Bede Hadyn Marshall
The purpose of the study was to examine how young Vincentian males view manhood and Christianity in order to understand why they may have difficulty becoming Christians. The study involved semi-structured interviews with fifteen male students of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Community College and a literature review of attempts to explain the relative lack of men in the church and of material with particular relevance to the Caribbean. The research questions were designed to elicit views on manhood, Christianity, and the impact of becoming a Christian on a male. A composite description of a real man, according to the respondents, is one who is strong, assertive, caring, calmly confident, hospitable, wise, loyal, self-reliant, not given to displays of emotion indicating distress, and able to attract women. Positive views of Christianity were that it is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ; that it give a sense of belonging; that it upholds sound moral values; and that it has a worldwide appeal. Pastors were viewed positively as hospitable, moral, and skilled in communicating the Christian message. Christianity was viewed negatively as too restrictive, having unattainable standards, hypocritical, bigoted, and prone to divisiveness. A minority saw pastors as con men and leaders who do not set a good example. Most respondents saw major changes taking place in their lives taking place if they became Christians, with a larger number focusing on new obligations/restrictions and a smaller number on new benefits. Respondents were more or less evenly divided between encouragement and caution in their reaction to a best friend's decision to become a Christian. Finally, they claimed that young men were reluctant to become Christians because they saw negative consequences such as being linked to the female world; loss of freedom to do what they really like to do, e.g., engage in premarital sex; and loss of friends, especially through refusal to participate in gang activities. The study concluded that the most significant factors contributing to the difficulty young males have in becoming Christians seem to be those involving a clash between Christianity and culturally constructed views of manhood. Engaging in premarital sex and participating in gang activities are both marks of manhood in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and both are incompatible with Christianity. In comparison with a young female who is also considering becoming a Christian, a young male has one additional hurdle to clear: the apparent loss of, or inability to establish, his manhood. This may help explain why fewer young males than young females tend to identify with Christianity.