This is my last blog entry before the general election – and polls show a sharp gender divide in the electorate. President Obama leads among women 52 to 44 percent, while Gov. Romney leads among men 51 to 44 percent. These gaps are consistent with prior elections. Women lean Democratic, while men skew Republican. What do these differences tell us about men and women – how they see the world, themselves, and the church?
The Democratic Party emphasizes the protection of the weak against the strong. It’s a collectivist party that stresses unity and cooperation. It’s a provider party that promises to take from the rich and give to the poor. It’s a preservationist party that promises to stop anything that has the potential to harm individuals or the environment. Democrats are legal pragmatists when it comes to the law and the constitution. And they favor complete female independence (and back it up with government support).
The Republican Party promotes strength over weakness, and autonomy over dependence. It’s an individualist party that stresses personal achievement. Republicans are less bothered by inequality because they believe poverty can be overcome by effort. It’s a risk-taking party that is willing to roll the dice if it means more prosperity for people. Republicans are rule-of-law constitutional literalists. They favor limits on women’s rights when those rights threaten a larger societal good.
I’m sure I’ll get flamed over these two lists, but please understand – these are my observations of the narrative each party transmits to the public. Imperfect (or untrue) as these points may be, these two narratives can tell us much about how men and women think – what resonates with them, and even how they approach the church.
Many congregations behave like Democrats. They stress harmony, fairness and care. They create a safe, loving family experience on Sunday morning. Their ministry emphasis is caring for the weak. Their mindset is collectivist. They are preservationists – guarding the ancient traditions of the church. These congregations are more likely to attract women – particularly older women. (Oddly enough, these churches are often full of reliable Republicans, but that’s fodder for another blog.)
Other churches create a challenging environment on Sunday morning. Their ministry emphasis is evangelistic – expanding the message of Jesus into a culture that doesn’t necessarily want to hear it. Their mindset is individualistic, with an emphasis on personal holiness, personal devotions and personal salvation. They stress gender roles and interdependence between men and women. These congregations are more likely to attract men.
So what kind of church do you attend? Is your church preservationist or risk taking? Is it caring or conquering? Is it collectivist or individualistic? The answers to these questions will, over the long term, determine the gender makeup of your congregation.