus as a wimp and even as effeminate. I think this is a much greater problem in the church today. Just look at the paintings of Jesus that we so commonly see, he almost always looks like a hippy or a sissy or a mixture of the two. The image the church portrays of Jesus in many ways resembles these paintings and they are not attractive to most regular guys who play football, rugby and hang in the pub. The church needs to work on this problem in general and especially in men’s ministry and programs. On the other hans, any man who has a problem telling or singing to Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit  about his love really has a problem. Probably didn’t get enough love from his own dad, mom and brothers and sisters (if you will let me psychoanalyze) or needs inner-healing (if I can be more spiritual). I am more concerned about men who aren’t applying Jesus in their man-hood and our preaching which often lacks this as well. I am equally concerned that in many churches there just isn’t appropriate ministry to the women in all of their femininity and womanhood. Most churches don’t follow Paul’s admonition (to his spiritual son and mentoree Timothy) to have the older men teach the young men and the older women to teach the younger women. What kind of disciples are we making if this isn’t taking place in our churches? The vast majority of worship is not necessarily gender neutral (nor should it be) but is fully appropriate for both sexes in any worship context. I also apologize to you on behalf of anyone who check’s your worship list because of their fear that the songs would be too feminine (there may be other appropriate reasons for a pastor or conference leader to want to approve worship songs – I personally never do but my worship leader is my wife). I ask myself what would these pastors have you do – act more like a man? It is sad to say there are a lot of chauvinist in the church in general and specifically in the pastoral ministry who think they should put women down. I think a real man wants to lift women up while simultaneously lifting men up too.  Once again thanks for raising these questions and for doing what you do. Blessings!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/danielryanmiller Dan Miller

    I’d like to see more lyrical examples of songs people have a problem with.

    I’ve often heard people complain about modern worship songs with a variety of concerns (including being too “mushy” or “theologically weak or incorrect”), but when I ask them for examples of what they think shouldn’t be sung in church, they can’t come up with any.     I think that sometimes this complaint is nothing more than a stereotype that may have been true 20 years ago, but is generally not the case.

  • Brent Vermillion

    The word MACHO is spanish and simply comes from the spanish word for Masculine, masculino. Macho is not necessarily a bad word. In my church I want my men to be macho. I want them to man-up when it is appropriate and not be wimps in life. Men need to man up in the fight against sin in their own lives, they need to man up in service, they need to man up as good husbands and good fathers, they need to man in sexual fidelity. In general, the word macho is positive when used in spanish although machismo can often be understood as an overpowering or abusive man and no christian should stand for that. I think that is what you mean when you use macho, right? As a matter of fact, I get concerned when a man is not masculine enough in certain areas because he may not have an appropriate vision of manhood. Nonetheless, I understand that what you mean by macho is really chauvinistic behavior and I agree with you.

  • Brent Vermillion

    David did not rape Bathsheba, he had an affair with her and then killed her husband and married her. Where do you come up with the idea that this was rape since the Bible certainly never says this?

  • http://www.diannaeanderson.net Dianna

    I agree with this. Some of the songs are so borderline romantic that it’s problematic. It makes me think of the whole “Jesus is my boyfriend” thing – if I’m supposed to have a romantic attachment to Jesus, what happens when I get a boyfriend? And if I’m using romantic language to worship Jesus, is there nothing reserved for a husband-wife relationship? Lots of questions raised by the language we choose to use.

  • http://twitter.com/vicardave Dave Meldrum

    ‘claim to serve’. wow. i’ll pretend for a moment that’s not as insulting as it sounds. for the record, it sounds like we have a similar taste in tv, and i’m for more comfortable doing church in a pub (and when i say that, i mean it looks nothing like ‘regular’ church, not just regular church transplanted) than in a building with stain-glassed windows. my point is more that i think the gender debate is an excuse, not a reason. it’s much deeper than that, when we actually ask questions and get to more meaningful reasons. those who are alienated by the worship tend to be on the fringes of the faith – it’s deeper things that actually cause people to leave.

  • http://www.nathanarnoldmusic.com Nathan Arnold

    This issue is so stinking deep… For me it goes well beyond just the songs we sing.

    I think it is incorrect to say that the church has been feminized.  I think it more accurate to say that the 1st world has experienced an identity crisis, and that identity crisis has leaked into the church.  For most of human history man has had to scrape his existence out of the dirt, working hard each day to provide the essentials of life.  Essentially the truth of the world was: if you don’t work you die.  Men with families were providers and protectors, literally carrying the weight of their family on their backs.  In Genesis 3 God locks us in a struggle with the earth to provide our food… it’s part of our DNA.

    In our modern world we (at least a significant portion of the population) no longer worry about necessity.  What drives our culture and our work habits is fulfilling our desires.  Information is the hot commodity.  Supply and demand rules.  Now instead of men toiling for their daily bread, we toil for an iPhone 4s so Siri can tell us if we need a coat today.  This results in some (I believe) odd behavior from our male population, who no longer need to provide and now spend their time picking out pants that make their butt look good and picking out what fragrance of AXE the ladies will like the most.

    By many standards I’m a “manly man”.  I work on my own truck, I’m building a hot rod with my dad and brother, I watch sports and hang out in pubs, I know how to build things with my hands, I own gloves and work boots… I honestly have NO issue with women leading me in worship.  In fact, I prefer it.  Of course, maybe that’s because I’m also a worship pastor and totally in love with all expressions of art… And I was mentored by a woman when I began leading worship.  I don’t mind singing the word “beautiful”, though I do avoid it when I’m leading.  What I don’t like is romantic worship… like the Jesus Culture tune that sings “Dance/Romance me oh lover of my soul to the song of all songs”.  I don’t want to dance with Jesus or be romanced by him. 

    The church IS the bride of Christ, but I personally am not.  

    The Jesus I know and have a relationship with is deep, emotional, beautiful, nurturing, comforting… and a (pardon my french) total bad ass.  He’s a dude that to a scourging from the Romans and still carried a cross.  He was a dude who prayed so hard he sweat blood.  He was a dude who called disciples to their deaths in following him.  He was not an emaciated hipster wearing a deep v tee and skinny jeans.  When I worship Him I want it to reflect the Him I know.  I don’t want romantic expressions, I want expressions of love, admiration, wonder, hope, joy…

    I also don’t like holding hands in prayer… unless it’s with a cute girl.  Then it’s fine. ; )

  • Beth

    I could share a testimony about patriarchy in the church that I believe is particularly shocking. What I’ll say instead is, it doesn’t have to be this way. Having been away from the church building for some time now, I like to watch good ole Songs of Praise on a Sunday. Most of the hymns accommodate male and female difference by using a patten when singing the verses, allowing time for the male and female voice to sing and be heard alone and and also together. I’m a big fan of John Rutter and his 4 part arrangements seem to do the same thing. Aren’t we a family of brothers and sisters after all?

    I know there are good reasons we don’t all sing traditional hymns each week on Sunday. But I’m sure we could adopt a similar pattern for modern worship songs via new arrangements if we really wanted to flex our musical muscles and let all of the congregation flex theirs. If you think of the Jazz world, men and women often sing standards interchangeably, or to each other; musical theater is driven by personality, story and gender difference. The pop industry seems a too big and various to generalize but perhaps this is where we most look for our worship template currently. I like pop. But there are other musical cultures who do things differently which we can also borrow from and be inspired by. Do we always expect a story in our songs? Are we finding we are drawn to male stories and female stories? Interestingly I made a quick list of my fave worship and I found I was highlighting themes I may consider to be more masculine than feminized. Themes about the battle, with a lot of fight in them. Epic themes or themes which are particularly emphatic or assertive. I assure you I am still womanly. I think my singing softer themes in public right now would easily produce tears. Embarrassing! I do have soft, loving feelings however, and am happy to sing about them in private. As usual I have more questions than answers. I do think we need to think of a solution for everyone when planning worship. I don’t think there is another area of music where those making the music have to think so selflessly about everybody else…perhaps a tambourine percussionist in a large city orchestra? 

  • http://www.future-shape-of-church.org/ Edward Green

    The movement in contemporary worship post the early 90’s and Toronto has been driven by the idea of intimacy – it has become a theological theme.

    Before then there was plenty of worship with a more outward theme, one of spiritual warfare especially. Noel Richards comes to mind.

  • http://www.nathanarnoldmusic.com Nathan Arnold

    I’ve got some examples… at least of songs that make me uncomfortable.

    ::Dance With Me::
    Behold You have come over the hills upon the mountain
    To me, You will run. My Beloved, You’ve captured my heart
    Won’t You dance with me,
    Oh Lover of my soul, to the song of all songs?
    With You, I will go You are my Love You are my Fair One
    The winter has passed and the springtime has come
    Won’t You dance with me,
    Oh Lover of my soul to the song of all songs?
    Romance me,
    Oh Lover of my soul to the song of all songs

    ::Your Love Is Extravagant::
    Your love is extravagant
    Your friendship intimate
    I find I’m moving
    To the rhythms of Your grace
    Your fragrance is intoxicating
    In our secret place
    Your love is extravagant

    ::The Door::
    As the rain falls from heaven I’m lost in your love
    Your overwhelming Jesus
    And were walking together holding hands
    Oh it’s just you and me Jesus

    Seriously… there are lots that are awkward. Consequently, these were all written by dudes. haha

  • http://twitter.com/MCtheAnglican Michael R Cooley

    No comment, that would be too much like discussing my feelings.  

  • http://twitter.com/redchairmike mike jeter

    Great post!  I have seen the gender breakdown from a unique point of view – I’m a dude who leads music for worship, and my wife is a pastor.  And I can’t believe a pastor asked to see the songs you would lead to verify they were appropriate for men, but I’m not surprised.  I have had many folks tell me after church they enjoyed the service my wife and I led, but they’re just not sure if women should be pastors.  And I have seen people walk into my wife’s church, ask for the preacher, my wife says, “That’s me,” and said person says, “No – the pastor in charge…”

    I definitely do not feel worship has been feminized.  If anything I almost feel as if this issue is a push-back from men who simply are not comfortable with women gaining more leadership within the church.  Like you mentioned in your post, the Psalms are full of “mushy” language speaking in loving and affectionate terms about the relationship David shared with the Lord.  And I have never been asked if the music I will lead (as a man) is appropriate for women.  Furthermore, I am familiar with many of your songs and I feel they are far less lyrically sappy than songs being written by men who’s lyrics may be described as “anointed.” 

    I must admit this is a hot button for me, but I do not feel one bit that worship has been feminized in any way, shape, or form.

  • Kerins Chris

    Another great blog! Another aspect that ties into this conversation but not discussed is the idea of the bridal paradigm. It is often misrepresented and miss understood. The idea is still represented in the bible and is just another illustration of god’s love. If we sing about it and someone does not understand it it can become uncomfortable.

  • Phil

    I’ll make a simple comment.  How many men are flocking to church?  I’m not saying we should be seeker friendly but being sensitive to people who might not understand why it is ok to sing about a man being beautiful and singing love songs to a man (whether God is male or female, He is a He) seems sensible and “loving”.

  • Kristin

    I don’t think this is really an issue about feminine worship songs, but the cultural limitations of our words and the importance of helping people understand.
    For example, saying “Jesus, you are beautiful” is strange to some because the cultural connotation of the word beautiful means something different than beauty as it applies to Christ.   It’s not intended to mean “Jesus, I find you attractive, and your smile makes me weak in the knees.” LOL.Example #2:  I used to have a problem with the song Breathe because connotation of the phrase “I’m desperate for you” reminded me of a clingy needy high school girl talking to her boyfriend.  Now I’ve mulled it over and associate those words with a branch that’s been cut off from the plant…without that source it’s dead…it’s desperate for the vine.  I now view that song very differently.

    As worship leaders we should be helping people with the appropriate connotation of these phrases we are singing.  The songs don’t necessarily speak for themselves.  Metaphors can be confusing or misleading.  There is discernment in choosing songs to lead our congregations in..some cultures might connect easily with certain imagery and others not so much.  And finally, what songs are appropriate  for some people may not be appropriate for others.  There is no shame or condemnation in that, so long as we’re leading people effectively and in the right direction.

  • Beth

     I nipped out to walk the dog and had another thought about the feminized worship thing. Where as Jesus was a man, the holy spirit who lives in all of us (probably most of us who are attending a church service) is neither male nor female. And isn’t “He,” in a way, the personification of the abstract will of God, who lives in us (who should, then, be a “She” if we follow the conventions of the Latin language)? I think because we are made in God’s image and the creation account tells us the male gender was made first we assume God is manly. But he made man with reproductive organs so I would argue, from the beginning, he had woman in mind. I am aware the qualities and truths we know about God tell us he is neither male nor female, and I think many of our worship songs fairly reflect this. I do worry that some of the language we use while chatting about God and church doesn’t always fairly reflect our beliefs. How must this look to those outside the church, of both genders and all sexual orientations? I think some people are uncomfortable with sensuality full stop. For example I have already shared sensual things make me cry, or can do sometimes in the right environment…or the wrong one!! I definitely need healing in this area.

  • Daniel F

    Hello,

    I feel I must apologise and recant. Of course both of you are correct: theological rigour is not a male characteristic, but a general expectation of all Christians, and as Gill points out men are just as bad with the “more emotive stuff”. I wasn’t trying to say that the “feminine” attitude was to be blase about theology, but that is what came across, so I do retract what I said.

    Having said that, I have generally found that many of the more shall we say “soppy” (rather than bringing in silly gender steriotypes which you were correct in pulling me up on) worship songs sung in Churches today tend to be less theologically rigerous than older songs, which I personally find far more emotive anyway. And in my experience, men are really put off by these soppy songs (and women are as well, of course). My church doesn’t sing these soppy songs (going more for older hymns), and I would say that the gender balence is not the standard 60/40 women to men ratio that is statistically true in the wider church, being much more around 50/50.

  • Anonymous

    I did a quick search on the word “beauty” (both KJV and NIV) and a whole heap ton of results popped up, many of them referring to the beauty of the Lord (or His holiness).

    God is beautiful, at least according to scripture. I’m guessing it’s ok to make the leap in logic to say that God incarnate (Jesus) is beautiful, too.

    I don’t have a problem singing that. But I also sing about a whole lot of other attributes of God’s character as well.

  • Mark Snyder

    Let’s sing a well rounded picture of who God is.  What He has done.  How he demonstrated the ultimate sacrifice and the ultimate courage to take all of our sins on Himself.  How He who had the  ultimate power willingly  suffered at the hands of men.   How He holds every molecule, every atom, every species, every beautiful thing, every planet, every star, and every galaxy in His hand.  How He exists as Father creator,  Savior Son, and Spirit Helper, and always has.

    If we do that, that’s plenty macho for any man to sing, and plenty emotional for every woman to bask in.  And it is a limitless supply of material for our worship songs.

    In short, lets start singing of Him who we worship and forget about singing about ourselves, and there is no problem anymore.

  • http://twitter.com/therevsteve Stephen M Day

    Given who David was, and what he later proved himself capable of doing, Bathsheba was not in a position to refuse his advances. There may not have been _physical_ coercion, but there didn’t need to be. 

  • http://www.jamesprescott.co.uk James Prescott

    Gotta say, David is a great example for men in many ways – in his failures as well as his successes. Because in scripture we see David as a man after God’s heart, a man of courage and leadership, who took responsibility for his life and was obedient to God. But we also see David as man who made mistakes, did awful things, disobeyed God – but then see how God redeemed those mistakes.

    The big issue here goes beyond songs, into the bigger discussion about what true masculinity and femininity are, how God designed them, how and who He made men and women to be. The macho thing was funny, definitely, but behind that is a deeper truth – that macho doesn’t equal masculine, just as feminism, whilst very important, at its most extreme became a negative. True masculinity and femininity are different to those – and they don’t have to mean ‘Mr Nice Guy’, the kind of wimpy image of Jesus we get and that we see in the church sometimes. To be masculine is not to be macho, but it’s also not to be wimpy nice guy who is a total walkover. Following Jesus is all about finding the balance, and this area is no different. 

    Masculinity for me means taking responsibility, setting the example, taking the initiative, self-sacrifice and risk-taking, it means being willing to take risks but accepting the consequences of that & taking responsibility for that. There is something in the heart of man which longs to be the rescuer, to protect, to go on adventure, to take the initiative & take risks. We just need wisdom in that – to do those things in the context of a life lived around God and in obedience to Him – and accepting responsibility for our failures too and going back to God in those.

    There are distinct differences between masculinity and feminity – though there are some traits which they share I think. Leadership for example – I firmly believe both men and women can lead, but they lead in different ways, masculine and feminine ways, but they are equally valid and equally useful. I know lots of amazing female leaders who have challenged and pushed me in my faith.

    In terms of worship, historically most songs used in church have over the centuries been written by men – but they are love songs to God in one sense, so there will be a lot of emotion in some of them, hence the supposed ‘femininity’ of them. I am glad that we are seeing more and more female songwriters, and we need more of them – but our lyrics I think need to be more honest, they need to be more authentic. I think it’s not a matter of masculine or feminine lyrics, but just more honesty in worship. We often sing like everything’s okay, like we are totally certain, and it can become worship escape. I think we need more songs where we admit our failures, admit our questions and doubts, our uncertainties, where we cry out to God like Jesus did on the cross, which acknowledge His existence but also acknowledge our questions, fears, doubts and frustrations, recognise our sufferings. I think as we are more and more honest with God, we will encounter God in a deeper, fresher way which goes beyond masculinity or femininity, and is just true.

    What do people think? Happy to discuss and to be proven wrong!

    http://www.jamesprescott.co.uk

  • http://twitter.com/Juannyo Juannyo

    Though I very much agree with the spirit of your comments, two things stand out.

    1. “God is neither male nor female” – Hmmmm…not exactly. God throughout scripture chose to refer himself in male terms as our “Father” and came from heaven to earth as the “Son of man” in Jesus Christ. From what I can tell of scripture Christ was not as sexually ambiguous as people may want to believe or as some renaissance artists would portray Him. Jesus is (not was) “fully God and fully man” in genus and gender. I don’t think that takes away from the femininity of any woman as I don’t think it gives any many a “1up”.

    I COMPLETELY AGREE that He made both man AND woman in His likeness to display the fullness of His glory. I think the ongoing tension of history (not just in the church) is how each gender is to display that glory. Is it supposed to be the same or “equal” as some would coin it? Does equality in value and significants have to mean equality if function and “role” for it to “count”? Lord help us…give us wisdom and understanding.

    2. “I’m sad that you’ve been asked to show your worship list to see if it was ‘too feminine.'” – That depends. If she is being asked that JUST because she is a woman then I would take issue. However, I think all of our set lists must be evaluated and considered to lead the people whom we’ve been entrusted to lead. Being a worship leader at a super ethnically and generationally diverse church I have to constantly ask myself if our songs are “too black” or “too white” or “too old” or “too young”. It’s part of being a missional minded worship leader instead of a singer songwriter who can only play their own stuff. 

    I think most people on here would agree that if you are a worship leader in a church or gathering with more than one gender you have a stewardship to lead both genders in worship and not demonized one or the other because they don’t automatically flow with your personal preference. We should seek the heart of God and use the wisdom He has given us to select songs that will connect with the people we are leading and help them bring their offerings, longings, and heartaches to God. Thinking, living, and leading (serving) this way is not always easy nor convenient, but necessary. 

    I WHOLEHEARTEDLY AGREE WITH YOU on this point…”We’re all vessels of God, we all have unique gifts.” If this is true, we have to be ok with the fact that we may also have different ways in which we communicated our devotion to God. Men often express affection differently than woman and within genders there is a wide range of expression; not to mention ethnic and generational preferences which would make this blog BLOW UP! 

    If a leader wants to ask me about my set list as an issue of mission and stewardship to those entrusted to his care, go for it. My heart does brake in those situations where there is injustice and the scrutiny is not consistently applied to all worship leaders, male and female alike.

    However, As a worship leader I have to walk in the humility and honesty to admit that not just a song I lead but the “way” I lead may not connect as strongly as I’d like to all genders, ethnicities, and generations. I personally think this helps us to value each other more and work as a diverse community of worshippers; to minister to and lead a diverse community of believers.

    Thank you for so honestly engaging and sharing your heart. 

    ps-I’m sorry if I in any way hijacked your blog post. Just got excited about the dialogue.

  • http://twitter.com/Philip_Ratcliff Philip Ratcliff

    Worship is a declaration to the spiritual realms of the personhood and divine nature of God, our relationship with him, and the eternal victory won for us. Sometimes it’s on a personal level of what God the Father, through Jesus, has done for us; sometimes it’s on a corporate level of who we are as the church and our relationship to God; sometimes it’s declaring the awesomeness of God to all creation. If we sing too many songs with us as the focus, generally beginning with “I”, then we start to push God out of his rightful place. To that end, it doesn’t matter whether the songs are feminine or masculine in content or tone, it’s whether the worship, not just the songs, is focussed on God.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=555341714 Gill Stanning

    Thanks for clarifying Daniel. I think there is a broad spectrum of opinion of how much emotional content is helpful and how much isn’t. Personality type has something to do with it I think.

    Men are often seen to be less emotional and perhaps have been taught to keep their emotions in check more. They therefore feel more comfortable with the less ‘soppy’ stuff. Women may well feel they have ‘permission’ to be softer if they want to be and therefore do.

    However, for the many women out there who dislike the more emotive stuff and prefer good doctrinal content, it can be very frustrating when the softer worship is always labelled as feminine and the theologically rigorous stuff as masculine…strangely it is when I sing a rousing, theologically rigorous hymn or song that I get more emotional…it is the content which produces that response.

    I see this more as an issue of dumbing down the lyrics in modern worship music…nothing to do with gender – especially as many of the said songs are written by men!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=555341714 Gill Stanning

    “Here’s how it is for me – Jesus is not my boyfriend, and I don’t want to pretend that he is. But I DO want to learn to love him more and express that love more articulately.”
    That would apply to me too!”I value hymns and songs that are about God/Jesus Christ/the Holy Spirit, that help me inch towards a deeper understanding of the mystery of it all… and I really struggle with ones that are about me – even the covert ones which look like they’re about God but are actually all about his effect on me.”
    This resonates with me as well…strangely.
    The thing is: I’m a girl…so where does that leave the so called feminisation of the church???? Am I a bloke in disguise, or is it that perhaps men and women cannot be accurately boxed up in this way? Facts for me are good, doctrine is a vital part of church music, emotion I can do without… The traditional understanding may be that women are emotional and men are not, but then the traditional understanding was that women were unable to think intelligently…maybe it’s time for a rethink and an honest addressing of the gender issues which underpin this whole discussion.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=555341714 Gill Stanning

    And I as a Christian woman can’t stand them! ‘In Christ Alone’ is much more my style…

  • Joe

    We are the bride of Christ.

  • Fatheralun

    Escatalogically the church isbof couse Christ’s bride.
    The holy spirit is often refered to as female in bible.
    I don’t have problems with singing feminine worship songs and had never given it a momments thought until this cyber discussion arose.
    What I do think is the “sex” balance of worship songs in hymns ancient n modern is better than in songs of fellowship. A bigger issue for me with modern worship is the pack of lament.

  • Mark Howe

    We should look to people like David and Solomon who fought battles, built kingdoms, displayed extreme courage… and whose worship came out of that. A lot of the Psalms have titles that link explicitly to that changing-the-world lifestyle. The problem with making intimacy an end in itself in worship is that it almost inevitably ends up as “Me and God, God and me”, and the rest of the world can go to hell because I’m having a really intimate time with my personal Jesus. That’s absolutely not what David in particular models for us in Scripture.

  • Mark Howe

    Jesus chose twelve male disciples, who (give or take one man) became the apostles, who are surely the starting point for any “Patriarchy in the church” claim. Yes, there are possible reasons for not choosing women in that specific cultural context. But why, if we’re going to keep ranting about patriarchy, aren’t those reasons simply a justification for maintaining the patriarchal status quo? If we want a model for inclusive leadership, Paul does far better in terms of specific appointments than Jesus.

  • http://twitter.com/MustardSeedUK Brian Johnson

    I seem to have arrived at this one a little late :-)

    We do have problems with getting the key right for some songs, i.e. getting it suitable for male and female voices, but that’s not really the issue here.

    I honestly can’t say I’ve ever thought of any worship lyrics as too feminine, too masculine or anything like it. But then I’ve never gone looking for it. Maybe after a quick perusal of #machoworshipsongs I may see things differently!

  • http://twitter.com/tjm135 Tim Martin

    Obviously (from the tone of the posts above) the more traditional, hymn singing churches are now flooded out with men because they sing mainly hymns. Oh, no, wait – they’re not! To my knowledge, the churches who are more likely to use modern repertoire don’t necessarily have a greater gender imbalance than other streams of the church. Our songs may contribute to the discomfort of a few but overall I think it may be an excuse.

    To my mind the biggest problem is that it’s simply ‘not cool’ for men to be seen as not in control. True surrender is all about not being in control. It is about giving over every part of our being. It is about engaging mind, body and spirit in all that we do for a God who is worthy. If our excuse for wanting to spectate with hands in our pockets is that the songs are ‘too feminine’ I think we miss the point. Some people are just uncomfortable with singing and this is a convenient band wagon. Personally I am not comfortable talking about my faith with total strangers but I often need to get over this in order to worship and glorify God. Don’t like singing with gusto? Don’t like it when a personal response is required? Get over it!

    Sure, some songs have gone too far down the romantic route but I really do think that things are becoming more balanced. 5-10 years ago there was certainly a bent toward the ‘me’ and ‘I’ in our songs. My sense is that over recent years this has begun to change – not completely but the balance is much better. Listen to some up to date Matt Redman, Chris Tomlin, Worship Central and Vicky Beeching material and there’s a lot of corporate stuff in there. Well done to these writers for listening and responding.

    We can and will never get away from a certain amount of ‘I’ or ‘me’ in worship. It is important that we respond to divine revelation – sung worship is an ideal time to do this. If we simply sing about doctrine we risk feeding the mind but not engaging our whole beings in response. Some of these responses need to be individual rather than corporate – we need to sing ‘we love you’ and ‘I love you’. We need to sing both ‘we surrender’ and ‘I surrender’ – there’s nothing wrong with either of these in balance. I really don’t think that this is a gender issue – it’s more about how we think we might look to others if we totally let go.

    I get the missional concerns that some people have but I think that these are magnified by those in church who chose to to fully engage. A fully engaged church where the presence of God is tangible could be attractive to an outsider even if they didn’t ‘get’ why we were all telling some guy that we love him. In fact, one of the best comments I’ve had from a complete outsider was’Wow, you guys really love Jesus – I reckon there must be something in it.’ This was a guy who visited once and that’s what he noticed and was impressed by.

  • Chris32man

    isnt it interesting at the worship central confrerence last weekend.

    Tim Hughes interviewed Matt Redman and Matt said he wished he could go back and change the words of his song( so i let my words be few, jesus im so in love with you.) Matt said he knew what he meant by writing it, but so many others thought it was too romantic.

    Nick Herbert wrote a song called (say it with this song, jesus i love you jesus i love you always ill say it with this song jesus i love you always.)

    i like both these songs, theres another old Delirious song (what a friend ive found) people also struggle with in the church.

    i also love this song, i think far too many men live up to the stereotypes put on them.

  • http://thingsfindothinks.com AndrewF

    Matt said he wished he could go back and change the words of his song

    I don’t see why he can’t… Geoff Bullock has re-worded many of his old Hillsong numbers, including the famous ones like ‘Power of Your Love’  (see http://www.geoffbullock.com/ ) to be more theologically accurate.

  • http://religionetc.wordpress.com Steve

    Interesting discussion you’ve got going, Vicky. As for singing love songs to Jesus, all I can say is that I am not aware of any such songs in our Church — the Orthodox Church. However, the spiritual fathers of the Church say that we should overcome the sin of lust by developing an intense longing for God.

    As for the femininity issue with God, I remember a priest once said that he went to some sort of gathering where there were people of different faiths and someone there started praying to a Mother Goddess. He said he had problems with that. I think that I would have problems with that, too.

    God is three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Father begot the Son in eternity past, but there never was a time when the Son was not. Father and Son are masculine terms. The Son came down from Heaven and became incarnate for us and for our salvation. He took flesh from His Mother. He was a Man and is still a Man. The two natures of the Incarnate Son of God are joined together without separation, division, mixture, or change into one Person. That means that the Son of God has one personality. Is His personality masculine or feminine? It is definitely masculine. The Holy Spirit eternally proceeds from the Father, not the Son. There is an analogy that has been drawn between Adam, Eve, and Cain and the Holy Trinity. The Father like Adam begets and He begot the Son. Cain was begotten of Adam and the Son like Cain was begotten by His Father. Eve proceeded from Adam and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. (Remember that Eve was created from Adam’s rib. She proceeded from Adam. She was not begotten. She did not proceed from Cain, by the way.) I remember a priest once said that the feminine Person of the Godhead is the Holy Spirit because He is called the Lord and Giver of Life in the Nicaeno-Constantinopolitan Creed. However, we still use the pronoun “He” when referring to “Him.”

    Another thing to mention, although Jesus is a Man and has a Man’s personality, in some Old Testament prophecies pertaining to Him, He is personified as a woman. In Proverbs chapter 9, for example, it says: “Wisdom has built her house, she has hewn out her seven pillars.” (Prov. 9:1, NKJV) This is talking about Christ building a house, that is, a body, for Himself in the womb of the Virgin. The seven pillars are the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit mentioned in Isaiah 11 of the Septuagint version of the Old Testament. Later in this chapter, Wisdom says: “Come, eat of My bread and drink of the wine I have mixed.” (Prov. 9:5, NKJV) This, of course, is a prophecy about the Eucharist. The two elements used in the Eucharist are bread (Greek: artos – which is bread made with yeast, not azymos – bread made without yeast) and mixed wine (that is, wine mixed with water). Several of the Church Fathers used this verse, by the way, as a prooftext for the practice of putting water in with the wine used in the Eucharist.

    In Greek and I think also in Hebrew, wisdom is a feminine noun. There is a woman Saint named Sophia. Her name means wisdom.

    In our Church, we honor the Saints by singing hymns to them, but we do not sing love songs to them. We have hymns that we sing to the Mother of God. One such hymn is the “Axion Esti.”

    “It is truly meet and right to bless thee, O Theotokos, ever-blessed and most pure and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the cherubim, more glorious beyond compare than the seraphim, who without defilement didst give birth to God the Word: true Theotokos, we magnify thee.”

    It is definitely truly meet and right to bless her. Didn’t she say: “From henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.” ? (See St. Luke 1:48.)

    Theotokos is a Greek word that means “Birth-giver of God.” The Third Ecumenical Council of the Church said that Mary is the Theotokos. The heretic Nestorius said that she is Chistotokos (Birth-Giver of Christ) but not Theotokos. Christians were calling her Theotokos long before this Ecumenical Council met in 431 A.D. There is evidence of this in second and third century Christian writings.

    As for the Song of Solomon, there are prophecies of Christ in it. So, yes it is about Jesus Christ and His Church. It is also about the human soul and God. It is also about human sexuality. The relationship between Christ and His Church typifies the relationship that should exist between a man and his wife — an exclusively monogamous one. The 44th Psalm (Psalm 45 in Hebrew) is a Messianic Psalm. The King is Christ. The Queen has been interpreted by some of the Fathers as  referring to the Church. In the Orthodox Church’s hymns and prayers, the Queen in this Psalm is often designated as being the Theotokos. (Our hymns and prayers often interpret Scripture.) In verse 12 of this Psalm, it says: “Even the rich among the people shall intreat thy favour.” This is a prophecy about people asking for her prayers to her Son. (We can go directly to her Son and don’t need to go through her to get to Him, but it does help to have her prayers. After all, she is His Mother.)

    The more we magnify her, the more we magnify her Son. She is very great, but her Son is far greater than she.

    Steve

  • http://twitter.com/LinJasonC Jason C Lin

    This is my two cents we need to let go of what we think our conceptes and look at God for what he is

  • http://religionetc.wordpress.com Steve

    Just thinking some more about this from an Orthodox Christian perspective. Nuns are often referred to as brides of Christ. I do not think that monks are called that though. There are some unmarried woman Saints that are called in our hymns, “brides of the kingdom.” I think that St. Mary of Egypt is called that in one of the hymns we sing in her honor. She was not a virgin. She was a former prostitute who repented very deeply and sought an intensely close relationship with God out in the desert. I think that there are some virgin-martyrs that are called “brides of the kingdom,”
    too.

    As human beings, we do have passions. God created us with certain desires, but we often channel these desires in the wrong direction. That leads to sin. Some of the spiritual fathers of the Church say that we should eradicate our passions. Others say that we should transfigure them. I like the latter view. We need to channel our God-given desires in the right direction. Hunger for God and righteousness, rather than overindulging in food. Labor for God and eternal rewards, rather than labor for temporal wealth. Desire God and not illegitimate sexual pleasure. (I’m not opposed to sex, but it should be kept within a marriage. Sex itself is not evil, but sex outside of marriage is evil, because God forbids it and because when a Christian does that, he or she defiles his or her body, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit and a member of Christ. — See I Cor. 6:13-20. I’m digressing from the topic. Forgive me!)

    As a man, I do not think that I would sing a love song to Jesus, since Jesus is a Man. He is also God.

    On the other hand, there is some of the literature of the spiritual fathers that talks about having “eros” for God. However, I think that they are using that word in a different sense than the erotic carnal love meaning that is usually attached to that word.

    Maybe, it is OK for a woman to sing love songs to Jesus, but I think that a man shouldn’t. I do not think that Jesus is gay. He is celibate, but heterosexual.

    Our services are liturgical. So, we do not have much trouble figuring out what to sing in church on any given day.

    Steve

  • http://twitter.com/CameronandChi CameronChiSwanson

    Has the Church really been ‘feminised’ or do we just have an incorrect view of what femininity and masculinity mean?
    Hmm….first and foremost, thanks for the Twitter mention, you made my online day with that! Ha, but in all seriousness I’ve been inspired to start a blog myself to share my current ministry and future ministry as a military chaplain with the world. Anyway, as far as your question about femininity and masculinity, I believe that gender roles have been infected by sin just like everything else. Prior to the fall, Adam and Eve were not competing with each other, but lived in perfect harmony. Now the question is, are we letting Scripture define us as men and women, or are we letting a fallen culture tell us what manhood or womanhood looks like?
    I actually started my own blog about this, check out the link below. Blessings to Vicky and to you all!

    http://harpofdavid.wordpress.com/2011/11/06/the-feminization-of-worship-songs/?preview=true&preview_id=13&preview_nonce=a089b1d522

  • Graeme

    “Cage fighter Jesus”- Love it!

  • Amanda B.

    I really, really wish some of these preachers could come up with a term besides “feminization” for the problems they have with modern worship songs. The problem with Jesus-is-my-boyfriend songs are not that they’re too *feminine*, but that “boyfriend” is not a biblical way to view our relationship with Jesus.  Calling these sorts of songs “feminized” implies three very problematic things: 1) It implies that women don’t care about doctrine; 2) It implies that women must like it because it’s mushy and we know what suckers for mushiness women are; and 3) It implies that it is the fault of women that the songs are that way. Please, manly-man preachers, call those songs “shallow, confusing and unbiblical” if that’s what you think of them, but stop calling them “feminine”. I don’t like them any better than you do, and there are lots and lots of women who think the same thing. It is not any less weird for a girl to sing an over-sensualized song to Jesus than it is for a guy.

    I have to chime in with an “amen” to the inconsistency of people accusing male-led churches of being “feminized”. If the women do not have the reins, they do not have the ability to steer the direction of the church. And if the male leaders are intentionally marketing their worship service to keep their hordes of girlie-women happy, then the problem is a people-pleasing spirit, not feminization. Attaching the feminine label to it is essentially blaming the female congregants for showing up every week. (And for the record: If there is a worship leader out there who goes, “Hmm, how can I write lyrics that appeal to my female market?”, I have yet to meet him/her.)

    I do think it’s important to see that a lot of the biblical Psalms–all of which, as far as we know, were written by men, and many of which were written by a warrior–contain a lot of intimate and vulnerable ideas that were intended for corporate singing. They include professions of weakness (Ps 18:17), desiring to behold the beauty of God (Ps 27:4), Jesus being “fairer than the sons of men” (Ps 45:2, cf. Heb 1:8-9 which applies Ps 45 to Christ), loving God (Ps 18:1, 116:1), being calmed and quieted like a child (Ps 131), hiding in the shadow of God’s wings (Ps 17:8, 36:7, 57:1, 63:7), and yes, even God holding our hand (Ps 73:23).

    This is not to say that lovey, gentle, emotional stuff is the only stuff that makes for corporate worship (the Psalms are certainly also filled with militant, majestic, and even lamentation language), but it *is* to say that we can’t disregard it as fluffy and soft unless it is actually *unbiblical*. And if it *is* biblical (e.g., “I love You”, “Jesus, You are fairer”, “God, I want to see Your beauty”), then godly masculinity should be able to embrace it without qualm.

    And again, I plead: a lack of scriptural vigor is not a feminine problem. It is a theological problem. It is hurtful and unfair to equate anemic theology with a feminine disposition.

  • April T.

    1.  Totally agree with you about Jesus.  I was referring to God as being neither male nor female.  Yes, Jesus was a man.  Yes, he refers to God as Father.  But in talking about God the Father, he said to the samaritan woman, “God is Spirit and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” John 4:24.  

    Even though we call God, “Father” he is not a man.  He is Spirit.

    2.  How many male worship leaders have been asked to show there song list to see how feminine they are?  I’ll bet the majority of times Vicky has been asked this question IS because she is a woman.  

  • Tim

    Awesome as always. I feel that I connect better when they are deeply emotional songs. It is after all a RELATIONSHIP we are engaged in with Jesus. He is the groom we are the bride. You need to come back to the states lol. We need more like you!

  • http://twitter.com/davebish Dave Bish

    If we can get that we’re sons of God in Christ and that we’re the bride of Christ then we’re talking in both masculine and feminine terms….. 
    Its scares me to think that the church might somehow be afraid of singing of the beauty of Jesus…  and if it’s a choice between that or a Driscollian Cage Fighting Jesus I know where I’d rather be.

  • http://twitter.com/davebish Dave Bish

    Could be all kinds of reasons men aren’t flocking to church…  what happens during one bit of a church meeting is probably not the biggest cause. If people don’t understand why we sing of Jesus being beautiful then “God give us preachers”

  • Mike Martin

    I find all the debate educational. Not because anyone found ( in Genesis) the explicit reason for God’s creation of woman or what His intended purpose for her is. 
    Nor, is it because nobody found the way she’s to glorify God in relationship to conduct and attitude. ( hint , Paul, ) nor, that the order of headship in worship.
    And, it not because the word “Worship” has been given a modern day meaning of people watching a band and a singer using $40,000.00 sound systems  trying to get an audience to sing instead of a it’s true meaning as a way of life expected for all God’s children. ( I say that in Love as a wake up because, more than one may think, subconsciously looses faith each time they’re asked to sacrifice )
    The reason I find the debate about worship leaders gender educational is because I can’t find worship leaders as a position or function the Christ church in the Bible nor in the early church that the Apostles entrusted to their disciples.  At least not the church Jesus charged His Apostles to form.  So since the debate is only about something that is Man made I say it could just as simply be Woman made.

    I truly post this with Love for my Bothers and Sisters in an effort to illustrate that the whole concept of modern day worship services have become a commercial function to attract people to fill the chairs and perpetuate the needed revenue to payoff millions of dollars of earthly treasure
    to idolize. This attract those who likes to sing and experience the moment nor does it transform lives. It has though cause untold numbers to turn from Christ and Christianity because it has exposed the commercial and worldly condition of the Western democracy.

    I know that may sound harsh but we must be honest first and step back and concentrate on doing what He told us to do right before He ascended to Heaven.  Make Disciples (not attendees), Baptized them into the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit and then Teach Them To Follow His Commands.

    The liberal church of the west today has traded the “teaching people to follow his commands” as He commanded for spending the time and the money intended for the needy to attract the public to something that doesn’t even exists in His Church. At least not the one He instructed His Apostle to establish.

    We need to repent and turn this thing around. We may have been mislead but He is counting on us to come through with it.

    Love in Christ,

    Mike

  • Jteal5794

    Modern ‘worship’ music, much like every other aspect of (especially) the postmodern, “cool” church, is effeminate.  You asked for an example of effeminate lyrics.  Okay, “At the cross you beckon me, draw me gently to my knees, and I’m lost for words, so lost in love, I’m sweetly broken, wholly surrendered”.  First, any worship song that could, with the substitution of one or two words, be confused for a rather explicit love song, is both unmasculine, and unscriptural.  I don’t have any desire to relate to Christ in that manner…at all.  Nor as my ‘lover’, or ‘beautiful, sweet, gentle”, or caressing anything of mine, kissing me, embracing me, none of that.  It’s patently creepy.  Keep in mind, this Christ is the same one who is a Warrior, drenched in blood, riding a white steed, Word of God tattoo’ed on his thigh, armed for war, and beckoning us to join in the fight-now THAT’s a beckoning that I can respond to.  A song written on the basis of Psalm 144:1 is a worship song for men.  Calling us to what we are created to be-warriors, men, adventurous, dangerous, a force to be reckoned with.  Like David, Jephthah, Gideon, etc.  Yes, their love of our King comes out-but not as some sickly sweet thing.  Samson did every act of tremendous violence ONLY when “the spirit of the Lord came upon him”.  Milquetoast Jesus ain’t cutting it.

  • Pingback: Masculinity, identity, spirituality, religion | There goes rhymin Simon

  • http://www.facebook.com/bantermouse Brian Collins

    I like manly worship like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_K9sjB2pKM MAN UP! URGH URGH! (and listen to psalters psalm 27 while your at it :) )

    less of this ‘my jesus, by boyfriend’ nonsense! Eat steak, chug beer, get martyred…thats how i roll on a sunday.

    on a more serious note though, to me this only represents a closing of the gap in gender roles in wider society, I read in the news that research shows men are becoming more ‘feminine’ by just being a bit more emotionally open, and obviously the role of woman has changed bit by bit in workplace and family.

    I dont like calling Jesus a ‘beautiful man’, but I’m used to it by now, so whatever. 

  • Pingback: The ordination of women is a salvation issue?? | Vicky Beeching.com

  • Balaamtalker

    I find it interesting that instead of acknowledging that men are uncomfortable and would like to see something different in worship, (much like the desire many women have had for generations in the church), you simply state that they are wrong and not only miss the point of true worship but true manhood as well. I found your blog to be insulting in its dismissive nature of men expressing THEIR FEELINGS; a need not only to be present in worship but to actually enjoy corporate worship. There have been countless studies on the increased health of a family’s spiritual life when the father is actively involved in regular worship as well as the mother as compared to a family where only the mother is involved. The scriptures call for men to be the spiritual leader of the household and if they are feeling unfulfilled then I believe we should address that head on and not tell men that they don’t know what it means to be a man after God’s own heart.

  • Believer

    Father, Son and Holy Ghost….this is the problem with modern worship…the question whether it is masculine or feminine is mute…the question that should be asked is it Godly. We must ensure that it is based on the word, we as worship art participants are there to Praise God, we are not there to perform for God or the Congregation. Let all the voices ring the Glory of God. I am begining to see that the truth and spirit regarding the relationship that God allows need be formost on the heart and mind. If it is not the truth you desire, why would we want to create God in our image, just do away with God…it is your choice, it is best to read 2 Thessalonians 2:11 and contemplate the ramifications? Man and Woman, together raising loving, strong and respectful voices to God, need it be more?

  • Believer

    I see the church being feminized…by the men. Has it become a numbers game, more women than men are attending church? The church itself is refered to as the bride of Christ, it is already feminine. Men need to reach the word, not woman…it is God we praise not people.  I think we are calling a spade a bucket…modern worship songs whisper and do not say much…they are love songs that exchange the name Jessy for Jesus…that’s the problem – the sexulization of modern worship music. I love a man, Jesus…with with heart and spirit…not my body. “God is able”, so was my Grandma…how is that expressing the magnificence of He Who Sits on High? Churches need to read the word, as many verses in the bible are directed at them and thier repsonsibility to the word.

  • Believer

    I believe the uncomfortable part is a result of the keys being used to “root the song”. I am not sure if it is laziness or the lack of intention musically. Secular music is sounding more “churchy” while church music is sounding more “secular”. Praise God with all your heart would suggest that you put some finger grease on it as well!

  • Believer

    Well positioned…I hear the comment often at worship practice…rock it up, we want folks to jump to thier feet…modern worship success seems to be based on how “active” the congregation becomes. Art is dying to promotion, and promotion struggles with truth. Praising God ain’t easy if you are trying to fit in with the Jone’s family…it is a combination of skill and dedication to write worthy praise songs…modern worship is not being given a ticket to engage, I have yet to be asked – write a praise song the settles the soul and prepares the person for the word. Emphasis is on the “shout”…Psalm 33:3

  • Believer

    So true…As a man I like being emotive, not for the reasons of “feel” but because I do feel. I still believe that my expression of feelings need not get in the way of truth,

  • Believer

    I welcome women…in fact my mother was a woman…I am a man and do not feel threatened, yet I have the same problem as with men as women…where is the truth…I see it in myself and others…

  • Believer

    A good reading of Genesis may be required…God made man and woman with intenetion…no where does it say one is better than the other…both sexes have fallen short and too battle each other is another divide and conquer tactic by Satan. If one was to sit down and pro and con either sex, we might find ourselves confused.

  • Craig_harris

    I know some of the biggest backs of the masculine music in church movement and I think the problem is that they are reacting to the wrong thing. The problem they are reacting to has been mistaken as a masculine vs. feminine issue when in reality there issue has been with the depth of music that is being sung in church. Sure a line like Jesus is beautiful and I love you Jesus is good but we need more substance then that. I would think you would agree based on the substance of your own music. 

    So really the battle is over truth, substance, and pastoring through song and the issue of gender is really masking/distracting the real battle taking place. At least this is what I see as I look at what the different sides are arguing for.

  • http://www.servicemusic.org.uk/ David Lee

    Somewhat late to this discussion.  But some observations.

    The “worship song” of this problematic personal-emotional genre is most widely prevalent in churches of evangelical or charismatic persuasion.  And it is these constituencies which simultaneously are very strong in trying to persuade us men to sing “Jesus is my boyfriend” whilst simultaneously being to the forefront in promoting “biblical” views against homosexuality.  Just think about that.  The preacher preaches against homosexuality one minute; the next minute we men are implored to sing “Jesus is my homo-erotic boyfriend”.  Of course no-one ever states that clashing juxtaposition out loud; too awkward!

    We are told that Solomon was emotional and in touch with his feelings:  “just look at Song of Songs”.  Well, of course… but he was absolutely and completely writing about a private bedroom one-to-one human relationship with a woman!  And in the early, inevitably lustful stages of such a relationship.  That really doesn’t translate at all well into a corporate, public act of worship shared with many strangers, to the man Jesus!  (The SOS metaphor about Christ and the church is fine;  but that interpretation is a much, much later post-hoc retrofit about “the Church” (captial ‘C’, Bride of Christ);  it is not about me, the individual man in the church.

    We are told that David was in touch with his feelings.  Really?  Try asking his wife, Michal, whom he deeply betrayed, time after time (even ignoring his Bathsheba adultery).  Indeed, even during their courtship, it is telling that while the Bible records that she loved him, it noticeably omits to record that he loved her.  Think on that.  He then pushed away this same wife who loved him (but did he ever love her?).  Then, after she had re-married, he pulled rank with the new husband because he wanted her back (still no record that he loved her; although the wronged husband clearly did)… then he chucked her away again. Then, to cap it all, he cavorts publicly with other girls in a “religious” ceremony whilst making the gob-smacking claim that he is “dancing before the Lord.”  No, thank you.  Despite the fact my own name is David, if THAT is what the modern evangelical/charismatic church recommends as a man being “in touch with his feelings” then the preaching and worship has gone badly and seriously awry.

    Then we are told to sing these “Jesus is beautiful” songs (but of courser, it’s not homo-erotic, is it?)  all the while remembering that “he had no beauty to attract us to him; nothing in his appearance that we should desire him”.  Uh??  (Don’t songwriters properly read their Bibles at all?)

    When a man follows a leader in our secular lives, or Jesus in our overall lives, it has nothing whatsoever to do with beauty.  It has to do with whether we respect that boss/leader; whether there is something to which we can aspire.  That might be a whole range of things for different people. A sporting man might follow his sporting hero;  the academic astrophysicist might follow an Einstein or Hawking;  a classical music man might follow a Beethoven or Ravel; etc.  And the Christian man will follow Jesus because of some attribute in the gospels that commands and demands our respect, not because of gooey-gushy “Jesus is my homo-erotic boyfriend” quack-pseudo-theology.   The men in the gospels were called to be disciples through thick and thin.  The men in the gospels have a pretty shoddy track record in this!  At the end, most were absent; Judas betrayed; Peter (supposedly “the rock”) chickened out.  Yet that attracts us because it sets a challenge.  Hand in hand with this we also note that the women in the gospels have a far better track record of loving faithfulness.  (By the way, that “loving faithfulness”, here attributed to the women, is one of the deepest, most profound qualities of the God revealed time and time again throughout the Psalms, and is miles removed from any gushing sentimentality.)

    If the musical so-called “worship” of the present-day church is built on such appallingly shoddy theology, no wonder it is in deep trouble.

    But have you noticed that men are mostly quite happy singing the traditional hymns in the traditional way? (And pause briefly also to observe how lively is singing, and unaccompanied at that, on football terraces!)   That’s because, for the most part, the hymns are based on shared, straight facts (on the terraces shared “facts” broadens to shared opinions!); they don’t coerce us into a forced lovey-dovey subjective emotional reaction.  Of course, if we went back to hymn-singing, that would dramatically undermine the megabucks commercial “worship” entertainment industry.  And that would be a Bad Thing, wouldn’t it?  Wouldn’t it?

    Jesus did NOT say “pick up your guitar and coo me a gushy feel-good song”, nor anything at all vaguely resembling that.  (Beware: the “spirit and truth” from John’s gospel isn’t at all about this.)  But (correct me if I’m wrong) he DID say “take up your cross and follow me”.

  • Philip153fish

    Thanks Dave but… just had a conversation with another male worship leader who asserted men like objective songs about facts and women like the subjective ones about feelings… ‘why then’, i asked him, ‘do you and I prefer the subjective songs?’

  • Philip153fish

    what a friend i’ve found… great song. And Paul Oakley’s ‘like a fragrant oil’.. yes some emotive language but puts in words the amazing shock of grace discovered in the heart

  • Michael

    I’d like to hear a few tunes about Jesus coming as a righteous judge, with a blood soaked robe (ala Revelation) – funny how people like to ignore that side of his character… The nearest I’ve heard to “Macho Worship” is Misty Edward’s ‘Relentless’. That album will put hairs on your chest!

  • http://www.facebook.com/joel.arshad Joel Arshad

    God is neither male nor female but He has male and female characteristics. I would consider his love, kindness, patience as female characteristics and His strength, might, power as masculine. So I would consider songs about the softer side of the Lord as feminine and the tougher being masculine. Lately I’ve been wondering about the songs at my church. So many of the songs seem to be about how a person feels about God rather than declaring how strong and mighty He is. The trouble is so many ‘worship’ songs are about our feeling towards God. As a church worship group they don’t have a choice since no one is really gifted as songwriters, so they just have to choose between a bunch of feminine songs. I’ve been trying to think of some masculine worship songs and it’s a struggle. No I’m not gonna suggest songs that mention beer or DIY! That’s just dumb! I can think of We Will Ride (Lindell Cooley), House of Gold (Paul Oakley) and the kids song My God Is So Big. It’s down to the songwriters to change things. But will they?

  • http://www.servicemusic.org.uk/ David Lee

    Joel, when you say “the trouble is so many ‘worship’ songs are about our feeling towards God”, that’s slightly off-target.  More accurate would be “the trouble is so many PUBLISHED ‘worship’ songs…”.  The songs that make it are those that the commercial marketing businesses choose to promote.  And when you add “it’s down to the songwriters to change things”, again that’s slightly off-target.  Many of us are, indeed, writing material that widens the range.  But are they commercially marketable?

    There is a whole cultural narrow-mindedness that focusses on the “emotional” side of things somehow being more super-spiritual and (to use an insidiously and emotionally manipulative word) “anointed”. Even that very frothy, woolly, ill-defined language itself biases the whole thing, and somehow undermines anyone who dares challenge it.  And that is serviced by the marketing businesses which finds that the emotional stuff is a better seller.

    Take a look at the “Christian” business stalls of Kingsway, SpringHarvest, Hillsongs etc. selling their goods and ministries in the temple (our churches and entertainment “worship” CDs).  I wonder… WWJD?

    A good start would be to recover the disciplined, systematic use of the Psalms every week in our worship, following something like a lectionary from the established churches to ensure a reasonable coverage of the wide range of themes.  But try selling that idea…!

    Meanwhile, could I suggest a really radical idea?  Investigate some traditional hymns.  Forget about the sound systems.  Just get a pianist to play them and a singer, (no microphone!) to lead the congregation in singing them.  It might just catch on…

  • Lou

    How many times can I like this??

  • John

    My wife just posted one of your blogs on Facebook–the John Piper post. I loved your response, but I felt more compelled to respond to this one because this has been a bugaboo of mine. Yes,, a lot of the modern songs are overly feminized. I do feel uncomfortable singing about how beautiful Jesus is and how much I love him. But what’s more unsettling is the idolatry, or monolatry that occurs in so many songs. “our God is an awesome god”. Seriously, doesn’t this imply the existence of other gods and that our God is simply better than your god? Give me an old tune that implies the existence of gods other than God, and I’ll call Jesus a beautiful man!

  • Jteal5794

    “The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is His name!”  Too many modern ‘worship’ songs paint God as anything but.  We need more songs like Kutless’ “Strong Tower”, or the awesome song “Ride With Me”.  I gave up being a ‘worship leader’ when the songs became uncomfortably lovey-dovey (“draw me gently to my knees and I’m, lost for words, so lost in love, I’m sweetly broken, wholly surrendered”?!?  Really???), subliminally sexualized messes.  I have a severe problem with the whole ‘warmth of your embrace’ stuff.  I don’t even sing much anymore at all, because this metrosexual Jesus has taken over the church, along with the “We’re nothing but navel lint” songs that diminish the Work of Christ in us.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charlotte-Norton/61205798 Charlotte Norton

    Am I missing something, or aren’t most worship songs written and performed by men? How can people then say that they don’t reflect what men really want? I can’t even sing along to half of them because they are pitched too high for the female voice. When I lead worship I have to get someone cleverer than myself to transpose them down two or three keys (and I have a high voice!).

  • http://www.servicemusic.org.uk/ David Lee

    Charlotte, you raise some interesting points.

    Taking the “most written by men”.  They’re written by the subset of men (and some women) whose writing conforms to the marketing pressures of the “Christian” publishing industry, namely the monochrome quasi-monopoly of Kingsway/Hillsongs/etc. that every church feels it needs to buy into in order to conform to the established religion of comfortable Western feelings-based “worship” (inverted commas intentional) which entertains us and makes us feel “anointed” (inverted commas intentional).  The marketing forces drive it towards passive, emotion-based entertainment.  So the subset of material and writers marketed at us is skewed and twisted.  The majority of the buyers of such CDs are women; human nature being what it is, they’ll tend to buy “lovey-dovey” material sung by suitor-like young men.

    Pitch:  Following on from the above, they are pitched so they sound good for the entertainment CD, which is about relatively high-pitched soloists performing to us.  This is a world away from a congregation actively involved in corporate singing (e.g. trad hymns, the material of John Bell, Iona, etc.).

    Congregation or worship leader?  Charlotte, re-read your own questions and see how much they are focussed onto the worship leader (e.g. “performed by men”;  “I [a WL] can’t sing along”; “when I lead I have to transpose down”, etc.)  But then consider… shouldn’t the focus be on the congregation?  All those aspects you raise should (in my ever so humble opinion!) be focussed on enabling active congregational song.

    All these various presentation and performance aspects are biased, skewed and twisted by the marketing forces of religion towards us, and by our unthinking buying into all that.

    (And we haven’t even begun to look at the theological content…!)

  • John

    Right on and well said about the corporate singing…singing in church used to be inclusive, now it’s the exclusive domain of people on stage.

  • robotii

    Assumption. Maybe right, maybe wrong. Don’t think you can give a definitive answer either way. Remember that David was supposed to be a good looking guy.

  • robotii

    I think the main problem here is with the use of the word worship. Everybody on this site is using it as a replacement for singing, or music.

  • Cmorgan

    Good questions. Thank you-especially for suggesting that we examine our interpretations of masculinity and femininity.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charlotte-Norton/61205798 Charlotte Norton

    I find it interesting that you assert that traditional songs and John Bell’s songs are easier to sing. SOme of the Iona stuff is also pitched ridiculously high, as are some traditional hymns. Equally, some traditional hymns are laughable theologically.

    I go by the assumption that if it is too high for the musicians/singers to sing, then the congregation may well struggle as well. This is the reason why we transpose them down. Sorry if I got the emphasis wrong. At my church we do ‘blended’ worship, using traditional hymns, modern songs, Taize, Iona to name a few. We aim to use inclusive language and pitch songs where everyone can manage them. We have not always had a lead singer (a term I find better than “worship leader” although I know I didn’t use it in my original post) – we started to have one because we moved into a bigger building with poor acoustics and it seemed a good way to encourage the congregation to sing out. Since we have started to have more of a band (which incorporates the pipe organ as well as guitar, keyboard, drums) we have had very good feedback about he music in worship.

    I resist this notion that women want “lovey dovey” songs. I personally like songs with an easy to follow tune and good theological content. I resist the notion that by virtue of their gender women want ‘Jesus as their boyfriend’ songs (for a start, I am a gay woman!), which suggests that women are somhow more feeble and emotional. Or that emotions are bad. Either way, it’s a big pile of stereotype.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charlotte-Norton/61205798 Charlotte Norton

    I can do better – I can give you Bible references that basically say exactly the same thing (actually more explicitly) than that worship song…
    Psalm 135:5 “Our Lord is greater than all gods”
    Psalm 96:5 “He is to be feared above all other gods”
    Psalm 82:1 “He presides over the other gods”
    Psalm 136:2 “Give thanks to the God of gods”

  • Johnchuff

    touche

  • Snial

    Hmmm, on that particular song (though I don’t think it’s sung so much these days), surely the point of ‘sonship’ is less to do with gender, but more to do with being both heir and developing into the character of the father? In which case, “now I am your heir, I am adopted in your family” would be better as it has a meaning in contemporary culture that’s closer to the Biblical meaning than either Son or Child and (b) rhymes with ‘care’ in the previous line :-)

  • Pingback: Feminisation blog | Jlaura

  • http://www.facebook.com/aboutwd Rob Goodwin

    I don’t have a problem with the terms “I love you” or “You’re
    beautiful” when used in moderation. My issue is with the excess of highly romantic language being used
    these days.
    This passes for worship…”… lay my head back against your chest…”
    “.. I want to be laid down lovers…”
    “…You could love me more in a moment then all the other lovers could in a lifetime…”
    Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wb2oAt2GHx8
    I mean… really? You expect me, as a man, to sing this garbage?
    I don’t think so.

  • April K

    My question is, why do we have to call it the “feminisation” of worship? Why not call it the “bastardisation” of worship, or the “watering down” of worship, or maybe just “false” or “improper” worship? Worship is worship; there aren’t masculine and feminine ways of worshiping. I know about the scripture that says the “effeminate” (men with female characteristics) will not inherit the kingdom of God, but I don’t see how that applies to worship. Maybe if the men are dancing around in frilly dresses? “Feminisation” is a loaded term that implies any characteristics seen as feminine are inherently wrong or ungodly. And it makes women feel degraded and alienated from the conversation. In heaven, we’ll all worship in the same manner–and according to Revelations, it won’t be by singing songs about war or standing around totally composed. I think our culture has warped our view of gender.

  • Paul

    You know how sometimes you read a comment on a blog post which is better than the blog post itself? I think you nailed it with this comment.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charlotte-Norton/61205798 Charlotte Norton

    The fact that he was good looking does not mean she threw herself at him or that it is impossible that he coerced her. Women had little power as it was, plus David was the king so she could hardly have said “no” even if she had wanted to.