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.