What Is the Appeal of Jack Donovan for Many Young Christian Men?

What Is the Appeal of Jack Donovan for Many Young Christian Men? January 8, 2018
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Some titles just sort people out. If you know who Jack Donovan is, you don’t need me to explain what I’m getting at with the title of this post. If you have no idea what it means, keep reading.

A friend who teaches at an historic military college (I’m not saying which one) confided in me that most of the men in his classes are fans of Jack Donovan. If you’ve not heard of Jack, I’ve written about him before–here for example.

He’s well known among men who believe that being a man is both an achievement limited to males, and something meaningful. He’s best known for the book, The Way of Men. But he’s also got a large following on Instagram. But if I were to boil down his appeal to a single thing, I suggest it is this: Jack says things out loud that masculine men think all the time, whether they voice those convictions or not.

the-way-of-men-by-jack-donovan1Jack confirms those convictions and is someone that many men gather around in order to connect with other like-minded men.

Of course, this makes Jack a pariah to feminists, Social Justice Warriors, and egalitarians of every sort. But that only enhances his appeal because masculine men may like some of those people on a personal basis, but the ideologies they personify are hateful to them. So, the more Jack is denounced by those people, the more those who like him enjoy following him.

As you may be able to tell, my thoughts on Jack are mixed. If you read the essay I linked above you’ll see why. But I’m enough like Jack in certain respects that some of the people who like Jack, like me. I’m not a body-builder like Jack. (I’m pretty sure that Jack would beat me 10 times out of ten if we arm wrestled.) I don’t have tattoos, and I don’t post a lot of stuff on Instagram. In fact, I’m very different in certain respects. So what do guys see in me that they also see in Jack?

Just so you know I’m not making this connection up, here’s an excerpt from note I got last week from a reader comparing me to Jack.

One of the struggles that I have found over the past few years of coming into manhood is the difficulty in finding Christian men who are not only good men, but “good at being men” (to borrow Jack Donovan’s vernacular; I did read your review of his work, by the way, and while I loved his books, I completely agree with your assessment). It is typically one or the other. I have found men who share my understanding of what it takes to be good at being men in the military, and in a few other nooks and crannies, but those same men’s absence from church is endemic. I must confess, you are the first pastor whose work I have read that signifies any understanding of how the two worlds can (and MUST) meld. If such a question can be asked (or answered) how did you end up there?

Just what is this reader getting at when he refers to “good at being men”.

This: what Blake was getting at in his poem, The Tyger.

Tyger Tyger, burning bright, 
In the forests of the night; 
What immortal hand or eye, 
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
In what distant deeps or skies. 
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare seize the fire?
And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?
What the hammer? what the chain, 
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp, 
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!
When the stars threw down their spears 
And water’d heaven with their tears: 
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?
Tyger Tyger burning bright, 
In the forests of the night: 
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

My answer to the question Blake raises is, yes. The same God who made the Lamb made the Tyger.

Most Christian pastors disagree. Many young men in their churches see that. And consequently they are forced to choose between the Tyger and the Lamb. I don’t make men choose. I believe the Tyger is good, and that part of a man that identifies with the Tyger is from God, not a product of the Fall.

What distinguishes me from Jack Donovan is that Jack believed the pastors he heard. He believed that to be a Christian you had to renounce the Tyger. That’s too bad for Jack and the Church. Because as Blake implied, I believe, the same God made both.

There is something sublime about masculinity.

If you’d like to know more about manhood before shelling out your hard-earned money, Wipf and Stock, the publisher of my book, Man of the House, has given me permission to share a little sample of my latest nonfiction book with you. The hope, of course, is you will like it enough to purchase a copy. Enjoy!.

Click here to download the book excerpt as a PDF: Man of the House_Excerpt


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