If there is any word used to describe masculinity in our day, any adjective commonly used to modify it, it is almost invariably “toxic.” We hear almost nothing of positive masculinity or healthy masculinity. But we hear endlessly of its toxicity. It would not be wrong to conclude that society really has no vision for a masculinity that is noble and good (unless it is essentially indistinguishable from femininity). It would not be wrong to conclude that society considers masculinity one of the great problems that human progress must overcome.
Nancy Pearcey has many thoughts on this subject and her response is the cleverly titled The Toxic War on Masculinity. For her great concern is not the toxicity of masculinity itself, but the toxicity of the war against it.
It’s not like Pearcey is writing from some Utopia in which she has only ever seen positive examples of masculinity in action. To the contrary, she grew up in a home with a father who was cruel to his family. She was subjected to an extremely harmful form of masculinity that was abusive toward her and her siblings. It was largely because of the contrast between her dad in public (moral, upright, religious) and her dad in private (cruel, unjust, violent) that she abandoned her religious upbringing when she was a teen, turning instead of the writings of the feminist movement. It was only when she stumbled upon L’Abri and the ministry of Francis Schaeffer that she recommitted to the Christian faith and began the long process of healing.
Her book is an attempt to understand the God-given pattern for men and to define a truly healthy masculinity. But it goes beyond that to consider how Western culture lost its vision for a healthy masculinity and to propose how it can be recovered. Taking a “show, don’t tell” approach, she blends history and sociology with personal stories and outside examples. It makes for a powerful and compelling package.
It makes for a compelling book and one that serves its purpose. Well-researched and exhaustively documented, well-written and endorsed by a diverse collection of authors, I expect that it will be widely-read and that it will help spark many good conversations within the Christian world. Best of all, I hope it will help provide a positive, hopeful, biblical vision for masculinity.