Among these, Holly Pivec's article, "The Feminization of the Church," notes that the issue is not new--dating back to the Industrial Revolution, according to some theories, or the 13th century, according to others. She cites statistics such as that 57% of evangelicals are women--which seems to me a little less dire than the rhetoric makes out; this means that 43% of evangelicals are men--but also that women are more involved in ancillary ministries of the church than are men. She also notes that worship styles tend toward romantic imagery, service opportunities tend toward traditionally female roles, pastors may be tailoring their messages to their already predominantly female audience, and the ministry itself may be attracting men who exhibit traditionally "feminine" qualities such as gentleness and sensitivity.
I'll confess to not yet having read Murrow's book or any others specifically on the issue. I have mixed feeling-- er, thoughts, yeah, thoughts, on the articles and blogs I have read. I think some points regarding modern worship music are valid, and decor to some extent as well. On the other hand, I've seen some silly stuff trying to show how "manly" Jesus was (mainly by focusing on the confrontation with the money changers and the woes against the Pharisees). And some presentations of the topic appear to be an attempt to repackage the church to target a male demographic, which is another example of the commodification of the Gospel. At any rate, why men say they stay out of church is not necessarily why they actually do. Never underestimate the ability of anyone--particularly men--to rationalize and excuse their behavior. Ask anyone why they stay out of church, and I guarantee you, they'll tell you it's the church's fault.
What disturbs me most of all is the stereotype of masculinity that much of this stuff promotes. I reject categorically the idea that such qualities as kindness and nuturing are inherently "female" and such qualities as aggressiveness and competition are inherently "male." I imagine that the movie Mean Girls (though I haven't seen it) should quell all such ideas. Besides, I'd assert that men are, for example, nurturing--but there is a specifically masculine way to express nurturing. For mothers, it may be kissing boo-boos; for fathers, it's protectiveness and provision. What's more nurturing than providing for a family?
An excellent adverse response to this trend is given by Sean Michael Lucas, who notes that "throughout the history of Christianity from the very beginning, women have had key places in the church and tended to outnumber the men," and asks the very pertinent question,
Could it be that Christianity preaches a Gospel that requires people to view themselves as weak, forsaken, helpless, abandoned, destitute? Could it be that such a message is a stumbling block to males who believe they have strength in themselves to save themselves?In other words, it might not be how we're presenting Christianity, but Christianity itself that tends to put off men (as it tends to put off the powerful, the intellectual, the aristocratic--cf. 1 Corinthians 1:20-21, 26-29). Lucas also points to the intellectual vacuity of the church (what Pivec calls "touchy-feely pastors giving touchy-feely sermons"). A primarily emotional gospel that is light in intellectual rigor is, on average, going to attract more women than men. (Yes, yes, there are intellectually tough women and emotionally motivated men--I realize this is an extremely broad generalization--but it might help account for a fourteen-percent gap.)
Lucas finally brings home a telling point:
I think another reason some men "hate going to church" is, ironically enough, most of our churches have failed to preach the Gospel. I don't mean the Gospel of "Jesus dying for my sins." But I mean the Gospel--an all-encompassing vision of God's invasion into the world to bring his reign to bear on every aspect of life.Men are more motivated by mission than by the idea that Jesus really loves you and wants to wrap his arms all around you.