P & W and the Wussification of the Church

Increasingly, our culture is refusing to let boys be boys. Comedian Brad Stine calls it “the wussification of America.” The newly prevalent attitude is that if you are a guy, and you have a spine, you must be a Neanderthal. Masculine strength is scorned and has been replaced by a new standard of masculinity that is disturbingly effeminate. This of course is linked to the gay movement, but it has become so pervasive that you can find the “new type” being represented in all sorts of contexts…even the Church.

The idea of the “sensitive guy” today is not what it used to be. The “sensitive guy” used to be a tormented hero (e.g. Marlon Brando, James Dean), who needs a pure female to rescue him from his inner conflict and work a redemptive change in his character. Today, the sensitive guy is not merely rescued by his female counter-part. He’s expected to submit to her. If he doesn’t, the knee-jerk reaction is, “Well why don’t you just drag her by the hair to your cave while you’re at it?” In short, loving authority is now equated with being a jerk.

What are the observable results of this feminizing trend in the Church? They are legion, but here’s one: Nice, young, evangelical Christian guys, under cultural pressure to downplay their masculine instincts, are becoming “sensitive” instead. This is tangibly manifested in many different ways, including effeminate haircuts and earrings (???), but another key factor in this process has been the introduction into the evangelical world of “love songs for Jesus.” We’ve seen a massive increase in the number of these types of songs among evangelicals in the past two decades, until now you pretty much can’t swing a dead cat without bumping into one on the radio or in a worship service. And any guy who might feel uncomfortable singing them fears that he will be challenged by his guy friends, “Well I don’t feel ashamed to sing a love song for my Lord and Savior. What’s wrong with you, don’t you have a heart for God??” Under such an indictment, perhaps he swallows very hard and continues to sing “God, I am so in love with you.”

Or maybe he doesn’t. Maybe he says, “Forget this” and walks out. And maybe he doesn’t come back.

Simply put, men who come to church in order to escape a world trying to steal their identity are finding that the same process is taking place there too. At that point, either they are assimilated, or they are driven away. Neither of these options is good. And meanwhile, a whole generation of Christian boys are being taught to accept emasculating language without a trace of contrary instinct.

Is this a healthy thing? Should we be encouraging young men to “find their feminine side?” Or should we encourage young men to be… well, young men?

I appear not to be the only one who is concerned about these trends. I now yield the floor to Brother Paul Washer:

Men, here’s what I want you to realize. This will help you later on when you get married. Let’s say all hell’s breaking loose and everybody in the world has just come to your office with signs: “Down with you.” Everybody hates you, the world’s falling apart. Happens to me about every other day [laughter]. I get in my car and I drive home and I’m trying to get my heart right, and when I pull in that driveway, I do not get out of that car until I’ve settled some issues. It’s not about me, it’s not about my whining, it’s not about my needs, it’s not about my emotions, it’s not about any of that goofy stuff that people are telling you as men you need to be concerned about. My only concern is getting out of that car and walking into that house strong and joyful. ‘Cuz the burdens I’m supposed to carry as a man, my wife is not supposed to carry, nor are my children supposed to carry.

See, you’ve been told that you need to marry a woman who can just “carry you” basically, that you can “share all your emotions with.” Just die to your emotions, okay? Just die to all that psycho-babble and everything else you’ve been told that you ought to be feeling inside. Say “no” to your feelings and like my wife says, “Man up!” And just do it. Carry the burden. Cast your cares upon Christ, because your wife was not created to carry your burdens. Children were not created to carry your burdens. And brothers in Christ can carry some of your burdens, but guys, I want to tell you honestly, I see Christian guys get together  sharing their burdens, and they sound like a bunch of just girls. They’ve been trained to talk a certain way  …  There is a biblical casting your cares upon Christ, and there is one brother strengthening another brother, and that is good, and sometimes we all need that, but guys, we’re just so… You know, even the Christian songs today, I hear some of these guys singing these songs and they’re just whining about all their feelings. Makes me want to throw up. It’s not what you are. You’re being re-created in the image of something that’s not biblical. Again, don’t take this to an extreme … but be very careful. They’ve turned men into little emotional wastebaskets. And that’s not what we are.

The man has spoken. Can I get an Amen?

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30 Comments

Filed under Commentary, Faith and Culture

30 responses to “P & W and the Wussification of the Church

  1. K Payne

    I’ve got to agree with you on this. I play bass in my church and we do alot of this type of music and honestly there are some Sunday’s when I just want to pull my hair out. Other days, we pull out something completely different and I find my sanity again. It seems that in order to “conform ” to what the church music world is doing, you have to use this style to attract visitors and keep your members. I’m not saying we need to go back to just piano and organ “turn in your hymnal” music, but we need a balance in our song selection. Growing up in Independent Baptist churches, I’ve watched the slow change in music and it has become easier to sing in these places. On the other side though, some have gone so far over the edge that they have forgotten the people who helped start these churches and have lost tithing members because of music. Worship leaders need to be careful in what they introduce into their services. As Brad Stine says, “watch out for the wuss train.”

  2. Amy Herrera

    Once again, you guys leave my hair standing on end over a trend I didn’t even know had got this far. :D

    I partly know what you mean. It’s become popular to portray a strong man as a sort of he-man, bumbling, stupid, unacceptable to polite society. Even I make some jokes about “civilizing my husband,” but they’re just jokes, and coming from different cultures, he teases me about some things that he thinks are uncivilized as well! Your post made me think about something else. As a married lady, I have been at liberty this year to daydream all I want about having a family. :D Recently, it’s been somewhat obsessive. And I see all this stuff about guys, and how they’re supposed to help the mom, and how basically he’s supposed to be your attendant in childbirth, and honestly – I read some of that and think, “I just can’t imagine him doing that.” I don’t get mad because he doesn’t get gushy over some stuff. I didn’t marry him to be gushy. I married him because I need him to sit there and hold me while I cry. Even if he doesn’t have anything to say. (Well, that wasn’t the only reason, but you get what I’m saying.)

    On the other hand, there’s something else I don’t want us to forget, but I’ll split it into a separate comment.

  3. Amy Herrera

    As the culture train veers into the left ditch, let’s not all of us rush off into the right ditch. I don’t expect my husband to be joyful every day when he walks into the house. When his back hurts and his foot hurts and he was mistreated all day, he may just have enough strength to sit down at the table and ask for something to drink. Now I know that “joy” and “happiness” are not the same thing, but men are human too. The Bible said that woman was to be a “help” “meet” for man.

    I know one man (close enough family that it’s OK for me to know this) who greatly benefited from having a wife who could just listen to stuff that had been bottled up before. I guess what I’m worried about is that as we frantically tug the steering wheels back to the road, we could affect a lot of people who don’t have this problem. To indiscriminately tell someone to “say ‘no’ to your feelings” … That may not be the right advice either.

    I know this isn’t easy, but what we need to be doing is protecting ourselves from the other rhetoric. I don’t intend to set my girls down in front of movies with impossibly thin models, avidly follow the latest mishaps of celebrities, constantly talk about how I hate being five pounds overweight, and then try to caution them about their body image and anorexia. Likewise, I don’t intend to subject my boys to school programs that ask them to analyze their mushy-gushiness, take them to a church that emphasizes falling in love with Jesus instead of taking up the cross and following Him out to die, and then try to help them “man up” in the face of it.

    We can still protect our young people, and we must do it, whatever the price, or we will pay a price. If that means homeschooling, no TV or movies, no access to the internet until 13, or 16, or 18, I don’t care. I’m not saying all of this is always necessary, but do what is necessary. Does your church segregate young people and adults? Does it substitute fashionable rhetoric for Bible truth? Look for another church. Keep looking. I don’t care if you have to drive an hour one way. Start your own! Just do something! If your child were infected with cancer of the body, what would you do to restore him to health? We can’t make excuses. We have to live this ourselves, and “bring up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”

    • I think that Washer was intentionally exaggerating a bit just to emphasize how serious the problem had become. And he was careful to say that we don’t want to take things to an extreme in the other direction either.

      I quite agree with you about protecting children from the rhetoric of the other side. Just think of the many problems that could be taken care of just by homeschooling alone! And I’m quite sure that Washer would agree with you too. In fact, he talks a lot about being separate from the world—that’s really his signature topic. So he would be the first to say, “Heck yeah, if a church is going along with this garbage, find another church!”

      • Amy Herrera

        I’m sure that’s true. And I should remember that I’m not getting the full context here. But I will tell you, that considering I haven’t been exposed much to what he’s combating, it looks way too strong, even too harsh. So for his intended audience, I’m sure that what he’s doing is giving them permission to get back to God’s plan. But for some others I know, it would leave them quite bewildered.

        I also meant to say that there really are men who are much more emotional or sentimental than others. My dad is one, and yet he’d readily fit most of the “redneck” mold. I have a cousin who asked why it seems that some men really are predisposed to be homosexuals. He said he could sometimes guess by their personality, and was later confirmed. My opinion is that we have set up too strict a set of expectations of what is normal, and when a guy strays outside that, perhaps he’s afraid that he’s “abnormal,” and then when surrounded by today’s influences, he keeps on exploring what seems to be expected of him. I don’t want “rednecks” to feel they have to get in touch with their female side in order to have a rewarding marriage. I also don’t want men to think they have to keep sentimentality and tenderness under wraps in order not to be wusses. I have seen at least one very healthy family in which the woman was the rock-hard, don’t-cry-on-my-shoulder type, and I would guess the man provided some of the sympathetic ear. But he was still masculine.

        I’m not trying to be long-winded, for real, and even less am I trying to be argumentative. I do tend to play devil’s advocate some. :D I have a lot more to say, but I’ll try to shut it down here.

        Well, I should state my conclusion clearly – We need to let men develop freely. I like to say, “Personality is what God gives you. Character is what you do with it.” That was my point earlier – try to avoid the pressures of either side as much as possible, and get quiet enough to hear the still, small voice.

      • Well, a man’s lending a sympathetic ear to his wife fits very well within what’s expected of him as the husband.

  4. Nate

    I agree with most of what you’re saying, but I thought I’d point something out.

    Remember that the church is the Bride of Christ: doesn’t the Bride have to truly fall in love with the Bridegroom? (What about Song of Solomon? And are we not, both male and female, made in HIS image?) We are His children – He is our Father. We are is Bride – He is the Bridegroom. We are His sheep – He is our shepherd. There are different kinds of love in each of these “categories”, but I do believe that we need to take up our crosses. We are the created – He is the Creator. We are His servants – He is our Master.

    The amazing thing about Jesus is that He is all of these things in one. He is our Lover! That’s the way it works! I am a guy, and one of the things that I firmly believe: Jesus Christ wants a true, intimate, one-on-one relationship with us! Yet, we need to follow Him and be humble.

    He is the Almighty, Everlasting King of kings and Lord of lords, yet He wants us to love Him back and desire with our hearts to love Him. Know the song “He Came Down to My Level” by the GVB? While He is the Sovereign Lord, He stoops right down to where we are to be with us. That was the nature of His life, death, and resurrection.

    I love Southern Gospel. I love Contemporary Christian music. I’m even involved with both. Just thought I’d share my thoughts.

    PS: Thanks for what you share on your blog. I appreciate it!

    • Thank you. Your thoughts are always welcome, provided they’re appropriate, of course!

      I agree that the Church is Jesus’ bride, but I try to be careful as I consider that image to view it as a symbolic reference to the body of believers as a whole, rather than viewing each believer as Jesus’ bride. I understand where you’re coming from, and I’ve seen other people go that direction too. But I think there’s something odd about carrying that symbolism into an individual context. Jesus does indeed wish to have an individual, loving relationship with each person he has created, but I think there’s an important difference between loving God and “falling in love” with God. I know that many people do refer to our relationship with God in that way, so I’m not trying to say that they are evil, I just think it should be worded differently. And I’m aware that we can find old hymns with expressions that run along similar lines, so I don’t want to claim that romanticizing our relationship with Christ is new—it’s not. But it seems like there’s an extra layer of kitschiness to the “I’m so in love with you” type songs that I don’t get with “Jesus, Lover of My Soul.” I realize that’s a bit subjective, but especially in our modern culture, the modern praise songs just jump out to me more. It seems to cheapen the relationship between creator and created to reduce it to a fluffy catch phrase like “falling in love.” I think that true, holy, pure love should be viewed with awe and reverence, and that just doesn’t do it for me.

      • Nate

        I understand. And I basically agree with you. I meant the church as whole was the Bride, but in the individual context, we should love Christ that way (in a pure and holy love like you said). We should be willing to give our life just like a bride for her groom and vice versa. As the whole Church, and on a personal level.

        To say the least, I love Jesus!

        Thanks again! This was a thought provoking post. And I agree: society has “feminized” men in some ways. Let boys be boys and men be men…

  5. When I find my feminine side, I’m gonna marry her.

  6. quartet-man

    “As a married lady, I have been at liberty this year to daydream all I want about having a family. ” Although dreaming is a good thing to do (in God’s will) and college is good I hope you aren’t paying good money to college and daydreaming during class. ;)

    • I believe she’s graduated. :)

      • quartet-man

        How did she do that if she was daydreaming a lot? ;)

      • AmyH

        Yeah, I graduated two years ago. Worked the last year and a eight months, and in two years I’m going to take the next step toward my career goal – leaving my job to stay home and keep up with the cooking cleaning. Hip-hi-hooray! I’m counting the days!

      • AmyH

        Oh, I need to learn to proofread. Maybe I should pay YGG to proofread my comments before I post them.

        “year and eight months” (it was gonna be year and a half)
        “in two weeks I’m going to”
        “cooking and cleaning”
        “hip-hip-hooray” Man, the mistakes just kept coming! :oops:

      • No problem. :) Actually, I have the ability to edit your comments, so if you like I can go back and fix typos for you.

  7. Love Paul Washer, and what you’re saying is very prevalent in the church. There may be some connection to P&W, but it’s not the music’s fault. It goes straight back to the church. That’s where the fault belongs. So really this ceases to be a music problem, but a church problem. It’s true that a context in which P&W is garnered more highly, finding these type of men is common. But there are a lot of wusses singing southern gospel. A LOT. Because I know a lot from each genre, there are just as many wusses in SG as there is in P&W. And in the P&W arena, it’s also a lot of former hardcore guys who dabbled in emo, wear skinny jeans and read good literature. Besides the skinny jeans, I just think that’s pretty cool. I like those guys. Because they also hunt and fish.

    I do acknowledge there is familiarity in what you’re getting at. But making a straight line to musical genres can only take you so far in this argument. As I said, this is a church problem. And the music simply reflects it.

    • If you go back and re-read my introduction, that’s exactly what I was saying: The church has become wussified, and one of the results is wussy music.

      I actually didn’t immediately have in mind a comparison to southern gospel. But I will say that as I take a general look-around at different genres, the “manly man” type seems better represented in SG. Maybe it’s an age thing—a 55-year-old bass singer would look pretty silly in torn jeans and earrings, after all.

      • Oh sorry, I did notice you mentioned that, but I suppose interpreted it as a purely jointed relationship…as I said drawing a straight line from A to B, which seem inaccurate.

        And where you and I would both be wrong is how one looks. And I made a reference to it as well. In the end, it won’t matter whether it’s suits and ties or torn jeans. There is more to a man…

        What does lie beneath?

        To take it a bit further, I remember when the book “Wild At Heart” came out, I thought it lended itself to a wussy thing. Some things in it were absolutely correct in how a man’s mind works. But in the end, it would be best read for women or soon to be wives in understanding what makes the man tick, rather than men understanding themselves. Our identity can only be found in Christ. That was a free comment.

  8. mary

    I was in complete shock the first time I heard a song that said someone wanted to fall in love with Jesus. The desire to molest God, thats got to be a new one and I wondered what sicko recording company produced such a type of song.

    • Mmmmmm, dunno if I’d put it like that. The idea is supposed to be that you and God are participating in a mutual relationship. But perhaps we shouldn’t take this particular thread any farther. :-o

  9. With you on the “love songs for Jesus” (surprise surprise considering our convo with our mutual friend J.G.), but not so sure about that last bit with the feelings.
    We are called to bear one another’s burdens, and the bible is silent on which gender does the bearing for which gender. I think we need to be careful not to confuse what we tend to think of as masculine with the actual role of a man (single or married). I can’t think of anywhere in the bible where men are told not to talk about how they feel. I mean, let’s be honest, many don’t want to so I also don’t think they should be pressured into it or anything. Basically, everyone (left, right, Christian, atheist, buddhist, muslim) has an idea of what MEN should be like, and what WOMEN should be like. I think we should just all back off and let everyone be an individual and be a Christian.
    Cause honestly, I would consider myself a very “girly” girl, and I HATE those “love songs for Jesus”….probably as much as the most manly man in my church.

    • I understand. Here is my take on it: I would distinguish (and I’m confident that Washer would distinguish as well, even though he got on a bit of a roll in this specific case), between a husband’s informing his wife that there’s something very difficult he’s dealing with so she isn’t in the dark… and his whining and sniveling on her shoulder. I do think it can be good and helpful in a marriage for the wife to have “full disclosure” from the husband because otherwise there can be an unhealthy build-up of tension. But I think it’s one thing for a husband to say, “Honey, if I seem frustrated and tense these days, it’s because x is going on at work and it’s really taking it out of me,” and quite another to say, “Oh baby, I just don’t know what to DOOOO…. Hold me! *sob* ”

      As for not trying to fit people into specific categories, I agree that there are Christian men and women who don’t fit the stereotypes, and they shouldn’t necessarily be forced to do something unnatural. Where I would be cautious is when their “natural tendencies” lead them into something blatantly un-biblical. For example, it is clearly not biblical for women to be pastors, so that’s one example of a so-called “stereotype” which should be enforced (though sadly it isn’t in many places). On the masculine side, again, it is a matter of degrees. If you’ve got a guy who may be a little more emotional and tender-hearted than other guys, that can be okay as long as he isn’t straying too far from his innate manhood. I think there can be a place for telling men to man up.

      • Amy Herrera

        OK, I think Heather said what I had in mind a lot better than I did. :)

      • Yeah, I really wanted to be a pastor so bad. I tried checking out the Methodist and a few others that ordain women but I just couldnt do it. I’m a Baptist and I take the Bible at His every Word. So it really hits a nerve when a woman decides that its ok for her to preach. Its going against what God says. Sometimes its just not for us to hang on why or try to change His rules we just have to accept.

  10. And this is why Heather needs to keep up with the blogs she follows better. She doesn’t realize she has been answered until WAY down the road. haha!
    Yes, I think we’re about on the same page now that I see your clarification. I mainly worry about pushing people (both genders) into any corner, because of the VAST array of intuitiveness, emotive behavior, stoicism, or what have you among people. But I think I grasp what you are saying better now.

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