Sunday, December 04, 2016

The era of feminised Christianity

Dalrock has an interesting post up about a shift in Christianity said to have taken place around the year 1800. According to Professor Callum Brown, the Britain of the period 1800 to 1963 was a religious one, but during this period Christianity was feminised. In the introduction to his work The Death of Christian Britain Brown writes:
...The book focuses considerable attention on how piety was conceived as an overwhelmingly feminine trait which challenged masculinity and left men demonized and constantly anxious. It was modern evangelicalism that raised the piety of woman, the ‘angel in the house’, to reign over the moral weakness and innate temptations of masculinity.

The typical understanding amongst Christians of the era was that women were naturally good, but that men were roughly natured and tempted to drink, gambling, womanising and so on, until the influence of a good woman brought them around.

I am not an expert on the religious history of the era, but this does explain some of the beliefs about masculinity that were present in the Australia I grew up in as a boy in the 1970s. There was an idea around back then that men were supposed to be more roughly natured than women, coarser in their manners, hard-drinking, brawling and so on. You can see it over and over in the Australian films of the 1970s. Only there was no being rescued by the influence of women; the idea of Christian conversion had dropped off by then.

It seemed a dodgy concept of masculinity to me at the time (drinking beer didn't seem much of a test of manhood) and this whole understanding of men and women has since come crashing down. It is now difficult to see women as more finely-natured, or naturally good or pious than men. What the modern era has revealed is that unless the men of a society are willing to establish a moral frame that supports a stable family life, then that society is likely to decline.

Dalrock has assembled much evidence that there are still church leaders who uphold the older narrative of women being naturally good and only being injured by men's failures, including conservative church leaders, some of whom are perhaps trying to conserve the view from the nineteenth century that really ought to be jettisoned.

One final point. The nineteenth century Christian view has survived in the secular world too. Think of all the TV sitcoms, including shows like The Simpsons, that portray a humorous and sanitised version of the idea that females are the naturally virtuous ones (think Marge or Lisa) and men the wayward, reckless ones captive to temptation (Homer, Bart).

1 comment:

  1. I'm sure I've mentioned it before The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity by Leon J. Podles addresses this question (although he doesn't pursue the question far enough). It's still worth reading.