Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Brothers don't shake hands; brothers gotta hug!

Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary speaks to the issue of hugging in church. He's been rethinking his views.

Initially he was dead set against it, as is seen in his intentional tardiness to avoid a greeter's hug:
I decided one weekend to check out a service at a local charismatic congregation. As our two families entered the sanctuary a person standing at the door greeted each person with “Good morning. Welcome. May I give you a hug?” I was at the rear of our party, and when I observed this I whispered to my wife, “Save me a seat,” and I turned around and waited in the parking lot until the service started.

Many churches have greeters at the door to ... well, uh ... greet people. I wonder, is hugging encouraged or discouraged? Is it left up to the individual, intentionally or unintentionally?

Personally, I'm not much of a hugger and I never have been. In junior high I saw it as a ploy whereby boys got to squeeze the pretty girls.

(I noticed they were much more jazzed to hug the pretty girls. In fact, the lesser ladies were more likely to get the "let's just be friends" side hug.)

In college I learned that girls were pretty naive to such things as males with less than stellar motives.

I remember asking guys in my Bible study, "Are you hugging for your benefit or the benefit of the huggee?" In other words, are you hugging to make the other person feel better or to make yourself feel better?

In general, I don't hug females who are not related to me in some way. This hasn't always been an easy path to navigate, especially in England where we had some family friends who were not only avid huggers, but kissers as well!

Perhaps I'm overly concerned about being perceived as some goon who wants to get his paws on another man's wife or daughter. But I don't want to risk it. Besides, if I need a hug, I can get one at home.

The other exception I'm open to is hugging ladies the age of my grandmother. As I mature, this becomes a smaller pool, but I feel pretty safe here, and I think they do as well.

With the perception of men as predators, there's a real caution I would issue to those in ministry. In particular, I would suggest that men should never "initiate" the hug.

I understand that ladies can be overly "touchy" and some may have ulterior motives and that there may be a double-standard at play here, but history and perception are reality in this arena.

Do you encourage hugging in your church? If so, do you establish hugging etiquette?

Visitors will wonder about the hugging culture at your church. For example, one lady shares her experience.
A few Sundays ago we visited a church and I saw someone that I sort of know, which means that I miraculously remembered his first name. As he walked toward me I panicked. Was he a hugger or a shaker? I couldn’t remember. He drew closer and closer. Hugger or shaker, which was it? A sweat broke out on my brow. He must have been thinking the same thing because we approached each other like two sumo wrestlers taking to the mat. We ended up doing an elaborate hug-shake that resembled some sort square dance. Very weird and very awkward.

Should churches have a hugging ministry?

Or is your greeter the dirty old man that the ladies have learned how to avoid by using a side door? (Don't laugh, I have heard some stories along those lines!)

Is your church instead perceived as "cold" because there's not enough hugging?

Does a prohibition against hugging in the work place led to a "hostile" work environment? Or is that just a good way to avoid sexual harassment issues?

Have you become an advocate of the "side hug" to minimize physical contact? Is hugging too intimate for strangers? Ladies, are you proactive by extending a hand for a shake, so that you indicate boundaries?

What's your theology and practice of hugging? Does your church have any discernible climate when it comes to hugging, etc.?

P.S. Don't even get me started on the "holy kiss" discussion. I'm at a loss as to what that is.

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At 12 September, 2007 09:36, Anonymous BoBo said...

Gunny, I'm afraid this is an exercise wherein you ave set the table in favor of your aready preferred outcome. (A fine disply of the presuppositional approach to apolo-hug-ogetics.)

Similar to any discussion of what type of music to play in your church's 'worship service' the cultural climate has to factor into the debate. In the South, you better be prepared for a hug, everywhere else is a toss up depending on the church.

I'm a touch friendly kind of guy, so I hug and may even flaunt the Frenchinss of my heritage by giving an especially great friend a kiss (guy or girl){although never like the Russian gymnastic team, that's just wierd}.

My theology behind it is...I want to and read no prohibition to the contrary in my Bible (instead find prescription), nor do I feel any condemnation of by the Holy Spirit of my action or the thoughts of my heart leading upto the act, during, or following.

I'm not dense. Ok yes I am, but I can still tell if a hug makes someone feel uncomfortable and I won't hug them again, that's not rocket surgery. By making church sanctioned rules concerning hugging because of the dirty old man or the hornball teenager, don't we paint ourselves in a similar vein to the outlawing of smoking bunch because some people don't like it and other abuse it. Instead of expecting Holy Spirit empowerd wisdom and discernment, we would rather write in some silly thing to our church constitution.

When I get back home and see my sister we always embrace and exchange a little peck on the cheek, whether we 'want to' or not because family is family and you don't treat your family ugly, like my Nanny used to say before she switched the hair off my legs.. Any brother or sister of mine in the body of Christ is subject to the same treatment as far as I'm concerned. Maybe it ought to be a required display of what should be as oppossed to what feelings actually reside in your heart. Like the old, "You kiss your sister and tell her you love her, or I'll turn this car around and we won't go to McDonalds."

At 12 September, 2007 10:54, Blogger Jared Nelson said...

The idea of a "hugging ministry" made me laugh. As a member of American culture I am too obsessed with personal space to hug anyone but family and friends who insist on it...

At 12 September, 2007 13:05, Blogger M. Jay Bennett said...


I think you need a hug. Next time I see you, there's a big hug comin your way. Be forewarned!

At 12 September, 2007 14:19, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. 1 Cor 7:1 KJV

As a long time former bachelor, this was pretty much my controlling philosophy in regards to my contact with woman. I never initiated a hug with any woman other than a close relative, neither for a time would I even initiate a simple handshake with a woman, which made me a poor greeter and perhaps made me look like a jerk to the unaware female. If offered a hug or handshake by a woman, I might have reciprocated if her man was there to approve and to observe, but even then that contact was minimized to a side hug or to a one-handed single back pat.

But now that I have a wife and young daughter, I recommend to all males this policy: Except only for your wife, your mother, or your close relative, DO NOT ever initiate contact with a woman, and if contact is offered by the woman, BREAK THE WRIST AND WALK AWAY - IT'S JUST THAT SIMPLE!

When it comes to contact with men, with the only exception being very short moments of sport-competition contact or sports-related euphoria, I recommend limiting contact to the handshake and, in my case to demonstrate Christian brotherly love, the Oilcan arm squeeze.

At 12 September, 2007 16:33, Blogger Blackhaw said...

Hugging is okay. I never minded hugs. Especially by purdy girls. But what I always hated when I was a young man was when an older man would grab right above the elbow. I guess it is part of one's tricep. That always freaked me out.

At 14 September, 2007 22:47, Blogger Lionel Woods said...

Hey Pastor Gunny. Thanks for the comments. You can see my home church on my site. I will listen to some of your sermons and Ipod them this week (I have a huge painting project going on).

Now to the hugging. My wife and another sister in the church was making fun of me because of my sideways hugs. I feel uncomfortable hugging any other way. Maybe because when my wife hugs it makes me feel warm inside and hugging other women may not fair well with me. God bless. Thanks again.


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