Tue | Dec 12, 2017

Letter of the Day | Church model marginalises men

Published:Tuesday | September 5, 2017 | 12:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

It was the words of Philip Sherlock and Hazel Bennett, in response to a growing phenomenon of churches that "religion remains at the centre of national life" in the context of Jamaica. A STATIN report (2011) revealed Jamaica has one of the most churches per square mile, which consist mainly of postmodern church names, such as the Adventists, Church of God, New Testament, Prophecy and others.

Though the churches manage to vary in beliefs, practice and customs, they share similar problems and culture that, over the years, have somewhat excommunicated men from within the movement of the Church.

One common problem that is found among most churches in Jamaica, the Caribbean and even North America is the physical presence of men in the Church. Christianity's primary delivery system, the local church, is perfectly designed to reach women and older folks. That's why our pews are filled with them. But this church system offers little to stir the masculine heart, so men find it dull and irrelevant.

Most churches today are predominantly filled with women, who share a ratio of 65 per cent dominance. As a result, the political will of the Church is shaped and geared towards women. Hence, men are forced to adapt or leave. In the book Men Are from Mars and Women Are from Venus, Dr John Gray clearly outlines the distinction of men and women, pointing to man's uniqueness, compatibility and effectiveness when united as a whole.

The lapse of the Church's awareness to proactively interest men has marginalised males. Hence the Church no longer becomes attractive for men. This has caused great dissension within society.

According to Dr Leon Podles (1999), the author of The Church Impotent: the Feminisation of Christianity, the pattern of feminisation in Christianity goes back at least 700 years. With the dawning of the Industrial Revolution, large numbers of men sought work in mines, mills and factories, far from home and familiar parish. Women stayed behind and began remaking the Church in their image.

The Victorian era saw the rise of church nurseries, Sunday schools, lay choirs, quilting circles, soup kitchens, girls' societies, potluck dinners, etc. Soon, the very definition of a good Christian had changed: boldness and aggression were out; passivity and receptivity were in. Christians were to be gentle, sensitive and nurturing, focused on home and family rather than accomplishment and career. Believers were not supposed to like sex, tobacco, dancing or other worldly pleasures. The godly were always calm, polite and sociable. This Victorian spirituality still dominates our churches.

The cognitive make-up of man is outrightly different from that of a woman. Most of the Church's attention is focused on spiritual utopia that does not apply to the ordinary man, whose interests rest on the relativity of logic.

Because churches are predominantly made up of women, most sermons are predominantly geared towards women. Sunday mornings are emotionally appealing, verbally compact with heights of sensitivity and studiousness, which further distances men. The mode of worship through fellowship sometimes becomes too intimate for men. For example, hugging and shaking hands causes men to forsake the dominant role that a man normally takes. It is true that by these little practices, women expect that men will adapt or modify their natural proclivities.

ROBERT SHAW