I haven’t responded to William Lane Craig’s column in a while, but this question was too good to pass up:
Dear Dr. Craig,
I have usually found your words to be a source of information and reassurance in my Christian faith… So I was really disappointed, almost shocked, when I read your newsletter of April of this year in which you casually stereotypes [sic] men and women, and complain that the church is becoming increasingly feminized, and has difficulties in attracting men.
The letter-writer frets that Craig’s history of sexist remarks was undermining her trust in him and asked for reassurance. Suffice to say, she probably didn’t get what she was looking for. First, Craig says in response, he’s noticed that the audiences for his lectures are nearly all men:
First is my observation that apologetics seems to have far more interest for men than for women. That observation is based upon an enormous amount of experience in speaking on university campuses, at apologetics conferences, and in classroom teaching… It became very evident to me not only that the audiences which came to these events were largely male but that in event after event only the men stood up to ask a question.
And why should apologetics classes appeal predominantly to men? To explain this, Craig dusts off the old saw, “women don’t do thinky“:
Second is my hypothesis that this disparity is to be explained by the fact that men respond more readily to a rational approach, whereas women tend to respond more to relational approaches.
Does Craig ask any Christian women why they’re less interested in apologetics? Does he even consider the possibility that it’s because of something he or others are doing, intentionally or unintentionally, that makes his classes unwelcoming to them? Nope, he sits in his armchair and contemplates, until finally the light bulb goes on: women aren’t interested in his “rational approach”! They don’t go for that hard, sharp-edged man stuff like axioms and deductions. No, what women really care about is feelings.
This is sexist enough by itself, but Craig goes farther. It’s not just that men and women respond to different approaches, he says; it’s also that the men’s approach is better, because girl stuff is icky.
Third is my claim that the church is becoming increasingly feminized. What I mean by this is that church services and programs are increasingly based on emotional and relational factors that appeal more to women than to men. The problem of the church’s lack of appeal to men has been recognized by men’s movements like Promise Keepers and books like John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart. Nowhere is this feminization more evident than in contemporary worship music. Someone aptly remarked that if you were to replace references to God in many praise songs with “Baby,” they would sound just like romantic songs between a man and a woman! …Talking with young men, I find that many of them are just turned off by these touchy-feely worship services and would rather not go.
…You’re right that the predominance of women in Christianity is a relatively new phenomenon… I’m very worried that the church is on a course that will end in relatively few men’s being active Christians.
Notice the framing here. Until recently, Craig says, the church was masculine and male-dominated, and that wasn’t a problem. That was just the natural order of things, an unremarkable, unobjectionable default state. But now that the church is appealing to and attracting women, that’s a serious problem that demands immediate attention!
The implicit assumption is that women will put up with things that primarily appeal to men, but men won’t accept things that are tailored to women’s interests. Christian men’s masculinity is too fragile, too easily damaged, to survive contact with girl cooties. (TV and movie executives make this same assumption all the time.)
It’s striking how much Craig, a staunch Christian apologist, sounds like some of our male atheist “leaders”. They, too, have fielded questions about the gender imbalance in their audiences; and they, too, have often responded with clueless, patronizing, armchair answers about how they’re just too unimpeachably rational to appeal to women – that is, when they’re not snarling about “social justice warriors”, or pining for the good old days before political correctness when men could grope women with no repercussions.
Here’s a novel suggestion for both atheists and Christians: if you want to know why women aren’t showing up at your classes or your lectures, try asking some women. Don’t just assume, with no evidence, that there are inherent biological reasons for it, or that women are instinctively repelled by logic and reason. Of course, I don’t expect Craig to heed this advice, from me or from anyone else – his lamentations over the increasing influence of women shows that he’s thoroughly absorbed the sexism intrinsic to fundamentalist Christianity. The only question is whether we in the atheist community aspire to be better than him.
Other posts in this series: