Responding to a Survey of Women’s Attitudes

One of my friends here in Seattle is a guy called Jim Henderson. I’m not just name dropping here – we really are friends . . . he even said so in his new book/DVD, which released this past week.
Anyway, in what’s been a busy week for Jim, he released some data that he collected about Christian women’s attitudes toward church. As it turns out, women seem to be pretty happy with their church experiences. You can see some of the questions and results here. Jim’s asking for some broader feedback on the data, so I thought I’d put the word out to my little band of readers. Check things out, and give him your thoughts. As a white male, I’m actually not that interested in my own opinions on most of the items, but here’s my .02.
First, my general response to all the happy attitudes of women about their church is to be cynically curious about how this data will be viewed by the surging camp of neo-Reformed church planters and pastors, who are set on asserting a masculine version of church. We might hear things like: “Of course the women are happy – they’ve emasculated all the men in the church in order to create a place they want to hang out and talk about their feelings.”
My other main response is shocked disbelief at the response that 70% of the women surveyed say that media has little influence on their decision making. Without the benefit of seeing the survey design and validation, I’ll give the pollster the benefit of the doubt to assume the data is sound. If that’s the case, the vast majority of those 70% are delusional. Harsh critique, I know, but I’ve got a few reasons:
1. If these people really think that the media doesn’t affect their decisions, they are likely as naive/ignorant as all the advertising and marketing companies of the world hope they are. We live in a media saturated culture, and they don’t seem to understand the degree to which media influence is all around them. Here’s a hint folks – corporations aren’t dumping millions of dollars into television commercials because they hope it works, but because it works.
2. Part of the lack of understanding of media influence may be attributable to the way the word “media” is used in our culture. This is especially the case if you insert the word “the” in front of it. We often hear sentences that blame “the media” for over-hyping one issue or distorting another or completely ignoring still more issues. There are multiple reasons this is problematic – but the biggest one is that people think of “the media” as being synonymous with “the news,” so when we hear media named, we automatically think: local and national television news programs, newspapers and magazines, news blogs, etc. But the media extends so much farther – movies, music, entertainment web sites, “reality” television, glamour magazines, pop-fiction novels. This blog is a media outlet. All of these have a tremendous collective influence on all of us, and to think that our decisions take place outside of that realm is silly – again, the fact that we don’t notice the influence is by design.
3. As it concerns Christians, you also have to include Christian media in the media category. Typically, Christian media voices talk about “the media” as though they’re not a part of it, which is patently false. And when mainstream evangelical Christian media voices talk about “the media,” they are almost without exception speaking in negative tones about the immorality or “bad” politics promoted there. So when Christians hear this, and then question whether “the media” has affected their decisions, they are well trained to think, “No, I’m not like ‘the media,’ because I hold different values and beliefs. My decisions are influenced by my faith, my church, and my family.” Sorry folks, but you’re just not as objective as you might think.
I could go on, but I’ll stop there. Before closing, though, let me just say that I am not opposed to media influencing peoples’ decisions. I’m opposed to the naive belief that it doesn’t happen. At the very least, this is simplistic . . . but more than likely, it’s willful ignorance.

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  1. well put

  2. Looks like an interesting book that Jim is putting out, might have to add it to the list of “Books I will eventually get around to reading”

  3. Michael – FYI, in Jim’s new book, one of the “outsiders” interviewed is good ol’ Charlie from the Purple Door. If you look at the book’s cover, a photo of him is on the cover.

  4. Thanks steve

    please post this on the OTM blog

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