Wednesday, April 18, 2012

John H at BHT throws out an idea--Mary vs effeminacy

So I was reading Doug Wilson’s post on “effeminate worship”, and it got me thinking about this concern with identifying and rooting out “effeminacy” in the church.

It strikes me that a better term for what Wilson (and others) often correctly identify as problems would be sentimentality. The fact that they see “sentimentality” as a principally feminine trait is revealing in itself.

However, I wonder if ascribing Protestantism’s perennial tendency towards sentimentalism to “effeminacy” may unconsciously reveal one of its root causes: a failure to appreciate adequately the figure of Mary.

There is nothing sentimental about Mary – cf. the Magnificat – but she is the prototype of the church (and of the individual Christian) as a hearer of, and believer in, God’s word. Mary is the one who hears God’s word and then says “Let it be to me according to your word”. So she exemplifies the balance in the church between God’s speaking and our hearing.

But once you push Mary into the background, that balance between speaking and hearing in the church is lost. One result of that can be dryness, in which the church becomes all speaking and no hearing; but another result, usually in reaction against that, is sentimentality, in what matters in worship is not that God speaks and we hear, but that we speak and God hears. This turns worship into an exercise in self-expression, which can equally quickly become an exercise in narcissism and, well, sentimentality: churches and Christians competing with one another to show how deeply they feel it, man!

So that’s my answer to “effeminacy” in the church: pay more attention to Mary.


Like, right now?  Uh ...

It's like the only fun thing Giles Swayne ever composed. When I think of a Magnificat setting that sings about God bringing the cosmic beat-down on all injustice and Mary rejoicing about that this is
one I tend to think of.


Anonymous said...

I can't say I disagree about focusing on the Theotokos more! :)

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

hope Pascha celebrations and services were fun this year. :)

Anonymous said...

Pascha was as awesome as ever. We managed to avoid lighting anyone on fire for the 4th year in a row! I hope we keep up this string of luck!

Mara Reid said...

I saw the beginning of the "D'Vinci Code" again the other night.

Yes, I know. I absolutely don't agree with the author's conclusions about Mary Madeline (a different Mary) and her relationship with Jesus.

But I use it as an example of what happens when men work so hard to press the feminine out of church history and worship.

Mary M. was a disciple of Christ. And Jesus loved her as such. And there may have even been some jealously on Peter's part concerning their close platonic relationship.

However, men reducing her to a prostitute and striping away any 'inner discipleshipness' from her sets our culture up and makes it ripe for stupid conclusions like the "D'Vinci Code".

Men, like Doug Wilson, hate the feminine so much that they, first accuse the feminine of whatever they don't like in church, then try to eradicate it from Christian expression.

Stupid, stupid men. Then they wonder why both women and men reject off-balanced, over-testosteroned Christianity for something a little more balanced, like Atheism or Paganism.

Sorry, you probably didn't write this to get this kind of response, but watching the D'Vinci Code so recently, then reading this post and glancing at D.Wilson's misogynist blog was too much of a temptation to not bring it up.