Saturday, September 22, 2012
Book Review: Why Men Hate Going to Church (rev ed)
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.”