This is the white elephant no-one in the church wants to talk about. We have capitulated to so much of the pressure from the egalitarian culture in which we find ourselves. To talk about anything feminine in negative terms is anathema.
Music in the local church fits the tastes and sensibilities of women and children. Children’s songs about Jesus always present His gentle side. I learned this song before I was three years old:
Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.The stars in the sky looked down where he lay,The little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.
Such songs are appropriate for children, but many people carry a picture of sweet, passive, sleeping Jesus their entire lives. Some boys never recover from this image. To balance this impression, the church used to allow aggressive, warlike images of Jesus as well. In 1865 English com-poser Sabine Baring-Gould wrote this song as a children’s march:
With the cross of Jesus going on before.Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;Forward into battle, see His banners go!
But by the turn of the twentieth century, hymns had taken a decisive move toward the feminine. In 1913, C. Austin Miles wrote “In the Garden.” Notice the difference in tone:
He speaks, and the sound of His voiceIs so sweet the birds hush their singing;And the melody that He gave to meWithin my heart is ringing.And He walks with me, and He talks with me,And He tells me I am His own,And the joy we share as we tarry there,None other has ever known.
“Onward, Christian Soldiers” is passé in most congregations, but “In the Garden” is still widely sung. Christ has put down His sword and picked up a daisy. He is no longer a warrior; He is a lover. The very image of Christ taking up arms (as He does in Revelation 19) is simply unacceptable in a lot of churches today.
Praise music has accelerated this trend. Not only are the lyrics of many of these songs quite romantic, but they have the same breathless feel as top forty love songs.
“Hold me close, let your love surround me. Bring me near, draw me to your side.”“I’m desperate for you, I’m lost without you.”“Let my words be few. Jesus I am so in love with you.”“You’re altogether lovely . . . altogether wonderful to me.”“Oh Lord, you’re beautiful. Your face is all I seek.”“You are beautiful, my sweet, sweet song.”Think of the mental gymnastics that must take place inside a man’s subconscious mind as he sings lyrics like these. He’s trying to express his love to Jesus, a man who lives today, using words no man would dare say to another, set to music that sounds like the love songs his wife listens to in the car. (By the way, men never call each other beautiful, lovely, or wonderful.)
We can’t go back to “Onward, Christian Soldiers.” But no one has composed masculine praise songs to take its place. Songwriters, please fashion some songs that speak of battle, strength, and victory. Imagine Christ as our Commander, Coach, or Scout, not our Boyfriend. If you need inspiration, look to the Psalms. It’s time to balance Christ the Lover with Christ the Warrior again. The men are depending on you.
Murrow, David (2011-10-31). Why Men Hate Going to Church (pp. 137-140). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
I can’t really say it any better than that – except to say in the spirit of Revelation 2:29: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”