Nice Study You Got There. Mean Anything?

There’s an interesting study out today that indicates that American women are leaving “religion.” But when you dig even a tiny bit, it turns out that the study is actually about American women leaving Christianity, not “religion”. Which, you know, is not the “only” religion. I am just saying.

The study shows that women, who have been the mainstay of most Christian churches in America, are now less likely to, you know, show up, keep the church going, read the Bible, etc.

When I was growing up Catholic in America, my mom and the other women of the “Ladies’ Sodality” (I swear that I am not making this up) were the ones who showed up day after day to change the flowers on the altar, launder the priests’ robes, pray at morning Mass, “man” the booths at the St. Anthony’s Day fund raiser, teach the CCD classes, hand out old clothes to the poor, pray the rosary, etc. Yeah, there were a few old guys from the Knights of Columbus Society who did some stuff, but Monseigneur ran the parish and the women did his bidding to make it work.

Now, it turns out: Not So Much.

Sadly, the study doesn’t provide much in the way of understanding why this is so.

And, so, of course, I can ascribe the decline to a generation of Christian dogma based upon the premise that women should not be able to control their own bodies. I can stand up and cheer: Hail the End of Patriarchy!

But that’s just my prejudices giving support to my best guesses. Because the study doesn’t go deep enough.

Are American women just too busy working three part-time jobs to make ends meet? Are American women fed up with hearing about how abortion is bad, but never hearing about the sins of the Plutocrats? Are American women too busy haunting the malls for bargains or watching Dancing with the Stars? Are American women leaving Christian churches for Wiccan Circles or New Age study groups?

The study doesn’t answer these questions. All that I can say is: “Come Over to the Dark Side. We Have Cookies.”

Picture found here.


7 responses to “Nice Study You Got There. Mean Anything?

  1. Ahhh the evils of feminism at work. How will the churches continue to institutionalize misogyny if the women won’t stick around to be misogynized darn it?

  2. Seeker from Aus

    I’m going to preface my comment with: I am, have been and always will be a femminist, and anyone who doubts that can be given evidence upon request (apologies for any bluntness, but I’ve found its better to head off any problems down the line by being perfectly clear at the start).

    One thing that would be interesting to find out is this: Is anyone (be it in the actual study or not) asking any of the following; Why is it that women are the majority that actually sustain the churches? Would that majority change if the priest was a woman? By extension the broader question, does the gender of the priest determine the gender of the majority of church maintainers? Taking that into account, is there any actual Patriarchy (or potential Matriarchy) at work here, or is it just an automatic response, programmed into people by years of seemingly unchanging circumstances and details?

  3. For some reason, the link that you supplied does not work at the time that I’m composing this note. Presumably you’re referring to the Barna Group study? Echidne posted about this yesterday, and some of the comments point out the problems with the study–at least as reported on the Barna site.

    I am inclined to believe that the reported decline in “attendance” (which isn’t defined in the report) is an understatement. This decline was 11% for women and 6% for men (which is no small potatoes). According to the Barna Group, only 44% of women and 36% of men reported attending church during a typical week.

    This comes as no surprise to me, nor should it to anyone else. The Jungians* with whom I have discussed matters relating to religion (organized and otherwise) were predicting this at least three decades ago. The subjugation of women is an important part of it, of course, but that is only a part of a more general issue: the symbols of Christianity in particular have become ossified do not speak to the psyche of contemporary men and women. The churches literally do not have anything to offer people. This would be true of any institution that attempted to conduct its affairs as if the clock had stopped sometime in the 16th century. Unfortunately, the hierarchies of many of the churches see this type of rigidity as a virtue. In the Roman Catholic Church, this is regarded as “preserving the deposit of faith.” The results, if the Barna Group’s findings are accurate, are there to see.

    *I am not a Jungian, but I number some amongst my acquaintances.

  4. mmmmmm…cookies……

    This doesn’t surprise anyone in the biz. You can only stand on the backs of people for so long before they decide they’ve got better things to do and better people to do it with.

    This is part and parcel of the general exodus happening through the Christian churches in the US, as we continue to minister as if we were in 1952. It is most noticeable when women shake the dust from their feet and move on, as they have ALWAYS been the mainstay of any denomination, at least in the pews. As we continue to lose relevance, I look to see the shrinkage continue.

    Interestingly, the trend is not as prominent amongst the nondenominational mega church phenoms. From the beginning, they have endevored to ensure greater participation for males, tailoring services and small groups to reinforce patriarchal norms and encourage their perpetuation. When the backlash happens there, it will be a sight to see.

    Hey, its the free marketplace of ideas and our traditions simply aren’t standing out. But self critical examination and turning away from institutional protection? Pfft. Don’t be a silly head.

  5. I think women (for the most part) are just tired tired tired of picking up and cleaning up and making things work that most men then take the credit for.

  6. “Come Over to the Dark Side. We Have Cookies.”

    Hah! Perfect.

  7. Well for me it has been a struggle. I came from a family that gave lip service to women’s rights..did not attend church, was “not religious” and yet used bible verses to ,manipulate me or justify violence.(usually on me, my father was violent and misogynistic). So even though i went to university in the hard sciences, i was never allowed to talk about it because it would be “too threatening” to the men.I have pretty much had it with this sort of treatment.

    For some reason evangelicals appear to be just as unconscious . They think that they can demean women and this is somehow upholding a woman’s virtue. Make no bones about it the evangelicals are on the warpath because women, who actually have always been the backbone of the church, are no longer contributing to their own subjugation.(that is just MY opinion)

    This latest escapade of Republican Male talk of “vaginal probes” and “legitimate rape” just reveals (to me) impotent rage.
    Just me take.

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