Religious Communication Conference

This morning I’m off to the Religious Communication Conference at Monash University, where tomorrow I’ll present the following paper:

Homespun and Studio-made: Aesthetic Differences in the Websites of Catholic and Evangelical Men’s Ministries

Across the Western world church attendees are approximately two-thirds women. There are significant debates as to why this is, ranging from women being innately more religiously inclined, through to churches having become feminised. This is problematic for those who believe men should have an equal (or even superior) place within the life of the Church. The response to this concern is the creation of men’s ministries, which aim to provide a masculine space within the Church for existing members and to bring new men in to the Church. Previous research (Gelfer, 2009) has shown that the types of masculine performances encouraged within men’s ministries tend to diverge along denominational/orientational lines: evangelical ministries tend towards a more “traditional” masculinity and Catholic ministries a “softer” masculinity. This paper argues that this distinction is also apparent in the aesthetics of men’s ministries websites: that evangelical websites tend towards a highly-produced and professional product whereas Catholic websites tend to appear more homespun. This aesthetic distinction echoes broader historical differences such as leanings towards a prosperity gospel or the epistemological privilege of the poor, as well as adding further insight into the differing masculine performances.