Why Men Hate Going to Church

by David Murrow


I can unconditionally recommend this book to anybody. Well, the atheists and Muslims probably don't want to read it, but even they, if and when they start looking seriously at the Christian faith, they need to read this book.

What Murrow says in this book is essentially what I have been trying to say since about the time the book was published, although I didn't know about his book until a couple weeks ago. No two people ever believe exactly the same thing, so of course there are minor differences in our perceptions. Murrow does not seem to be aware of the MBTI Feeler/Thinker distinction, so he mostly (with a couple exceptions) makes this a gender thing rather than a personality thing, but he does cite the physiological differences between men and women, and he certainly knows -- and apologizes once or twice near the beginning -- that his message is not politically correct. Fortunately, he does not let that diminish what he has to say. Political correctness happens to be wrong in this matter, and pretty much everybody (not necessarily excepting the feminazis) knows it. Unlike Murrow, I don't apologize for the discrepancy. But then, I'm not trying to sell a book (to women).

Murrow is a journalist and he knows how to go after sources. He has extensive notes documenting these sources, which I think is great. He admits that he is not a theologian, but he does quote some theologians and numerous pastors, some of them who agree with him and are doing something about it. He is not strongly denominational, because the problem extends across pretty much all denominations. His personal theology is conservative and evangelical, but he doesn't mind quoting Catholics and mainline people; they have the same problem, probably more than we do (it's certainly worse in the less conservative churches). Me, I think Scripture is strongly complementarian, and abandoning this doctrine -- as is especially true in the mainline churches -- probably contributes significantly to the problem, but Murrow claims it is not a theological problem.

Basically the message of this book is that men are different from women, and that women have taken over control of the churches -- most pastors are still men, but they have mostly feminine values and personal preferences, and women hold all the positions of leadership below the pastor, and the women enforce their personal values "with a velvet glove." The result is that when men come into a church, they see the female decor and female activities and female people (few and wimpy men), so they feel out of place, they go home and don't come back.

There were places in this book where I was reminded of my own writings about the differences between men and women. Murrow does not tell about the difference in the meaning of "love" as men understand it (see my "Love in Fiction" blog entry five years ago, with links) where men understand the word as a selfish clinging sentimentality in women that seeks to prevent men from being who they are, with a "destiny" to risk life and limb to save the world. Murrow sees men rejecting that sentimentality, but does not tie it to a gender register in the language, nor even to that particular word, which preachers insist on using to describe God, despite that it is a very poor translation of the Greek word -- which really means self-sacrificial Do The Right Thing, and if preachers taught it that way, men would have more interest in the Biblical message. It's a small part of the bigger message that Murrow gets right, but he doesn't read Greek (and the preachers he talked to don't teach it that way), so he cannot be expected to know it.

Murrow describes men as aggressive, competitive, and project oriented. They approach a project and want to "plan, work, and then celebrate and finally rest." Women are relational, and program oriented. Programs are on-going and "do not provide the plan-work-celebrate-rest cycle that men crave." Historically, "men were hunters" (outdoors, episodic), "women were gatherers" (close to home, continuous). Many of his generalizations about men do not fit me very well, but I have always known that I'm different from most guys.

I think that if Murrow had known about the MBTI Feeler/Thinker distinction, some of his characterizations might have come out closer to where I am, but I know I'm outside the mainstream, so it doesn't bother me much. I go to church anyway, because God said to, despite that there's nothing there for me most of the time. It's something to do as part of my Day of Rest. Some of his characterizations actually do fit me more than I would have guessed.

The first half of the book Murrow devotes to his main thesis that the (modern) church is not designed for men. The back half he discusses concrete things that churches and the people in them -- including the women -- can do to make church more inviting, ideas that have been tried in churches and they worked at bringing men in.

I got my fill of the outdoors when I was a child, so offering more outdoors activities for men probably wouldn't attract me. I'm older than most guys and possibly closer to the Scriptural model of maturity, so his idea of having a father figure, another man to follow, probably would fit me very well either, but sometimes I have been in an informal mentoring role with another guy. I thought it ironic that his choice of names for an example of a spiritual father-son relationship were Dave and Tom, because I just came out of what could have become such a relationship, except that Murrow's "Dave" was the father figure, whereas in my case Tom is old enough to be Dave's father, and Dave exercised his father-like role by throwing Tom out of the church that Tom really wanted to stay in. Even more ironic, whereas Murrow never found a church where there were more men than women, I have been in two such churches, and in both cases the church leadership had no clue what they were doing right, and the proportions in both cases were heading back towrd American normal (more women than men). In each case, sometime closer to the crossover, I was ejected from that church apparently for attempting to work with the leadership to make the masulinity more intentional. Whatever.

I also found his use of the modern word "worship" (meaning to sing warm fuzzy songs in a church context) somewhat off-putting, because the Bible knows nothing of that idea. The Greek and Hebrew words usually translated as "worship" more closely resemble the meaning of the Olde Englishe word used in England 400 years ago to translate the King James Bible, where it meant something closer to our modern word "grovel" (face to the ground, butt up, the way the Muslims pray), and music was not a part of the process at all, except when people were commanded to "worship" the image of Nebuchadnezzar under penalty of death. But I understand that language changes, and his context clearly expressed what he meant. Murrow also suggested leaving "worship" (singing) out of the activities men would be attracted to, which is not a bad idea, given the modern sense of the word. Leaving Biblical (face to the ground) worship out might also be a good idea also, because most Americans have drunk what I call "the American Kool-Aid," the Declaration that "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all [people] are [evolved] equal," with the result that Americans, probably more than most cultures, tend to be anti-authoritarian. Grovelling is generally deemed to be un-manly (in Murrow's book), and certainly unAmerican.

I had some four dozen specific comments queued up, a few niggles, mostly kudos, but detailing them all probably would not alter what I already said. Maybe I'll go through my notes some day and add an addendum, or maybe I'll just stop here.

In any case, it's an awesome book, alone in its class. The author bio at the end mentioned three other books that brought Murrow to his present understanding (and rescued him from unbelief). One of them he said was on the internet, but I only found a one-chapter teaser. Another website gave it a review from which I could see that while Podles' The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity clearly deals with the same subject matter, only Murrow offers a way out. We need to be doing that.

Tom Pittman
2020 September 11+
 

Selected Quotes

[Shown with page numbers and chapter titles; italics and bold are author's, my comments in brackets]

p.15-17 "Why Judy's Husband Hates Going to Church"

If a filmmaker is trying to attract a male audience, he will pack his movie with the things men like: buildings exploding, cars crashing, guns blazing, and bodies flying. There will be tension, intrigue, and a hero who saves the world against impossible odds...

If a filmmaker wants to set the thermostat for women, he'll include lots of clever dialog, beautiful costumes, flowers, and scenery. The movie will star a handsome couple who, after a series of misadventures, end up in a happy relationship...

So what does today's church emphasize? Relationships: a personal relationship with Jesus and healthy relationships with others. By focusing on relationships, the local church partners with women to fulfill their deepest longing.

But few churches model men's values: risk and reward, accomplishment, heroic sacrifice, action and adventure...

This is why Greg hates to go to church. He finds it boring and irrelevant because he doesn't see his values modelled there. He finds church dull for the same reason he finds chick flicks dull: neither one reflects his masculine heart. Greg has no desire to fall in love with a wonderful man, even one named Jesus.

So who is right, Greg or Judy? Should church be more like a romantic comedy or an action/adventure movie? Put another way, is the purpose of the Christian life to find a happy relationship with a wonderful man, or is it to save the world against impossible odds?

Men want to succeed at everything they do. Competence is very important to them... To really win at Judy's church, Greg would need more than a conversion experience; he'd need a personality transplant...

The good news is, Jesus is alive today. He wants to speak to men. If only the church will let him.


p.21 "Men Aren't the Only Ones Missing From Church"

Now try this on: be dangerous. What if that were our message to men? If churchgoing held the prospect of risk, adventure, and daring, you'd have an abundance of men, teenagers, and young adults signing up. That's precisely what we find in the persecuted church today. It was also the situation in the early church when Christians were routinely stoned, beaten, or fed to hungry lions. When it's dangerous to be a Christian, men are more likely to count themselves in.

But today's church is all about safety...

If we want to shed our reputation as a place for little old ladies of both sexes, we must recapture the challenge of following Jesus. The Christian life is not about becoming a nicer person. It's a quest. When men see other men living the adventure, yjey'll want in. When young adults see church as a place to find abundant life (the challenging life), they will come back.

There are wise churches that are taking risks, dreaming big, and bringing a measure of adventure back to the Christian life... In short, these churches have guts. The Biblical translation of the word guts is "faith." ... Men are drawn to churches (and Christians) with guts.


p.34 "Adjusting the Thermostat"

Today's evangelical church has discarded the discipleship model in favor of an academic model.

Why is this academic approach to faith so discouraging to men? Simple. Men are less comfortable in a classroom... Men are changed by what they experience, not necessarily by what they are told.


p.40+ "Men: Who Needs 'Em"

* Fit the role to the person, not vice versa. Al Winseman recommends, "Instead of creating roles then finding people to fit those roles, congregation leaders should start with the person then define the role."


p.44

...while Christian values tend to be perceived as feminine, they must be lived out in an aggressive, masculine fashion.
This is why the church needs men. Men's natural gifts are just that, gifts to the church. They are not sins in need of repentance... God made men the way they are because we need what they've got. Just as a flu shot causes momentary pain, but promotes long-term health, the exercise of masculine gifts may cause a congregation to be momentarily less nurturing, tender, and supportive. However, over the long term, men's "go for it" spirit promotes health in many different ways.


p.45

Women tend to exalt relationships over rules. Men tend to exalt rules over relationships. Isn't that legalism? ... Christ said, "Don't suppose that I came to do away with the Law and the Prophets. I did not come to do away with them, but to give them their full meaning" (Matt.5:17 CEV). He warned those who would abandon the rules, "If you reject even the least important command in the Law and teach others to do the same, you will be the least important person in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt.5:19 CEV).


p.54+ "The Gap of Presence"

To my knowledge, there is no Christian sect or denomination in America that attracts more men than women. Various surveys have indicated anywhere from 3 to 9 percent of America's churches have more men, but in five years of research I never found such a church.


p.60

...according to Dr. Leon Podles. Men began to withdraw from church life during the thirteenth century when a new bridal mysticiswm began to sweep the church.


p.63

Dr. Podles predicts, "The Protestant clergy will be a characteristically female occupation, like nursing, within a generation." Newsweek columnist Kenneth Woodward thinks this may not be such a good idea:

"...As I see it, the last bastion of male presence in the church is the altar and the pulpit. I would hate to see the priesthood turn into an essentially female calling."


p.71+ "The Gap of Personality"

In most churches pasivity is a highly developed art. [non sequitur..] Tradition is revered... For example, two Christian monks got into a bloody fistfight when a chair was moved from one spot to another... You might say that today's church is full of passivity activists whose greatest energies are devoted to fighting change.

George Barna uncovered similar results. "We recently interviewed more than 2400 Protestant pastors and discovered that 92% of them said they are leaders. Then we gave them the definition that we use of leadership and saw the proportion drop to less than two thirds, Barna continued. "When we then asked if they felt that God had given them one of the spiritual gifts that relates to leading people, such as leadership, apostleship or even administration, the proportion plummeted to less than one out of four. Finally, we asked them to dictate to us the vision that they were leading people toward -- that is, the very heartbeat of their ministry -- and we wound up in the single digits."


p.72-73

Churches led by people with passive personalities drive men away for at least two reasons:

1. Passive-led churches are very busy, but no one stops to consider whether all this busyness is achieving anything.

2. Passive-led churches are not moving toward a compelling vision -- and according to Proverbs, "Where there is no vision, the people perish" (29:18 KJV).

The church has a reputation for attracting gentle, sensitive, bookish guys who are less masculine than average.

Dr. Leon Podles cites a study by psychologists Lewis M. Terman and Catharine Cox Miles... Men who expressed an interest in art or religion were more likely to answer like a woman than other men... "Most masculine of all are the men who have little or no interest in religion."

...Women who had highly feminine scores were also especially religious, while women who had more masculine scores were neutral or averse to religion.


[This study only correlates consistency of religious interest with answers made by women, but does not attribute cause and effect, such as MBTI Feeler values promoted in the church vs Thinker values elsewhere.]

p.74

Susan Faludi, after observing men at a Promise Keepers rally, put it this way:

"If they were plotting the overthrow of a feminist world, they showed no signs of it... In an era when the sports spectators who were the bleachers' usual clientele left the stadiums littered and vandalized, the Promise Keepers were careful to throw away all their trash... They were willfully docile..." [again confusing violence and destruction with masculinity; Jesus did not teach destruction to his disciples, he taught them the pre-eminence of Truth and Justice, Do The Right Thing (I call it "2C"), which PK did not teach].


p.82-83

[Testerone is] associated with dominance, physicality, and high self-esteem -- in both men and women...

How can we help men?

* Friendly, physical competition for men and boys. [competition is really hard on the guys who cannot compete on the physical playing field: I know, I hated PE and "Do we have to take Pittman" choosing up sides, and I got to know other guys similarly indisposed (one of them compensated by leaning toward Arianism; I don't think we really want to encourage that). I was still competitive, but I chose a field where I could win, although later in life I decided that competition is incompatible with 2C; I wonder if it is possible to find a happy balance?]

* Reinvent Sunday School...

* Intermission.

* Physical activity [see remarks above]


p.85+ "What Biology Teaches Us About Men"

Scientists have found the brains of men and women differ in a number of ways...

1. Men have a larger amygdala... Dr. James Dobson writes:

"The amygdala never forgets a fearful moment, which is why traumatized people often find it so difficult to get over their hair-raising experiences..." [I didn't know that, but it is consistent with my own inferential reasoning in another recent context]


p.86

2. Men have a smaller corpus callosum [I knew that, heard it from Dr.Dobson]


p.89

The church is one of the few institutions that refused to buy into that great lie of the 1970s and 1980s: there's no difference between men and women... [Some churches, anyway] How ironic that we refuse to accommodate these differences!

Christianity doesn't change a man's physiology and body chemistry. It's time for Christians to take a hard look at how we do things. Small changes will make men much happier in our churches.


p.92+ "What the Social Sciences Teach Us About Men"

Anthropology... can give us insignt into men's discomfort with church. Many Christians mistrust anthropology because its best-known tenet is the theory of evolution. Relax, we're not going there. [izzatso? How does Murrow know these "insights" didn't come from Darwinist presuppositions?]

Men Were the Hunters, Women the Gatherers

When the study of anthropology took off in the nineteenth century, there were still a number of undisturbed hunter/gatherer societies left on earth. [Presupposition: that these are more "primitive" = earlier in the Darwinistic timeline; more likely, from a Biblical perspective: the first post-Flood culture was urban with a division of labor (as in modern cities), but when God scatterd people to put a stop to the Tower, they tried various coping strategies and settled on what worked best under the new lack of commerce, based on their natural inclinations and abilities].


p.94

* Programs do not provide the plan-work-celebrate-rest cycle that men crave.


p.95

Besides hunting, men had a very important secondary job: waging war against rival bands. Warfare is still imprinted on the male psyche... [Izzatso? Maybe it's only that fighting increases the adrenaline level and feels good]


p.96

Douglas Wilson reminds us, "The Christian faith is in no way pacifistic. The peace that will be ushered in by our great Prince will be a peace purchased with blood. As our Lord sacrificed Himself in this war, so must His followers learn to do."


p.97

Anthropologist Ernestine Friedl found that in most preliterate societies, men were the keepers of religion...

This is bad news for Christianity. As I said earlier, when it comes to spiritual matters, society has always followed the lead of men. Today's men are focused on the secular, so civilization is gradually turning its attention that way as well. Unless Christianity reengages men, its influence will continue to wane.


p.101 "Men Seek Greatness"

[commenting on the two disciples who sought special rank in Jesus' coming Kingdom, Mark 10:35-45...]

"If you want to be great, you must be the servant of all the others..."

Those first six words are remarkable: "If you want to be great." In other words, it's OK to seek greatness. The desire to be a great man is not sin; it is virtue. Instead of opposing James and John's lust for greatness (as the ten disciples did), Jesus directed it. The way up is down, boys...

Men must know it's OK to reach for greatness as long as it's done the way Jesus prescribed -- not through self-promotion, but through self-sacrifice. And we must admire men when they achieve this greatness. Listen to the words of Robert Lewis...

"Robert Bly said, 'If you're not being admired by other men, you're being hurt.' That struck a chord with me..."


p.104+ "The Pursuit of Manhood: His Greatest Quest"

Manhood is something a man earns. One deed at a time, a task at a time, an interaction at a time... One coin at a time. [I had not thought of it that way, but it certainly fits the real world (and the Biblical teaching model) better than what the church teaches]


p.105

Even writers and artists like me have a masculinity bank to fill, and we must find clever ways to prove our manhood because we lack a macho persona and profession. [OK, I'm with him here]

Masculinity banks experience withdrawals as well... If he does something that his peers regard as womanly, it's like pulling the stopper out of the bank and dropping coins down a sewer.


p.110

Many women are taking men's jobs, but few men are taking women's jobs. For example, 29 percent of the lawyers in America are women, but less than 2 percent of kindergarten and pre-K teachers are men. (I must apologize for the political incorrectness of this discussion, but it's the way things are.) [no apology needed]


p.113

I wish I could say, "This is it. Here is the barrier that is keeping men from church." But there is no single barrier. There is no smoking gun. Truth is, there are many different reasons men hate church, because there are many different kinds of men.


[I would offer the Thinker/Feeler values distinction as the main barrier, frex...]

p.114

The number one reason men give for not going to church...

1. There are too many hypocrites there.


[Thinkers value Truth, Feelers are willing to sacrifice Truth for affirmation (= "relationship")]

p.115+ "Men Are Afraid ... Very Afraid"
 

Men hate to be outshone by women.


p.116

Why aren't men becoming competent Christians? As I said earlier, the path to Christ now leads through a classroom. Study. Read. Learn. Attend classes. Acquire knowledge. Perfect your theology. It's a path few men are willing to walk, unless they happen to be the studious type.

The only place men sing together is a masculine venue... Men in military formation sing in deep cadence. Promise Keepers rallies feature robust singing for three reasons: (1) most of the men are already Christians, (2) they know the songs [hmm, maybe that's why I hated PK], and (3) they are in a sports arena with no women around.

I have talked to enough unchurched guys... They may not mind a few short songs, but today's contemporary churches feature twenty, thirty, or even forty-five minutes of non-stop praise singing. Verses repeat over and over. And over.


p.118

Lee Strobel [saw] Christians as being boring, out of touch, and living a "plain vanilla" lifestyle that's devoid of excitement, challege, or fun.

Men Fear They Will Have Check Their Minds at the Door


p.119

Well-educated men want a church where God is real, but not one that treats science as an enemy. They want a church where they can ask questions and challenge the party line.


[me too, I got disinvited twice for doing that]

p.128+ "The Church Is Out of Touch"

A church that uses the latest technology to teach and encourage will be sending a strong message to men and yung adults: we speak your language.

Men Respect Excellence and Quality; They Have Little Patience for Mediocrity


p.129

A church that really cares for tone-deaf Tanya will gently direct her away from the choir into an area where she's more gifted. But few churches have the guts to do this.


[I was in a church that had a guy in the choir who "sang monotone." The choir director disinvited him, and his whole family left the church]

p.174, in ch.18, "Pastors and the Masculine Spirit"

Maybe the key isn't the gender of the pastor. Maybe it's the spirit of the pastor... The Bible's most famous shepherd, David, was also the Bible's most celebrated warrior. This is what men need, a pastor wit a shepherd's heart and the spirit of a warrior.


p.188 "Worship and the Masculine Spirit"

To many Christians, singing and worship are now synonymous. One time a woman was telling me about her church. She said, "We have twenty minutes of worship, then teaching." I replied, "Really? So you stop worshipping when you close your mouths?" ...now she realizes that her definition of worship was too narrow.


p.219, in ch.23, "Every Man Needs a Spiritual Father"

...we'll meet Dave and Tom, a spiritual father and his spiritual son.

Dr. Larry Crabb says every man must learn to release the masculine energy within himself. Suppressing it leads to one of three outcomes: (1) men feel powerless, and become controlling; (2) men feel rage, and become abusive; or (3) men feel terror, and become addicted. Dave shows Tom how to deal with his feelings and how to express them in a healthy way.


[hmm, I think my Dave needed somebody to do this for him]

p.223+ "Every Man Needs a Band of Brothers Father"

1. Though Men Want and Need Relationships, They rarely Use the Term or Think Relationally


p.224

My advice: avoid the term relationship altogether when dealing with guys.


p.225

It's not enough for men to connect with each other; they need to connect with God... The real question is not one of status but one of practice: "Am I walking with God? Am I following Jesus Christ today?"


p.227 "The Second Coming of the Masculine Spirit"

God differentiated between male and fe=male in the Garden; we must never forget that the sexes are different, immutably so, and we must treat them differently... No longer can we scorn men's gifts or bid them repent for the way God made them.


2020 September 24