Brent opened the discussion with a prayer and a question that closed the last week’s meeting:
Are women more religious, more Christian, than men? Or are men afraid of being “under the saya”, and often refusing to go to church as a way of asserting their independence? Or are they simply too busy with their jobs?
Benedicio: These are tough questions, worthy of a grad student’s mastoral or even Ph.D. research. I believe our Catholic church faces the same problem. One factor, I suppose, is that many businessmen maybe feel guilty about some dishonest practices. Or maybe they‘re having affairs, and with the Confessional in decline, feel unworthy of going to Mass. And I recall Jaime Bulutao’s Split Level Christianity. He described how many men would exit church, smoke together, and joke about their mistresses!
Cortez: No doubt all this is true, and even affects protestant churches as well. But there are some more possibilities. For one, “salvation” is seen most generally and basically as going to heaven when one dies, and not to hell. Thus if one makes the transaction of receiving Christ as one’s “personal savior” (which I believe in) or takes in His body in communion, in the whole Catholic tradition, one is “saved”, right? As a man told me years ago, “Why do I need to keep going to church, since I already know and believe that?” Well, with this commercial-type thinking, people go to church to keep their cosmic insurance plans paid up, so to speak. They’re trying to “stay on the safe side.” Yet if they take communion without repenting of their sins, they are almost blaspheming the sacrament, doing what St, Paul warned against, right?
Annabelle: Yes, in the seminary we study I Corinthians 11: 27-29: “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning. . . . Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.” And yet in our Anglican churches little children are taking communion, who of course have no clue what it all means!
James Calavera jumps in: I recall Socrates’ saying: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” I think the whole idea of “salvation” needs to be examined, too.
Benedicio: I agree. The Bible makes clear that salvation is not knowing about God, or staying on the safe side, it is actually knowing God personally, experientially, almost the way “Adam knew Eve, and she conceived. . .” N.T. Wright, Anglican bishop and New Testament authority, makes clear that salvation is much more than “going to heaven when we die” (though most Christians think of it that way). It is life in the Kingdom of Jesus, who is Lord over all earthly powers, typified in Jesus’ day by the Emperor, who demanded virtual worship. That power was defeated at the Cross as proved by the Resurrection. And to be Christian, to be saved, means to participate in that victory, and to share it lovingly with the world!
Brent: So maybe men shouldn’t fear that committing to Christ and His church is a weak, feminine thing but a strong thing —in fact almost all the great leaders, saints and martyrs throughout history were men. We are called to be salt and light in the world, created in Christ for “good works” (Eph. 2).“Christ in you is the hope of glory” and we are called to “take up the cross and follow him”.
Cortez: Yes,the Gospel says “Live in the reality that you are loved beyond measure!” There’s a desperate need in our culture for men to step up and be true lovers, leaders, real men! Let us pray for manly men, who will do that, for their families, the Church, and the world.