Saturday, September 22, 2012

Book Review: Why Men Hate Going to Church (rev ed)

Christianity is not attractive to men at the moment. In fact, men hate going to church, according to David Murrow, the author of Why Men Hate Going to Church. Murrow argues that Christianity has become feminized since the industrial revolution to such an extent that men are leaving in droves or avoiding church like they avoid housework (my example - not his!). The men who do dominate the leadership positions in churches are actually feminized men who feel comfortable with, and demonstrate the characteristics of, women - intimacy, verbal communication, emotions, caring, touching etc.

The entire thesis of this book is premised on the assumption that men and women are completely different in their natures. (The author draws on the popular Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus by John Gray.) Murrow believes that most people conceive of Jesus Christ as living out the values ’that come naturally to women.’ The way that church is structured (in most Christian churches) appeals to women because of this belief about Christ and, therefore, men are left out in the cold. Christianity is seen as a "soft" faith and, if men are attracted to Christianity it is because they are ’highly verbal, sensitive, and relational.’ ”Real” men are into power, competition, achievement, practical skills, results, setting goals, etc. All of this is not deliberate, of course. But it's a very real problem.

How do we get men back into the church? Reverse the feminization of Christianity and bring masculine elements back into church worship and life. If the Church is to reverse the declining membership of its congregations (in the West, in particular) it needs to get men back into the pews. Women, it turns out, like churches with lots of men so the focus needs to shift to making the faith more masculine - and the women and children will follow.

Why Men Hate Going to Church is a passionate, fast paced read. It's powerful and persuasive. A lot of the material sounds reasonable and some of Murrow's assertions are backed up with empirical evidence. The idea of “masculinising” aspects of Christian belief and worship is certainly needed? For example, images of Jesus need to become more real than the effeminate versions of much Christian art. And the praise songs that have men singing to Jesus as his lovers definitely need to go!

But I experienced a degree of discomfort as I read this book. Firstly, the differences between men and women seems overly stereotypical. Very little is discussed in the book about the commonalities between men and women. The simplistic distinctions between men and women as described by, for example, John Gray have been criticized as excessively reductionistic and not reflecting how similar men and women are in so many respects. The picture drawn by Murrow seems to "black and white".

Secondly, Murrow's passion and enthusiasm for making his point sometimes borders on sexism. While the feminine is occasionally affirmed it would be easy to infer that the bad aspects of Christian worship and life are the product of female nature. I've only read the book once, but I can't recall any occasion where the author has remotely suggested that “masculine” Christianity may have its problems or any hint at the historical abuse of women by men who have suffered at the hands of men in power. I don't believe this is intentional but Murrow needs to be more careful about this aspect of his views.

In summary, Why Men Hate Going to Church is a passionate plea for the reconsideration of men's needs in our churches. It's a plea also being made outside the church in areas such as education. Men and boys do need healthy masculine role models in the church. Murrow's passion and enthusiasm for the concerns of men is great to see. For me, though, I would have liked to see a more substantial, objective argument presented for rejuvenating Christian worship for all. But then, maybe I'm not a “real” man!

Book details: David Murrow (2011). Why Men Hate Going to Church. Thomas Nelson.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


1 comment:

  1. That's one way to look at this problem, but I'm not so sure they're the only ones who avoid going.
    One of the first things that I have noticed about the Church are the amount of 'reruns' that ones hears there.
    Adventist pastors have a very good education and have learned to store tremendous amounts of data about the Bible in their brain, but somewhere along the way they can't seem to be able to craft any sermons of their own that meet the needs of some of the worshipers.
    Here is one recent example of this, that I found in my mailbox just the other day.
    From Amazing Facts:
    "Are you in danger of committing the unpardonable sin? Beyond mercy: What is
    the Unpardonable Sin?"
    If you are unemployed, is this going to be of any interest to you?
    If you live in the South and your home has been destroyed by a Tornado and you are still living with relatives or in a rented facility, will that be on your priority list?
    How about the person that has received the news from his MD that he only has three more years to live?
    If you are an African American young person living in Chicago, would you find anything in the book offered by Amazing Facts that would interest you?
    Knowledgeable people are getting to the place, now, where they recognize when someone is trying to 'manipulate' them!
    And I personally feel that this has been going on for years and years which has caused an increase in Church members, but the quality of the conversions is not the best.
    People are made to feel 'guilty', so in order to get out from under this guilt they choose Religion because the Preacher says our God has promised to for give our bad behavior.
    What he doesn't tell them is how they go about forgiving themselves. That's been left up to the psychiatrist to do.
    The results of this practice has been an increase in conversions by many people who only looking for a 'good' deal and not because of the sacrifices that our God has made on their behalf.
    In other words they have been taught to receive 'Love', not to give it.
    When I went to the Academy as a teenager, I was in 'Love' with Marilyn and because of that I tried to find ways to get around the rules that prevented me from seeing her as much as I wanted.
    I was punished once or twice because I wanted to spend as much time with her as I could in spite of the cost.
    How is it at the Church where you attend?
    Is the Church practically full just before Sabbath School starts, or do most of them arrive in time for the 11 o'clock service?
    Not just Men, but many people, are not coming to church because of: A)reruns, B)not being in the habit of giving 'Love', C)the retirement benefits, D)the possibility that the Second Coming is not as near as they were led to believe, E)the church members not 'bonding' to each other.
    But the biggest reason for people leaving is that our 'Message' is dated material, which few leaders are willing to tackle because of the possibility for them being rewarded for their audacity.
    So the church member, who is only interested in the reward, soon looses interest because they aren't in "Love"!
    In spite of what they say, they only stay as long as they are on the receiving end of 'Love'. When they need to practice the 'Golden Rule' they loose interest.
    tay until they get tired of the 'reruns' and quit coming.