Wednesday, July 14, 2010

"Why Men Hate Church"

Why Men Hate Going to ChurchThis CBN article is an excerpt from David Murrow's book, "Why Men Hate Going to Church." In it, Murrow argues the following:

"The ideology of masculinity has replaced Christianity as the true religion of men. We live in a society with a female religion and a male religion: Christianity, of various sorts, for women and non-masculine men; and masculinity . . . for men." (David Murrow, Why Men Hate Going To Church, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2005, p3)

'Masculinity' as the reason for men hating church? That is a novel idea. In other words, men's religion is masculinity. Considering the fact that even though most churches and Christian organizations have more male leadership at the upper levels, they are generally swamped with women volunteers. Murrow then argues that if Church is so much a 'woman' thing, then why should the male genders bother? Note the rest of his arguments why men hate going to church.

  • Men who go to church are not 'manly' enough, compared to the Old Testament 'macho' image of Moses (remember Charlton Heston's depiction of Moses in the 10 Commandments?), King David and Goliath. In contrast to these brash individuals of old, a typical church male is typically 'nice.'
  • Most men simply attend services. Their wives and the women of the Church gets involved in all kinds of Bible studies, sewing/cooking programs, and chat time, not so for men.
  • Most sermons fail to touch on any 'gender gap,' where the modern church simply does not appeal enough to the male gender. That said, it creates problems like women unable to find a man within the church that they can marry;
  • 'Rough' men simply do not fit in.
  • Church fails to 'mesmerize' but 'repels' men.
  • Nobody in the Church really cares about men. 
  • Men's religion is 'masculinity,' not church.
  • Men don't volunteer because they know eventually a women will step forward; (p197)
"When men need spiritual sustenance, they go to the wilderness, the workplace, the garage, or the corner bar. They watch their heroes in the stadium or on the racetrack. They plunge into a novel or sneak off to a movie. Church is one of the last places men look for God." (p7-8)
Thankfully, Murrow does not end with this gloomy note. He created a website for men to generate a relevant environment for the male species to worship. Asking for a more 'balanced approach,' Murrow concludes:

"teaching, practices, and opportunities that allow for both masculine and feminine expression in the Church," is necessary. He gives a illuminating summary of the gender gap with a revealing diagram, that women tends toward 'security oriented,' while men is more 'challenge oriented.' It might be a little exaggerated, but it can help us be more sensitive to the gender gap when designing any programs.

[Diagram Credit: David Murrow, Why Men Hate Going to Church, Nashville: Thomas-Nelson, 2005, p19]

Generalizing can be unhelpful. This image should only give us a glimpse, not a final statement about the state of the gender differences. God can use anyone at anytime, even animals like Balaam's donkey.

My Comments
I remember reading somewhere that the modern Church pew services are more suitable for the female gender than men. For example, sitting still and not move around during a sermon is not something easily done by men who demands action and motion. Modern church services tend to be overly solemn and is less appealing to men.

While Murrow makes several good observations about the modern church, his conclusion should not discourage us unduly. The solution is not to abandon current structures, but to create new avenues within existing structures to cater to such a male audience.  "Church for Men" is one resource that can help. Above all, I believe the reason is spiritual. Spiritual lethargy can hit anyone, and is not gender related. Murrow's observations tend to be restricted to men within a more active age group. For children and the elderly, his observations are less valid. In leadership conferences, it is also common to see more men involved.

I find Murrow's description of the chicken-and-egg scenario very fascinating. Of the 'Chicken,' he points out that men prefers larger churches simply because they appreciate the quality that comes with largeness. By knowing that everything will be professionally done, they are more prone to invite their male friends and not be embarrassed by any mediocre offerings. Of the 'Egg,' Murrow observes that a Church grows large only with the presence of many men. This leads to the chicken-and-egg problem. Which comes first?

I reflect upon this, and while there is some social gender engineering that can be done, ultimately, we need to wait upon the LORD to move the hearts of men. Having male-oriented programs are no replacement for the pure preaching of the Word of God. Having male-dominated church boards are no guarantees that they can attract more men. They are never to take over the unction of the Holy Spirit ministry. Even in the New Testament, we see lots of women folks willing to serve the Church, and even become martyrs for the Church. As far as leadership is concerned, men will do the job when the time is right. As women become more sensitive to the needs of men, and men more conscious of the leading of the Spirit, we should not venture ourselves to become discouraged by any gender gap. While some unhealthy stereotyping has been employed by the author, we should not discard the baby out with the bathwater. Like any book, take what is helpful, but set aside the unhelpful. For this book, I think the helpful tips outweigh the unhelpful ones.

Do what we can in our design. Ultimately, every life is crucial, both men as well as women.


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