If you're reading this, chances are you're not in church. And you're not alone. According to a recent survey that measured Christian churchgoing behavior among America's women over the last 20 years, we're all getting decidedly less godly.
The Barna Group, which conducted the survey, found that women's regular Christian church attendance dropped from 55 to 44% over the last two decades. Where 50% of women in 1991 reported reading the Bible, now only 40% do so (Spoiler alert! Jesus dies, but comes back to life. Kind of like Harry Potter). And female volunteer involvement in church activities has dropped as well. In addition, the study found the following:
- Women today are 6 percent less likely to say their religion is very important to them than they were in 1991; even so, 63 percent still hold their faith in high regard.
- The belief that the Bible is accurate in all of its principles has declined by 7 percent to 42 percent.
- Women who say that God is the "all-knowing, all-powerful and perfect Creator of the universe who still rules the world today" dropped from 80 percent in 1991 to 70 percent in 2011.
Women generally vastly outnumber men in attendance at Christian churches, and some religious leaders are alarmed, but unsurprised. Reverend Paul Rock of Kansas City remarks,
"Since women still tend to define many family traditions, a drop-off in women means a drop-off in men and children as well. So this is a significant change in American culture that most churches have not adapted to well.
"I don't think God is worried, but I do think God is waiting for churches to wake up and respond to the reality of women's lives today," he said.
So what explains the drop off in Christian women's church involvement? For one thing, women don't have the time to volunteer that they may have had 20 years ago. Economic necessity and social forces continue to drive women to work outside of the home in greater numbers. But perhaps the steady drop in church involvement can be traced to many Christian faith's insistence on a male based power structure and oppressive political stances?
...women are no longer content to see male clerical figures as the only spiritual authorities in the life of the church, (Molly T. Marshall, president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary) said. Progressive women see "the hypermasculinization of God as problematic; the language used for God functions to elevate men over women."
Women who are educated and have an understanding of equality of the genders "are wearied by the divide between their life in society and their life in the church," especially those in the conservative tradition, Marshall said.
And finally, women are upset by the rampant child abuse that's been aided and abetted by the upper ranks of the Catholic Church.
Of course, not every Christian church is like that, and I'm sure some of you attend totally liberal parishes where you drive the church van to give homeless girls abortions and then teach them how to be social workers, but, as a woman who grew up more Catholic than the 99th finger of John the Baptist buried in a Boston reliquary, it's easy to grow disillusioned with the more man-elevating tenets of the Church's stances. I still remember the day during Confirmation class when we were told that the Church (the official Church, not your super awesome parish) is actually kind of-well-really antifeminist. It was like the day I realized that Santa Claus wasn't real (men with white beards, from God to Santa Claus to Kenny Rogers, have always let me down).
Many Christian Church leaders in America are learning quickly that women can't be taken for granted as perennial volunteers and bake sale organizers. If an entire group of parishioners are being shut out of an organization's power structure, eventually there will be another sort of Exodus.
Twenty-year study shows fewer women at church [Kansas City Star]
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