by Johnathan Pritchett
Graduate Student, Biola University
SBCToday contributing writer
Former Biola professor, Dr. John Mark Reynolds, (now Provost at HBU) taught a three-day lecture in 2011 for us students in his Cultural Apologetics class. Therein he mentioned the need for older, spiritually mature women to exert more influence in the church, again. Many of us didn't think much of that then; but after seeing the hubbub surrounding the video of former Hannah Montana star Miley Cyrus -- who exhibited a ridiculously tasteless, debauched song-and-dance act at MTV's VMA show -- I realized exactly what Dr. Reynolds meant, and he was right.
See, Miley Cyrus is from a “Christian” family that went to church, not unlike Britney Spears (a Southern Baptist, by the way), and other former Disney stars who grew up to become tasteless and tacky. It isn't that the entertainment industry in the United States is as absurdly wicked as that of Japan, but we are moving a whole lot closer every year. It also isn't that we can put the blame squarely on the entertainment business either. Church-goers consume their products, and many of the Mileys and Britney come from evangelical churches.
In the 1950s, church ladies held power and influence. They decried the immorality in Elvis swinging his pelvis. And, while Ed Sullivan thought it prudent to show Elvis from the waist up, most people in the church figured the church ladies were overreacting. After all, Elvis was just a nice southern boy who grew up in church and sang some hymns mixed in with his other tunes, and the 1950s were a “wholesome” time in the good ol' U.S. of A. So we are told.
However, as Peter S. Beagle wrote in the introduction of Lord of the Rings, “The Sixties were no fouler a decade than the Fifties — they merely reaped the Fifties’ foul harvest ...” The decline in public decency in pop culture since the 1950s has been on a steady path to the gutter; and every decade, the voices of our dear church ladies are shouted down repeatedly whenever they speak against the decline in morality, taste, class, and manners.
We are now at the point where they hardly bother with sounding alarms in church anymore. This, of course, would be the church ladies of the Greatest Generation. Their daughters, the Baby Boomers, are a mixed bag when it comes to their moral and cultural compasses. Some have become fine church ladies like their mothers, but others have forgone the prospect of being a church lady, have undergone plastic surgery and other physical enhancements, and attend church and wherever else in the same sort attire as their granddaughters.
After all, who wants to be perceived as a nagging, killjoy church lady?
Most women in church among the Gen Xers and Millennials simply don't have the same moral compass as some of their parents and grandparents. This is not to say they are immoral, but it is to say that they are, like the men of those same generations, simply desensitized to all this on the one hand, and at a loss how to prevent their sons and daughters becoming like these former teeny-bopper pop icons who embrace tasteless and tacky, immoral lifestyle of popular culture on the other.
The women who are of the Greatest Generation are mostly widows now, and the Baby Boomers in church, both male and female, are a mixed bag. The watered-down, milk-n-cookie preaching found in the worst of evangelical mega-churches is the product of the Baby-Boomers. They wanted their Gen Xer offspring to like church, so they made it “cool and hip.” That, combined with an abuse of Matthew 7:1 (forgetting all about Matthew 7:2-5), and we have the rapid decline of morality in both church and pop culture at the exponential rate we find today. The men who still have their moral bearings can still instruct men, but what the church really needs, and what the United States really needs, is for seasoned and mature church ladies to start wagging their beautiful, wrinkled fingers at all of us!
Consequently, however, such women have been stripped of most of their influence in both church and culture, having been written off as Chicken Littles, spoiling the congregation’s attempts at “relevance” in contemporary culture, and spoiling everyone's fun on the weekends.
Well, the whole nation is all the worse for it!
We need church ladies to tell us that we need to have manners. They need to threaten to wash our mouths out with soap for being lax and using, by today's standards, mild language such as “crap” and “fart” in the sanctuary.
We need them to yank upward the belts of boys (and some “men”), whose pants sag to the ground, thus revealing plaid boxer shorts.
We need them to rebuke the younger girls (and some of their own 30+ y/o daughters) for dressing immodestly at church.
We need them to get on the pastor and church staff for trying too hard to “relate” to the young folks through worldly means.
We need them to tell parents of any age to act their age, to have more class and good sense than the lost people their age, and to do a better job at raising and disciplining their kids.
And, of course, we need them to call out the vulgarity of pop culture and celebrity behavior, as well as the church's indifference to it. After all, many church folk spend lots of their entertainment dollars on this stuff, which helps keep it around while it gets worse every year.
In any case, Miley's “twerking” isn't something Miley invented. It goes on at high school dances, night clubs, and everywhere else younger church members go on their Friday nights out; and by younger, we can call that the 16-45 demographic these days.
So please, let the church ladies have their say again for all our sakes. Let them be what God has called them to be. Let them be the glorious naysayers, and more importantly, the moral compass that we need them to be, before their example is finally gone and there really is no going back. Let them instruct us, and, if they wish to scold us while doing it, all the better. We deserve it.