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Getting What You Wish For?

February 2, 2015

I was reading this article the other day in which Cardinal Leo Burke diagnoses the source of all the problems the Catholic Church is having – women; there are just too many of them in the church and the result is awful, just awful.  Among his complaints is the fact that back in 1983 girls were allowed to join boys in alter service.  He sees this as a disaster:

“The introduction of girl servers also led many boys to abandon altar service. Young boys don’t want to do things with girls. It’s just natural. The girls were also very good at altar service. So many boys drifted away over time.”

With this quote he seems to subscribe to, or at least endorse, the “girls have cooties” theory.  Worse yet, the girls dared to be “very good” at alter service.  The nerve of them!

Over here in evangelicalism we’ve been fretting about the “feminization” of the church for quite some time now.  Books like this, this, and this have been telling us for years about the problem all these women are causing and what we need to do about it.  We have websites like Church For Men and a host of manly men leaders that are heroically try to address this situation.

Yet when you enter most evangelical churches you will probably be greeted by male ushers, have a man make announcements and do a formal greeting, be lead in praise by a male worship leader, hear sermons from a male pastor and be informed that the male elders are available for prayer and consultation.  So exactly where is this feminization problem?

The pews.  There are just too darn many women there.  Cardinal Burke makes this clear:

“Apart from the priest, the sanctuary has become full of women. The activities in the parish and even the liturgy have been influenced by women and have become so feminine in many places that men do not want to get involved.”

Apparently the “girls have cooties” theory extends to adult men.

It is true that in most churches, across all denominations, women outnumber men in the pews.  But here is some news that perhaps the anti-feminization crowd might be interested in – this is steadily changing and has been for years.  But be careful what you wish for.

You see, this trend is not because, in manly response to the clarion calls of these leaders, men are flocking back to church.  It is because women are leaving.  According to the Barna Group, which has tracked such things over the last 20 years, the percentage of women who are unchurched has been steadily rising.  In 2003 unchurched men outnumbered unchurched women by 20%.  It is now down to 8% and still dropping.

If this trend continues parity will be reached within a decade. The numbers of women and men in the pews will be the same.  But who would call this a victory?  I applaud efforts to bring men into church.  Go for it, guys.  But do me a favor.  Stop blaming women for the problem.

Why do we blame women for declining male attendance?  I think it is because they make easy scapegoats.  If we don’t blame them then we have to look at ourselves and say why is it that other men don’t want what we have?  And it is way too painful to think that we may be the problem.


From → Christianity

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