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How Christian men can exemplify the right kind of masculinity

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Our culture has never been more lost and confused on the topic of masculinity. In 2022, the Southern Baptist Convention faced a reckoning with a bombshell report on the mishandling of sexual abuse allegations, exposing the danger of masculinity run amok. 

However, the response has too often been an overreaction, treating the entire gender as a disease. The Washington Post ran an opinion piece in 2018 simply titled “Why can’t we hate men?”

Into this fray, Nancy Pearcey, professor at Houston Christian University, offers her case for a healthy, Christian masculinity in her new book, “The Toxic War on Masculinity: How Christianity Reconciles the Sexes.” 

Nancy R. Pearcey. “The Toxic War on Masculinity: How Christianity Reconciles theSexes.” Baker Books. 2023. 334 pages. $24.99.

Nancy R. Pearcey. “The Toxic War on Masculinity: How Christianity Reconciles the Sexes.” Baker Books. 2023. 334 pages. $24.99.

Pearcey, heralded by The Economist as “America’s preeminent evangelical Protestant female intellectual,” is also the author of “Love Thy Body” (2018), which addressed a variety of issues including gender identity. 

More important than her publishing credentials, Pearcey comes equipped with the experience of masculinity at its worst. In the book’s introduction, she recounts the physical abuse she received from her Lutheran father and how it drove her to become an agnostic feminist early in life. She does not need to be told that masculinity can go horribly wrong, even in a perceived Christian environment.

Pearcey disarms her readers by acknowledging concerns on all sides of the topic of masculinity. Her main argument from the start is that there are two scripts for masculinity in our culture. 

The “good man” is a compassionate protector, a sacrificial giver and a servant-hearted leader. But when our culture speaks of “the real man,” we refer to brute strength, silent endurance, stubborn resolve, competitive fire and assertiveness. In short, one of these looks like Jesus, and the other looks like an action hero.

Pearcey argues that the nominally Christian man who follows the “real man” script actually becomes worse than his secular counterpart. Armed with just enough male headship language to be dangerous and no gospel-informed character to shape it, this sort of man is statistically the most destructive man in our society.

However, anywhere the “good man” script is followed, healthy masculinity follows. Christian men following this script see Jesus as their model, and statistically, Pearcey shows that the engaged Christian husband/father is one of the brightest spots on the otherwise dismal masculine landscape. 

“Research has found that evangelical Protestant men who attend church regularly are the least likely of any group in America to commit domestic violence,” she notes.

The remainder of the book is a historic study of how these two scripts came into existence. Pearcey begins in the Industrial Revolution, when men left the home for the factory and mothers began raising children alone. 

Her work is thought provoking and thorough, examining the literature on masculine norms in various eras of history to paint a full picture.

Her work is thought-provoking and thorough, examining the literature on masculine norms in various eras of history to paint a full picture. 

Her conclusion is that men — especially Christian men — have an opportunity to rewrite the narratives by returning to the Christ-shaped template for masculinity, one where virtue is of greater importance than virility and self-sacrifice is cherished above social success.

BENJAMIN J. WILLIAMS is the senior minister for the Central Church of Christ in Ada, Okla. He is a contributor for So We Speak ministries and specializes in Christian worldview, apologetics and faith-science dialogue.

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Filed under: Christian men Features gender identity gender issues and Christianity Masculinity Reviews Top Stories Toxic masculinity

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