Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Women's Ministry

I have a theory about church calendars: they suck in people with social events that have nothing at all to do with theology, so the people become so dependent on the church that they really can't leave even if they do crack open the Bible and see what an incoherent mess it is.

In my case, just having a great organist was enough to keep me coming for awhile. As a child I kept going because I enjoyed singing in the choir. That's the Episcopalian way. It's probably why the Episcopal church is losing members. And now that the "faithful" are mainly blue-haired old ladies, it's too late to start up a softball team.

As I drove through small towns in Indiana over the weekend I kept wondering what there was do to in these places besides work the farm and go to church. Some of these towns were so small they didn't even have bars!

Some of the people I know here are in churches that fill up their schedules with the kind of thing you'd have to live in a small town to find interesting. In a big city you'd have a million more interesting things to do on a Saturday night. In a small town you might have a choice between church bingo and a spaghetti dinner at a different church.  So I have a bit of sympathy for small-town Christians.  They don't know any better.

Then there are the big-city megachurches.  I wondered how hard they work at providing for their sheeple's every social need.  So I took a look at the website for Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church.  Amazingly, they have a Women's Ministry.  Perhaps they figured out that Osteen is damn creepy so they put a woman in charge of keeping the women in line.  I know I'd never want to be in a room with that used car salesman.

Their schedule is truly frightening.  They have a series of psychobabble "courses" and they promote it with this lovely line:  "We would love for you to join us for the entire series and join your faith with ours to see God’s abundance brought forth in the area of your finances in 2011!"  (Osteen is famous for "prosperity theology")

They also have a movie night.  What does watching "Secretariat" and eating popcorn have to do with being a Christian? 

Osteen has also brought his wife into a leadership role as "co-pastor."  This is something I think I've seen before, though it's not like I obsess about churches.  Still... the preacher's wife is supposed to be a kind of adjunct preacher in these fundy churches.  Osteen and his wife have a blog together.  I'd post the header photo but it's just too creepy.  Their most popular post has this gem:  "Today, you may feel like you're in the back of the line and nothing is going your way, but get ready because God is about to turn things around for you!"

Yep, self-centered theology at its best!  I haven't read all their blog posts but I have read enough to be thorougly disgusted.  There's nothing about charity, kindness, being part of a loving society, etc.  Meanwhile, "evil" evolution is starting to probe how these behaviors are adaptive and part of our instinctive behaviors.

So.... it's not really theology that's appealing, though being taken care of by a sky-daddy after your death is a comforting idea.  The real draw for country people is having something to do, and for city people it's almost the same.  If you were new in Houston and wanted to make new friends, the ladies' night out movie and popcorn event would be a safe way to meet people.

Fortunately, in the age of the internet we can find friendships online or through online searches for events we find interesting.  If I were to move to Houston, I'd look for atheist meet-ups, or a club that would involve my hobbies.  If I were to move to small-town Indiana I probably wouldn't get out much, but I do wonder how long it would take for me to feel lonesome enough to go to the local church's spaghetti dinner or bingo night.   And then once I did I'd play "spot the other atheist" in the room, looking for the other people who roll their eyes at the mention of God or praying.


LadyAtheist said...

p.s. Osteen will be on Piers Morgan tonight if you can stand it. His stance on homosexuality is previewed here:

Anonymous said...

I'm a pastor's wife and recent closet atheist. I've attended way too many "women functions" and led tons more. When my husband was in seminary (only 18 years ago) the seminary offered a 6 week class for "pastor's wives" called (I wish I was kidding) HOW TO HOST THE PERFECT TEA. Six weeks long??? I opted not to sign up. The worst part of women's ministries is the lack of men present.

LadyAtheist said...

You have my sympathies. I was reading Coretta Scott King's autobiography earlier this month. Her hubby picked her out as a wife with the duties of a preacher's wife in mind. She didn't seem to mind, especially since she shared his values and wanted to work toward civil rights. Tea parties weren't her thing, though I bet she had to hold her nose for some of her duties. There was no question of her pursuing her career in music, though. She was "the wife of..." as her profession.

GearHedEd said...

I used to go just so I could be on the softball team.

GearHedEd said... church, that is.

LadyAtheist said...

I went for a free concert. Bach on a really good organ played by a really good organist is worth sitting through a little BS

Anonymous said...

I think you are dead on.

The last couple of times I did go to church, I sat there thinking "what if we were all out there doing something?"

My ex-husband finished sem. abt. 10 years ago. The women's "classes" were rather disgusting: liturgical embroidery, tea and etiquette type things too.

The first thing my ex-husband's district pres. asked him when he was called in bc they'd heard about the divorce was if I had lost my faith.

The funny thing was that I had, not that my ex-husband knew it.

I think there are way more of us atheist pastor's wives types than we can even imagine.

LadyAtheist said...

That has to be a very lonely position to be in. At least pastors have the freedom to leave the profession (though they pay a heavy price). I can see how being a closet atheist fulfilling the job duties of pastor's wife would be a living death. Congratulations for moving on.