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Newsletter #37: The End of the Masculinist
This is the last issue of the Masculinist newsletter, because I’ve made the decision to end publication and to bring my Christian masculinity project to a close.
Thank you so much for reading. It’s been overwhelming at times to read the amazing emails I received from some of you encouraging me in this project and telling me how it has changed your life or ministry. And it was great to get to meet so many people through this as well. I’ll have some special Thank You’s in a bit.
Back in Masc #27 I talked about the concept of a “stop loss” order. In the stock market, a stop loss order automatically sells a stock if it falls below a certain price. I said that this broader concept was very useful for many aspects of our life to avoid over-investing in things that aren’t ultimately going anywhere.
I had an original “stop loss” criterion of 500 subscribers by word of mouth after one year. That is, if I fell below that level, I would shut the newsletter down. I ultimately hit that thanks to Rod Dreher, and now have several thousand subscribers.
Last fall I said I was going to set another stop loss gate for the project a year out. I decided that my criterion for continuing the newsletter after Labor Day 2019 would be that I was on a visible runway to being able to make an expanded Christian masculinity project into my actual job instead of a personal volunteer project.
Well, that’s not the case, so I’m shutting it down. I have no regrets about starting this project. I judge it to have been the most important thing I’ve ever done from a career or mission perspective, and also the thing I’ve done that’s had the greatest positive impact in people’s lives and in the world. It’s on an upward trajectory and I still have plenty to say. I’ll be honest that I really want to keep doing it.
Even so, I also have no regrets about shutting it down. When I think back over my life, I can’t think of a single case where I seriously regret having stopped doing something. But I have multiple major regrets about things I let go on far too long.
I said that after a lot of painful failure in life I completely rebuilt my concept of masculinity. One of the new capabilities I gained through doing this was the strength to make the tough decision to shut down things that needed shutting down, even when it’s painful and disappointing to do so. That was something I could never do before. Looking back at the times I’ve put that new ability to use, I’m even more convinced now than I was at the time that I made the right decision to cut those things off.
This is something worth reflecting on in your own life. Were your biggest regrets cutting things short too soon or letting them go on too long? Are you able to make tough decisions to walk away from things that need it? I couldn’t.
I gave enormous time on evenings and weekends outside of my full time job over the last five years to this effort – three of writing this newsletter and two of R&D before that which ultimately crystallized into a vision of which this newsletter was a part. I estimate that just the newsletters are about 150,000 words of serious content, a decent amount of which you couldn’t have found anywhere else.
I consider it very much worth doing and time well spent. Yet the time I spend on this could go to a lot of other things, including spending it with my wife and young son. And every time I press the Send button on one of these, I’m taking a risk of some kind of major blow-up or attack. So at this time in my life, it’s time for me to end this and start directing that time towards other things.
I want to especially thank three groups of people who were instrumental in making this newsletter a success.
First are my 33 original subscribers who took a chance when I asked them to sign up for this, and who answered the call to spread the word.
Second are my Patreon backers who kept me from losing money on this, covering my expenses, enabling me to pay for get togethers with readers, and making it possible for me to reissue my Mortification of Sin translation.
Third are the major amplifiers of the message. No one was more important to boosting readership than Rod Dreher. So thanks, Rod. Without his endorsement, I would have failed to hit my first stop loss order two years ago. Thanks also to Mark Galli, editor of Christianity today, and to Doug Wilson and the folks at Canon Press. What I especially appreciate about all of these men is that my message doesn’t necessarily line up with theirs – and they certainly don’t line up with each other – but they promoted me anyway.
Now it’s time for you to take this forward. Please do continue to seek growth as a Christian man. Live not by lies, build up and don’t just tear down, have skin in the game and be congruent, seek to be above reproach, grow in godliness, keep building new skills – and share what you’ve learned with other men.
Thanks so much again for reading. It meant a lot to me.
Your Band of Brothers
In Masc #35 I talked about the importance of having independent male friendships that are not dependent on your wife. Shortly afterward, Rod Dreher posted a heart-rending story about a man who is badly suffering because he doesn’t have these.
Every man needs male friendships and a band of brothers. I asked people to share some of their informal men’s groups, and here’s a sampling of what I got back. I hope you find some of these ideas useful in thinking about how to build men’s groups of your own.
A fantasy football league that turned into something deeper. The key was having “offseason” get togethers, and gradually morphing the composition of the group over time as people dropped out such that it became entirely serious Christians.
One person hosts a weekly Saturday morning “Second Breakfast” (which apparently comes from Lord of the Rings, but I didn’t recognize it). Men gather to make and eat breakfast and talk about anything at all they want, “music, faith, technology, social issues, how the week went, etc.” Kids can come and generally play in the other room after eating.
Apparently many PCA and CREC (Reformed) churches have men’s “Calvin on Tap” events, which feature a book discussion followed by whisky/beer and cigars.
One person wrote in who was running a Christian men’s group explicitly positioned as a mastermind group.
Someone wrote to say that Covenant Theological Seminary, it’s common to form groups of classmates who commit to staying in touch after graduation. The person who told me this has a group of six former classmates, who keep a regular email thread/text chain going and do an annual weekend get together. This is a great idea if you are a college student.
Another person is doing an actual reading group at a local library.
Another person started a men’s ministry with a formal program and speaker series called Men’s Round Up. It sounds similar to the New Canaan Society or Full Gospel Businessmen or similar groups that can be forums for making connections.
I previously mentioned the various dinner clubs I’ve encountered all over.
Others have various ad-hoc meetings, some organized by an “uber-connector” type person.
I’m honored to say some people are actually having Masculinist discussion meetings. I’m sure there is plenty of other material out there to keep these going.
Hopefully these can give you some ideas for ways to structure or frame things. However you do it, male friendships are essential in life.
Positive Family Stories
I’d hoped to be able to share more of the positive family stories people wrote into me with. There’s so much negative about marriage and family out there. I wanted to be sure to share the positive. Alas, my writing was typically so long I couldn’t get these in as often as I’d hoped (and I also deliberately excluded them from any issue I thought might be too controversial).
So what better way to end the newsletter than with a few of these?
Reader Benjamin sent in this picture from a successful hunt he did with his son:
When you asked about positive family stories and then positive images this picture came into my mind’s eye immediately. I won’t regale you with the hunting story but it was a day of real fun with my son in the woods and my youngest daughter liked the result too.
What I really like about this particular picture is that you can see how happy my son is. As he is holding onto me he has a look of peace and contentment on his face that shows true filial love. I am thankful I am able to see this often not only from him but from all my children, and I’m really glad that my wife caught it with the camera.
And from a female reader named Lena:
I am not Catholic, but I started reading a blog called Catholic All Year because the author is so relentlessly POSITIVE about having a big family. (She has nine kids. And clearly enjoys it.) You can see it especially in her older parenting posts. She is part of the reason I advocated with my husband for a fifth child. She wrote an article about the joys of a wide family (having a large age spread) and I decided that I wanted to try that too. Now we have five, ages 10-new. I agree with you that a little enthusiasm can be contagious when it comes to these things. I went from dreading another toddler to looking forward to what great big siblings my older four would be just from one lady online telling a cheerful narrative about family life. And I tried her philosophy of talking up “our baby” to older kids and sure enough I have three boys over the moon about a newborn, just because they believed me that he was an awesome gift. (My daughter would have been thrilled with the baby no matter what.)
And from reader Jamey:
Here is my contribution to the upside of marriage. At the bottom of the gaggle of children (7 in all) is my wife. Our tradition is every Sunday night we say a family rosary. This photo confirms the health benefits of having many children, as the kids rub as many of my wife’s extremities as they can get their little hands on! She comes away feeling great and by the time we are through, everyone is ready for a good night’s sleep…
Thanks to everyone who contributed these. Being married, and having kids, is very frequently an awesome experience.
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
– Jude 1:24-25