Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Discernment and the sexes

I was having a conversation with a very bright young pastor today and we were talking about why organizations in general, and church organizations in particular, tend to go off the rails in direct proportion to the amount of female involvement. There are, of course, a number of theories, beginning with Genesis, but something Mozart, as we shall call him, said about the nurturing aspect of his pastoral work struck me as potentially significant.

Think about the amount of discernment that is required for work in a caring or nurturing capacity. Discernment is actually a negative; the good doctor is not influenced by the personal merits of the person he is treating. The good mother does not shower love and attention upon the duly obedient child and withhold it from the unruly and disobedient one. The feminine perspective, insofar as it is formed by maternal responsibilities and nurturing instincts, is therefore intrinsically anti-discernment.

The masculine perspective is precisely the opposite.  What is the foremost responsibility of the warrior if not discernment?  The very first question that the soldier, the policeman, or the bodyguard must answer concerning another individual is: are they a threat or not? The good soldier does not indiscriminately slaughter everyone he sees and the good bodyguard does not beat down every individual who approaches the person he is guarding. The masculine perspective, insofar as it is formed by paternal duties and protective instincts, is therefore intrinsically discerning.

So, when viewed from this perspective, it is entirely predictable that any time an organization reduces the number of protective individuals and replaces them with nurturing individuals, the ability of the organization to discern between useful and productive members and useless and destructive ones is compromised. A church in which women are influential will tend to be more universalist and welcoming, and can expect its Christian message, with its insistence on narrow, hard paths and discrimination between sheep and goats, to be watered down and eventually rejected.

34 comments:

Vidad said...

Excellent analysis.

Trust said...

I heard a pastor say something similar when talking about the need for mother's and fathers alike.

Give people only what they earn/deserve, and they will not survive childhood. Give people only what they need, and they'll never be responsible adults.

We see this on society at large. As the fathers are absent and the mothers rule, we are trying to write needs onto law and society as a whole feels entitled without earning.

Violence and crime are usually considered male crimes, but they are actually the result of removing male virtue. The criminal feels entitled to take what has not been earned.

Also, patriarchs revere feminine virtue. In matriarchy, masculine virtues are discarded.

Brad Andrews said...

Interesting thoughts. It seems to be a bit too simplistic. The message of the Scriptures is definitely a narrow way, but it is also open to "whosoever will come." Those would be in conflict in the view here, but I do not believe they are. Need to think about this more.

Res Ipsa said...

Vox,
You should have titled this "WRE the Pastoral Edition".
I agree with the pastor and your insight on this. The more men abdicate their role, the worse things become for everybody and in every situation.

River Cocytus said...

There is a reason there are no female priests.

The elders who became overseers and eventually the first bishops, their primary role is to 'rightly divide the word of truth.' This is about as purely intellectually/spiritually masculine as you can get--! It is interesting to note that eventually they decided to only select Bishops from among monastics. This perhaps had something to do with female influence, though the intellectual aspect of it seems to be absent from the canons as far as I know. They wanted men who were not in any way worldly.

Overall, I think that a fixed-role system prevents what I'd call 'over-rush' - from time to time the men or the women in a given group will be more influential, ambitious and talented. Without fixed roles the auspicious group will come to dominate, not merely by personality but also structurally. This would then distort (As you suggest) the message itself, which does not change.

The first 'monastics' in the general sense in the Church appear to be the order of 'widows', a group that was both cared for by the church and also ministered to people within that church's domain. Paul gives some very exacting rules for who can be a parochial nun and who can't, in similar fashion to how deacons and elders (and later, bishops as well) are sussed out.

This balance between the male lead and his discernment and the female follower and her action create the necessary balance between the narrow path and the open door.

cailcorishev said...

Brad, here's why there's no conflict: It's not that a woman can't use discernment; it's that it's not her normal mode of dealing with things. If she's been taught well in the right virtues and is guided by sensible people, she can go beyond her normal "go along to get along" mode and apply discernment to the big decisions in her life, like discerning a vocation or considering a marriage proposal. But when it comes to the day-to-day stuff like deciding whether a child should be allowed to go to a party at a particular friend's home, her impulse will be to put social harmony ahead of morality.

That's why it's so important for her to use good judgment (and have good guidance) on the big decisions like marriage: so she can turn most other decisions over to a husband who's more capable of making them without as much worry about offending someone. The fewer decisions a woman has to make, the better off she'll be; and if she gets the big ones right early, she won't have to make as many others.

Frederic Woodbridge said...

@Brad yes, it is open to "whosoever will come" but it doesn't end there; it's "whosoever will come" that passes through the narrow gate.

Crowhill said...

Those are interesting thoughts. Another thing to add to the equation is that pastors are usually not very masculine anyway, and the trend is only getting worse.

Amy G said...

"A church in which women are influential will tend to be more universalist and welcoming, and can expect its Christian message, with its insistence on narrow, hard paths and discrimination between sheep and goats, to be watered down and eventually rejected."

Your post on central preoccupation a couple of days ago really hits home here, as well. Churches that give in to overt female influence end up focusing on how an individual feels or how one is accepted, rather than the Word. Truth, history, and reality don't matter - if it makes you feel bad or left out, it's wrong. Was just telling my husband this morning why I can't abide women's Bible studies; it always turns into a "what this means to me" session.

Brad Andrews said...

@Frederic,

I already noted it was a narrow way first. It is both at the same time.

I fully agree with the idea of focusing on what the Scripture says and not feelings. That is the only transcendent authority.

Conscientia Republicae said...

Discernment is also a spiritual feature.

2 Cor 2:14 -- The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: niether can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

Verse 15 says the spiritual man judgeth all things. I love that verse. It's the dirty word of modern Christianity! The J word!

b9a97240-2620-11e3-8636-000bcdcb2996 said...

I suspect this reduction in discernment is why we see "law enforcement" not bothering to figure out who the bad guy is in a given situation, and instead, just opt for the violent response. Such an auto-programmed operational mode requires zero discernment to say nothing of rational thought, moral considerations, or personal accountability. This type of behavior is perfectly suited to the feminized, American male-thing wandering the landscape today. There's not much worth saving here these days.

Stephen Barringer said...

"Discernment is actually a negative; the good doctor is not influenced by the personal merits of the person he is treating. The good mother does not shower love and attention upon the duly obedient child and withhold it from the unruly and disobedient one."

These examples may be problematic, or at least simplistic; a doctor's decision as to whether or not to provide treatment to a patient is not affected by the patient's merits, but his judgment of what treatment, or method of delivering that treatment, will be most productive/effective may well be -- a patient known to be dishonest, stubborn, lazy, or prone to drug abuse will be handled differently from a trustworthy and cooperative one. Likewise, while a mother must love both obedient and disobedient children, discernment seems to me to be a vital skill in knowing how tough to make the "tough love" needed by the disobedient ones.

And as far as putting social harmony above morality, my own mother -- like most of the mothers of my friends in my generation -- was more than willing to "disrupt harmony" by grounding or punishing me or my sister, if she felt we had been sufficiently neglectful of "morality" in our actions. I am more inclined to put this down to a spirit of the age than of the sex -- the kind of cooperation-uber-alles philosophy being rightly decried here really does seem to be an artifact of post-60s pop culture psychology in the West, rather than something typical to women as a whole.

eidolon hope said...

Your thoughts on women in leadership in churches are well known - my church recently hired a woman as a children's minister. Not a deacon, but a minister. In a role that is supposedly more feminine, is this alright? Thoughts?

tz said...

Discernment with mercy. Have a big flashing neon sign over the narrow gate. But otherwise don't let anyone else in.

Once people are saved (and there are sufficient to insure they act that way), then let the nurturers have at it.

Yohami said...

Interesting but I find if flawed. Women are plenty of discerning, made obvious with the slut shaming, judgement they pass on every other woman or man and rankings and the haves and the have-nots, and all the ploys and chitchat they create. It's just a different kind of discerning and useful for other kind of things, which happens to be disruptive when used in male-created systems.

So, women get to the top of the church - are they NOT discerning between men and women, are they nurturing everyone equally, or are they favoring some over others?

Reality check.


mina smith said...

This comes really close to the problem I am having trying to get the (mostly) men in the pro2A ranks to understand how the (mostly) women and manginas in the various gun-grabbing groups work and think. Seems to me if they could start to understand, they would fight them more efficiently.

So far I have made some headway but there is a lot more they need to understand. They are very resistant to the idea that men and women think / behave differently and that the men need to be men and ignore the ladies while they are doing their lady stuff.

It is actually kind of frustrating. I have written to several manosphere bloggers for help but they don't seem to quite understand what I getting at. This post definitely touches on it.

tz said...

One wonders if Ahab would have been a blessed righteous noble king if only not for Jezebel. Do not ask for whom the Jezebel tolls.

There were many righteous women - Ruth, Naiobi, Rahab (see Jesus lineage in the gospels, and Esther and Judith).

But daily I find more evidence in the Catholic wisdom of celibacy.

Gilbert Ratchet said...

I would have said precisely the opposite, insofar as men are practitioners of abstract thought. Generally, it's men who are capable of deciding, say, whether someone is worthy of tenure based on the contents of his file, while it's women who are constantly asking "is this the sort of person we WANT to grant tenure to?" But I suppose these are just different types of discernment.

swiftfoxmark2 said...

Interesting but I find if flawed. Women are plenty of discerning, made obvious with the slut shaming, judgement they pass on every other woman or man and rankings and the haves and the have-nots, and all the ploys and chitchat they create. It's just a different kind of discerning and useful for other kind of things, which happens to be disruptive when used in male-created systems.

Women are discerning with each other, but more often than not, they will differ to a man's discernment over their own or another woman's.

Men on the other hand, ignore another woman's own discernment. Which is why it is a huge problem to have female pastors.

CarpeOro said...

Yohami: Don't lose view of the forest for a single tree. If you consider all of the things women take into consideration it still boils down to social harmony. Do they overtly favor one person over others? If so, that person has a more positive status in the building of social harmony.

I'm not seeing the difference between what was said above and your comment GR. Women in the case you are pointing out are looking for social harmony, whether the candidate will "fit in" and not whether they have the requisite skills.

Trust said...

@: " Women are plenty of discerning, made obvious with the slut shaming, judgement they pass on every other woman or man and rankings and the haves and the have-nots, and all the ploys and chitchat they create."
_______

That's not discernment. The shaming and judging is rarely based in discernment of the target, it is more about positioning the accuser.

szook said...

TZ,

Have to take issue with on that statement "There were many righteous women..."

For instance, Soloman in his old age said "one man among a thousand have I found; but a woman among all those have I not found" (so there are not many of either)

Brad Andrews said...

That is a problem with both men and women szook. Solomon was also very jaded about everything at that point as he went far from serving Jehovah and instead had spent a life seeking other gods and pleasures. That is what he said, but it lacks some of the wisdom he was given earlier in life.

Brad Andrews said...

I should clarify that I am only dealing with the reliability of Solomon at that point. We are not swamped with righteous people of either sex right now.

The person above who postulated that Ahab would have been a righteous king is likely wrong. He seems like a pretty wimpy character. Though kings were influenced by their spiritual leaders. Ahab pouted about Nabal's vineyard. He wanted it, but could not legally get it, so he pouted. That is not a sign of a strong leader.

Look at Joash (the one who was hidden away very young from the one lady who ruled Israel for a period - Ahab & Jezebel's daughter) as an example of influence. He did well while the one priest was involved with him, but faded a bit after that man died.

The scriptures clearly hold some women accountable for corrupting things, such as Jezebel in the OT and the Book of Revelation, but they also credit others, such as Deborah in the Book of Judges. Blanket statements can be very dangerous.

Yohami said...

Re: social harmony. If that were true, then why the result of putting a bunch of women together is invariably, drama?

I find this to be the pretty old female supramacy mantra: women are good and men suck. Right? so put a bunch of people separated in two groups, one male and another female, and make them work together. Then come back and check which gendered group is more harmonious.

-

Women dont excel at creating harmony, they excel at demanding to be pleased, and at being socially disruptive when they are not being pleased. Just that instead of going frontally about it they use their inner circle, and their men, to do the fight, and avoid taking responsability and taking the blame. So it's a form of social intelligence, it just has nothing to do with "harmony"

-

The harmony aspect that does relate to women has to do with aesthetics. The intelligence needed to combine different things and putting them together in a fashion. Understanding people and knowing how to put them together, and finding a "balance". However the core that determines this balance is not what these pieces, people, aspects have in common, but how such combination favores: her.

Men are better at creating aesthetics and harmonies that stick to general, abstracts patterns and ideologies. Women are better at creating unique, smaller worlds that suit themselves only.

-

That mothers dont distinguish between their kids and give their love equally to everyone. Really? do you guys know real mothers in the real world, or are you talking some teoretical stuff here?

-

The laundry list women apply on men count as discerning. Chit chat etc is a way of discerning, because we're talking from a point of view where the opposite of discernment is a form of communism.

And this comes from the ridiculous assumption that women are some sort of natural communists who love and nurture everyone the same. Let me laugh about it. Look outside, and you can laugh some too.

Women will demand, sometimes, that everyone gets the same slice of the cake and everyone is treated fairly - but this onyl means they want a piece of the cake and want to be pleased, and that it's easier for them to demand it in the name of "everyone" than its to say what they really mean, because that would mean saying it frontally, and exposing themselves to both responsibility, blame, failure, rejection, etc. Risky stuff that men are way better at.

However, her chant will change as long as she's the one with the resources and other people / women are the ones demanding stuff from her in the name of fairness. Her communist phase will be off, until it's her turn to beg for help.

Harmony? no.


Fred Mok said...

I'm with Stephen Barringer - women often ruin everything but discernment cuts both ways. The denominational fragmentation and doctrinal in-fighting throughout church history is in large part due to men who could not see the forest for the trees and were discerning to a fault. I get it though - without discernment, we don't have Western civilization period.

Weouro said...

I think the paternal perspective is focused on discerning and qualifying the right people, while the feminine is focused on discerning and disqualifying the wrong people. For men the right people hold the principles and the wrong don't. For women the wrong people rebel against the known group dynamic and the right settle into it.

River Cocytus said...

If Solomon prayed for Wisdom, we must assume he received it.

The denominational fragmentation was merely a delayed continuation of the great schism -- don't blame the men trying to fix what the earlier men had messed up for not wanting to commune with heretics.

Yohami said...

"For women the wrong people rebel against the known group dynamic and the right settle into it."

Only as long as the known group dynamic favors the woman. If she's an outcast (too pretty, too slutty, to virtuous, too...) she's root for the rebel, and label the known dynamics as bad.

In short, discerning in women is working all the time, and it consists on separating what favors them from what doesnt.

In any group they will favor allies and rally against enemies, even if the group is only two people.

-

I think the pastor wanted to rant against women in the leadership of church, while at the same time not saying anything bad about women. So, women suck in church leadership because they are so... nurturing!. Yeah, right.

Virtue is virtue. If the nurturing was actually the issue, these women would be caring, and listening, and solving problems - instead of reorganizing everything in a way that pleases them.

Brad Andrews said...

> "If Solomon prayed for Wisdom, we must assume he received it. "

He did get it, though he strayed from it as well. Note that he had 300+ wives and 600+ concubines. That is not very wise in and of itself.

He has great insight into human nature and even Eccl has some good ideas, but it is not 100% God's wisdom.

standingagainsttheworld said...

@Brad Andrews

So some scripture is not as inspired as others? Why then is it included unless it is god breathed?

szook said...

@Brad Andrews really, you take that quote about 1 to 1000 odds and think that I some how missed that there is an issue with the men there too......there are 1000 planes on the tarmac at the airport today.....only one of them is going to make it to it's scheduled destination.....you have a first class ticket that works on any one of them of your choice....you flying today?

@standingagainsttheworld funny, I should take up for Brad at this point, but you should hesitate to take issue with his perspective on Ecclesiastes. It has nothing to do with whether it was inspired by God or not. What you have is God putting on display the last gasp of reason coming from an old man who has been around the bend over and over in his now sad life. Good news was he got back to home base in the end.....

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