By MARRI Interns The joy caused by the advent of the Super Bowl this Sunday quickly transforms into melancholy for many men who acknowledge with lamentation that the Super Bowl marks the termination of football season. How ought those men to spend those superfluous hours on Sunday that were previously occupied with football? A trove of social science research suggests quite strongly that it might be best for them, for their marriage, and for their children to head to church.
A number of prominent Evangelical leaders are rediscovering the importance of appealing to men to return to involvement in the church. Dr. John Piper’s 2012 Pastors Conference is entitled “God, Manhood, and Ministry: Building Men for the Body of Christ.” Pastor Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill Church of Seattle has long been an ardent advocate of masculine maturity exemplified through religious attendance and participation.
Perhaps this is all of no importance. Perhaps it is just another attempt by several pastors to fill their pews. Or perhaps these men are on to something far more significant about the nature and benefits of male participation in the life of the church. And indeed, it is this latter proposition that seems to be vindicated by much of the social science research that MARRI and others are doing. The social science bears out that it is not only ministry leaders who have reason to champion male reengagement with the church; male church attendance correlates with significant benefits for society as a whole, since it contributes to the stability of the family and the success of children.
These societal benefits are observed by a large number of researchers, among whom are W. Bradford Wilcox, whose book “Soft Patriarchs, New Men: How Christianity Shapes Fathers and Husbands” (U Chicago Press, 2004) treats this subject in great detail. Constraining his research only to a comparison between Conservative Protestants, Mainline Protestants, and fathers with no religious affiliation, Wilcox presents detailed evidence showing that Conservative Protestants are more likely to be involved fathers and loving husbands than are those of no religious affiliation at all:
Conservative Protestant married men with children are consistently more active and expressive with their children than unaffiliated men and are often more engaged with their children than mainline Protestant fathers. Furthermore, conservative Protestant family men are more likely than unaffiliated men to do positive emotion work in their marriages and are more consistently engaged emotionally in their marriages than mainline men. So the charges that conservative Protestantism fosters authoritarian and other stereotypical displays of masculinity among its family are overdrawn. [emphasis added]
Dr. Wilcox’s research shows that the impact of religion on family life is significant and well worth detailed study. That is why, in a forthcoming paper on the Effects of Religion on Marriage, MARRI presents a comprehensive picture of the benefits for marriage that accrue when partners participate in religious activity (particularly joint weekly worship). The forthcoming paper analyzes the effects of religion on marriage from a number of angles. MARRI’s Mapping America products virtually unanimously support the assertion that religion strengthens marriage in a number of significant and variegated ways.
So men, for the sake of your wife and your children, go to church this Sunday. Besides, unless your pastor is particularly long-winded, you’ll have plenty of time before the Super Bowl starts.