Churchgoing = Pink to Men?

Hello Kitty on PolicemanThe Chief of Police in Bangkok, Thailand has discovered the ultimate punishment for wayward officers: they must wear a pink armband emblazoned with “Hello Kitty,” a cutesy favorite of under-10 girls.

Other punishments have not deterred tardiness, double parking and littering among officers, but acting chief Pongpat Chayaphan believes the armbands will do the trick. “After this policy came out, the police are scared,” he said. “It will be very embarrassing to walk around with Hello Kitty on your arm.”

What’s so bad about a pink armband? This seemingly benign corrective strikes a double-whammy at the heart of manhood. Every man fears being perceived as feminine (pink) and childish (hello Kitty).

Sadly, churchgoing has become a pink armband for many men. It’s a sign of weakness, childishness and femininity.

English Vicar Battles Feminized Church

Church steepleRev. John Richardson is an Anglican priest who has spent most of his pastorate ministering in a village by the name of Ugley. (John tells me the town is home to The Ugley Women’s Institute. Really.)

John is daily steeped in the feminine teapot of modern Anglicanism. After he read my book he felt inspired to write a guest column for the Church for Men newsletter and Web site. I’ve reprinted it here. Enjoy:

When I arrived in 2000, the congregation was warm, faithful — and elderly. Obviously something would have to be done, and soon, if there was to be a worshipping community in ten years’ time. By the grace of God, and with a few changes, we managed to draw in some new faces, particularly families with children, so that despite the losses through deaths, our numbers went up. But here was the problem: although the mums and kids were attending regularly, the dads were not. I’d had contact with the dads. In one case the dad had been the reason why his family started coming to church. But we were not keeping the dads, hence David’s book.

What I got from it, however, was more than an insight on my problem. Rather, it was one of those ‘Oh my goodness!’ experiences, like noticing your fly has been open all the time you’ve been giving a public speech. As I read, I realized that the problem is not just with our congregation — it is with our entire denomination, and indeed with our culture.

Holiday Services and Men

Christmas lightsKyle and Bonnie have been married almost twenty years. Kyle hates going to church. Bonnie loves it. This has caused tension in their marriage, as she subtly prays, preaches and prods Kyle toward religion, and he steadfastly resists.?? But Kyle “does Bonnie a favor” and attends church three times a year: Christmas Eve, Easter Sunday and Mother’s Day. He’s one of millions of men who attend only on these holidays.

Bonnie looks forward to these occasions, and each time prays earnestly that God will touch his heart. But nothing ever happens. Kyle feels as out of place as a ham sandwich at a Bar Mitzvah.

Why are holiday services, which draw huge numbers of irreligious men, so ineffective at engaging them? I believe that holiday services are, by their very nature, poorly suited for men. They tend to hide the church’s greater mission under a mountain of religious tradition and ceremony. Holiday services also give men a skewed perspective on what the gospel is all about.