In case you haven’t noticed, the Christian media industry is at war with men.
From The Gospel Coalition’s relegation of heterosexuality and endorsement of effeminacy to Desiring God and its neutered stance on the very masculine matter of armed self-defense, all the way to the halls of Christianity Today and its very public feminist agenda, there’s a not-so-subtle war being waged on men.
In a YouTube video in his SelfWire series, Dr. Paul Maxwell says this war on masculinity is a firmly-held and not-so-secret agenda within the Christian publishing world. A former writer for The Gospel Coalition (TGC), Desiring God and acquisitions editor at Moody Publishers, Maxwell documents the inner workings of the publishing world:
There is one piece of folk wisdom among Christian publishing that guides a lot of book acquisition and marketing. Men don’t buy books. Women buy books. That governs most publishing acquisitions and marketing strategy. So even books that we acquired for men were actually marketed to sell to women, mainly, to buy for their husbands or sons.
Maxwell says this bias plays into editorial hires which tend to be given to women or effeminate men who can speak to a predominantly soft-left female audience. The requisite message and tone are high on emotionalism, low on intellectual content, and heavily biased against traditionally signified masculinity. As Maxwell says, every article is basically a new way to make you feel guilty about not being spiritual enough.
By his estimation and based on industry metrics, Maxwell claims the audience for most of these publishing houses and blogs is 80 to 90 percent female. If you’ve ever suspected TGC appeals particularly to soft men and leftish women, there’s no need for you to be suspicious. This is TGC‘s practiced editorial intent.
To borrow Maxwell’s phrase, mainstream evangelical culture has become a beta male culture. Which is why real men are flocking away in droves, not just from the aisles of Christian bookstores but from the pews of their local churches.
What Maxwell says about Christian publishing could just as easily be said of pastors and the churches we lead here in North America: we don’t know how to (or don’t want to) speak to men, and thus prefer speaking to women and the androgynous.
A Step Further
It goes further than that, however. By not teaching and honoring Biblical manhood, it has inevitably led to the church and her publishers opposing all things manly.
When Tim Keller showcased a gay ballet performance as his offertory in the PCA’s flagship church in Manhattan several years ago, it wasn’t innocuous, sexually. It was a hostile act against manhood.
When John Piper castigated men for carrying a firearm in defense of themselves and their loved ones, his words were not innocuous. No, in both instances, these influential pastors may as well have painted a sign above the church’s door that read: “Men need not apply.”
Maxwell’s video is helpful because it not only points to the problem, but aims in the direction of a solution. Oddly enough, he suggests platforms like Christianity Today hire masculine men to curate content on their site, which is well meaning but delusional.
Those groups’ abandonment of men is not accidental. That brand of feminism at its core detests masculinity—there’s no desire to communicate with the guy who likes to hunt, wrench on a vehicle, and work with his hands.
What is helpful is Maxwell’s analysis of the intellectual dark web and several of its key players and their ability to attract a masculine audience.
Among them he mentions Jocko Willink, a former Navy SEAL; Jordan Peterson, a Canadian psychologist; Ben Shapiro, a conservative talk show host; and Joe Rogan, an irreverent mixed martial artist, UFC commentator, and podcast host.
Maxwell helpfully identifies four characteristics of their podcasts or books that make them wildly appealing to real men. If you’re a pastor, blogger, writer, or podcast host, take note.
First, these men focus on the brute physicality of manhood.
Jocko and Rogan are into mixed martial arts and talk regularly about physical discipline, getting ripped in the gym, and their exploits as soldiers, hunters, and fighters. It’s no shock that real men want to talk about muscles, military campaigns and wilderness exploits.
I’ll be the first to admit that the manosphere on Twitter and elsewhere often goes way to far in celebrating self-obsessed men who elevate physical fitness to an improper place, but it can still a helpful tonic in a time when most churches have adopted a gnostic position that neglects bodily discipline of any sort.
Men care about their physical body and should be taught how to use it in a godly fashion; they shouldn’t be told their body doesn’t matter or shamed for taking an interest in physical fitness or health.
Second, these men are unashamedly nationalistic and patriotic.
Meanwhile, it’s a huge trend in evangelicalism to lean left, bash Trump, and condemn love of country in itself as the ultimate offense against the Gospel.
On the other hand, Ben Shapiro and others are proudly American and possess the intellectual horsepower to back up their devotion. Again, it’s no surprise so many Christian men find Jocko or Shapiro more interesting than their pastor or men in their church who show contempt for those who take pride in their nation.
Third, these men are intellectually brilliant.
Contrary to everything the publishing world and positively woke feminist culture claims, Maxwell points out that so-called alpha males are often incredibly smart and require rigorous intellectual conversation. The emotionalistic drivel that dominates Christian conversation today is a 100-percent “hell no” from most men. Sentimental, emotionalistic drivel.
Men want more Rogan and his interviews with brilliant farmers, scientists, psychologists, and sports heroes. Forget the celebrity pastor and his limp-wristed virtue signaling to Vice’s HBO crowd.
Fourth, these men often deal in the realm of the taboo.
They drink, smoke cigars (Rogan is a notorious pothead), and speak in earthy ways that most men can identify with. While there’s a lot to sift through, they address topics with ruthless directness, regularly offending the politically correct crowd. Again, it’s no surprise that men of the warrior culture find these things immensely appealing. (Word to the wise, Rogan is often heinously profane and often goes way too far. Listener beware.)
Practically speaking then, what does this mean for the church?
It doesn’t mean lacing your sermons with F-bombs (please don’t), but it means recognizing the shortfall of masculine content coming from the church, the hunger men have for truth, and then filling that gap with something robustly biblical and engaging. It’s not about sloppily repackaging Jordan Peterson with a bible verse, but thinking deeply about important issues and having something significant to say in return.
Here are a few ways to learn and step up the game:
First, instead of simply dismissing resources or voices that are successfully speaking to men, learn from them and improve upon them.
Instead of bashing Peterson, as many pastors have done, read him with eyes of discernment and learn the tale of the lobster. Stand up straight, put your shoulders back, and face the enemy with courage. It will do your soul immeasurable good.
Recognize what’s true, spit out the bones. Most of all, consider what void it’s filling in the lives of men.
Second, men with masculine virtue need to dedicate themselves to creating better content.
Since in this very tamed-down and lamed-down epoch of Diet Christianity, the church and its teaching are rife with effeminacy, we need to find genuine expressions of masculinity and start imitating and improving upon them.
You are what you read, so take a walk through history and spend time with generals, war heroes, and the Chestertonian giants of older books who knew nothing other than authentic masculinity and championed it with skill. Read about Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Winston Churchill.
Get yourself a copy of Canon Press’ Thoughts For Young Men, by the manly J.C. Ryle. Follow Michael Foster on Twitter, sign up for the It’s Good to Be A Man newsletter, and surround yourself with other men making masculine content.
Third—and this is absolutely vital—be actively engaged in the art of becoming real men.
There’s no room for put-ons and posers. We must repudiate closet hipsters with their sham formula for attracting men to a podcast or social media platform. No virtue signaling our get-swole-alpha-maleness in the opposite direction.
How do we reach and speak to men? First and foremost, we must be men in pursuit of masculine virtues. No faking it. No perfection. Just the battle scars of those in pursuit.