Men at Worship
Why Men Hate Going To Church
by David Murrow
Nelson Books, 2005
(248 pages, $13.99, paperback)
reviewed by S. M. Hutchens
David Murrow, encouraged by Leon Podles’s The Church Impotent, supported by common sense and a collection of interesting statistics, lays out the evidence for the overwhelming domination of the Western churches not by men, as the feminist mythos has it, but by women. He describes the church as a place essentially for women, and the consequent uninterest and distaste of normal men for an institution they find not only irrelevant, but a threat to their masculinity. On assessing this pathology he does a fine job; I can’t think of anything he has missed.
There are, however, some serious defects, particularly where Murrow—the director of Church for Men, which helps “churches unleash the masculine spirit throughout the organization”—attempts to deal with the origins of the problem and suggest therapies for it.
The liturgical service, for example, is merely a calcification of the morbid tendency, disliked by males, toward keeping people in their comfort zones by assuring them that things will always be the same. There is no recognition that it might, alternatively, represent an attempt to retain an orthodoxy (“right worship”) that is constantly under attack, which men have a duty to preserve, and for which they must in every generation fight.
Elsewhere he notes that men like challenges, but does not include among them that of sitting themselves down for more than eight minutes to listen to a sermon. Rather than having the men demand excellent preaching that is worth listening to for as long as the average television program lasts and exerting themselves to get enough knowledge to understand it, he recommends that the service be broken up with entertainments and supplemented by gimmickry of the sort normal men appreciate. Thus he reinforces every female prejudice about men being helpless and rather dull little boys who really need to be helped along in things religious by women.
Men like surprises, innovation, excellence, and challenges, but he does not seem able to conceptualize this except in terms of incorporating them in the programs of mega-type churches. There is little appreciation in this book for the involvement of men in the defense of the gospel—historically one of the principal concerns of manly Christian men, and not just of martyrs who die for the faith in other times and foreign parts.
The high cards are shuffled out here to religious innovators and those who wish to insure the involvement of men by giving them manly entertainments. One fails to see where this is an improvement on church feminization.
Murrow effectively lays out almost every practical reason conceivable as to why the female pastorate is a terrible idea if the churches are to gain men. He makes it perfectly clear he understands that “few men will follow a woman unless they are forced. . . . Men follow female bosses, teachers, and commanding officers only because they can be fired, flunked, or court-martialed. But given a choice men rarely follow female leadership.”
S. M. Hutchens is a Touchstone senior editor.
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