IT is not always easy to read the signs of Me limes. This IN true not just because it is not always evident how God's spirit, and other spirits, are moving in the world, but also because the task itself requires a certain boldness.
The churth is, today, heing threatened al a sery fundamental level by something Mar might be Mrmrd gender alienation. Simply put, this means a lot of people are, mreciousty or unconsciously, experiencing the church as an affront Its their femininity or masculinity.
There Is an esersgrowing swell of women's voices suggesting that the structures of the church, of themselves, alienate women. Their slew is that one cannot be fully a woman and parliciaidc in church life as it now is.
What is important to distinguish here, however, is that this critique focuses largely an Ilse structures of the church. In ray experience, few Christian feminists have the same difficulty with the sou( of the church. Thus, for example. know women who, while so hitter and angry with the church that they no longer attend eireharist or othcr religious services, am, as Ike some time, deeply religious in that they pray on their invn, celebrate religious rituals with others, and are passioaately concerned about religious matters. To paraphrase Reginald Bibby, they haven't lest their church., they've just stopped going to them!
What is lees evident on the surface, and lee articulated. is a corresponding male alienation. Men also suffer gender alienation from the church. With men, though, the struggle Is less wills the structures (which they generally have less of a problem swill]) than with the Jou/ of religion. What is meant by this ... alienation from the soul of religion?
Ins sae oversimplification, it might be said that men do not, in the face of the structures or the church, very often feel an affront to their masculinity. Streamru are mmething they understand. Where men often Carl affronted is at a deeper loci, religion itself appears to them as something uninascufine. Men lend not to cry ... and they lead not to go much for church or religion either! One sees this simply by looking at the numbers, women outnumber men at religious celebrations somewhere in the neighbour. head of five tonne (and higher). Moreover, many of the men or boys who me present (in heir own hared way) are there only because they have been
pressured to go there by the women lo their Uses.
In many men there is a dark feeling that religion is a feminine thing, something that they cannot insolve themselves hi deeply without somehow stepping outside of a full masculinity. They ea...l articulate this, hut it is present at the level of feeling and IIR nmoms are, beyond the boredom and lack of Interest already mentioned, the tendeney to identify religion wish meta and to have, if a male has a confessor at all, only a female one.
Unlike his Islamic, Buddhist or Hindu cnonterpart, the male In western Christianity finds It difficult to relate religion to hls RISISC01111¢ energies — when, is faeLhe doesn't see religion as p.itive affront to them.
In essence, In western Christianity today we see a double alienation: mimes tend In he alienated from the structures of the church mid men tend to he alienated from the soul of She church. This is not true, of course, for all men and women, but is true of earmgh that it merits serious reflection.
Among the many things it potentially suggests Is that In western Christianity today the structure is masculine, while the soul ls feminine. Ibis makes for many Problems and it also mueslis that she solution to the isme of gender alienation is extremely complex.
lire problem is not simply that a few radical feminists are angry, or that a few patriarchal clerics are entrenched in power. Rather both the structures and the soul of Christianity must be ripened lo a radical overhaul in the Holy Spirit. Moreover, since the alienation is painful on both sides, this also suggests that we each might take Virginia Moolf's words to heart and adopt a new attitude of sympathy towards the other half of Me human race .. • seen that life, for both sexes, Is arduous, difficult, and • perpetual struggle.