Bizarro Church, and What We Can Do to Save American Christianity


Bizarro SupermanI grew up in an age of comic book superheroes. Spider-Man debuted just months before I was born, and as a child, I endlessly watched the old George Reeves Superman TV show.

About four years before my own debut, at a point that can only be considered a creative nadir, the writers of the Superman comic came up with an anti-Superman called Bizarro. His powers were the opposites of most of Superman’s, and though he was none too bright,  he gave the Man of Steel fits.

Bizarro hailed from a square planet, Bizarro World. Later, as is wont in comic books, publisher DC kept enhancing Bizarro World, adding Bizarro copies of favorite DC denizens Batman and Wonder Woman.

To me, there’s nothing more idiotic in comics than the whole Bizarro idea (well, if you ignore all the desperate comic book universe reboots and their inane explanations).

Sometimes, I feel like I’m trapped in Bizarro Church.

At the beginning of 2012, I wrote about the organic/house church movement and my frustrations with even finding an existing church in that mode in my area, much less one that seemed vibrant and growing (“Is the Organic House Church a Myth?“). That post eventually generated 100+ comments, as many shared my frustration or felt they needed to comment on my rightness or wrongness.

Unlike some bloggers, I don’t close my comments after a period of time. You can comment on a post I wrote a decade ago, if you wish. Over this past weekend, a reader commented on that older post that he shared my frustrations with the oddities and rarity of the organic/house church.

Now let’s discuss the brouhaha that erupted by bringing in the “Gentlemen.”

When the post first came out in January 2012, Gentleman A commented on it and seemed to be an organic church leader. I’m not sure how, but the sudden, recent activity on that post’s comments by that reader commenting sucked in Gentleman B, who, out of nowhere, wrote a screed against Gentleman A, claiming A was some hellraiser bent on destroying the real organic church and its leaders. This was followed by Gentleman C, who often decloaks from nowhere and comments. In this case, Gentleman C wrote to the reader and repeated the annoyingly frustrating organic church habit of sharing how organic church is thriving like crazy in every place where the reader (blog owner included) does not live. Later, Gentleman D, also out of nowhere, wrote me a personal email, noting how Gentleman A is slandering him all over the Web. Evidently, Gentleman D was tipped off to the presence of the seemingly innocuous comments of Gentleman A because of what Gentleman B wrote. And, with a little research, it seems Gentleman D and Gentleman B are connected through the same organic church organization.

In short, a few organic church “leaders” swarmed in and started accusing each other or making the usual unhelpful comments.

Adding to this, my post on Christian singles from a few years ago (“The Christian Singles Mess“) saw a reader comment turn into a diatribe against younger Christian men and their inability to grow up, make good money, and become a proper husband for the commenter.

I’ve been a Christian going on four decades, and I’ll tell you honestly that sometimes I just want to chuck the whole enterprise. And I’m not talking about my blog.

How did the Church in this country get to be such a mess? From the Bizarro behavior associated with this organic/house church fiasco to the Bizarro “everyone else is a loser but me” kind of commentary, it all seems so idiotic as to strain credulity. You begin despairing that whatever it is that Jesus started, we’re not anywhere close to that organization in any way, shape, or form. We instead seem to be practicing a Bizarro form of church that exemplifies everything that is wrong in the world.

Worse, when Bizarro Church grabs the spotlight, immediately we get its apologists, who claim that it’s impossible for sinners to run a decent, sensical church—an idea I reject in toto.

How is it that so few people can see through all this obfuscating garbage? Why is it that no one seems to take basic, commonsense Christianity to heart?

How do we fix this Bizarro Church behavior and get back to the main and the plain?

1. Folks, we are dust. So is everyone else. And dust shouldn’t have such a high opinion of itself.

Here is what Jesus said:

“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
—Luke 18:10-14 ESV

I am sick to death of the lack of humility everywhere I look in the Church. If we don’t repent of our pride, we are wasting our time being the Church, because we won’t be, no matter how much we tell ourselves we are.

2. We think we have a handle on life. We don’t. Time to grow up and experience a reality check.

Here is what Jesus observed:

And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
—Matthew 9:35-36 ESV

I will repeat what I have said often elsewhere on this blog: Most people are just trying to get by. Do we have compassion on them? They may get by in a sinful, stupid way, but they are trying to get from Point A to Point B in any way they think is possible. What stupid things are you and I doing to get by? Because I can promise you that we are sheep too.

3. We say the harshest things to and about each other. We should stop. Now.

Here is what Jesus said:

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
—Matthew 5:21-26 ESV

Later in the Scriptures we are told that Christians are ambassadors who have been blessed with the ministry of reconciliation. Are we acting that way? Is reconciliation at the heart of what we do as believers? If not, why not?

4. What we learned about Christian practice as children seems to be forgotten in our “maturity.” That’s an enormous loss.

Here is what Jesus said:

“Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”
—Mark 10:15 ESV


“And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.”
—Luke 6:31 ESV

Really, how hard is it to ask oneself before any interaction with others, Is this how I would want to be treated? I mean, didn’t all of us learn The Golden Rule when we were 3 or 4 years old, even if we never stepped foot into a church? If so, how is it that we treat others so atrociously?

5. Whatever it is that is wrong with someone else, what is wrong with you and me is probably bigger. How can this not sober us?

Here is how Jesus said it:

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.”
—Luke 6:41-42 ESV

Nothing amazes me more—or frustrates more—than people who read their Bible every single day without a miss and yet they’ve never incorporated into their lives the most well-known and obvious passages. If that’s the case, stop with dutiful Bible study, because it’s not penetrating that cold, dead heart, and we’re just wasting our time unless the Holy Spirit gets ahold of us and we repent.


I’m sickened by all this immaturity. Really. None of us is listening to what the Spirit is saying to the American Church. We are all self-righteous prigs, and we seem satisfied with our state.

Stop it.

Bizarro Church sucks. Period. And yet it seems to be what we’re perpetrating on the world.

Some are searching the skies for Superman to appear and fix everything. Here’s a clue: You and I are Superman. But only if we stop living in this Bizarro World of our own making and start living the way Jesus can empower us to.

Feminism, Singleness, and the Idol of the Nuclear Family


Every now and then a post seems to erupt in the Godblogosphere. The latest is Denny Burk’s “A Sad Tale of Feminism Gone to Seed.” As they say, read the whole thing.

The gist of the Burk post is that feminism sold author Elizabeth Wurtzel (of Prozac Nation fame) a trunkload of hooey that resulted in the life she now decries in a New York Magazine article. Some of that lament:

It had all gone wrong. At long last, I had found myself vulnerable to the worst of New York City, because at 44 my life was not so different from the way it was at 24. Stubbornly and proudly, emphatically and pathetically, I had refused to grow up, and so I was becoming one of those people who refuses to grow up—one of the city’s Lost Boys. I was still subletting in Greenwich Village, instead of owning in Brooklyn Heights. I had loved everything about Yale Law School—especially the part where I graduated at 40—but I spent my life savings on an abiding interest, which is a lot to invest in curiosity. By never marrying, I ended up never divorcing, but I also failed to accumulate that brocade of civility and padlock of security—kids you do or don’t want, Tiffany silver you never use—that makes life complete. Convention serves a purpose: It gives life meaning, and without it, one is in a constant existential crisis. If you don’t have the imposition of family to remind you of what is at stake, something else will. I was alone in a lonely apartment with only a stalker to show for my accomplishments and my years.

I was amazed to discover that, according to The Atlantic, women still can’t have it all. Bah! Humbug! Women who have it all should try having nothing: I have no husband, no children, no real estate, no stocks, no bonds, no investments, no 401(k), no CDs, no IRAs, no emergency fund—I don’t even have a savings account. It’s not that I have not planned for the future; I have not planned for the present. I do have a royalty account, some decent skills, and, apparently, a lot of human capital. But because of choices I have made, wisely and idiotically, because I had principles or because I was crazy, I have no assets and no family. I have had the same friends since college, although as time has gone on, the daily nature of those relationships has changed, such that it is not daily at all. But then how many lost connections make up a life? There is my best friend from law school, too busy with her toddler; the people with whom I spent New Year’s in a Negril bungalow not so long ago, all lost to me now; every man who was the love of my life, just for today; roommates, officemates, classmates: For everyone who is near, there are others who are far gone.

Burk then adds his commentary:

Wurtzel famously has a knack for finding the dark side of everything. Certainly here she has found the dark side of feminism. There is a price to pay when one trades her birthright for a mess of pottage. The trap of feminism is that so few modern people can see it for the mess of pottage that it is. Even Wurtzel misses it, though she feels deeply the pain of it.

I do not believe feminism is to blame for all women who find themselves single. Nor do I think that feminism alone accounts for all the moral pathologies on display in Wurtzel’s article. But I do believe that feminism has provided the social context for women to be congratulated by the culture for sad choices that they make.

The comments on Burk’s site reveal that he went back and tempered the statement shown above to reduce some of the vitriol ladled out against feminism. Honestly, I wouldn’t backpedal. I think the brand of feminism that arose out of the 1960s has been at the root of a whole score of societal downturns and downright evils, many of which feminists themselves are only now—reluctantly—acknowledging.

But here’s my problem with Burk’s feminist straw man. I’ve known just as many Christian singles who have shared with me the same lament as Wurtzel’s, even down to the specifics.

Burk says the source of Wurtzel’s problem is feminism. But what is the source of the problem for Christian singles who are generational peers of Wurtzel’s? Can we still blame feminism? Or is the Church in the West somehow failing to address some lack in its vision?

I’ll be honest here. I have a strong aversion to pundits who like to throw stones at the glass house of “the bad guy” but who refuse to acknowledge the transparency and fragility of their own domicile. For some Christians, feminism is about as easy a target for stones as exists. Woo, how brave we are at mocking it!

Are we we doing anything about our own glass house, though? And if not, why expend energy to toss rocks at someone else’s house when we should be addressing our own inadequacies?

Here’s the fundamental problem in the Church in the West that leads to a similar lament among Christian peers of Wurtzel…

Wurtzel’s lament isn’t just about bad personal choices. In large part, it’s about broken community.

If you haven’t noticed, the Church in the West has not been stellar at combating breakdowns in societal structure and building up vital community. If anything, we’ve taken the majority of our energy and plowed it back into trying to shore up the nuclear family.

While building strong nuclear families is certainly a noble cause, could it be a case of the good being the enemy of the best?

A few comments by Jesus about family—and Gospel priorities:

And Peter said, “See, we have left our homes and followed you.” And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.”
—Luke 18:28-30 ESV

And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”
—Mark 3:31-35 ESV

And elsewhere it is noted:

To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am.
—1 Corinthians 7:8 ESV

I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.
—1 Corinthians 7:32-35 ESV

Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely separate me from his people”; and let not the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.” For thus says the LORD: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.”
—Isaiah 56:3-5 ESV

The problem is that we don’t really believe or practice any of those verses.

If I were the keynote speaker at a Christian conference on marriage and family and said that I believe that the proper order of importance in my life, from most important to less important, is

  1. God
  2. Spouse
  3. My children

I would get a hearty round of Amens.

But if I said that I believe that this order and the words above from Jesus and other Bible authors say that I must also consider the following prioritized order

  1. Family of God
  2. My nuclear family

I would predict dead silence. Or close to it.

We simply don’t want to give Family of God the place it deserves. We’re not only averse to putting it before nuclear family, we’re not even sure it should rank as number two. Number one is completely out.

Is it any wonder then that single people “of a certain age” feel like the crazy aunt locked in the church attic? God may think differently, but we like our “eunuchs” to remain dry trees.

A man over 50 years of age visits your church. He seems devout, perhaps a bit too much so, and he talks about loving God, perhaps a bit too much. But for all his talk of love, he is unmarried and seems to want to stay that way. And while he is a great preacher, he dresses a bit frumpy and doesn’t seem to care for his personal appearance the way you think he should. He unnerves you because you can’t figure him out. You wonder about motives. Why is he single? What’s the story there? Really, he was never married? You begin to wonder about how safe your kids are around that man.

What if I told you that this was the Apostle Paul?

A lot of sincere Christian singles feel that same scorn in the Church. They know people are asking questions about them. They not only have to own up to their own decisions about life and whether or not they’ve made the right decisions, Single, white, female, alone by herselfbut they have the married folks in the church second-guessing their decisions too. It’s a burden that Christian singles bear that their non-Christian counterparts may not always deal with. Which only makes it tougher.

Because we may have our priorities wrong with the Family of God and nuclear family, we can’t get community right. And singles are usually the first to suffer for that inability. Our communities not only prove to be unfulfilling to marrieds with children (who counter the lack by retreating further into their nuclear family), but those failed attempts at community let down singles even more. Single Christians suffer the same lament as Wurtzel of wondering where everyone went in their lives, and how is it that they get left out of whatever dregs of community exist? And why is it that when THEY go looking for some kind of human interaction to fill that void, and THEY make a mistake with handling it, THEY get singled out for righteous scorn?

Really, Church, just what are we offering better to singles with regard to community than what the broken world offers?

Denny Burk ends his article:

He did not make us unisex. He did not make us genderless humanoids with no direction for our intimate lives. He made us male and female. And for those to whom it has been given, He made us to give ourselves away to years of finding stale Cheerios in every hidden crevice of the minivan, to seasons of graduations and of anniversaries and of empty nests, to gray years with the love of your life who is your best friend, to lifetimes of covenant love.

Feminism is the killer of that dream, even though precious few seem to notice.

Note the odd pairing of and for those to whom it has been given with that dream. That’s the classic marriage/singleness dichotomy of Evangelicalism on display. We tell singles that their calling is a wonderful one, yet the married life is the real dream.

Here’s reality: Feminism should not be the killer of that dream. Jesus should be. And Evangelicals need to stop pushing one option as a “dream” and another as a “calling,” because when you come to Jesus, all bets about dream fulfillment are off. That idol should go away. And boy, have we made an idol of the nuclear family.

But the dream/idol talk persists because there’s not really much of anything else for people, at least when it comes to community, because we have yet to figure out how real Christian community works. Especially for those who are single. Which is why their lament sounds an awful lot like Wurtzel’s.

And we can’t easily blame that on feminism, now can we?

The Truth About Women (and Men)


After Brian Colmery said such nice things about me, I’m going to take him to task a little for his post “The Need for Protection in the Church” because I think it presents an overly romanticized view of women, men, and our cultural assumptions. Playing into the theme we see so often on TV of men who are utter dolts but are married to women who possess the wisdom of Solomon and the patience of Job, Women of Olden TimesBrian gets a little lopsided on who’s to blame for the sorry state of relationships.

This all started because of an article in the laddie magazine Maxim in which advice is given to guys looking to score with “church babes.” However, if you really want to go back to the source, John Steinbeck’s classic, The Grapes of Wrath, features a minister who advises that the best time to take advantage of a young woman is right after she’s walked out of the Sunday morning service. You’d be frightened at how accurate that statement is. Mixing the emotional nearness that people feel worshiping the Lord with romantic feelings of love and nearness to another person is all too easy to do.

But Brian weighs in:

I have plenty of thoughts on the issues that men have in the church – including, but not limited to, the fact that they’ve lost any coherent concept of masculinity, they need books telling them to go hunt things in the woods to awaken the “man within,” the single ones tend to be deathly afraid of speaking to women of any type, not to mention that they haven’t the foggiest idea of how to properly treat a woman (which involves cherishing, caring for, appreciating, encouraging, and protecting, not stammering in front of and equivocating on everything under the sun). These issues, while the root of the problem, have given birth to one of the saddest and most ignored issues in church life: the lack of protection of our women.

Now I don’t disagree with Brian on the issue of protection. Nor do I disagree with his trashing of the inane culture we’ve made out of Wild at Heart. Whenever I hear that men are bored in church, I have to ask myself how bored we can be when we’ve all got responsibility to not only ensure the protection of our own kids, but also the sons and daughters of all the other people in the church. Honestly, few things in this life are more precious than young women and young men growing into their adulthood. Our lame-brained rugged individualism in the American Church, though, has told us that someone else’s kids are not our problem, so it’s no wonder that our teens and tweens are getting picked off by the Enemy.

Brian goes on:

We’ve failed on two fronts, and the article makes it obvious. The first is that women in the church have been exposed to such weaklings in the pews next to them that they are tempted to connect with men who haven’t been born again. The fact that Christian men today do not stand out as above and beyond non-believing men in terms of their moral core, security (in Christ), capacity to make decisions and create, to work and make difficult decisions and simply to stand, is a blight not only on Christian men but on the God they serve. With the very Spirit of God living inside their chest, they squelch it enough to come off as spineless.

Whoa. That’s a pretty heavy accusation and one that I must say has not been my experience in toto. I’ll talk more about this in a bit.

Brian’s second point:

The same insecurity and androgyny that has led Christian men away from their rightful place as the culmination of masculinity has prevented them from being able – and even willing – to protect the women God has placed around them in their church. Again, women are more than capable to make good decisions, and yet I can’t help but feel (and read in the bible) that men have a responsibility to care for and cherish the women God has put in their lives. This shouldn’t have to involve a “program” effort, where this is outlined in three points and given out in memo form to the congregation. This desire to protect and cherish should arise from the inside of every man. And yet, if it must be programmed, let it be. The women in our churches are being preyed on by men who have nothing but their worst interest in mind. And the first line of defense has laid down their arms and sat down.

While I’ll certainly be scourged for offering that most young women I see in churches today are making terrible decisions, I’m going to stick with that for now. More in a little bit.

He finishes with this:

Anyone who isn’t a member of the church community and attempts (or even desires) to get close to a female member should have to go through the men of that community. Not in an “ask the father first” sort of way, but, well, yeah. Shouldn’t the men in the community be of such a caliber that the women would seek out their advice (in the same way that the women of the community should be of such a caliber that the men should seek out their advice)? And shouldn’t it be understood that there are men of such a caliber surrounding the women of a church community that wolves know not to enter there?

Now I’m going to weigh in based on my own experiences over the last nearly thirty years of being a Christian.

When I was a single Christian guy I know that just about everyone in the church around me held me in high esteem. I was teaching Bible studies by the time I was sixteen and discipling others. No one ever said a bad word about me. I was a clean-cut kid, 6′ 4″ tall, strong as an ox, well-built, smart, and fine to look at. I treated every woman I dated like an absolute queen and was universally acclaimed for my creative dates that made women feel special. Despite this, I lasted a very long time “on the market.”

If we applied Brian’s standard of masculinity here, I should have had the young women in the churches I was a part of fighting to be seen with me in public. So what was the problem?

Having a lot of time to think about this over the years, I’ve come to a few conclusions:

1. Many women today want financial security above all else

I never saw the guys who were ultimately on the fast-track career path suffering for the ladies, no matter how cloddish, caddish, or half-hearted about the things of the Lord they were. To a lot of young women, money alone talked. I’d chosen to go into camping ministry—not a direct path to being Bill Gates. I even had one girl I was particularly enamored with tell me that she didn’t see how I could fulfill her monetary aspirations making less than a thousand dollars a month out in the woods somewhere. Well, at least she was honest!All those guys I knew who were poor, but loved the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength…well the ladies weren’t banging down their doors. Sure, if one of those poor guys was going into the ministry, he might get a few takers. But the poor laborer rarely got a second look from the girls who ran in the church circles I did. Makes you wonder what the real priorities are and where those young women were getting those priorities.

2. All that most young women today know is the fallout of feminism

The Church in America bought the lies of feminism, and like Pandora’s Box, going back to what pre-feminist womanhood in the Church was like borders on being delusional. The same goes for manhood. The very foundations of our culture have changed because of feminism and the Church seems to be okay with what that has wrought, sadly. We may talk about spineless men, but that pandemic erupted because of feminism.I’ve talked much about the radical shifts in the work world and how they affected Christians, but few seismic shifts were greater than women entering the workplace. Now I’m not trying to excuse the Neanderthal mentality of men at work, but the repeated assaults they encountered for doing all the things men for years were told they needed to do with regards to women and to work made them gunshy. Rather than face a lawsuit for saying, “That’s a pretty dress,” or getting screamed at for holding a door open, men got used to ignoring women at work altogether for fear of losing their jobs. Better not to say or do anything that was formerly consider gallant than to say or do something that an “emancipated” woman would deem inappropriate. This has even gone so far that the military explicitly teaches young men (now that women make up a large part of our armed forces) to ignore the sounds of women soldiers being raped and tortured.

All this has carried over into the American Church. This does not excuse it at all, but to get at the root of the problem, the Church has to question some assumptions that it holds about the workplace, sex roles, and culture in general that it absolutely is not willing to discuss for fear of being branded “out of touch” or “patriarchal.” We’d rather get riled up about gay marriage than to question if women should be assuming work roles that were prototypically male. I don’t see James Dobson railing about lowering standards for firefighters and police to ensure that enough women can fill those roles. We conceded that issue a long, long time ago.

3. Our expectations about adulthood have changed

In the not-so-distant past, unmarried children stayed home with their parents until they eventually did get married. That was the Christian norm. However, many Christians today are of the opinion that kicking Johnny or Janey out of the house at eighteen is the godly thing to do. As a result, Johnny and Janey better have some marketable skills or else they’re dead in the workplace water. With college becoming the de facto requirement for getting a real adult job, if a young man or woman doesn’t leave the shelter of home for college, their chances for “making it” go down considerably. Yet as we all know, college has become a hive of sin, even, sadly, at a Christian college.Yet what option is given to Christian young people anymore? Unmarried Christian women aren’t at home learning how to become “a homemaker” like they used to be. Instead, they’re expected to be out on their own, making their own decisions, and earning a living. Again, much of this is do to feminism, but it’s hard to fault men entirely for this outcome. Is it any wonder that problems result?

4. Our culture denigrates the role of the elderly in aiding youth

    We have a tendency to shuttle our old people out of the way by sticking them in nursing homes or lumping them into church groups designated especially for them. But that lack of integration into the functioning community, even in churches, keeps the wisdom of the elderly away from the young people who need it the most. Grandparents used to have a much more important role in mitigating youth problems than they do today. This puts young people at a great disadvantage to their peers of a hundred years ago. Many youth live nowhere near their grandparents, either, but you don’t hear the Church saying anything about how following jobs around the country has broken up the extended family.

5. We set-up singles (and couples) for moral failure

Because our churches corral singles into peer groups, we fail them. We toss sexually-frustrated people into a sexually-frustrated pool and expect folks to be paragons of virtue. It’s like asking a starving dog not to eat the steak we just tossed him. Even the Church has an obsession with career success and this has led young men and women to stay single longer. It only invites moral failure. Again, the Church is sitting on the sidelines and encouraging behavior that only creates wounded people.Because our churches don’t begin marriage and family classes for kids as young as ten, we fail them. Domestic abuse in my area of Ohio is rampant. One reason is that we don’t teach boys at an early age to never strike a woman—ever. Worse still, we never teach young women to avoid the losers out there who are most likely to hit them at some time in their relationship. I know so many promising young women dating guys who are losers, it’s not funny. One of the girls I dated broke up with me and started dating a guy who abused her. She then turned around and started crying on my shoulder about it, while still dating the guy. Folks, that’s pathological, but more common than we care to admit.

(For more on this particular issue, read “Singleness: Radical Answers for a Harsh Reality“.)

6. Our youth groups aren’t discouraging a Girls Gone Wild mentality

When I was in youth group, activities for the sexes were often segregated. The guys played football while the girls did whatever the girls did. (Hey, I wasn’t a girl, so I didn’t know what they did.) But not only have youth activities gotten wilder and stupider, but there’s no keeping the girls out of that craziness. But girls and boys are different. If we open young women to the inane things that boys do, we give them the option to act just as stupid. In our efforts to make our youth groups cool enough to keep kids from dropping out, we’ve inadvertently encouraged the Girls Gone Wild culture.Should we be surprised then that young women today are remarkably aggressive compared to their peers from just thirty years ago? There’s a hardness there that shouldn’t be in a woman, especially a Christian one. Unfettered from whatever expectations we placed on feminine propriety back then, girls today look at themselves as being just like the boys. This is not to say that the boys don’t have a responsibility to grow up, but that we’ve crushed one of the bulwarks of human society: female normalization of males. With the girls out trying to be one of the boys instead of being solidly female, you can’t put all the blame on the boys if they respond to the girls as being just one of the guys, albeit with a different sexual attraction. That only leads to trouble.

7. We’ve encouraged young women to be their own bosses

All the issues I raised above have led to today’s young women thinking that they need nothing from men, especially protection. The problem for men here is that any man with a spine attempting to look out for a girl on the verge of making a mistake is more likely to get a “Butt out” as a response than a “Thank you for protecting me.” I know that this has been the response I’ve received whenever I’ve questioned a young woman about here choice of a guy.Empowering young women to be the masters of their own fate has had this two-edged sword effect: yes, they are more confident in their decision making, but the decisions reached are often ill-advised. And no amount of pressure will change their minds. Given the cultural edicts we’ve erected even within the Church, our hand is forced unless we are willing to question the entire basis of modern femininity within the whole Church structure. As far as I can see, no one is willing to start this kind of soul-searching.

I could go on and on.

But my point here is the same one I made in “Are You a Hamster?” when I responded to Douglas Groothuis: The fix is too simplistic. To Brian I say that it is not enough to ask men to get a spine. All sorts of deep, deep cultural and Church issues are involved here. If we do not deal with those underlying issues, all the backbones in the world won’t help.

In summary, the Church must start questioning

  • How we prepare young people for marriage
  • What expectations we set in others for determining a good marriage partner
  • What makes a true man or woman of God
  • What cultural values support or detract from godliness in our sexual roles
  • The inroads that feminism has made into Church practice and the subsequent cultural expectations of Christians
  • Whether defaulting to kicking the kids out at eighteen or sending them off to college is the way of Christ
  • Whether we are contributing to the manliness of women
  • Whether the measure of a man, at least the one is that women seem to be prioritizing, is how much money he makes or how successful his career is rather than the depth of his love for Christ.
  • Whether women belong in the roles that formerly were held solely by men

Maintaining the sexual status quo we’ve adopted in the Church over the last forty years won’t cut it anymore. It’s not enough to grow a spine unless that spine is able to bear up under tough questions about womanhood and manhood in the American Church and the culture at large.

Are we ready to question it all?