Aaron Renn’s The Manosphere and the Church

There’s a series of articles going over at Theopolis as some of you are aware on various aspects of the manosphere. The first in the series is Aaron’s The Manosphere and the Church. Currently, there are another 3 out, but I’m going to take them one by one in the series as I think some more are coming and I can’t cover all of the content in a single post.

Aaron runs the Masculinist Newsletter so sign up and support him if you can.

It’s long been noted that Christian practice in America skews female, particularly among singles. “Where have all the good men gone?” is a familiar refrain in churches.  Economist Lyman Stone at the Institute for Family Studies looked at various surveys and found that indeed there are fewer single men than women in most American denominations. This imbalance is particularly acute in black and mainline churches, but also affects evangelical congregations. (Data from Barna suggests this gap may be closing, but only because more women are now abandoning the faith).

Various books have been written on this topic including David Murrow’s Why Men Hate Going to Church and Leon Podles’ The Church Impotent.  But British academic Callum Brown puts forth the most compelling view in his book The Death of Christian Britain. In it Brown notes a shift in public perception of piety around 1800 from a male register to a female register. He points out, for example, how angels shifted from being portrayed as primarily male to being portrayed mostly as female around that time.

Those of you familiar with Renn’s work (newletter #3 I believe) know that one of the major shifts in the West toward men bad and women good have come from Chivalry and subsequent more shifts in the 1800s at least in Britain which is where the US and others derive a lot of its thought about the sexes.

Renn goes into a lot more detail with the pastors showing how different they treat men and women and husband and wives sin.  No need to rehash that here.

Consider this example: it’s well known that women initiate the bulk of divorces – around 70% of them depending on the source. Have you ever heard or read this in any Christian marriage book or sermon series?  I haven’t.

British academic Valerie Hobbs published a recent study “The discourse of divorce in conservative Christian sermons” in which she undertook a linguistic analysis of 31 of the most popular sermons on divorce posted at Sermon Audio, primarily from Reformed Baptist and Presbyterian ministers. She found that they discuss divorce within a male-initiated framework:

“In summary, despite the fact that femaleness was, as mentioned earlier, a significant semantic concept in the divorce corpus, women are framed primarily as receivers of divorce rather than initiators. Although in most cases of divorce in the United States, women initiate divorce, pastors in the corpus in this way represented divorce as a largely male action.”

Hobbs is a feminist scholar, but recognizes the divergence between what male pastors speak and reality.

Listening to how the church talks about and treats men, especially relative to women, is it any wonder that men with even a modicum of self-respect often choose not to subject themselves to this kind of mistreatment by coming to church?

Secular men’s figures, by contrast, often sympathize with men. While they can be tough and challenging at times in their own right, they usually appear to desire to build men up and provide practical tips for self-improvement, not beat downs. That’s a huge difference right there.

Pastors hiding critical facts about gender relations, such as the data on who files for divorce, points to another reason why men have turned to secular men’s gurus. That is, those secular figures are more likely to tell men the often unpopular truth they need to know in critically important areas rather than leave them in the dark or even lie to them.

This is pretty much right on the money, and I’ve never really seen this discussed much at least in Churches. Sometimes pastors will get it right by discussing headship, but they almost never preach directly about the wifely side of things: submission and divorce.

In particular, the divorces are not actually for adultery or even things like physical abuse. They’re because the wife is unhappy (or rather, unhaaaaaapy as we like to call it).

The manosphere largely died out over the last few years. The only original major figure still active is Rollo Tomassi at his Rational Male site. The main sizable group left is one that was very small back then but has grown much larger – and sometimes violent – today: the “incel,” or “involuntary celibate” community of low status young men extremely unhappy that they are unable to have sex with or go out on dates with women.

The manosphere dissipated for a number of reasons. In part, it was because they finished mining their territory and had little new to say. Also, people age out of pickup artistry, requiring a perpetual refreshing of the gurus teaching it. But most importantly, it’s because the manosphere fused with and morphed into political movements, particularly Trumpism and right-wing politics, where the red pill has been absorbed as just one of several tenets. Red pill thinking has also made its way into most of the more mainstream men’s figures like Jordan Peterson. They are drawing on the manosphere whether they acknowledge it or not. Though the manosphere per se is mostly gone, the bulk of today’s popular internet men’s figures are using manosphere ideas which are now widely diffused in various forms.

I do think Renn is off on this front. As Sigma mentions, most of the main bloggers may have gone silent, but there are others filling the void as well. Roosh has turned his own website into articles on the “godpill.”

Largely, Rollo has shifted most of his focus on doing youtube livestreams as opposed to focusing his effort on writing. Many other have followed in this wake. Same with the RP Christians reddit. Discord and other sites are growing. The up and coming generation is not really a blogging generation as much as was popularlized by sites like WordPress and their predecessors. They’re mostly focus on engaging social media through video such as youtube, livestreams, or direct communication.

Blogging is relatively impersonal, and human long for that human connection especially when as being out there is getting more lonely. Not to mention COVID. So I’m not surprised to see engagement going the way of actual more human interaction. It’s also why conventions have garnered some interest.

Nevertheless, the church has failed men, not just the ones who turned away from it, but in many cases even the ones who joined.  I have a great deal of respect for the ministries of many of these churches and pastors. Some like John Piper have made a positive impact on me personally. But we must be honest that they are badly off base and very uncharitable in this area.

The church has adopted a very skewed approach that improperly berates and belittles men, and has badly misled them with teachings that just aren’t true. Those might be strong statements, but not nearly as strong as the anti-male sermons that these pastors themselves preach. There’s been a lot written about the way the church has abused and harmed women, but the church has abused and harmed a lot of men too.

This situation must be fixed. I started the Masculinist on a mission to make that happen, to speak truth while holding firm to Christian teaching, to reach and build men up not just tear them down, and to reform the church’s deeply flawed approach to men. A number of others have also been speaking up in their own ways, which is very welcome. We as Christians have to start loving men, and have the courage to speak the truth in this area that the church has heretofore lacked.

I do think that all men who are aware and have compassion for men have been treated feel the same way. I’ve already seen some of the younger generation take hold of learning about godly masculinity and attraction and have started running with it.

It seems to me that it’s often the case that the older generations in the Church (40-70s) tend to have a harder time understanding what the problems are. Perhaps they are ingrained in their ways. Perhaps because they did not live through dating in the last 10-20 years.

Their mind is set on egalitarianism or complementarism and can’t see past these made up things to what headship and authority truly are, so they can’t advise men to do what they are called to do in marriage which can possibly help them turn it around. They’re mired in the failure of divorces (sometimes their own) with no clue how to help men but parrot the same old thing that fails time and time again.

But, as we know, there is hope.

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16 Responses to Aaron Renn’s The Manosphere and the Church

  1. Matt says:

    From my time in seminary as well as my own research, I realized that most churches are run by women. The may have a male pastor/minister, but the folks running the church and deciding who is going to preach to the congregation are majority female.

  2. @ Matt

    I think you’re correct and it’s not meant to be like that but it often becomes like that.

    Smaller gatherings are where good modeling and discipleship takes place and Churches outgrow that very quickly. When you get into the bigger organizational aspects of Churches it often goes the way of lots of women’s groups and Bible studies and very few if any men’s stuff. Same with the sermons, unless they are just going through the Bible or topics then it becomes more convoluted in the background.

  3. fuzziewuzziebear says:

    That women don’t know where all the good men are is because they can’t look to themselves. It’s not that football is that popular. It is that all institutions have put “Karen” on a pedestal.

  4. Jack says:

    I read all four of the articles that have been published so far. The last one from Bill Smith is the best, in my opinion. The other three betray hints of egalitarianism, and have arguments that are poorly developed. They purport to have a critical view of the Manosphere/RP, saying that it is untruthful/unBiblical, but their writings show that they don’t have a very good grasp on it just yet.

    I’m not sure what to make of it. I mean, what is their purpose? Maybe they are working towards introducing the truths of the Manosphere to the wider public, maybe they are trying to warn men not to take the Red Pill, or maybe they are grifters trying to steal some thunder. We’ll have to wait to see where their discussion goes to find out.

  5. @ Jack

    We’ll be getting there in due time!

    Generally speaking, aside from Renn they don’t appear to be that familiar with the Christian manosphere at least. Much of the thought and subsequent diversions seem to be lacking the deeper analysis that most of us have already gone through extensively.

    I guess we’ll have to see where they are trying to take it though.

  6. Brad G. says:

    Great post, as always. It’s funny, @Matt hit the nail on the head, our church has a male lead pastor, but his wife clearly pulls the strings and wears the pants. Sidenote, they also have the same haircut LOL! Anywho, back on topic, the only thing our church does for men, is, run a “youth group” style ministry…you show up a few times a year for a Chili cook-off, a super bowl party, a final-four bracket contest and baseketball tournament etc…There is no iron, sharpening iron, just some play-time for the men, to keep them coming and writing those checks.

  7. Anonymous Reader says:

    Renn makes a number of good points. Given that his essay appears to be largely lifted from Dalrock essays with some Rollo on the side that’s not a surprise. However, given the sorry state of most churchgoing writers, he’s made a really strong and bold start.

    On the other hand….
    Peter Leithart is the kind of smug, ignorant Baby Boomer that still run most churches. His whole blob of text is one long “ought! ought! ought!” with zero basis in the actual reality men live within. His dismissal of the fact that women initiate 70% of divorces is a classic example. Guys like Leithart can’t figure out anything but know all the answers – that don’t work. it’s a totally typical essay.

    This paragraph stands out:

    5. No pill of any color can dispel sexual mystery, and those who think they’ve discovered the truth about sexual dynamics need to be cautious. They don’t have women figured out – or men, for that matter. I hope no one wants to dispel the mystery. Dispelling sexual mystery would rob the world of much else besides. Bereft of sexual mystery, creation and human life would be bereft of mystery as such.

    On behalf of Great Books For Men, I lolllllzlzlzlzlzlzlzlz.

    Truths about human nature can be tested. Pedestalizers like Leithart demonstrate this regularly. If he wants to know why young men don’t care about church, he should look in the nearest mirror just for a start.

    I’m not discussing personalities, although to be sure it’s a factor. It’s that almost everything men like Leithart say about women is not only false, it’s demonstrably false. If they get that wrong, what else do they get wrong? Why should any young man believe anything they say?

    To be blunt: if a preacher stood around in church claiming that dogs and cats are exactly the same, and everyone should teach their cat to fetch … would anyone stick around for the sermon?

  8. @ AR

    We’ll be getting there in due time 😛

    You can tell that the latter two articles are definitely less experienced with the information though.

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