Good news! Jesus has oneitis for you.

22 Feb

I was thinking some more about contemporary evangelical tactics to spread the good news and concluded that there is a lot of “Jesus is your boyfriend” language in outreach jargon these days.  I’m pretty sure everyone has heard variations of the following at church or similar:

  • God wants to have a personal relationship with you.
  • God wants to know you intimately.
  • God is passionately pursuing you.
  • God has a plan for your life and is the Ultimate Provider.
  • God gave up everything just to reach special ol’ you.

Basically:  Jesus has oneitis for you, and He’s got it baaaad.

I understand that the “personal God” emphasis is just the pendulum swing to the opposite end of the unpopular hellfire and brimstone approach, but when you look at it objectively, it makes it sound like God is writing your spiritual Harlequin novel.  If you were to substitute “Joe Alpha” for God, the above sound like they could be the M.O. of the hero of this month’s iteration of The Flame and the Jewel or whatever romance novels get named.  Unsurprisingly, this God-as-supernatural-suitor approach has worked quite well in recruiting women, because women want to be eternally pursued.  Who better to know you intimately than the Supreme Being of the Universe who, by the way, forgives you of everything you have ever done wrong and still wants you to be His?

Given this approach, you’d think it would be equally unsurprising that it’s much harder to get men into church, but no:  evangelicals are mostly still scratching their heads about this troubling phenomenon.  (Well, scratching their heads when they’re not screeching at men to put down the XBox, stop having unrealistic standards of beauty, and man up, anyway.)  It apparently has not occurred to the evangelical brain trust that men do not respond to passionate pursuit for an intimate relationship, nor are most men interested in having tear-filled meltdowns as they are overwhelmed by their emotions in light of receiving the truth.  Men are not drawn to guys because they have good haircuts and wear “regular, accessible guy” Hawaiian shirts and eschew pulpits and drop the word “awesome” a lot.  It’s just…men thirst for leadership, for fraternity, and for purpose, and what churches are offering up is not that but “Talk intimately to Jesus, He wants to KNOW YOUR SOUUUUUL” messages accentuated by easy-listening keyboarding from a Korg that has a spider web of wires protruding from it as everyone holds hands across the aisle.  For a lot of men, this is like applying spiritual Nair to the spiritual hairs on their chests.

I think if churches want to get men back in the pews, they need to inspire men.  They need to give men reasons, not emotions, to walk with God.  They need to know that in knowing God, they will discover purpose for their lives, that God permits challenges in life to spur growth, that God is just and fair and disciplines out of love, not spite, that He is the wind at their backs and the leader of their battalions, and that he is the Almighty and we enter into His presence by His grace.  A church that can harness the stout hearts of men can change the world.  Attracting women would not be a problem, because women are drawn to men with purpose and passion.

I mean, if churches are going to cater in outreach to the inner princess of every woman, then they should at least give equal opportunity to the men by appealing to their inner comic book superhero.

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58 Responses to “Good news! Jesus has oneitis for you.”

  1. Richard Cook February 22, 2012 at 8:49 pm #

    I have recently stopped going to church. It felt like I didn’t fit. I am pretty done for awhile. Everything is so feminine. The language, the music and just the overall feel felt like a man didn’t belong. Since I am Episcopalian (Rite I) I was thinking “this is the church of General George Patton?”.

  2. namae nanka February 22, 2012 at 10:04 pm #

    Or as a way of reverse psychology they should spread such messages:

  3. modernguy February 22, 2012 at 10:50 pm #

    What they need is a crusade.

    The church is done. It’s weak, it’s effeminate, it’s taken a back seat to everything. Once the boomers die out that will be that last vestiges of the old world. The barbarians are storming the castle.

  4. Priscilla February 23, 2012 at 6:00 am #

    I agree, Haley. It also doesn’t help that women are pretty much in charge of most things at church. Most committees are made up of women and most retreats, Bible studies, and fellowship opportunities are just for women. Men and women are different, and I believe God pursues and reaches us in different ways.The church just doesn’t reflect that at times.

  5. Smithborough February 23, 2012 at 7:47 am #

    The evangelical church once stood for the idea that Jesus died to save us from our sins. Nowadays the whole idea of sin just doesn’t chime with the (post?) modern self-esteem/sense of entitlement/unrepentant arrogance. Instead of us needing God for our very life, we now only need him as an aid to personal growth or as a fashion accessory. Exit Christianity, enter therapeutic deism.

  6. Herbie February 23, 2012 at 7:56 am #

    I don’t think Christ will ever let his Bride, the Church, fall into complete collapse. But as long as the feminine is seen as a viable alternative to the masculine, regarding leadership of the Church, it will continue on in a weakened state.

    Haley, your second to last paragraph was right on.

  7. Country lawyer February 23, 2012 at 7:58 am #

    Since Jesus has oneitis for everyone, he sounds more like a player . . .

  8. imnobody February 23, 2012 at 9:24 am #

    Haley nailed it.

  9. imnobody February 23, 2012 at 12:31 pm #

    @Country lawyer

    No. Players don’t have oneitis. This is why they are players.

    It’s more like Prince Charming: an über-alpha who is madly in love with the Christian girl.

    Like the vampire from Twilight without the dangerous bits.

  10. dragnet February 23, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

    Excellent post, Haley. Very well written—liked the metaphor with Nair and “spiritual hair”.

    There is one other related consideration why men avoid church: because if Jesus-as-boyfriend is what guys have to compare themselves to as spouses and suitors, then no guy can ever live up to that standard. The Jesus-as-boyfriend paradigm is basically hypergamy on steriods—the average schmoe has not a chance.

  11. jack February 23, 2012 at 6:02 pm #

    Men are not as motivated by being “happy” and being “not judged”. as women.

    Purpose, and not some fluffy purpose-driven-life baloney either.

    So welcome to Jack’s Church of Difficult Living and Thankless Obligations. I bet I could get more men on board with such a name than any of the Ned-Flanders-Faced-Heart-Throbs-for-Jesus cloying effeminacy that permeates the boundless crew.

    Just reading whats-his-name over there brings out in me the high-school bully that I never actually was.

  12. Jennifer February 23, 2012 at 8:56 pm #

    Inner comic-book-superhero, lol. That’s a good description. Hence why films like “Book of Eli” with a badass fighter, the fearlessly gritty “Braveheart”, the bitingly scary “Devil”, even the action-filled and Christian-touched “War of the Worlds” are important additions to Hollywood. Not to mention the amazing morality and sharp action of “The Dark Knight”. Don’t forget the action-heroes, people. If you’re going to do “Captivating” at church, you need to do “Wild at Heart” too. And leave off the mush, period; women don’t need to be fed spiritual baby food anymore than men. We’re all soldiers for God. The best course of action would be to return to the intellectually rich, philosophical studies of the Bible that the masters (and even mistresses) of old did. Getting the brain juices running is alluring to men and healthy for women. We ladies would do better with a Margaret Thatcher image than an Elizabeth Gilbert one anyway.

  13. MW February 23, 2012 at 9:35 pm #

    Smithborough, your “therapeutic deism” reminded me of this:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moralistic_therapeutic_deism

  14. jack February 23, 2012 at 10:36 pm #

    I listened to a knowledgeable pastor very effectively challenge the idea that the church is the “bride of Christ”.

    Frankly, the whole idea just plays further into the female-driven view of religion.

    No real man is interested in being a bride, or even being considered a part of something else that is as such.

    Women love the idea, of course.

    I won’t bother elaborating on his very compelling case because too many people are, uh, wedded to the whole bride thing.

    I think it sounds kind of weird, actually.

  15. Smithborough February 24, 2012 at 5:55 am #

    MW, thanks for the link, I heard the expression on the radio a while ago; you’ve found its origin. It is unfortunately all too good a description of a lot of things that are happening in evangelical circles.

  16. Aunt Haley February 24, 2012 at 10:07 am #

    Smithborough and MW, that is a very apt description of a kind of thinking that has seeped into the church.

    It’s not so much that “God as pursuer” is wrong per se as it is that “God as pursuer” is wrong when it excludes God’s other attributes. When the point of following Christ is reduced to “He wants you to love yourself and have a fulfilling life” as opposed to “you are in a state of sin and need to reconcile yourself to Holy God through repentance and acceptance of His grace through Jesus Christ,” THAT’S when there is a serious problem at hand.

  17. Random Angeleno February 24, 2012 at 10:12 am #

    Self-directed vs other-directed.

    I can see where this is going. And I cannot compete with that.

  18. Jennifer February 24, 2012 at 10:58 am #

    Jack, the church is the Bride of Christ. You can’t ignore that or look at Scripture through a male-only lens anymore than a female-only lens.

  19. Mule Chewing Briars February 24, 2012 at 11:06 am #

    “So welcome to Jack’s Church of Difficult Living and Thankless Obligations.”

    Add “No compromise with the heterodox, and come back strong after having your ass kicked for forty/seventy/four hundred years.” and you have my beloved Orthodox Church

    There’s a reason why we aren’t always looking for basses in our choirs.

  20. Andre February 24, 2012 at 2:33 pm #

    This blog is the love child of Betches Love This and Heartiste!

  21. Jennifer February 24, 2012 at 5:14 pm #

    Haley is not a philosophical child of nihilistic creeps and player-hood, even if I don’t share all her cynicism.

  22. Chris February 24, 2012 at 8:50 pm #

    Gimme those old divines. They would have cast out the preachers of “Jesus is my Lover” as effeminate. Look even the Anabaptists of Bohemia used to get men to do the night-time prayer vigils while patrolling the streets…

    Not perfumed fools feeding the fantasies of women as if Jesus — the saviour who allowed himself to die in such a manner — would be a romantic hero. (Now where is that bucket I need… )

  23. jack February 26, 2012 at 4:23 pm #

    Jennifer.

    I know you believe that, but I’ve seen compelling evidence that this is a misinterpretation.

    Again, I will not present the case because you will are probably not predisposed to give it an honest look. Ideas like this are seldom abandoned by them that hold them, but not because of theological reasons.

    The bride of Christ thing is a concept too popular among its adherents, especially since it touches on the ideas discussed in the original post.

    But go ahead and believe it if you want, I really don’t care.

  24. Jennifer February 26, 2012 at 6:52 pm #

    This passage is also mentioned in the Scripture for husbands’ treatment of their wives. Glad you don’t care, Jack.

  25. Blair February 27, 2012 at 8:24 am #

    Jennifer
    We probably should not argue with Jack, I think he has some deep understanding of scripture that we could never understand.

  26. jack February 27, 2012 at 11:40 am #

    Blair-

    Why bother reciting a case that you would be too hostile toward to engage logically?

    Believe whatever you want.

    Besides, you need to read and comprehend more clearly: I stated that a respected pastor made a compelling case. Never did I state that the concept was my own. don’t really mind petty barbs coming from people like you, but please at least get your facts straight. That kind of sloppiness is inexcusable.

  27. Jennifer February 27, 2012 at 12:05 pm #

    What do you think it says instead, Jack?

  28. jack February 27, 2012 at 8:34 pm #

    Again, it is not what I think. It is, once more, a very compelling argument against the bride of Christ viewpoint that some Christians take as a given fact.

    Why do you care, anyway?

  29. jack February 27, 2012 at 8:42 pm #

    Wait- let me answer that –

    You want to argue against the view presented by the pastor in question. Well, I won’t permit you to do so. There is no need for you to hear something that you have already decided to disagree with.

  30. Jennifer February 27, 2012 at 9:22 pm #

    I asked because I was genuinely curious. But since you’ve decided how you think I feel, you’ll just have to keep your beliefs to yourself. I’m tired of your know-it-all attitude; you do not tell me what you “permit” me to do.

  31. Hana February 27, 2012 at 10:39 pm #

    Good post! I don’t really hear any “Jesus is passionately pursuing you” language at my church, fortunately, but I see it elsewhere. And I really see it in the lyrics to worship songs. Why does every other worship song sound like a romantic love song to Jesus?

    The only thing I would add is that the “Jesus is passionately pursuing you” language isn’t just unappealing to men, it’s unhealthy for women, because it’s not even Biblical! The Bible doesn’t say we need an “intimate, personal relationship with Jesus” to be saved. We need to have faith in Jesus, and we need to be born again, but the Bible doesn’t really talk about intimate personal relationship with Jesus, and it definitely doesn’t talk about Jesus passionately pursuing us.

    Somehow, in modern times, the language of the Bible has been slightly distorted to fit the culture of the day.

  32. Hana February 27, 2012 at 10:44 pm #

    Jack–

    Is it possible for you to provide the argument from the pastor you heard, so people can make up their own minds after listening to the argument? Just because a lot of minds are “wedded” to old ideas doesn’t mean some minds won’t be open to new ones.

  33. Jennifer February 27, 2012 at 11:39 pm #

    True Hana, things have gotten too syrupy. But it is vital and beautiful to have a relationship with Christ. Not, however, a soap opera one.

  34. Mule Chewing Briars February 28, 2012 at 10:46 am #

    Have mercy!

    The relationship a man has with Christ is amply defined in Scripture with plenty of manly metaphors – Christ as King, Lord, Priest, elder brother, etc. It is not the fault of Scripture that King, Lord and Priest do not resonate with men in our degenerate time of President, CEO, and Pastor.

    The bridal metaphor is an apt one, and it connects women to the Church in a way they can relate to.

  35. Hana February 28, 2012 at 11:24 am #

    Jennifer – I didn’t mean that we aren’t supposed to have a relationship with Christ…we are; it’s just that I think modern language implies an intimate relationship almost like a romantic relationship, and I don’t think the Bible calls for that.

  36. Marcus February 28, 2012 at 12:01 pm #

    I linked this post on Facebook and it started a small conversation. I thought you might appreciate one of my responses:

    I think that the point is that humans were created both male and female. This means that worship should have elements of both the masculine and feminine. We live in a culture that vilifies many natural aspects of masculinity, and that cultural bias has spread to our churches. Take our songs, for instance. We have eliminated anything unsettling or discomforting from our modern worship music. Here’s a song Isaac Watts wrote; can you imagine anything like this being sung in the modern church?:

    Will God forever cast us off?
    His wrath forever smoke
    Against the people of His love,
    His little chosen flock.

    Think of the tribes so dearly bought
    With the Redeemer’s blood,
    Nor let Thy Zion be forgot,
    Where once Thy glory stood.

    Where once Thy churches prayed and sang
    Thy foes profanely rage;
    Amid Thy gates their ensigns hang,
    And there their host engage.

    And still to heighten our distress,
    Thy presence is withdrawn;
    Thy wonted signs of pow’r and grace
    Thy pow’r and grace are gone.

    No prophet speaks to calm our grief,
    But all in silence mourn;
    Nor know the hour of our relief,
    The hour of Thy return.

    Speaking in general terms, there is a deep desire in the feminine to be comforted and protected. Likewise, there is a deep desire in the masculine to be stirred to action and even anger. But the possibility that anger or violence can have a place in worship is *deeply* anathema to our modern Christian culture. Yet these are things that stir in the masculine a sense of purpose, the desire to defend and protect. This is missing from modern worship and I think that deep down many men unconsciously feel the lack.

  37. Jennifer February 28, 2012 at 2:38 pm #

    Oh I agree, Hana,

    Mule, you’ve got it in one.

    Marcus, brilliant! Jesus is our Protector, but we are ALSO His soldiers. I myself hardly feel peaceful and lethargic all the time; gimme me a sword. Christianity is not a faith for lethargy.

  38. Gabriella March 1, 2012 at 9:41 am #

    We are all feminine in relation to God. Creation is feminine, and God is not created- masculine. The order of creation is not just about our practical roles in life but also symbolizes the nature of God in contrast to creation.

    In relation to God we are all feminine, but in relation to each other we can be feminine or masculine.

    If the idea of being feminine in relation to God’s masculinity is offensive then it is probably because you relate the feminine to something negative- such as wimpiness, stupidity, or masochism. From the ontological perspective femininity can be simplified as a quality of receptiveness. We receive Gods grace and this results in the strength and wisdom necessary to fulfill our God-given roles.

    Masculine spirituality is different from feminine spirituality in emphasis. A woman prays for the strength and courage to fulfill her vocation of meekness, gentility, and nurturing. This grace manifests in her under the idea of unconditional love and acceptance..by getting it she is able to give it. A man prays for strength and courage to live out the masculine vocation of wise leadership and it manifests in terms of feeling inspired and energized to fulfill a duty.

    We go wrong when we create a false dichotamy between masculine and feminine where masculine means strength and feminine means weakness. While feminine is technically the opposite of masculine and therefore can be considered weakness it is only in CONTRAST to Almighty God. Both the feminine and masculine vocations require the courage to deny ourselves to bring Glory to God.

  39. Old Guy March 1, 2012 at 1:05 pm #

    I’ll take that as the best possible explication of ‘Jesus is my boyfriend.’ I’m in awe.

    Nonetheless, I speak confidently for 95-97% of men when I say that we won’t be having any of that ontological receptiveness, thank you.

    Which was Haley’s original point, I think.

  40. Gabriella March 1, 2012 at 2:16 pm #

    To lament the lack of masculinity in the Church is one thing, but to say that one is not in need of *receiving* His grace implies you are on the same level with God. But the important this is that your macho sensibilities aren’t offended by the f-word.

  41. Smithborough March 1, 2012 at 2:33 pm #

    “We are all feminine in relation to God. Creation is feminine, and God is not created- masculine. The order of creation is not just about our practical roles in life but also symbolizes the nature of God in contrast to creation.

    In relation to God we are all feminine, but in relation to each other we can be feminine or masculine.”

    Sorry Gabriela but this just sounds like some Earth Mother Gaia guff. Creation is feminine? Where is that in the Bible? In relation to God we are all feminine? Says who?

  42. Gabriella March 1, 2012 at 2:42 pm #

    This isn’t paganism and I didn’t say anything about the Earth. God is greater than anything He created. Paganism tries to put creation on the same level as God. Big no-no.

    Masculinity is symbolic of God, while Femininity is symbolic of creation. That is all I am saying..think in terms of symbols rather than literally.

    I am just trying to clarify why being a member of the Church aka “Bride of Christ” doesn’t mean you have to act like you have a vagina.

  43. Jennifer March 1, 2012 at 3:51 pm #

    Gabriella, I personally find your summation way too simplistic. Plenty of times women need to lead, and not be either gentle or nurturing. Both sexes pray for all kinds of different attitudes and strengths at different points.

  44. Gabriella March 1, 2012 at 4:11 pm #

    I over-simplified for the sake of brevity.

  45. ornamentalwomanhoodam March 1, 2012 at 6:38 pm #

    Creation is not feminine. “Male and female created He them”.

    The reform required needs to be rooted in correct teaching within the institutions that prepare men for ministry: firstly, in the family. Then the post secondary/seminary.

    I had to resign from a theology school (partially) because they expected me to speak about God in genderless terms. He’s a coming King – not a coming queen. If I am going to learn what to teach my kids one day – it won’t be from a place that ordains women and promotes politically correct liberal neutralization of the Word.

    It is wise to struggle with – and leave – any church that promotes the kind of “faith and friendship” easy-believism that warrants no ongoing transformative obedience in light of who – and all that – God is.

    Men aren’t alone in their struggles with the church: women are just too absorbed in the convenience of disobedience to what the word says about women’s roles in the family and church while also being (self)absorbed into the culture built on Christian feminism in the liberal evangelical churches to take a stand and walk.

  46. Jennifer March 1, 2012 at 7:25 pm #

    Thanks for clarifying Gabriella.

  47. Dalrock March 3, 2012 at 5:11 pm #

    Excellent post Haley. I didn’t notice until after I linked to this from my new post that you had a link in here to one of mine. Thanks for that!

  48. Jack March 3, 2012 at 7:37 pm #

    Jennifer.

    If you really want to know, look into it.

  49. Jack March 3, 2012 at 7:49 pm #

    Hana-

    It was an explanation of moderate length and I would have to refresh myself substantially on the fundamental points of the topic, seeing as how it has been a few years.

    Also, to my original point, I have only referred to this pastor as someone who made a compelling case. I never did insist on an absolute determination.

    That said, my skepticism is based on the fact that the bride-of-Christ concept seems to be highly correlated to the more feminized parts of the Christian church.

    My PERSONAL skepticism is based more on this observation. And, it ties into the Jesus – boyfriend view very nicely, which only increases my skepticism.

    I would never claim to be a theologian, though. But I often see value in evaluating things via the negative.

    I think you can learn more about something by seeing who opposes it than who supports it. And I think you can learn more about a person by seeing what they are against than what they support.

  50. Jennifer March 4, 2012 at 9:00 am #

    I don’t know, Jack. What a person supports can speak pretty loudly too, though your point is valid. I’ve yet to hear anyone deny the Bride of Christ concept, but I’ve also yet to hear of any serious theologian abuse it the way the emo-church liberals have.

  51. cane caldo March 5, 2012 at 7:10 am #

    Gabriella, that was good stuff.

    Now please stop it, before I have to change my opinion of 99% of women to a new, lower, 98%. I’ve worked hard to get here.

  52. will March 15, 2012 at 11:36 pm #

    Jack I recommend you read those passages from the bible:
    ephesians 5:25-27
    revelation 19:7-9
    2 corinthians 11:2
    ephesians 5:24

  53. John Q Galt April 6, 2012 at 10:33 am #

    “From the ontological perspective femininity can be simplified as a quality of receptiveness. We receive Gods grace and this results in the strength and wisdom necessary to fulfill our God-given roles.

    In relation to God we are all feminine, but in relation to each other we can be feminine or masculine.”

    Complete nonsense. God gives us grace and wisdom through no merit of ours, but because He wants to – Just as I give of myself to my son because I want to and have his best interests at heart, whether or not he is wise enough to appreciate or understand it, whether or not he deserves anything through his merits. Whether what I give him is the belt or a hug and a drying of his tears. This does not make me feminine.

    On a broader view, men can relate to other men who give wisdom, guidance, even protection – mentors, drill sergeants, coaches, a Navy Corpsman who drags the wounded Marine out of the line of fire, hunting guides – without either being masculine or feminine.

    “If the idea of being feminine in relation to God’s masculinity is offensive then it is probably because you relate the feminine to something negative- such as wimpiness, stupidity, or masochism. From the ontological perspective femininity can be simplified as a quality of receptiveness. We receive Gods grace and this results in the strength and wisdom necessary to fulfill our God-given roles. ”

    I did appreciate the attempt at feminist shaming language toward the end.

  54. y81 April 9, 2012 at 4:17 pm #

    “Lead on, O king eternal, the day of march has come.
    Henceforth in fields of conquest thy tents shall be our home.
    Through days of preparation, thy grace has made us strong,
    And now, O king eternal, we lift our battle song.”

    I have a vision of a thousand male voices singing this song (which also happens to fit my own post-millennial views). Now that’s a church! Alas, though we often have a thousand voices in my church, they aren’t all male. Also, we sing this song pretty often, and the congregation is still 60% female, so I doubt that Haley’s diagnosis for the lack of male participation is correct. I think Christian churches have always been predominantly female.

  55. Canadian Reader March 27, 2013 at 7:28 am #

    “There is one other related consideration why men avoid church: because if Jesus-as-boyfriend is what guys have to compare themselves to as spouses and suitors, then no guy can ever live up to that standard. The Jesus-as-boyfriend paradigm is basically hypergamy on steriods—the average schmoe has not a chance.”

    THIS. As someone who once saw Jesus in this way AND heard just about every single thing that Haley described above in her bullet point list at least once in her life, I can attest that this can cause serious damage to a fully Christian, potential-marriage dating relationship, to the point where it can sabatauge the relationship. I know this is not what Jesus would want; first off, if we choose to marry, we aren’t going to marry Jesus, but a fellow sinner like ourselves, and secondly, God leads our lives but doesn’t micromanagr them. I only wish that I could have recognized that sooner instead of ship wrecking my relationship with my former BF. Funnily enough, it wasn’t soon after I realized that I was being fed bad doctrine for over half of my Christian life and literally had to tear everything down save for the very foundation of Christ and my salvation and start all over with good doctrines that were free of all the “warn fuzzy feeling, therefore it must be from God” untested and unbiblical junk, that I gravitated towards a more masculine-valued faith that was sane, sober and BIBLICAL. From there I almost naturally Red-pilled, and now I can look at where I came from with a critical eye and figure out where the bad doctrines came from and why they were so appealing to me and my flesh.

    In short, Haley, you hit the nail on the head with both hands and a sledgehammer.

    On a final note, now that I see things clearly (thank You Lord) it has enabled me to recognize that God is in control and DOMINATE in my life, and to follow Him I must SUBMIT to Him and what it says in His Word. Any of this ringing a bell? XD

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