Skip to comments.Why do men stay away?
Posted on 10/23/2011 6:23:05 PM PDT by hiho hiho
Gathered around the coffeepot in a church fellowship hall on a fall Sunday, a gaggle of men are talking with animation and passion, joking and bragging in the way of males. The topic? Football, of course. "How 'bout them Devils! D'ya see that pick six in the third quarter? Amazing! Hey, Joe, sorry about your Dawgs! Maybe you'll get 'em next week, if they don't fire your coach first!" In a few minutes, many will wander into worship, the married ones joining their wives. As the first hymn begins, some of them will stand and keep silent guard, staring mutely into space as the women beside them sing.
What is it with men and church? We men are famously outnumbered, to be sure. According to a recent survey, we make up only 39 percent of the worshipers in a typical congregation. This is not just because we die earlier and leave the pews filled with the sturdier gender. The percentages hold across the board, for every age category.
Even when we do show up for worship, we're often not particularly happy about it. This is not breaking news, of course. Study after study has shown that many men who name themselves as Christian feel bored, alienated and disengaged from church. When we drag ourselves to church, researchers say, it is not for ourselves but to fulfill the obligations of our roles as son, husband, father or pastor.
Why are men and the church often at odds? Sadly, many of the answers are as insulting as they are misguided. Some researchers are persuaded that the antipathy of men to church resides at the hormonal level. They argue that men, loaded as they are with testosterone, have a proclivity to impulsive, risk-taking, occasionally violent actionexactly the behavior disallowed in the soft world of worship. Given this theory, what enticements can the wimpy church possibly offer us men when we compare it to the joys of hiding away in a man cave, stuffing our maws with pizza and beer as we watch Da Bears and heading out after sundown to rip off a few wheel covers and rumble in the Wal-Mart parking lot?
Others propose a more political and historical explanation, namely that centuries of male control of the church have yielded to an ineluctable force of feminization. Pastel worship, passive and sentimental images of the Christian life, handholding around the communion table and hymns that coo about lover-boy Jesus who "walks with me and talks with me" have replaced stronger, more masculine themes. One man reported that the first thing he does when he walks into a church is to look at the curtains. One glance tells him all he needs to know about who's making the decisions.
Really? The feminine erosion of the church? As David Foster Wallace said in a different context, this is an idea "so stupid it practically drools." Even sillier are the proposed masculine remedies. One website suggests "Ten Ways to Man Up Your Church," beginning with obtaining "a manly pastor" who projects "a healthy masculinity." This patently ignores strong women clergy, of course, but it also denigrates the capacity of men to recognize and respond to able leadership regardless of gender or stereotypes. I recently visited a church with a chest-thumping manly pastor. After worship, one man in the congregation confided, "I feel like I'm on the set of a Tarzan movie." As for "manning up" worship, I know that if my church begins handing out NASCAR jackets with the bulletins, I'm going to look for a different churchmaybe one with lace curtains.
Still, the numbers don't lie. Men are staying away from church. The reasons are undoubtedly complex, but perhaps a clue can be found in a Christian group that attracts men and women in roughly equal numbers: Eastern Orthodoxy. A cynic might say that men are attracted to Orthodoxy because it is conservative, with an all-male clergy, many of them sporting beards. The finding of religion journalist Frederica Mathewes-Green, however, is closer to the truth. She surveyed male adult converts and discovered that Orthodoxy's main appeal is that it's "challenging." One convert said, "Orthodoxy is serious. It is difficult. It is demanding. It is about mercy, but it is also about overcoming myself." Another said that he was sick of "bourgeois, feel-good American Christianity."
Yes, some churchgoers are satisfied with feel-good Christianity, but I think many Christianswomen and menyearn for a more costly, demanding, life-changing discipleship. Perhaps women are more patient when they don't find it, or more discerning of the deeper cross-bearing opportunities that lie beneath the candied surface. Men take a walk or hang around the church coffeepot talking in jargon about football: another disciplined and costly arena of life in which people sacrifice their bodies and their individual desires for a larger cause that matters to them, at least for the moment. Near transcendence is preferable to no transcendence at all.
And this is a recent phenomenon of the past 100 or so years.
And men sing and participate because they don't need choir-boy voices but can be men.
I'm going to stay away from English language masses.
Incidently, here in Poland they have altar-boys but no altar-girls. The women are in charge of saying the psalms, and all the activity around the Church (and of course the babcie rule in the homes!), but the mass is a proper blend of manly men and feminine women.
It's not only Western society or even Christian society. I've seen the same happen to Hindus, Sikhs, Zoroastrians in India, Shinto/Buddhists in Japan and even Moslems in France and England.
I am sure that is part of it.
But, as a kid my parents sent us off to Catholic School, morning mass etc. Come Sunday, Mom would go with us to mass, but Dad never showed up in church. Never...and yet he was the one ‘forcing’ us to go.
That’s how it is in my parish, too, Mondo! Isn’t it wonderful to have the Mass back without the geeetars and felt banners and tambourines?
Thank you, Pope Benedict! Thank you, thank you, thank you!
PS: Here on Long Island, there are 3 parishes that offer the TLM weekly and on Holy Days, and one that offers a Low Mass every Monday (that parish is working to have a Sunday High Mass too, but the altar boys and schola still need more training).
We don’t have a TLM-only parish, though. I think our Bishop wants to have it spread throughout the diocese in an organic manner. I think it’s working, too, because we’ve had at least 2 more parishes inquire about starting TLMs in their churches as well. The word is spreading!
Ooops! Forgot to mention that my husband, who always squawked at going to Mass because of the chaotic, happy-clappy services squawks no more.
He really appreciates the serious and reverent tone of the TLM and looks forward to Mass every week.
“Everyone has their own theories as to why Christianity is losing ground in America and western Europe, but I think what is obvious is that many people in our country do not feel the need for God.”
“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.
“And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles.”
“The truth is that Men dont want to miss the Ball Game, tinker in the Garage, or miss the next episode of Tool Time.”
No prob. After church move grills and flat screen
TVs into the parking lot, tell the guys to bring their tools and have an auto maintenance day for single moms and people who can’t afford it.
I was baptized in the Methodist Church and confirmed there. I sang in the church choirs for 10 years with perfect attendance (got an award for it). Ours was a large church and we had a Minister, Assistant Minister, and Minister of Music. The latter man, God rest his soul, gave me an appreciation for church music of the great masters I enjoy to this very day.
I did not leave the Methodist Church — the Church left me. It left slowly, but methodically. Our Minister of Music resigned for health reasons (cancer claimed him); our Assistant Minister and Minister retired. We got a new female to lead the church and the lower slots were filled but divinity school graduates.
The departure of our former church leaders was almost as it a candle, once burning so brightly in the darkness, was snuffed out. The end of the road came when my mother received two rude and insulting letters from the building fund manager about how much she'd fallen behind in her monthly voluntary amount. The second letter reduced my mother to tears and armed with the letter, I went down to the church for a man-on-man talk with this weasel.
As happened, the building fund person was in and we had a rather one way discussion: (1) ‘voluntary’ means VOLUNTARY and not a contractual obligation — it is not a monthly bill (and money was very tight); (2) what right do you have you send out a dunning letter like this, because I'd never seen the like of it before or since; (3) consider all financial obligations you have with me as ended and I will recommend to my parents that they drop the building fund assessment also. I left the church over this jackass. I later learned that he'd had some financial problems (unspecified) and volunteered his resignation.
Some time after I'd been back from the service, my old assistant minister called me about returning to the church (he'd been recalled from retirement to roundup strays from the flock). I heard him out and told him about the business manager (he was appalled), and in the end turned him down.
I have looked for a good replacement for my old church, but none seems to measure up. The local churches preach a pablum of new age psychobabble and liberalism. The kiss of death for me came when our Methodist UME denomination joined the National Council of Churches. Many of the other church denominations in town have similar affiliations. Once I knew the church fathers had aligned themselves with the dark side, I was done. Since then, I have met several people who were in churches that they found immensely satisfying. They were good, upright people and were strong testaments to their faiths. However, my quest continues.
The “Folk Masses” of the 70’s did not help.
When you went to church and found the three nerds from your high school who were least likely to have freinds up their playing guitar and singing...
If the curch will support ministries that involve doing things that men are interested in, they will come of their own accord and stay.
I went to a church in town and found Jesus. The second thing that happened was that I joined the choir the next wednesday. About 45 minutes into the choir practice a guy whom I did not know leaned back and asked me whether I would like to do some construction for the Christmas show. I jumped at it and spent a large amount of time over the next three months making stuff for the show, big stuff. The friends I made in the first three months are some the best buddies I have ever had.
I have also been a shooting instructor for a Bible study. Sound a bit different? Our church honors the role of men and supports their interests in Serving Jesus.
I stopped going when the church leadership (who are men) where the people I would not truth with my life.
I love the idea of a car maintenance day. Car troubles really do mess up the lives of the working poor and single parents. I’m going to mention this to the Knights of Columbus.
Oh, MasterGunner, I can hear your distress right through your post! I am truly sorry.
I didn’t mention it in my post, but my husband was raised as a Lutheran. That has changed (long story; too long for this thread), but if you are looking for a church where men are appreciated and where it is quite unlikely that you will be subjected to “social justice” sermons, may I suggest that you try to find a Catholic church where the Latin Mass is said? I think you will find it quite illuminating.
Here’s what my formerly Lutheran husband said after finally having the opportunity to attend the Mass of the Ages: “Now THAT was church!”
After that one experience, he never looked back.
God bless you, Master Gunner.
PS: I’m not going to lie to you: Catholic churches look for money too, but I have NEVER heard of someone getting a dunning letter.
We do this alot and have a men’s ministry that manages it. It is a very big deal at our church and it is critical for those who do not have a job and have a car that will not run.
Mostly we do light weight stuff, retunes and oil changes, but we throw in for some heavier stuff on occasion.
I highly recommend it to you. It is a really critical service for the families of the body of Jesus.
buffalyguy, I really like the idea of a car maintenance day after church.
That’s a bit of charity that can really impact someone’s life RIGHT THEN.
I think this fits into the Early Church model. If a fellow believer was in trouble, the church was there for them.
I’m not sure how the community wide soup kitchens and charity (random handing out of goods and services) fits into this model. The former had oversight, so when a member no longer needed help they were “encouraged” to become productive again. The latter seems too easily abused by the professional indigent.
It’s simple to do and sometimes you can even teach the women how to change oil and tune their own cars.
It can change someone’s life.
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