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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Short Form, Grey Morning

Scolding crows scatter

like seeds from shattered pods,

smatter of rain on breeze.


Thursday, July 2, 2015

Think Twice Before Throwing Out Quilts

One Sunday on an NPR show about religion I heard an interview with David Murrow, the author of Why Men Hate Going to Church. His basic thesis is simple. Everything about churches, he says, from the hymns to the religious metaphors to the flowers on the altar and quilts on the wall is aimed at women. Church is too feminine. Christianity, he might have said, has been feminized, and there’s not much room in churches for men to feel comfortable.

He objected several times in the interview to lace and quilts. Not manly. I’ve seen churches that featured, along with women’s handcrafted quilts, beautiful pieces of woodwork by men. In the interview, Murrow did not suggest bringing in men’s work, only throwing out women’s.

Get rid of the flowers, too, he says. Flowers are “feminine”? Flowers, I would remind Mr. Murrow, possess not only pistils but also stamens. Flowers are part of nature, i.e., creation. This is a problem?

When it comes to the hymns, I’m afraid Murrow has cherry-picked his facts. He cites “Onward, Christian Soldiers” as the old kind of hymn a man could sing but ignores a 1913 hymn often sung, in the old midcentury (20th) days, on the very same Sundays,  In the Garden," by Charles A. Miles. Sappy, romantic, elevator-type hymns are nothing new. Actually, “In the Garden” was one of my father’s favorites. How many hymns over the centuries have been of the martial variety, anyway? And should churches really be in the business of reviving the Crusades?

My own problem with most modern “praise music” isn’t that it’s “feminine” but that it’s sappy. That is, it sounds sappy to me. When I go to church, I don’t want to hear elevator music. For a lot of younger people, though, it’s what they’ve grown up with, and to them it is church music.

When asking why women outnumber men in churches, here are a few demographic facts the author might have consulted. More boy babies than girl babies are born, but beginning with the 25-54 age group, females outnumber males in the U.S., and the difference grows greater with age. For the 65+ age group in 2010, there were 132 for every hundred men.

As for the metaphors, I’m afraid Murrow is asking that Scripture be thrown out with the bathwater. He objects to the term “lost,” for instance, saying that men don’t like thinking of themselves as lost, which is why they hate asking for directions. So that parable of the lost sheep? Get rid of it! 

(If you’re curious about other parables, here’s a listBut be forewarned: You’ll find flowers! If you find admonitions to be a brave soldier or a captain of industry, let me know.) 

Murrow is also down on all “relationship” talk in the church. “Love thy neighbor”? “God is love”? Feminine talk! That won’t bring in “the guys,” as he calls them. Guys don't like to hear about relationships!

A long-time woman in local politics used to say she had learned years before from her mentor, “You gotta take care of your base!” Remember the Aesop fable of the dog who saw his reflection in the water and thought he was looking at another dog who had a bone? Those tempted to follow Mr. Morrow’s advice should think carefully about the ambitious reach they are contemplating.

If someone who has not read and does not plan to read a certain book can write a review of it, then this is a book review. Otherwise, I don't know what to call it. You be the judge.

One final word:

At the annual St. Wenceslaus chicken dinner, the men of the church cook the chicken, and they do a fantastic job of it. Real men are not scared away by  the presence of quilts.

Quilts at St. Wenceslaus Church, Gills Pier, Michigan