Book Notes: The Toxic War on Masculinity

Book Notes: The Toxic War on Masculinity October 16, 2023

A Modern Man by Aedan Kennedy

I am almost through Nancy Pearcey’s The Toxic War on Masculinity: How Christianity Reconciles the Sexes. I must add my own grateful endorsement to the vast number of others who have already admonished you to stop everything and read this book. It’s excellent. I’m sorry it took me so long to get to it. It is a cooling zephyr blowing away the progressive miasma of the last twenty-five years.

As I was ‘splaining to one of my children, I’ve read through so many accounts of the West since the dawn of the Industrial Age. I’m no expert, of course, but I am plenty familiar with the historical and philosophical events of this period. In fact, almost every non-fiction book today refers in one way or another to what’s happened since whenever that first factory loomed up over an unsuspecting and startled world to belch out smoke and stuff. One would have to be colossally ignorant not to have any sense of the ideological shifts that bring us today. Not to discount ignorance–there is plenty of it to go around. But if you read anything, you probably have some general idea. The facts are all there–the wars, the cult of domesticity, Freud, Marx, Margaret Sanger, Billy Graham, Mary Tyler Moore, Helen Gurley Brown, Hitler, and on and on. Each event or idea pushed one way or another until here we are. It’s not rocket surgery to understand.

But in the last ten years, how the story is shaped–you may have noticed–has taken on a rancid fetor. It turns out that there are, apparently, some real villains over the last century. No, not Hitler or Mao, not Communism or Marxism or even Capitalism, or any ‘ism.’ According to the intellectual heavy-weights of today, it was actually Christianity, and in particular, the men who persisted in being Christian and being men, though all the world had discovered that being a Christian and a man is wicked. This narrative is assumed to the point of being banal, unnoticeable even to the people who are its most devoted disciples. There simply is no other way to understand the past.

Except that there is. Pearcey tells the story another way, both methodically and movingly. In contrast to the narrow, sightless accounts of The Making of Biblical Womanhood, Jesus and John Wayne, Moral Combat, and any other number of volumes, The Toxic War on Masculinity is illuminating and brilliant. I’m deeply grateful to encounter this tired story with some fresh eyes, in a way that doesn’t hide any of the sins of Christian men but examines them as all other historical times and people should–with a soupçon of affection and empathy.

Isn’t it ironic that in the age of overweening empathy, the one type of person who is beyond the pale, cancelable at any moment, to be derided at every turn is someone who represents either half the population—men—or an ever-diminishing number of Christians. But this loss of empathy itself comes from somewhere. The creeping yet certain flight of masculinity out of our culture began a long time ago. It isn’t just that we all woke up one evening when Donald Trump ascended the Presidential throne to discover something new and bad had taken place, no matter how much the hew and cry of progressivism tries make him the scape goat of all our problems. Forces were sent in motion too long ago to be easily and conveniently remedied brought us to this moment. It’s like a slow-motion car wreck. And on that note, because my female child has, fulfilling the stereotype, lightly dinged another car, I must get on with my day. I’ll be working out these various thoughts this week on my Substack if you’d like to follow along. Have a nice day!

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