When I opened David Murrow's book, Why Men Hate Going to Church, I had anticipated reading something that would broaden the discussion about gender roles in the church, present some nuance that would soften me to the plight of my male brothers, and illustrate that men, are, in fact, marginalized in significant ways within the Christian context. I've had a bit of an obsession of late with reading books, watching documentaries, and talking to people about the perspective of men about their jobs, parenting, and the ways that the healthcare system, and social systems in general, sometimes do not invite men in because of a particular sort of blindness to what engages men. I guess that I was also hoping for an analysis that would help me to better understand the men in my life who may not feel as at home on the pew, and as an extension of that, I was also looking for new ideas from the author around how sensitivity to the needs of men in a congregation could make churches more inviting.
Some of these areas were covered in great detail, and the self-reflection of the author regarding his own church experiences was telling. His analysis will compel you to think more deeply about the absence of men in churches, and what he perceives is attractive to men in other parts of the world who attach themselves to religious communities. I've learned that he thinks that men's greatest fear is powerlessness and that women's is loneliness. I've learned that he has some issues with women in ministry. I've learned that he thinks that the church has gone soft on Jesus' real message in favor of a more feminized version of it. I've learned that, from his perspective, men want to be heroes and that women want to be rescued. And I've learned that he sees this hero paradigm as being very aligned with the Gospel message.
I will freely admit; however, that a number of things about this book make me very uncomfortable. This discomfort comes, in large part, from the nagging sense that I had while reading this that Murrow is using a lot of anecdotal information; personal bias; references to extreme polarities in the discussion of gender and how it ought to look in the Christian context. Additionally, I had this nagging sense throughout the reading of this that his ideas have developed from an overly simplistic approach to the discussion of gender in the church and the world at large, and that looking broadly within Christianity at the historical reasons for how and why we are where we are might be more important.
He suggests that manly men, as he sees them, will be unlikely to find church appealing because their idea of God as the Lion of Judah can't be realized in a context where the Lamb of God is the dominant image. He also takes issue with the recent "romancing of Jesus" as well and suggests that we now have a situation where language is taken over by an erotic paradigm with Jesus as a lover and where worship is very focused on filling up the void in people related to the absence of good relationships in their lives. I agree with some of what he says, but I think that his ideas would be more fruitful in a dialogue where the topic of gender could be enlarged a bit more and where men and women could engage around what is happening as this book might come across to some as a typical patriarchal approach to the discourse.
Perhaps if I read his next book, I'll feel a bit less discomfort. I hope so. I would encourage readers of this book to see it as one sort of analysis that can inform how some men may feel about church, but not to see it as a gold standard or handbook for how to redesign church as I think that it does not broadly address the range of ways that men may define their realities and faith experiences. I would also recommend that the following books be read in conjunction with this, particularly if the readers are Evangelicals, as this book might otherwise create even more of an instantiation of very limited ways of seeing gender and thoughtful dialogue about this and other issues within the church: "Half the Church" by Carolyn Curtis James; "The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind" by Mark Knoll or "Letters to a Young Evangelical" by Tony Campolo. I think that there are many other great books that could be read in conjunction with this that might lead to a much more fruitful and productive discussion, but I definitely liked that this author made an attempt to do an analysis, and I respect his wading into a very sensitive area in an attempt to encourage greater awareness and discussion of a very current issue in many churches today.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneezeÂ®.com <http://BookSneezeÂ®.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 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Why Men Hate Going to Church by David Murrow.. Every time I go to church I am curious, the priest is curious why is it there are fewer men compare to women. Are they too busy that they don't have time going to church? Do they still have work during Sunday? But after reading Why Men Hate Going to Church, everything is answered.. try reading it!
I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneezeÂ®.com <http://BookSneezeÂ®.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 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
In this book, an updated and edited version of David Murrow's 2005 original, the author addresses the issue of why men are missing in our churches, especially the Evangelical church. He contrasts the "tone" of churches and how they take on more feminine traits than male traits. While men use terms like "boring", and "irrelevant" when describing their distaste for church, Murrow offers more detailed examples of how churches, and even Christ Himself, are depicted with mostly feminine traits, and that this leads men to find other outlets for their more natural tendencies toward competition, strength, and even conflict.
I find Murrow's views very enlightening. Moreover, they align with much of my personal discoveries about men (including me!) that indicate men are in pursuit of many "masculine" things because of their fear of being labeled as too effeminate, or not "manly" enough. In fact, Murrow's views are another example of how the "absence" of men from many of our most important institutions (church, school, and the home, for instance) is actually promoting an increase in the "feminizing" of our culture.
I also found the book an easy read overall. For those who like proof, Murrow provides significant data to back up his assertions concerning men and the church. For those who are concerned with adequate Biblical grounding, Murrow cites the Bible multiple times as he describes the conflict we've created in the church between Jesus the "Lamb" and Jesus the "Lion".
I recommend this book to anyone researching the issue of men and the church, or who are pursuing further understanding of how to reach more men in this generation for the Kingdom.
Disclosure Note: I obtained "Why Men Hate Going To Church" from Thomas Nelson publishing via their "Booksneeze" program which offers bloggers and other reviewers books for free in exchange for a published review. I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for the book, and the views expressed in this review are my own.
This book was released several years ago under the same name, but it has been re-released and has been revised extensively. I read the original book shortly after it was released and really enjoyed it, but the new book has a lot of new information and truthfully, I find it a much more interesting and easier read.
The book is divided into 3 parts starting with asking, "Where are the Men?" Men have left the church in record numbers as they feel that church is for women, wimps and wusses. Brad Stine addresses this in his video "WUSSIFICATION". Ironically, or not, Brad holds the 4th spot on the opening page of Murrow's book. In WMHGTC, Murrow addresses how decisions are made in a feminine way, saying that men cannot lead like men, instead they must be careful, sentimental and thrifty, making every decision a consensus. Decisions take months or years to make, and if someone gets their feelings hurt we don't move forward. Murrow also makes comparisons between the Lion of Judah and the Lamb of God. Jesus was a kind and gentle person, but he was not afraid to speak His mind and not only "rock the boat", He tipped over a few as well.
The second part is called "Church Culture vs. Man Culture". This section addresses some of the fears that men face regarding church. Examples include holding hands, especially with other men (or worse yet a man they don't even know), reading out loud (this is a huge fear for many guys) singing praise and worship songs, (your love is extravagant, your friendship, it is intimate) guys don't talk to guys like this and so they are uncomfortable singing about this to Jesus. Men have a rep to uphold and singing intimate lyrics to Jesus doesn't cut it. Ladies, you say your husband isn't romantic enough with you, why would you expect him to say/sing romantic things to another man, Jesus?
The third part is called "Calling the Church Back to the Men". Notice that is not call the men back to the church. Men have not changed all that much over the years; the church on the other hand continues to lean toward the ladies in the church. Ladies need to be in church as much as the guys, but guys are less likely to attend an event, or church, that is feminized. Ladies on the other hand will most likely not have an issue with attending a church that men are excited to attend and feel comfortable in. This chapter gives thoughts and ideas on how to re-engage men in church and get them excited about church, reading their Bibles and being involved in church life.
It is difficult for me to put all my thoughts into a few words when David Murrow has done such a great job of writing this book. I highly recommend this book and others that he has written, such as "The Map", "How Women Help Men Find God" and other resources that can be found on his website: www.churchformen.com. "Why Men Hate Going to Church" is a must read for men and women alike whether you are a pastor, a lay leader or a casual church attendee.