Save the Males
Nationally syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker released a book this summer that may prove an unlikely ally for those concerned about the lack of engaged men in American churches. In Save the Males: Why Men Matter, Why Women Should Care, Parker identifies our cultural moment as one in which it's acceptable to portray men as dumb, violent, sex-crazed, or irresponsible husbands and fathers. (Movies and TV shows like Everybody Loves Raymond, Two and a Half Men, and Knocked Up, to name but a few, typify this depiction.)
Parker, who frequently writes on families and sexuality, believes cultural "male-bashing" in part comes from the mainstreaming of a feminism that assumes men must be devalued so that women may rise to a place of equal treatment politically and professionally. What is refreshing about Parker's argument is that it's rooted not in shrill, anti-feminist rhetoric (she calls herself a feminist), but in Parker's personal history and current family situation: She was raised by a single father after her mother died, and now has three young boys. Her adolescence was marked by the realization that men are, well, human. Here's how she described it to Karen Spears Zacharias:
Each day after school, I joined [my father] at his law office where I did my homework until he finished up. Once home, we convened in the kitchen where he cooked while I perched on a wooden stool peeling potatoes. We talked.
In that ritualized communion, I learned many useful lessons about the opposite sex. I learned that men like to talk while doing something else. . . . I learned that fathers adore their children and will sacrifice anything to help them succeed. I learned that fathers will lay their lives down for their children. I learned that men are capable of honor, valor, compassion and courage and that they are essential to instilling those virtues in their sons and daughters.
Given Parker's thoroughly personalized vision of men and subsequent sensitivity to male-bashing, some of the antidotes to American churches' lack of men offered by David Murrow, author of Why Men Hate Going to Church and ChurchforMen.com, strike me as ironic. Could it be that Murrow's solutions – shorter, to-the-point sermons, action-oriented worship songs like "Onward Christian Soldiers," ministries that feature cars or extreme sports – play on the very caveman stereotypes that belittle men instead of help them utilize their gifts through full participation in church life?