Men in Church: An Endangered Species

Man in his natural habitat

Guys, guess what: you don’t go to church. You, specifically, probably do. But demographically, males are decreasingly likely to attend regular worship services. Christian men, this blog’s primary intended audience, are becoming an endangered species. (As a side note, that’s probably why this blog will never be a for-profit service. Our target audience has been shrinking for years.)

I won’t beat around the bush. Christianity has become weak and feminized–and yes, that is a problem.

The average American church is 60% female. Over 70% of the boys now being raised in churches will abandon it in their teens and twenties, some never to return. The ratio at many Christian colleges is now approaching 1 male for every two females.

Why?

Modern evangelical culture is one reason. The overemotional, oversharing attitude that characterizes many modern churches is a turn-off for men. But there are other reasons. Some of them may even be physiological.

Western Christianity has become part of the feminine world from which men feel they must distance themselves to attain masculinity. That is why men stay away from church, especially when they see that the men involved in church tend to be less masculine. The most religious denominations, those that have the most external display, have the worst reputation. Anglo-Catholics were lambasted in the Victorian press as unmanly because they devoted themselves to lace and plaster statues (in some cases, this criticism was justified). Psychological studies have detected a connection between femininity in men and interest in religion. There may even be a physical difference.

The correlation between the Church and the Feminine has become so strong that it may even take feminine qualities in men to attract them to the church in the first place. That’s from The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity, by Leon J. Podles. And it gets worse.

“Every Muslim man knows that he is locked in a great battle between good and evil, and although that was a prevalent teaching in Christianity until about 100 years ago, today it’s primarily about having a relationship with a man who loves you unconditionally,” Murrow said. “And if that’s the punch line of the Gospel, then you’re going to have a lot more women than men taking you up on your offer because women are interested in a personal relationship with a man who loves you unconditionally. Men, generally, are not.”

Is Christianity a personal relationship? Yes, of course it is. But it’s so much more than that. Ultimately, Christians are those who set God’s will above their own, and seek to glorify Him above themselves and live their lives for Him. It is not one relationship among many. It is not even the most important relationship. It is ALL relationships, everything we do, say, hear, think on, and say. All of this should be informed by our faith. It is this all-encompassing life, NOT a simple relationship, that makes someone a praiseworthy believer. Since the weak, “easy,” feminine relationship culture took over, churches have been hemorrhaging men. But even more importantly, they’ve lost a firm hold on what the Gospel is actually teaching.

Christianity is not a faith of one sex or the other. God, of course, is the ultimate expression of masculinity. In fact, C.S. Lewis said that compared to the Masculine in heaven, we are all feminine. But men and women are equal partners in the body of Christ. To paraphrase whatsisname (oh yeah, St. Paul), as each part of the body has different functions, so are the parts of the church. Men and women can and should play their own roles in the church, and it is a sagging and half-hearted apparatus when one gender dominates and the other recedes.

Mainstream evangelicals and Catholics, this is your problem. Eastern Orthodoxy has no problem attracting men (this is anecdotal but true) because the involved liturgy and fasting require men to do something difficult. That’s how to get guys back to church: throw away the seeker-friendly relationship theology (it’s borderline useless anyways) and preach that faith is a life-long spiritual battle. Salvation is never easy. It’s bloody hard. Make it seem hard, make the saints seem strong and brave and victorious, and you will bring men back to church.

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