The Toxic War Against Masculinity Review
Nancy Pearcey’s newest work, The Toxic War on Masculinity, is both timely and personal. She begins the work with an introduction on her father, a man who was publicly respectable and righteous, but in private was violent and—well—toxic. From this starting point, Pearcey clarifies that the issue of men abusing their masculinity is not some abstract concept for her; it is a deeply personal issue.
The Good News
In the first part of the book, Pearcey focuses on all of the good news about men. She argues that both research and historical anecdotes show that theologically conservative men who are devout, have families, and regularly attend church are more loving husbands and engaged fathers. In other words, faithful Christian men are often anything but toxic.
Considering that theologically conservative and devout men are trying to emulate Jesus, this paradigm makes sense. The Scriptures tell men who want to be like Jesus to love their wives sacrificially (Eph 5), to be bold in the face of evil (John 2), to be willing to lay down their lives (John 15), and to be gentle (Matt 11). It seems rather straightforward that the men who truly believe this will be loving husbands and fathers.
Clearly, there are exceptions to the rule. Still, Pearcey’s argument makes the case that Christians should not be running from masculinity but embracing it. We just need to remember that masculinity must always conform to the true man, Christ.
Countering the Narrative
In the second part of the book, Pearcey deals with the history of “toxic masculinity.” She traces the lines of where the idea came from and how secular culture gets masculinity wrong. She argues that the secular paradigm defines masculinity by a narrow band of problematic traits like power, dominance, and entitlement. It is this secular understanding of masculinity that often turns masculinity into being toxic.
A Bad Blend
In the last part of the book, Pearcey looks at the sociology behind Christian men who embrace secular understandings of masculinity and what the results of this blend have been for the church. She argues that most of these men are nominal Christians and rarely attend church or study Scripture. This leads to a system where these men pick up terms like headship or submission but apply them with a secular dominance mindset rather than a Christ-like one. This is where toxicity can find its way into “Christian” masculinity.
A Final Thought
Peacey’s solution is straightforward: if we want to fix the masculinity issue in the West, we need to abandon both the secular and nominally Christian mindset. Christ is the redeemer of all things, including masculinity. If we want to reclaim a healthy kind of masculinity, it needs to look distinctly like Christ.
The Toxic War on Masculinity is an easy but deep read that focuses on a hot cultural issue. It approaches the issue from a Scriptural perspective that is also well-reasoned. This book is highly recommended for Church leaders, families, and anyone else interested in how to deal with the issue of masculinity in a Christ-like way.
Tyler Bauer is the content editor for the Land Center Journal. He holds MA degrees in Apologetics and Philosophy and is currently pursuing a PhD in Philosophy of Religion at Southwestern. In his spare time, you can find Tyler writing about classical education, worldview, and philosophy at tylerwbauer.com or co-hosting the God and Other Small Stuff Podcast. He also teaches courses on the Great Books at Texas Baptist College and apologetics courses at Palm Beach Atlantic University.
Sometimes, his wife will laugh at his jokes.
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