Saturday, May 12, 2007

Religious men aren't masculine enough?

I read an article this week that in an odd way made me really appreciate Muslim men and their... uh... manliness. Well, not quite, but here's the thing. In Muslim communities in America, there are often complaints that women are not active enough in the affairs at the masjid--either women don't/can't go, or they have insufficient facilities, or they aren't allowed to serve on the committees or boards... and so there is an effort to correct the imbalance. And as communities grow larger, this is a problem that I think tends to ease up--the cultural baggage brought by the first wave of immigrants dies off as children of Pakistanis, Arabs, and converts all grow up together, and things improve. It's kind of neat. Muslim communities in the United States are growing. They're getting bigger--masajid are expanding, and popping up to meet the demands of a growing population.

The Christian communities are facing a different problem--the men aren't much interested in participating apparently, and overall participation seems to be dropping. At the very best, it's remaining constant. Yet church populations are dwindling, made up largely of elderly worshipers while their children and grandchildren stay home on Sundays.

Christians test masculine side

I have to really hand it to the author of this article, who made it humorous to read. Perhaps it was subtle, or I have a strange sense of humor, or she was really making fun... let's see. Apparently the churches, while having male pastors and deacons (many/most traditional congregations don't like women in leadership roles) will nevertheless have women taking care of many/most of the duties of actually running the church--planning, finances, building maintenance, special programs, whatever. Yet the article made it even seem like the message of Christianity had become unappealing to men.

Years ago a movement called Promise Keepers started trying to mobilize men to be better husbands, fathers, and leaders of their families and in the church. Now other similar movements are popping up to attract men back to the faith which apparently seems somewhat feminine in essence--i.e., turn the other cheek? How manly is that?

So how are churches trying to bring men back?
Conference organizers hope a male makeover will do the trick. Instead of a church supper, the conference will host a steak cookout at 6 p.m. Friday. They're calling it "Feed the Beast."
Instead of a church supper with chicken casserole and mashed potatoes, they're letting the men cook in the way they know how--slabs of meat over a fire. Feed the beast. Beasts. In church..... sorry.

So anyway, the difference is really interesting--has the faith of Christianity lost appeal to men these days? I'm going to venture out on a ledge and say NO because I know so many men who are comfortable in their faith, and in their role as a provider for the families and so forth. But where are these teachings in the basics of Christianity? Is the message of humility no longer presented in a way that appeals to masses? So they must offer steak to get them involved?

I really don't know. Not being a man, I can't say this with much confidence, but I think that the reasons men are falling out of the church are the same reasons women are--that it no longer provides them with practical answers to their problems, no longer is a network of support and friendship for those who do participate, and that the pursuit of this world has blinded their spiritual sensitivity.

So I then look at Muslim men--many who aren't particularly spiritual, let's face it. (Not that women are exactly better in that regard, though.) The Muslims have a faith that is clear in the distinction of gender roles. Being a good Muslim man includes fulfilling the rights of his wife and children. Being a good Muslim woman includes fulfilling the rights of her husband and children. So it's not exactly the same... whereas in Christianity (here in the Southern US, to the best of my knowledge) the distinction is missing--it's a singular, unisex proposition where the value of a father as a provider and mother as caregiver are de-emphasized. So what happens? Well dads get lazy and moms go to work and the children lose.

Mind you, this isn't something happening to most Christians right now, nor do I think it's an inherent problem with Christianity. But I think it's a product of mixing the sacred and profane, trying to integrate spirituality with the pursuit of this world.

I hope that's not something we start to see in Muslim communities, a polar shift that leaves a congregation bereft of practical application of the Sunnah. Muslims have examples of good husbands, and good wives, of good fathers, and good mothers--they know their duties and rights to their Lord and to other people, so are in a position to fulfill them. So in a way Islam right now has the upper hand, here in the US. Our communities are growing, and improving as they become more diverse and therefore more tolerant and broad in understanding.

We as Muslims have such a rich tradition and heritage of familial cooperation--seeing the family and not the individual as a unit of society--that we shouldn't buy in to the "me me me" call of our non-Muslim peers, and ultimately of Shaitaan. Muslims aren't the ones who debated whether women have souls, who pegged the sin of mankind on a woman and cursed her childbirth. Muslims aren't the ones who have divorced the life in their body (physical desires) and the life in their soul (spiritual desires) and let one dominate the other.

So we're in a position to demonstrate how Islam can work, should work, does work... because it can work, should work, and does work! Because a Muslim man knows it is his obligation to provide for his family, and a Muslim woman knows it is her obligation to take care of her family. And they can look at those children, the next generation, and try to shape them and guide them in this faith, and not let the wolves of greed consume their innocence in the pursuit of wealth or fame.

In Islam there is a very clear example of what a man should be, of what the best man was, saws. And nobody can say it's too feminine, or it doesn't apply today--there is an example for everyone that the men don't have to be shy to follow. And they don't have to call themselves beasts to find an interest in religion. They can in fact try to overcome their beastly nature instead of indulging it.

1 comment:

Aviator said...

What a perfect topic !!

Lots many muslim men and women need to be more active (good followers to deen) both in east and west.

Yeh, we find many muslims have no activities in communities and in all the life. Many live in this dunia for no goals!! like a ...

Shitan is happy with those bad followers to deen, and wishes to make them kafer.... this is his goal. We should be aware of Shitan's tricks.

Allah may help us teach and contact these muslims to be good followers to deen: many followers to deen dont care about these muslims, and i hope this to be changed soon.