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The Challenge: Why Men Hate Going to Church

I have a confession to make about Friday’s post.

I had just finished reading Why Men Hate Going to Church by David Murrow. In his recent second edition, he postulates that the reason the gender gap is increasing in many Christian denominations is that many churches are overly feminized. Yes, the vast majority of pastors in Christian churches (and all ordained ministers in Catholic churches) are men, but the participants and those involved in lay leadership are majority women across the American Christian fold. Further, the lack of male participants will result in the death of a church, citing statistics that the higher the gender gap, the quicker a church’s attendance declines.

I found his book extremely interesting. Murrow connects today’s praise and worship music and the phrasing of having a “relationship” with Jesus Christ as one “male repellant”. His reasoning: What man wants to have a “relationship” with another man? Do men talk like that to each other? Did Jesus talk like that to his own Apostles? While we are called to an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, can’t we find a different way to phrase it, at least some of the time? The book has many examples and his reasoning for how they came about.

He cites that, while we shouldn’t go fire and brimstone exclusively, much of our discussion of Christ is based on Jesus the Lamb while viewing Jesus the Lion (e.g. throwing out moneychangers in the temple) as the anomaly of Christ. Murrow’s claim is that Jesus was “a lion” as much, if not more, than he acted as a “lamb” and that the overall Christian church has decreased that message to, for some, a footnote.

Murrow’s solution isn’t to make churches a den of masculinity, but to reduce the “repellent” aspects some and increase opportunities for men to feel useful. Men like to work with their hands and do stuff. For many churches, the only ministry some men feel useful is the usher or parking lot attendant. (I’m not saying women don’t like to work with their hands. I’m not trying to make any inference about how women feel included in the church community; just my thoughts on getting men more active.)

This book was written for the broader Christian church, so many aspects of it aren’t applicable across the board. From the Catholic position, many of his points about worship services simply don’t apply to Mass or, if they do, aren’t things we’ll change as they’ve been like that for hundreds of years if not thousands. Nevertheless, many of his points do make sense to me and could be applied to the Catholic practice in some way.

As I mentioned in the comments of Friday’s post about chicken broth, sometimes being Catholic is a bit too easy. When looking at the guidelines of excluding meat on Fridays (and Ash Wednesday), if the sacrifice is easy, what’s the point? Yes, there is something to be said to be reminded of the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, but as a penance, is it effective?

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