May 10, 2005

The (Fe)male Church

So I've spent some time thinking about it, and I'm still no closer to a conclusion as to why in the world there are more women in church than men. I talked with Greg about it a bit, and he said that church isn't really a time or place, but a group of people. Ok. It's a good answer, a correct answer, and a good start, but not quite what I'm getting at. And so far, nobody else has tried their hand at answering the question: why is it that this group of people (a good start, again) is made up mostly of women these days, not men? I'm told this is true for the first century church as well, and for the church through history in general: women make up a larger portion of the body of Christ than men do.

And it makes no kinda sense to me. I mean a) I'm a guy, b) I believe in Jesus, and c) I have plenty of guy friends who are Christians too. But plenty more that are of the female persuasion. So I figured I'd try to sort it out by writing about it.

Ok. So let's see. Here are the options that I could think of:
1) women are smarter than men, and are naturally drawn to the truth because, well, it's true.
2) men are more rebellious than women, and will therefore run from truth more often.
3) God likes women better, so He predestined more of them.
4) there's something about the church that attracts women but not men. aka women are more relational than men, and find those relationships in the church, whereas men need solo time with God and find it on the golf course.
5) there are just as many men as women that are part of the church, but the men just don't go to an organized religious gathering but women do.
6) Christianity is false and women buy into the whole "connection" mumbo-jumbo that Jesus supposedly taught easier than men do.

I think I'll stop coming up with bogus ideas, because while those are certainly possibilities, I'm killing myself to find a legitimate answer. Ok, so let's go through them and maybe some new (better) ones will flush out as I think.

1) women are smarter than men, and are naturally drawn to the truth because, well, it's true.
Lots of discussion has been had about this, mostly at coctail parties and in high school cafeterias. And at weddings, lots of this at weddings. Because you have to wonder, is it something about the people? I don't think so, most researchers would say that women and men have about the same mental capacity in a relative sort of way. I mean, I'm not nearly as smart as most of my women professors, but then again, I'm not as smart as most of my men professors. In fact, UR has about a 50/50 split of women and men in academic careers. Ok. Next.

2) men are more rebellious than women, and will therefore run from truth more often.
A distinct possibility. In Eden (not to be confused with Edam, a sort of cheese), Eve was tempted by the serpent, but Adam was asked by Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit. He had a choice - does he refuse and know that something will come between him and his woman, or does he agree and drive a spike between him and God? Obviously we know which one he chose, and that legacy has been a problem for men ever since - and this could certainly play a role in the truth. Ok, so maybe a better label for this is "men inheret a legacy of rebellion from Adam". Moving on ...

3) God likes women better, so He predestined more of them.I like women better than men too, but for a different reason. Right. So this is totally bogus, since I don't really agree with the Calvinist definition of "predestination," but rather with C.S. Lewis' understanding of it: Predestination is the same as free will, which is way confusing and frankly causes more mental problems than any other theological debate I can think of. Point being, I think God likes everyone, and so women are just as important as men are just as important as women and so on and so forth.

4) there's something about the church that attracts women but not men, aka women are more relational than men, and find those relationships in the church, whereas men need solo time with God and find it on the golf course.Possible. Very possible. I'd make this argument more valid if I had asked the question in a local context, rather than the historical context in which I framed it. If the church lately had been more laden with women (which it is), it would make sense, because the new culture IS very relational and women ARE very relational and it all kinda works out. Guys like golf, I'm pretty sure that it's got nothing much to do with God when they go out and swing clubs at little white balls. Maybe God likes golf too, I dunno. But the church, as of late, has made a much larger appeal to men because it offers a sort of ritualistic feel that men tend to find appealing - "just come on sunday and that will fulfill your religious obligations for the week." This is the case for evangelicals AND catholics AND orthodox AND mainline protestants alike. But the church hasn't been that way always - the medieval church was very much like that, but pretty much everyone was "Christian" (by force, I guess), so that's not very helpful. The first-century church was very relational and communal but not very ritualistic, and it appealed more to women than men - case in point, Perpetua and Felicitas, especially because Jesus treated women way better than his contemporaries. I'd say this one has a lot of weight to go towards the explanation.

5) there are just as many men as women that are part of the church, but the men just don't go to an organized religious gathering but women do.
Again, maybe. I guess this is a question of definition - how do you define "religious" or "Christian" or whatever. Furthermore, how do you tell if someone is really into their faith or not. Some people are way into "Jesus-talk" but really don't show too many spiritual signs (they just like the lingo), and some really aren't into "Jesus-talk" at all but live out their faith every day and do so with incredible stamina. So which is it? I'm thinking that this is again, a possible explanation - men really don't tend to like the community thing as much as women do - but only in part, because lots of organizations (like in business) have more men than women.

6) Christianity is false and women buy into the whole "connection" mumbo-jumbo that Jesus supposedly taught easier than men do.
Um, no.

Ok, so that's all I've got. Here's what I'm thinking: men are less relational than women are, and combined with their inherited legacy of rebellion from Adam, men are less likely to be a part of the church. The small-group entities appeal to women because that's what women (in general) really like - a place to be with friends. Guys don't like talking as much, they like doing - and so they won't want to be part of small groups, they'd rather be part of a habitat for humanity project where they get to help somebody. The question is, which is more spiritual? Frankly, I'd say you need a little of both, but if you got a guy to come to a project, he'd probably be more likely to come to a small group occasionally.

To be sure, the church has been very much a theoretical entity as of late - they talk a lot about love and such things (which women like to hear, and then get together in small groups and talk more about it), but don't necessarily SHOW such things (which is how men tend to function - on a DOING level).

I've written too much already, so please, I'd like to continue this discussion, but I need input - what do you all think?

2 comments:

Chad said...

I think you're getting close to being right towards the end of your post. I work at a church and our women's ministry is flourishing and our men's ministry is floundering. I think it's always going to be a struggle to get men to show up to church. I know at our church we have a pretty good turn out of men at our weekend services, but at men's events it's always a battle to get it filled up. You're right when you say women like relational opportunities better. Case in point: our women's ministry just had a "Timeless Tea" last Friday. I thought they would be luckt to get 100 ladies. They got over 250 and sold out. Men would never show up to that kind of thing. But, we do have a men's night at the local trap and skeet club next week. We've yet to see how many men will show up, but even still, we're having a hard time drawing the men to come. It's even a thing that is stereotypical male thing to do, but I'm willing to bet that we're not going to get nearly as many men as the women got for a "tea" event. I think it's a mystery that we may never know until we get into heaven. So, good luck on your search for the answer.

Greg said...

OK. I'll say it one more time and be done. You are measuring the wrong thing. You are asking the wrong question. Especially the comment from Chad. You are suggesting (it seems to me) that because men tend to participate less in our events that there are less men in the church. Why must we perpetuate the idea that church is something so spacial.

I am not part of the church because of any gathering I attend, or any creed I espouse or and rituals I have completed or regularly practice. I am a part of Jesus' church whether I do any of these things or not. It's not about doing. It's only about being. I am in him, and so I am in the Church. That's it. You can't change that, no board of elders can change that, only Jesus can and I don't think he plans to.

So while we study the numbers at various gatherings and the demographics of all our gender specific events, the Church goes on. The Church of men and women who belong to their Father. Whose lives have been infused with his Light, not through religious behaviors, or even non-religious... but through an authentic, everyday relationship with Jesus. Every day... everywhere.

At least, that's what I think. ;-)