Friday, June 17, 2005

church sucks.

That, at least, appears to be the opinion of men, young and old, who see their wives or mothers scurry off to church at the established time, progeny in tow, while they dedicate themselves to better things. Golf. Sleeping. Coffee and newspaper. Putzing around in the backyard.

This is not an accusation. It's barely even a criticism. It's just the way things are.

A new book ruminates on the age old imbalance in the pews: women outnumber men in virtually every category of church related activities in places where Christianity is the dominant creed.

Of course, the one category where men still numerically dominate is a bitter bone of contention. The clergy.

The complaints against organized Christianity as sexist or otherwise insensitive to women's concerns are unevenly concentrated in that one, final frontier of male solvency. In all other realms of church life, women constitute between 60% and 80% of active participants.

This is, in a way, a very good thing. Women are the heart and soul of the church in much the same way they are the life force of their families. The proscription of women from the priesthood in the Catholic Church - for reasons grossly misstated in the public fore - is not at issue here. What Murrow's book ponders is the traditional and persistant allergy of men to church-going in contrast to the equally traditional and persistant enthusiasm of women.

The topic is valid and, for those of us in the business, interesting. The huge gender gap that is part and parcel of Christianity does not affect other historical religions: Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism or Islam.

Like I said, interesting.

What I found less interesting was the way Murrow resolves the question. Basically he takes a 'men are from Mars, women are from Venus' approach. The adventuresome hunter-warrior type just can't sit still long enough to make church a favorite pastime. Women, on the other hand, are drawn by the emphasis on healing, relationships, family, comfort, etc. given in Christian churches. All this, and pretty much only this, according to Mr. Murrow.

Any incursion to a debate on why men do one thing and women do another is fraught with the risk of political incorrectness. But, the facts are what they are.

The Exorcist offers a few ideas on why, possibly, men avoid going to church.

  • because of their upbringing, they never grasped its importance (obviously, that works for women just as well)
  • many Christian services have turned into a group hug with no greater purpose than feeling good about oneself
  • the emphasis on sentiments and emotions so prevalent in many versions of Christianity, the need to feel the faith and show everyone else that you do, indeed, feel it... definitely a turn off for most guys
  • the hoplessly vague content of the message in many churches makes Christianity no different than any other twelve step program
  • the thought that one's weakness, errors and incoherence might have to be looked at more seriously, that one might be induced to consider changes in lifestyle, that one might be given a higher moral standard to live up to all turn into a real problem for most guys who prefer to make their own rules and don't like hearing that they have to change...
  • the fact that, created in God's image, we tend to recreate Him in our own allows us to think that what's not important to me, probably isn't to Him either

And, let's face it, the world we live in does everything possible to convince us that all religions are basically the same and, therefore, vastly irrevelant - especially if they cramp your style.

True Christianity revolves around being and meaning. Our lives are totally caught up in having and doing. Who's got time for church? Much less prayer and good works...

We like the reality we've created for ourselves: working ourselves to death, spinning our wheels, chasing after 'security' or 'a higher standard of living' or some other mirage of our materialistic world.

But, regardless of who comes to church, men or women, it is the message itself, in all its unbelievable truth, that makes the Christian faith relevant, yesterday, today, always.

That's why it's so hard to keep a good exorcist down. ;)