The Reading List: Muscular Christianity

Mon, Jul 2, 2018 3-minute read

The Reading List is a segment of the blog where I let you know the thing I just read and some thoughts about it along with the next book in my list. Should you want to read along with me, let me know in the comments!

Muscular Christianity was introduced to me by my good friend, Twitter, and The Art of Manliness blog. It’s easily one of my favorite websites for long-form reading on culture and how it attempts to define what a “man” is in today’s world. In this latest ebook, the husband and wife team of Brett and Kate McKay explore the issue of church attendance amongst men. It’s an academic book in a lot of ways but the narrative is strong and it never gets boring. There are statistics galore and a ton of surprises, at least for me.

One of the striking things that I learned from this book is that men’s participation in the church has been an issue since as far back as the Puritan era in America. You’d think that every man in a village would have been in church during that time, but you’d be wrong. The women in a congregation outnumbered the men nearly 4 to 1. That’s incredible to me considering how patriarchal Christianity seems to be at first glance. Since the beginning of American church, it’s just been hard to drag men into the place. It’s not for lack of trying either. As we delve deeper in we find out all about the many attempts to make church attractive for men, and how some succeeded and some failed.

There was also a point in history when the sermons simply began targeting women because they were the ones in attendance, and largely the responsible one at home when it came to the family’s spiritual health. Some of this was because of the industrial revolution and men leaving home to work and pursue earthly goals. The woman was left at home to see that the children were brought up with God in their lives. I found this to be very interesting because in a lot of ways we still do this today. Both parents are typically working these days, but the men seem to still rely on their wives to make sure spiritual needs are met at home, or they simply don’t care if they are or not.

All in all, there were some great things to learn here. As a husband, father, and Christian, I found a lot of lessons to be had and actually discovered some things that had been eating at me that I had not considered. Like the regard of an intimate relationship with Jesus rather than one of admiration for his power, principles, and whip-cracking spirit that is as visible in the Bible as his squishy side. Modern church tends to focus so much on the squishy Jesus that the one that knocked over tables and spoke hard truths gets forgotten or lost in the messages.

I definitely recommend this read. Even if you aren’t a Christian, it’s an academic exploration that at least might be of some interest to you. You can grab the ebook from Amazon:

Next Up: Robin by Dave Itzkoff (