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Lyle Schrag D.Min.

Manly Orthodoxy

Over the last couple of years, I’ve found myself increasingly distressed by the quality of evangelical worship, or lack thereof. It’s gotten to the point where I have to discipline myself from ranting over the loss of the deep symbols of our faith, the absence of holy moments and spiritual drama, and the general illiteracy of our treasury of liturgy. It’s troubling.

But, while I seek to contain my rant, I have to share an article written by Frederica Matthewes-Green published on the internet site Beliefnet.com on November 6, 2007. It’s title: Why Orthodox Men Love Church. It was the product of a study she had conducted due to a unique phenomenon: In a time when churches of every description are faced with Vanishing Male Syndrome, men are showing up at Eastern Orthodox churches in numbers that, if not numerically impressive, are proportionately intriguing. This may be the only church which attracts and holds men in numbers equal to women … rather than quess why this is, I [contacted] several hundred Orthodox men, most of whom joined the church as adults. What do they think makes this church particularly attractive to men? There responses … may spark some ideas for leaders in other churches who are looking for ways to keep guys in the pews.

While Frederica Matthews-Green identified 7 key reasons, there was one specific spirit that emerged from the comments: Orthodoxy is serious. It is difficult. It is demanding … I am challenged in a deep way, not to “feel good about myself” but to become holy. It is rigorous, and in that rigor, I find liberation. Among the 7 reasons, I was struck by the robust dynamic created by profound worship: It’s easier for guys to express themselves in worship if there are guidelines about how it’s supposed to work … learning clear-cut physical actions that are expected to form character and understanding … learning immediately through ritual and symbolism … the regimen of discipline making one mindful of one’s relation to the Trinity, to the Church, and to everyone he meets..

There is something manly to worship. Matthew-Green reports: the men who wrote me expressed hearty dislike for what they perceive as a soft Western Jesus … a Christianity that has been feminized … presents Jesus as a friend, a lover, someone who walks with me and talks with me … This is fine rapturous imagery for [those] who need a social life … [but] lines like “reaching out for his embrace”, “wanting to touch His face” while “being overwhelmed by the power of his love” are difficult songs for one man to sing to another Man.”

One man said that worship at his … church had been “largely an emotional experience. Feelings, Tears … singing emotional songs, swaying with hands aloft. … from a Deacon, “Evangelical churches call men to be passive and nice [think Mr. Rogers]. Orthodox churches call me to be courageous and act [think BraveHeart.]

The thoughts are well worth pondering. Ideas worth consideration.

2 Responses to “Manly Orthodoxy”


  • Thank you for bringing this to our attention! I know of at least one man who has quit attending (any evangelical) church because of exactly these reasons.

    I have an Orthodox friend and I am planning to attend her church with her to see what it’s like. There is definitely something about the depth and history of orthodoxy and their approach to worship that appeals.

    I remember after 9/11 watching news programs about how people were coping. There were two church services profiled; one with a pastor in jeans holding his open Bible and the other, a priest in robes. The latter setting brought the sense that he was offering something solid and real – a Foundation – GOD is here – while the former seemed rootless.

    Although only my perceptions, I remember feeling at the time, that there was something of depth and therefore stability, comfort and hope in the old ways.

  • If you want to find Christian men you will find them in very Traditional Churches. Hardcore Calvinist Churches, Traditional Anglicanism and Catholicism. Churches that revere
    ancient truths, strong doctrinal content, and traditional liturgy attract men. Much of the western churches are soft on tradition and doctrine, these are things dedicated male Christians abhor.

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