Where the Men Never Ended and Could Begin Again
Nonfiction - 300s - October 04

Image via peskylibrary Flickr


In her book, The End of Men, author and The Atlantic editor Hanna Rosin explores how the “mancession” and changing economy have affected relationship dynamics between men and women, the decisions we make about marriage and family, and more generally, our culture and sense of identity.

Women outnumber men in the workforce and there are more women in college and with college degrees than there are men. You need a college degree to get a job these days, so men—with their traditional attraction to manufacturing, construction and other brawn-heavy jobs—have been SOL. With more women in the workforce, and some of them making more money than men, women are feeling less dependent on men as breadwinners, and some men are feeling emasculated.

Rosin spoke last night at the Louisville Free Public Library’s author series (hear the podcast here) and did an interview on WFPL. During her radio interview, Rosin briefly mentioned that many people in the Alabama town she visited that sparked the idea for the book embraced the biblical view of a man heading the household. As she said to the library audience, the new male/female dynamic strikes people there (and maybe in the South overall), “as an unnatural calamity.”

I started thinking: If it’s the end of men in the workforce, why aren’t they flocking to the church—the one place in the U.S.where it seems males in dominant roles are still welcome?

I don’t mean “the church” as “the body of believers,” which encompasses those who attend church regularly and those who don’t. Although I guess believing bible-based gender roles could restore men as leaders in their castles, I’m talking in this post about the church inside the building walls. Congregations are predominantly female, but leadership skews heavily male. (although most Christian women in general who consider themselves leaders are using their leadership skills in church, in 2009, 90% of pastors in U.S. Protestant churches were male.) I’m not suggesting every man who joins a church would, could, or should become a minister or associate pastor. Leadership in today’s church goes beyond clergy. Visualizing my own church, I think of the all-male band, male choir directors, male camera operators, and mostly male deacons, most of whom are lay congregants selected by the pastor to assume a role with more responsibility.

And yet, one day, black church pastors who maintain a similar selection process will run out of men to pluck from the congregation if more men don’t become members of the church.

There are many theories as to why men don’t go to church, and why they’re less excited in general about Christianity than women. Some of my own hypotheses when it comes to black men: 1) they see a disconnect between Christianity’s message of love and change and the hopelessness of poor urban neighborhoods; 2) they don’t trust where the tithe and offering money goes; 3) they see Jesus Christ as a weak figure, and what man wants to be associated with weakness? But if men are looking for a way to stop their “end,” it seems they would look to a place where their dominance never stopped, and it may even be beneficial for them.

I know—women are already down; look at the scenes you described at your own church. Let me be clear: I have never belonged to a church that didn’t allow women to preach or to pastor (great post on why that’s nonsense anyway is here). But I admit, I would like some girl power in the band at my current church instead of just the choir, and we’re probably as underrepresented in the more tech-heavy ministries as we are in private sector tech jobs, but church can be an effective place to prepare leaders. Period. And if men and boys, especially black men and boys, aren’t finding many men in other sectors to look up to, they can acquire transferrable leadership skills through church service.

Can they do this without somehow putting women down or keeping them out, or, as Rosin’s subtitle, “And the Rise of Women,” suggests, does one group have to have less for the other to have more? Those are thoughts for another post.

Update 10/12/2012: Check out this series from the Barna Group about what Christian women think about faith, leadership, and their role in the church.

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