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Another Media Misunderstanding of Things Religious

Another Media Misunderstanding of Things Religious

    The headline on the front page of The Hartford Courant this morning (09/05/07) shouts:

    This is news? 

    Had the pollsters quoted in the report consulted me I could have spared them the cost of their survey of 488 respondents. The contrast between men and women in loyalty to the church has been a fact of my pastoral experience for the past fifty plus years.  Women have always been the majority in my congregations on a Sunday morning, and not just because they outlive men on average by several years.

    In the light of the two most recent essays on this website, I may have a second career correcting the misunderstanding of the first estate by the fourth estate.

    Let's begin with the use of the word "spiritual" in the headline.  The reporter confuses church-going with spiritual.  Yes, women are more likely to attend worship than men; and, yes, they are more likely to describe themselves as religious.  But men are more spiritual.  And that isn't necessarily a good thing, being spiritual.  Osama bin Laden is very spiritual.  Jimmy Baker is very spiritual.  Ayatollah Khomeini was very spiritual.  Alonzo Torquemada was very spiritual.  Meir Kahane was very spiritual.  The Plymouth Colony Puritans who decimated the Wampanoags were very spiritual. 

    Men, mostly.  Spiritual, certainly.  Men have been the idealists in history.  That is, men, not women, are the ones who get carried away by ideas.  Maybe feminism will even it all out.  I hope not.  History, including plenty of recent history, provides ample unhappy evidence of what happens when ideas are followed to their logical conclusion uncorrected by the realities of  human experience.  Most noteworthy, communism, a beautiful idea of total equality enforced by stifling and brutal means.  Or the vision of the fundamentalists, here and there, who believe, truly believe, that a government not just under God but by God (at least as they understand God and God's rules) would be tantamount to heaven on earth; but with whom to disagree would be hell on earth.

    Name the philosophers who have shaped the intellectual history of the world and the the list will be a roll call of patriarchs.

    Women, up to this generation at least, have had more important things on their minds. People.  Feminine spirituality tends to be more relational and less ideological. Maybe it's because women are the bearers of life.  No man, to the best of my knowledge, has yet given birth to a baby.  Like a wiser man than me said, "Motherhood is a vocation while fatherhood is an avocation."  Women are nurturers by nature.  When the church couples meet, the men discuss baseball, while the women talk about their children.  The PTA might better be named MTA, and I don't mean Metropolitan Transportation Authority. When I as a pastor needed someone to tell my troubles to, other than Barbara, nine times out of ten it would be a woman in the church.  Because (as commented a male friend of mine bereft of his wife, explaining his fondness for female companionship) women know better than most men how to listen. 

    Another thought on women's superior spirituality, especially as I have witnessed it in Christian churches: they sense a kinship with Jesus.  Takes one to know one.  Jesus' spirituality is relational not ideological, no matter what Dr. James Dobson says.  In the Galilean's preaching and teaching the first and greatest commandment, to love God, is inextricably linked with the second greatest commandment, the human relational one, to love our neighbors as ourselves.  Forget about standing on principle, in Jesus' book the theme is compassion. 

    One parting shot at the pollsters and the reporter in The Courant: they seem to think what they have discovered is an American phenomenon.  Fact is, most of Western Europe would make an even greater contrast between men and women. Only those societies and communities where father still knows best boast greater male involvement in religion.  Think orthodoxy of every stripe and, what goes hand in hand with such conviction, male supremacy.    

    On the other hand, maybe it was just a slow news day today in Hartford.

  



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