Feminization of Church Worship

From Doug Wilson, in Future Men, p 98:

Music has been one of the chief culprits in the feminization of the church. Many of the “traditional” hymns of the nineteenth century are romantic, flowery, and feminine. (I come, after all, to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses.) But the recent rejection of such hymns in favour of contemporary worship music has been a step further away from a biblical masculinity. The current emphasis on ‘feeling worshipful’ is frankly masturbatory, which in men produces a cowardly and effeminate result.

The fact that the church has largely abandoned the singing of psalms means that the church has abandoned a songbook that is thoroughly masculine in its lyrics. The writer of most of the psalms was a warrior, and he knew how to fight the Lord’s enemies in song. With regard to the music of our psalms and hymns, we must return to a world of vigorous singing, vibrant anthems, more songs where the tenor carries the melody, open fifths, and glory. Our problem is not that such songs do not exist; our problem is that we have forgotten them. And in forgetting them, we are forgetting our boys. Men need to model such singing for their sons.


16 Responses to “Feminization of Church Worship”

  1. Neoclassical Says:

    I know this is going to sound far-fetched, but the feminization of women and men actually is part of a larger cultural phenomenon with coincides with the rise of the novel.

    The novel helped feminize women and men by focusing on feelings. It also departed from the hero focus of Homer, Virgil, etc.

    It’s an interesting thing.

  2. David Says:

    That is interesting. I suspected as much with some of Dickens, but didn’t the modern novel really begin with de Cervantes?

  3. Neoclassical Says:

    Actually, Cervantes is the first one to start critiquing Romance, but you don’t get a full-blown novel until probably Richardson’s Pamela. The difference is one of character psychology, which focuses on letting the reader see the inner thoughts of the characters, as opposed to Don Quixote, where you can see him mostly from the outside.

    When you focus on the feelings of the character (and this is more noticeable with male characters), that character is said to be feminized because you no longer see him or her as stoic, but as warm and humanized.

    Instead of focusing on the warrior, then, as a warrior, you focus on the feelings of the warrior as an individual, and these feelings usually relate to love or sorrow or some other sentiment generally seen as characteristic of women.

  4. Oliver Says:

    Richardson’s Pamela was about the feelings of a woman. What relationship has this with the feminization of MEN.

  5. David Says:

    Which authors would you regard as exceptions to the trend of sentimentalism in novels?

  6. Oliver Says:

    My last sentence was intended to be a question(sorry). I was talking about Neoclassical’s argument that “the feminization of women and men actually is part of a larger cultural phenomenon with coincides with the rise of the novel.” and “you don’t get a full-blown novel until probably Richardson’s Pamela”. This I understood to mean that Richardson’s Pamela had a direct relationship with the feminization of men. So wanted to know how stories about women’s feelings relate to the feminization of men.
    I hope my question is now clear.

  7. Neoclassical Says:

    The novel itself promotes feminization of men and women. It’s true that Pamela feminizes a woman, because the reader does not know anything about the feelings of Squire B, but that novel started a trend that later included male authors, for example, those of Dickens, or any other male author, really, in any novel.

    It occurred to me yesterday that a good contrast between the epic and the novel is C.S. Lewis’ After Ten Years. It’s the story of the Trojan men who were inside the wooden horse, and Lewis focuses on the feelings of Menelaus. The hero (Menelaus) is feminized because we can see his feelings that make him “warmer.”

    I don’t think this focus in feeling is all bad; it just needs to be ordinate affections. A good example of both good and bad focus on feelings is Sense and Sensibility. Austen gives you a good perspective on ordinate affections in all her books, but this one shows more clearly what she is proposing.

  8. Oliver Says:

    Dickens belongs to the nineteenth century. Would it then be correct to say that the feminization of men began just in that century?

    ” Austen gives you a good perspective on ordinate affections in all her books, but this one shows more clearly what she is proposing.”
    Can you explain what you mean by that ?

  9. Neoclassical Says:

    No. I don’t think it began with Dickens. That was just an example.

    Feminization of men began with the novel. People could argue that Don Quixote is feminized because we can see some of his feelings. You also have Tom Jones, the male characters in Vanity Fair, Dangerous Liaisons, etc.

    What I meant by Sense and Sensibility is that Marianne is the sentimental character (negative sentimentalism) and Elinor is the non-sentimental character (positive ordinate affections). All of Austen’s heroines are non-sentimental, but Sense and Sensibility shows most clearly Austen’s ideal.

  10. The feminization of worship | Religious Affections Ministries Says:

    […] DeBruyn shares a helpful […]

  11. williamdudding1977 Says:

    yes, most of what is done in Christianity is very “Chick-a-fied”.

  12. Mark Says:

    Not sure that I agree with your premise, particularly because it doesn’t seem to have any scriptural foundation. After all, the same psalmist that was a mighty warrior is the same psalmist that frequently pours out his emotional pleadings to the God of heaven. Further, his propensity to bloodshed prevented him from participating in the building of God’s house.

    I guess I just fail to see your point. It seems very broad brushed. Perhaps more examples (other than “In the Garden”) would be helpful.

  13. David Says:


    Well, it’s not my point, it’s Wilson’s point, but I do concur with it. And it’s been made over and over again by several people. For example:




    I think you’ve missed the point. The point is not that emotion is bad; it is that emotions can be appropriate or inappropriate depending on the object to which they are attached, like imagining Jesus as a lover walking in the garden, or as someone who causes joybells to ring, or someone who causes angels to attend and help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.
    David is an example of ordinate affections towards God, not sentimentalised affections. David might have shed too much blood, but his poems are not brutal, nor are they sentimental.

  14. Mark Says:

    Hi David,

    I guess I must be suffering from under exposure to this type of trend in the church. I would say again, I see many people reference “In the Garden” (I think it was referenced in two of the three links you provided) but that horse has been beaten to death.

    I don’t know that I’ve missed the point, but I certainly admit that I don’t see the point as being the big issue that Wilson and others do. Again, this is likely due to the fact that I have most always been part of churches that avoid the “In the Garden’s” of the world. I think “feminization” and “masculinization” are likely equal in their danger to the church.

    FWIW, I have never been comfortable with overt emotional corporate worship. I find it very awkward. But some of what we are seeing in that arena is likely a response to a very dead, liturgical style worship. There are plenty of errors on both sides of this fence.

    Regarding David, he was a complex individual. Perhaps the liturgical dance started with him :-). You must admit that some of what David did would likely not be classified as “ordinate” by the more conservative (of which I am a part) crowd.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

  15. David Says:


    Thanks for the interaction.

    I think ‘In the Garden’ comes up as often as it does because it is such a blatant example of sentimentalism. It’s on the tip of anyone’s tongue who is describing sentimentalism in hymnody. Less obvious, but perhaps more pernicious, are many of the mid- to late 19th century gospel songs and hymns (and their later 20th century Singspiration children), which trade in a kind of vacuous religious metaphor with little real substance. They train us to become almost disinterested in the real meaning of the words of the hymns, and content to experience the dreamy feeling they bring. The words become placebos for the feelings we want to have, rather than analogies for the truth that really is, which in turn should stir up affections for God. That’s the danger of cliched texts, whether it be old rugged crosses, or telling Jesus to shine, shine.

    I can’t really concede that David would be considered inordinate by conservatives. I’ll concede that ancient Semitic worship might strike a Western ear as different, perhaps more boisterous than stoic Westerners would care for. However, I’d suggest that we’d recognise the worship as being equivalent to our expressions, even if they aren’t identical. We’d spot far more similarities than differences. To suggest that one of the greatest examples of piety in history would be found immodest, intemperate or inappropriate to other lovers of God means either modern conservatives are guilty of a kind of Pharisaism, a sulky-elder-brother mentality, or else such suggestions leads to a kind of aesthetic relativism, where artistic expression is morally neutral.

  16. Mark Says:

    Hi David,

    I agree with most of what you say. My primary objection is with your last sentence. While David is certainly an example of piety, he is also a stark example of deceit, adultery, self-righteousness, and premeditated murder. In other words, he is human just like the rest of us. He did many things right and he did many things wrong.

    Personally, I don’t think that we find too many equivalences with ancient Semitic worship. I would actually say that the differences are quite substantial. We would truly be “culture-shocked” were we to experience the worship that included animal sacrifice and OT ritual.

    But, all that aside, my point in all of this is that while David was/is a very masculine (if you will) example, he did not shy away from emotions. The Psalms are full of emotion, David danced before the Lord, etc., etc. Was he sentimental? I doubt it. And again, I am with you in opposition to sentimentality in the church. But certainly David was not against expressing his emotions in a very public way. While I am not comfortable with these types of displays in corporate worship, many are. And I would maintain that those who refer to the “feminization” of the church are perhaps overreacting. The phrase “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” surely leaves us some diversity when it comes to the music of the church. As I’ve said, I’m with you and many others on “In the Garden”. But we can go overboard on this stuff as well.

    I enjoy the interaction as well. Thank you.

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