I want to again thank the Theopolis Institute for inviting me to participate in this discussion. I also want to thank those who responded to my original essay on the manosphere and the church. I will respond to a few small parts of some of these essays, but would encourage you to read each of them for yourselves.
As always, Alastair Roberts provides some of his trademark thoughtful commentary on scripture. I am eagerly awaiting his forthcoming book on the theology of the sexes. I agree with him that the contemporary American church is not serving women well either. But I do find it notable that it’s difficult in our world for people to point out problems in the way the church treats men without feeling obligated to make some balancing remark about the problems of the way the church treats women.
Paul Maxwell reminds us that men are in a lot of pain out there. They need people to credibly care for them. And they too seldom find it. It makes me think of the many observers of Jordan Peterson who said how they were struck by how much he seemed to care for the young men who turned to him. I hope that we all find ways to be someone who cares for the hurting men around us. As a tweeter that Rod Dreher once highlighted said, “Be the lighthouse.” Help guide men adrift on stormy seas to find a safe harbor, above all the harbor of Christ.
Bill Smith more directly states something that I mentioned and think is critical to understand. He wrote, “They tell men what has been glaringly obvious through the centuries about what attracts a female’s sexual desire. Men try it. It works. They like it. Game. Set. Match.” Indeed. The manosphere and secular men’s figures generally deal with issues very different from the typical church debate. For a young man, getting women to go out on dates with him is a primal issue. And it’s one that is a matter of objective success or failure in the real world. This is unlike the typical church debate over, for example, the right way to think about race; no one argues that you can put his theory of racial reconciliation into practice and see specific, tangible results. But the manosphere figures make specific, testable predictions (albeit of a probabilistic nature). When a man follows their advice and gets the predicted results, it is the ultimate credential. Conversely, when pastors give bad advice that fails in this area, it destroys their credibility generally, often beyond repair.
Peter Leithart’s take stood out from the others. With so many of us giving critiques that all fell in one direction, I suspect that he consciously chose to try to rep the other side to provide some balance, and so his essay should be read in that light. But I do think his article exhibited some of the traits of Baby Boomer thinking on these issues. The Boomers struggle to comprehend the realities of life for other generations. Perhaps Boomer formulas worked for them (or for their parents and grandparents at least), but they don’t work for younger generations.
I will highlight one specific area, his contention that intersexual dynamics are an impenetrable mystery. He writes, “No pill of any color can dispel sexual mystery, and those who think they’ve discovered the truth about sexual dynamics need to be cautious. They don’t have women figured out – or men, for that matter.” This idea that women are mysterious creatures men can’t comprehend is something that a manosphere figure like Rollo Tomassi would immediately point out is a sort of social myth designed to reinforce the female-centric nature of our society (and the church). If a man can’t understand women, then he is at the mercy of her mercurial behavior. In reality, while there is a degree of mystery in human sexuality, it is actually possible to understand quite a bit about female, and male behavior. A man’s knowledge of this shifts the balance of power in relationships (in the early stages at least) in his favor, which is why that knowledge is vocally denounced and delegitimized. It also echoes Bill Smith’s point. Once the manosphere writers dispel much of the mystery, Boomer-era thinking like this becomes discredited.
I should also note that human history is full of people providing insights on intersexual dynamics very consistent with what the manosphere figures argue. Consider Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni, for example. Or Donizetti’s Elixir of Love. Or a ballet like Giselle. Or go back to Aristophanes. Given that the manosphere contains a lot that is objectionable or outright offensive, I suggest turning to the classics of art and literature to stimulate your thinking about these issues.
Aaron Renn is an urban analyst, journalist, and the writer of the Masculinist.
To download Theopolis Lectures, please enter your email.