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+