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The Quest for Male Community
Men want to be on mission in the world together with a group of other men.
I was delighted to see that former King’s College professor Anthony Bradley agrees with my write-up on evangelical servant leadership. He wrote on X:
Aaron nailed it! I’ve been to lots of men’s conferences and read dozens of books for Christian men: masculinity’s only expression for evangelical men is domestic. Even if things outside the home are mentioned, they are footnotes. For single young men, there is no on-ramp to live out 1 John 2:14 in their churches/communities so many look for it in video games, YouTube, etc. In fact, go to any evangelical youth group and ask the teenage boys what they want to do with their lives, you’re going to get something like this: “make enough money to provide for a family.” What they want to do, however, is fight evil and do something heroic in the world. They want to be heroes. What do we give them, instead? Small groups, a 6:00 AM Wednesday morning breakfast, 5:30AM F3 groups, and an annual men’s retreat.
Then, men are shamed for not being at home every night with their families. Then, we mock them for not having friends. It’s domestication and they run from this. Jordan Peterson, Andrew Tate, Hamza, Sneako, etc. offer young men something evangelicalism suppresses: how to use their power & strength outside of the four walls of their home to do something heroic that leaves their mark on the world. Again, I want to be clear here even if the cultural mandate/outside the home is taught for young men it is neither modeled nor practiced in a community of men they can join and there is no rite-of-passage into it outside-of-the-home culture shaping. They want to be brought into adversity & opposition in the fight against real evil & dominion over creation. This is *exactly* what Jesus offered his disciples. Jesus spoke directly to what young guys want. It’s instructive. I’m so glad he didn’t invite them to follow him to stay at home, attend a 6:00AM men’s breakfast or workout group, or a weekly small group. [emphasis added]
These are really great observations. I appreciate that he notes how men want a mission in the world, but this is what evangelical teaching denies them as men.
I believe the root cause of much of their bad teaching is in their unwillingness to advocate for substantive gender complementarity. They affirm that it exists, but never in any specifics. Thus the only thing that distinguishes men and women is how they relate to the opposite sex. The main complementarian book defines manhood and womanhood this way. As a result, masculinity (and femininity) can only be expressed in the domestic sphere.
He is also right to talk about a “community of men.” I noted that pagan masculinitist Jack Donovan was onto something when he talked about masculinity as being experience and expressed as part of a group (in his view a “gang”) of other men.
There used to be large numbers of spaces and organizations in the world that were single sex. Male only spaces have been systematically targeted for elimination by feminists and elite culture for quite some time. The years long jihad against Augusta National Golf Club by the New York Times is a great example. At the same time, there’s a vast array of women’s only institutions and programs. Where I live, for example, there is a women only co-working space.
Now, legally, most of these women only spaces can’t really be limited to women only. Unlike with women demanding to enter male spaces, men have traditionally respected a women’s only label. But this might be breaking down. There was a lot of press about how men have started attending a tech career fair that was supposed to be for women. And why wouldn’t they?
There are only a few all male spaces left. College fraternities are one. But of course, there’s a target on their back as well, as well as other single sex campus groups. Harvard has been working hard to punish any students who belong to single sex organizations, for example.
Bradley gets at something important, which is that men are hungry for community with other men. As I noted in my WSJ op-ed, this is one of the things that the online influencers offer. Their community is typically weak and online only, but it is a part of the draw to these people.
This comes through clearly in the famous 2005 book on the pickup artist community, The Game. If you read closely, what you see is that these guys are not really looking for sex with women as much as they are friendships with other men. Mystery, the main pickup artist character in the book (who later got a VH-1 show out of it), has a dream of a house in California where they all live together and then go out looking for girls. They created their own version of a frat house. Now, because the kind of people who try to have sex with lots of women aren’t the best sort of people, their project collapsed in drama and betrayal, but it shows the desire they had.
I noted in a previous newsletter that churches do have one advantage over other traditional institutions in that they do tend to have men speaking to and about men. Another advantage they have is that they are one of the few places left where it is still acceptable to have an all male group. Most churches have some type of men’s groups.
As Bradley says, however, these groups are a mixed bag. Some people really like and thrive in them. Many others do not. I’m someone who personally has not gotten a lot out of men’s groups at church and candidly attend them mostly out of a sense of obligation.
Most of these groups do not have any form of greater external purpose. This is what I was referring to when I wrote in the Journal:
Where they do have a male audience, such as in churches, attempts at creating community are often hokey and weird. Most young men aren’t drawn to groups that ask them to “hold each other accountable” for watching porn.
Accountability type groups like AA can be beneficial to some people. At the same time, a lot of guys are looking for something more like a Marine platoon, a group of men on mission to accomplish some purpose in the world. As someone quoted Robert Nisbet of saying, “People do not come together in significant and lasting associations merely to be together. They come together to do something that cannot easily be done in individual isolation.”
The communities around online influencers don’t always have a huge external focus either. I would say community is the least important of the five factors that I noted. But some of them do have a real purpose in the world, such as right wing politics or at a minimum “sticking it to the man.” They are like a Rebel Alliance working to disrupt the Globalist American Empire.
Nevertheless, this is one where I think churches can do well. They are socially allowed to have all male groups. These groups are working well for some people. I think they should build on to what they have with new forms of community that helps men engage in external mission in the world. Maybe the could create something more like a mastermind group.
And as Bradley notes, they need to be careful of what they say in order to make clear that it is a good and proper use of men’s time to spend time engaging with other men outside the home.
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