Tuesday, May 07, 2024

Fighting Dead Dragons

Just last year, seminary professor and author Owen Strachan published a book entitled The War on Men: Why Society Hates Them and Why We Need Them, praised as “a gospel-salve for a sick and dying culture” and “a compelling biblical and rational case for the recovery of and respect for a biblical view of manhood”.

As one tag line puts it, “If you are tired of feminized men, this book is for you.”

In the wake of publication, Strachan has shown little fear of social media controversy. If anything, he’s deliberately courted it. In 2022, a Strachan tweet to the effect that “God has staked everything on men” went viral and was heavily criticized for being imprecise and misogynous. Strachan later clarified his position that God has done so “in Christ”, but did not retract the statement.

But hey, when you make controversial claims without providing a full context, that’s the sort of thing that generally happens. Social media is just about the worst place for a reasoned discussion of anything.

Heat Without Light

This week Strachan did it again:

“There is a form of Christianity today that has men gulping beer, smoking like chimneys, and generally living like feudal kings while their wives walk around on eggshells, terrified to say the wrong thing or not affect the right attitude.”

No context. No clarification. You’ve got to know that’s going to generate comments from men. And it did. Eighth Century Woodchipper responded as follows:

“Are there Christian households like this? Yes, probably.

For every one that exists, there are ten thousand where the women guzzle wine, down SSRIs [antidepressants] like skittles, and generally live like Paleolithic longhouse matriarchs while their husbands walk around on eggshells, terrified to say the wrong thing or not affect the right attitude.

This is just more preaching ‘we love our moms, they are so great’ on Mother’s Day and ‘man up you stupid losers’ on Father’s Day.

There is nothing safer to do in contemporary evangelicalism than bash men and neglect the sins of women.”

The best of the bunch came from Joel Webbon:

“Part of the problem in Evangelicalism is that pastors often spend more time addressing exceptions than they do norms. They preach the footnotes, while neglecting headlines.

This is because fighting dead dragons will always be easier than fighting living ones.

Yes, misogyny still exists in isolated examples. But in our current moment, do we truly believe that misogyny is the headline issue? Or is it possible that the living dragon just might be rampant feminism?”


A Step Back to Catch My Breath

My reaction is all over the map.

First, Strachan’s original tweet is baffling. Perhaps that’s deliberate provocation. Maybe a new book is on the way. Perhaps it’s a delayed reaction to the heat he took for earlier comments. If so, it was poorly judged. Whatever the intent, it simply does not ring true. The last “feudal king” Christian husband I knew died about two decades ago, and I’ve been in a lot of Christian homes over the course of the last sixty years. It’s undoubtedly true that, even today, some Christian men are misogynists, though it’s usually more clandestine than overt. It’s also more cultural than Christian, and it’s biblically indefensible. But tweeting about a rare phenomenon in the absence of any indication of how common this behavior might be is unhelpful at best. As it is, Strachan appears to be tilting at a straw man.

Second, Woodchipper’s response is equally inflammatory. I truly doubt the ratio of “Paleolithic longhouse matriarchs” to “feudal kings” is 10,000 to one, and almost surely so does Woodchipper. Nevertheless, his conclusion that “There is nothing safer to do in contemporary evangelicalism than bash men and neglect the sins of women” is spot on. Soft evangelical preachers have been white-knighting for the fairer sex my entire life, and they continue to do so with depressing regularity. The last thing either sex needs is to be put on a pedestal or handed a fistful of free excuses for carnality, let alone from the platform when we go to church.

Finally, Joel Webbon’s observation that “fighting dead dragons will always be easier than fighting living ones” hits the nail on the head. Mature Christian men with busy lives generally don’t push back when criticized, even unfairly. We’re used to it. We shrug our shoulders, forget it and move on. Less mature men internalize the criticism and wallow in their own pain, but even the least mature brothers recognize whining about a nasty opinion is poor form. The best of us come back to inane generalizations with reasoned arguments, rather than pointless rhetorical heat.

There’s no cost to beating men up verbally from the platform. None. The broader culture fully supports it, and unwise women dine out on it like a box of chocolates, so it happens with appalling frequency. YouTube is full of egregious examples, and we have commented on a couple of them here and here.

The Dragon Revives

No, misogyny is no longer a headline issue in the evangelical West. If our churches have a notable teaching imbalance today, it’s the tendency to pander to women at men’s expense. Feminists and their enablers have made it almost as costly to address feminine sinfulness in the church as it is in the workplace.

That may not be the case forever. Cultural trends have a way of rebounding when they go too far. Christian misogyny may look like a dead dragon, but if the wokescolds have their way, it’ll be back and ready to breathe fire.

And none of us will be the better for it.

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