We’ve grown accustomed to video images of ten-year-old boys in Palestinian training camps, dressed like mujahideen and wielding AK-47’s. Luckily, the West knows how to respond to such shows of aggressiveness. For instance, in the last few years “tag” and similar games have been banned from numerous school playgrounds in the U.K. and the U.S. on the grounds that they are “hazardous” and “inappropriate.” So there, take that, you little jihadist!
As it did in the seventh century, Islam is taking on the appearance of an unstoppable masculine force. But in the West the masculine spirit looks more like a ghost. In The Suicide of Reason, Lee Harris puts the matter in stark biological terms: “While we in the West are drugging our alpha boys with Ritalin, the Muslims are doing everything in their power to encourage their alpha boys to be tough, aggressive, and ruthless.”
Sounds like Harris is talking war, but in reality his book is more about cultural conflict than armed conflict. War isn’t necessary if the males of one culture can cow those of another culture into submission. Such intimidation might seem unlikely in the U.S. where the percentage of Muslims in the population is in the vicinity of one percent. Still, very small but determined minorities can sometimes impose their will on much larger majorities. For example, homosexuals make up only two to three percent of the population, yet gay activists have been highly successful in advancing the twin agendas of same-sex marriage and gays in the military. Likewise, thanks to CAIR and other activist groups, Muslims in this country have already begun to wield an outsize influence.
Then, too, there is the conversion factor. Conversions to Islam in the U.S. are hard to track, but as yet there seems to be no flood of conversions. On the other hand, during the first ten years of Muhammad’s ministry, Islam looked like an initial public offering that would go bust. Then, suddenly, Islam’s stock (in terms of conversions) went skyward and continued in that direction for centuries after. In short, conversion rates can accelerate dramatically. At certain tipping points in history, time seems to “speed up” and decades of change are compressed into years. Are we at such a tipping point now?
In line with Harris’ alpha male musings, the one place where conversions to Islam are exploding is in the U.S. prison system. Roughly 80 percent of inmates who find faith during their incarceration choose Islam. That works out to 30,000 conversions per year among federal prisoners. Many of the men are in prison in the first place because they were attracted to the masculine world of gangs. And since Islam is doing a better job of appealing to basic masculine psychology, it seems the logical choice. It’s not for nothing that the progenitor of all current jihadist groups is called “the Muslim Brotherhood.”
Meanwhile, Christianity, which ought to be the rival for the affections of wayward young men, seems to be undergoing a prolonged sexual-identity crisis. There is a serious problem in Christianity today, but it’s the exact opposite of the one the popular media focuses on. To read the papers and certain works of popular fiction you would think that the main problem with Christianity is that it’s too patriarchal: no women in the priesthood, no voice for women, no recognition of the divine feminine.
But the reality is a different matter. Look around you the next time you’re in church, and count the ratio of women to men. Normally, it’s about two-to-one in favor of the women. Moreover, women are much more involved in church activities. The Notre Dame Study of Parish Life showed that 80 to 85 percent of those involved in parish ministries or in teaching religion were women. As one writer put it, “the Roman Catholic Church has a rather rigid division of labor. The men have the priesthood, the women have everything else.” As for Protestants, all the mainline denominations have female priests or pastors, and the Episcopal Church even has a female Presiding Bishop (who prayed to “our mother Jesus” at her installation). About twenty-five percent of Episcopal priests are women, as are about twenty-nine percent of Presbyterian pastors. But this has failed to produce the miracle of renewal that Catholic advocates assure us will follow upon women’s ordination. Instead, mainline congregations have dwindled. As recently as 1960, mainline churches accounted for forty percent of American Protestants. Today it’s about twelve percent. If present trends continue, the mainline churches will end up with an all female clergy, preaching to mostly female congregations in the few remaining churches that haven’t been converted to mosques or condominiums.
Contrary to what liberal Christians think, the feminization of Christianity is not the solution to the problem, it is the problem. Christianity is unattractive to many, not because it is perceived as too masculine, but because it’s perceived as too feminine. Moreover, when you add the gospel of the divine feminine to the fact of lopsided church attendance, the problem only gets worse. Da Vinci Code theology is highly titillating, but it won’t bring the men flocking back to the churches. Men have enough trouble as it is with female spirituality and with sentimentalized hymns and sermons. To think that the notion of Jesus as the first feminist will sit well with them is sheer fantasy. Men are not inclined to take up their daily crosses to follow the androgynous one. If men can be persuaded that the picture of Jesus presented in The Da Vinci Code is the true one, that gives them one more reason to avoid church.
But many Christian leaders still don’t get it. As David Morrow points out in Why Men Hate Going to Church, many of the songs now sung in church “have the same breathless feel as top forty love songs.” In addition, women are now encouraged by some Christian pastors and writers to think of Jesus in frankly romantic terms. Naturally enough, such forms of piety tend to create psychological barriers for men. The idea of Christ as our brother challenges a man to become a better man, but the idea of Christ as boyfriend is challenging in a different sense.
A feminized Christianity may work to attract a certain type of man, but he’s probably not the man you want around when the local Imam starts practicing taqiyya on your congregation. When Islam, history’s most hyper-masculine religion, is experiencing a worldwide revival and is looking to recruit more young men to its ranks, it might not be the best time for the Church to emphasize its feminine side. So, Christians had better address the feminization and emasculation of Christianity in a serious way if they hope to counter the attractions of Islam. Churches that are long on sensitivity and short on manpower might want to lay in a supply of prayer rugs.
Of course, feminization is not just a problem for Christians, but also for the culture as a whole. If Islam is all about submission, Western culture, of late, seems to be all about submissiveness. Each day brings news of some abject accommodation to Islamic law or practices. The latest is the American Academy of Pediatrics’ decision (now apparently reversed) to sanction a less radical form of female genital cutting as a concession to Islamic cultural traditions.
It’s also telling that in Europe, where Christianity exerts much less influence, the submissiveness is more pronounced. So feminization and its attendant emasculation are not problems that are specific to Christianity. Nevertheless, because it’s a large part of American culture, the health of Christianity ought to be of concern to all. Our culture derives much of its strength from its Christian faith, but a Christianity without a strong masculine presence won’t be able to keep young men from defecting to the religion of guns n’ poses. There are a lot of young men in our world who are uncertain whether to follow the sign of the crescent moon or the sign of the cross, but it’s a good bet not many of them will be interested in following the “yield” sign which some contemporary Christians have taken as their emblem.
William Kilpatrick’s articles have appeared in FrontPage Magazine, First Things, the National Catholic Register, Catholic World Report, World, Jihad Watch, and Investor’s Business Daily.