Women, pastors in panic: Why don't Kenyan men like going to church?

The whole idea of religion and church was men’s brainchild. Look, people give God male pronouns. That Jesus was male is not in contention. All his disciples were men. Jesus founded Christianity. Men have been at the forefront in as far as propagating Christianity is concerned. All the New Testament books were authored by men. Men make a majority of pastors, priests and so on.

What’s more, men, like women, not only like but are interested in God. Men, just like women, call themselves religious; they pray regularly. Oh yeah, make no mistake, men, like women, want to go to heaven. However, the gender gap with regard to church attendance in Kenya and the world over has continued to increasingly expand over time.

The church congregation in Kenya is predominantly made of women and children, a trend that has got pastors scratching their heads. And even among the children, boys opt out when they become young men. The million-dollar question is, why do men dislike going to church?

Take, for instance, John Kehenjo, a Nairobi resident. Despite his wife going to church regularly, he can’t recall the last time he went to church. Tales have been told of many, like Kehenjo, who hate going to church, so much that the only time they set foot in church is during special occasions like Christmas Day, Easter, or during weddings. Of course, this they do after being pestered. For others, the only time they recall being in church was during a heavy downpour, and church was the only nearby shelter!

Church is for women, children

“Church is for women and children. Going there makes me feel awkward as it feels for a man to go to a women’s chama; I would feel out of place. Church is predictable and boring, especially Catholic, which I used to attend. Sitting down to listen to a fellow imperfect and sinful man lecturing me on righteousness for hours on end wasn’t making a lot of sense to me,” Kehenjo opines.

Tim Kawewa, a businessman in Nairobi, says he only goes to church to please his wife. He gets bored in church and can’t help it.

To make wife happy

“My wife is born again. She made me stop drinking, smoking but has been unable to get me saved. Sunday is my worst day of the week because I have to wake up early, go to church in solidarity with my family, just to make her happy.

But I really get bored. Most of the time, when I am not absent-minded, I am yawning, dozing off or on my phone, of course to the chagrin of my wife,” explains Kawewa, adding that his wife is so obsessed with church that she gets on his nerves but for the sake of the marriage, he pretends to be OK with it.

Go to church to tune women

Tales have been told of men who only go to church to ‘tune’ women. Take, for instance, the case of Flo Nyakio. She says she has been hit on several times by men at church. She argues that men believe church is where good wives are found.

Hear her: “Men don’t like going to church. The few you see, especially bachelors, use the church as a ‘hunting ground’. They hardly pay attention to the pastor. They are always craning their necks all over, staring and checking out ‘hot’ women. Men are always in their own world while in church. They don’t like singing.

“Most are defiant; they hardly give sadaka (offering), don’t tithe and some even leave early before time. Personally, I have been seduced so many times by men at church. Women must be very careful; rogue bachelors are on the prowl and they know church is where unsuspecting women are,” says Nyakio.

Church is for ‘weak’ men

Clement Ratemo, a gym instructor who also can’t recall last time he went to church, laughs off the whole idea of men going to church, claiming, “Iko na wenyewe (church has its own enthusiasts)”.

He argues, rather jokingly, in Kiswahili, that a proper man must not come off as a weakling. He feels going to church for most men is as a result of peer pressure from their wives. He says masculinity equips men to be self-reliant, and not needy sissies who go seeking prayers and miracles from pastors who can hardly stand up as role model.

More women are vulnerable

According to Professor Paul Achola, a sociologist and expert on matters family and marriage and a lecturer at Catholic University of Eastern Africa, through patriarchal ideologies, men have disenfranchised and disadvantaged women, leaving them vulnerable.

“Church tends to target the disadvantaged, oppressed and the downtrodden in society who largely comprise women. Church is where minds are unburdened and solace is sought. The palliative effects of church teachings tend to appeal more to women,” says the sociologist.