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Books by
David Murrow


HOW WOMEN HELP MEN FIND GOD

WHY MEN HATE GOING TO CHURCH


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WHY MEN HATE GOING TO CHURCH
David Murrow
Nelson Books
Christian Living
ISBN: 0785260382

Author Interview -- May 2005

I wrote my first book review for a major publication in 1972. Since then, I've reviewed important books on topics that span the spiritual spectrum, from critical theological issues to dastardly religious practices. But without qualification, I can say that no book was more important than this one. David Murrow has struck a nerve that has needed striking for years.

Concerned over the lack of men in church, Murrow began searching for books to explain the phenomenon. Finding none, Murrow did research on men and church attendance, religious experience, and gender-specific behavior. What he discovered alarmed him.

Murrow's purpose, he says, is not to call men back to church but to call the church back to men. A Presbyterian elder in Anchorage, Alaska, Murrow writes that the church has become a hostile environment to men, particularly "masculine men" who are uncomfortable in the feminized atmosphere of the typical church. From the décor to the rituals, the ministry opportunities to the language, churches are designed to appeal to their greatest constituency --- women. Though the top leadership is often male, women constitute the backbone of most churches, representing more than 60 percent of the membership and even more of the volunteer force.

Men, Murrow writes, want an authentic faith experience but find church services to be boring and irrelevant (and a whole lot of women say "Amen!"). As one observer noted, men have nothing real to do at church except serve as ushers --- which at least gives them a chance to move around. They want to be challenged, but they're only challenged to be good husbands and fathers. "If we want to shed our reputation as a place for little old ladies of both sexes, we must recapture the challenge of following Jesus," Murrow writes.

One section provides dozens of practical steps churches can take to make their facilities and services more welcoming to men. Among them, in no particular order: Ditch any activity requiring men to hold hands or share their needs with someone they hardly know; develop adventurous, risk-taking opportunities and hands-on projects; emphasize Jesus' aggressive, masculine attributes; become educated about the psychological characteristics and needs of men (an excellent portion of the book); shorten the length of the sermon. "Just who decided that the lecture-style sermon was the best way to teach people about Jesus?" Murrow asks. "According to many studies, a long, uninterrupted monologue is the least effective way to teach people anything!"

Now to the women and another reason why this book is so important. Statistics show that more than 20 percent of married women attend church without their husbands. I know those women well; I've been one of those women. They feel alone, abandoned, ashamed, embarrassed, angry, envious, ineffective, and guilty, for starters. Ask a woman where her husband is or why you never see him at church, and the guilt and shame rise to the surface. She may stammer, roll her eyes, and offer an excuse, but inside her head she's thinking, "I don't try hard enough to get him to come. I don't pray enough for him. I'm not a good Christian."

Those women need this book and soon. They need to understand why men refuse to go to church, and there's no better resource than the section on "Understanding Men and Masculinity." They'll discover why it's impossible for many men to enjoy church, which is why the church has to change rather than the men. Instead of getting angry at their husbands for "shaming" them, wives can breathe a sigh of relief, realizing it's not their fault.

I know, and I'm sure the author and publisher know, that some people will read the book through a sexist grid. But if you maintain an open mind and an appreciation for the enormous amount of research Murrow did, you may see yourself mirrored in its pages, whether you're a man or a woman. You'll also realize that sexism is not the issue. The issue is nothing less than the spiritual lives of many men and the future of many churches.

Few books genuinely qualify as a "must-read." This is one of the few.

   --- Reviewed by Marcia Ford (misfit@marciaford.com)

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