Relations between the sexes have rarely been in tatters the way they are now. Because we have kicked against the authority of God, as revealed in the fifth chapter of Ephesians, as revealed in the created order, and as revealed in our own consciences, we have toppled from a great height. The world has been fallen, sinful and rebellious throughout most of its history, but there are degrees of apostasy, and there is no bad situation that cannot be somehow worsened with a bad attitude. The general sinful condition of man can be made worse when adorned with mandatory incoherence.
I have written elsewhere about the plague of fatherlessness, and the resultant father hunger. This fatherlessness can come about because the father actually, physically gone, or he might still be on the premises but distant and removed in other ways. Either way, the plague of fatherlessness has a three-fold impact—on the miserable women who see their children abandoned by the one who fathered them, on the wretched women who chase away the one who fathered her children, and on the children themselves, who struggle with a standing hunger and with no pattern or model to follow.
As we confront this disaster—and it is a disaster—the definition of masculinity that I believe we must return to is this: masculinity is the glad assumption of the sacrificial responsibilities that God assigned to men. Now this is the point where, in normal times, if I were not writing in a culture that was not so well-advanced in its pathological condition, I would hasten to add that masculinity was not bluster, bullying, self-seeking aggrandizement, abusive behavior, and so forth. I would qualify against the counterfeits. All that is quite true, but I don’t want to emphasize it right now.
The reason for not yelling up that particular rain spout is that it has been counterproductive. We have been doing that in an unrelenting way for a generation or more, and by doing this we have helped to create and shape the awful conditions that we so lament. Let me explain.
We need to be done with what we have come to call servant leadership. Servant leadership, as it has been defined in evangelical circles, has done to masculinity what the liberals want to do to AR-15s. What do I mean? I am here following the common sense wisdom of the bumper sticker that says when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.
When a false definition of servant leadership is mandated for the church, the only people who will simply ignore that teaching will be the dullards and pigs. The sincere Christian men, who falsely believe they are being taught in accordance with the Word, will dutifully disarm. They will abdicate their essential role of actual leadership in the home, and they will call it servant leadership, leading from behind, or “just-what-I-was-going-to-suggest-leadership.” But there is a vast difference between real servant leadership, the kind Christ practiced and enjoined, and the kind that requires men to stand down whenever mama ain’t happy. By so emphasizing servant leadership, the church has not succeeded in establishing more of it, but they have succeeding in giving men a noble-sounding name as a fig leaf for their cowardice.
When the decent men are laboring to not be “so masculine,” and the pigs lean into being “masculine,” the end result will be that we will start having to deal with this thing called toxic masculinity. Now he would be a fool who said there was no such thing as a toxic, overdone masculinity—there certainly is. I myself have seen some remarkable specimens of it. But feminism has created it. Accommodations with feminism nurture it. And so now we have gotten to the point where ordinary, standard-issue masculinity is declared to be toxic by definition. This has only happened because the feminist mind starts by banning AR-15s, and ends by banning anything that might, in any possible world, remind them of one. The liberal mind starts by saying that it is “common sense” to keep guns out of schools, but they always end by expelling the kid who ate his Pop Tart into the shape of a gun.
There are two kinds of miserable women. God has created woman for the man, and she wants to be relationship with him. But the bond of this relationship—called covenant—has been rejected. Covenants have stipulations, terms, standards, and patterns. Most importantly, a covenant has a head, and that head is the husband. Covenants are inescapably bound together by that thing called authority, and our generation, by abandoning the concept of authority, has destroyed the fundamental protection for women and children that God established in the world. So men and women are no longer together in covenant, and so miserable women have to make shift. They still have a deep creational need to be in relationship with men, but they must come up with their own bonds to maintain that relationship. They do this in one of two ways.
First, they accept the doctrine that they must tart themselves up. They have become disciples of Cosmopolitan magazine, where they set themselves to the catechetical task of learning 5,892 ways of driving their man crazy in bed. These are the women who have been brought to think that sex is the glue that holds a man to a woman, and they think that porn stars and random celebrities can show them the way. But sex is not the glue. Sex is the thing that must be glued, and the only thing strong enough to “bind the strong man” of sex is a covenant made in the fear of God. But we have thrown such covenants away. We don’t even know what they are anymore.
The second kind of woman seeks to stay in relationship with men by means of a power move. Women who choose not to be sexually provocative (either by choice or by necessity) can still wield influence through fear. And our culture has granted this power to women also, promising to back such women up when they decide to make their accusations, whatever the accusation might be. This is what the blank check of “always believe the victim” actually means. It is not to choose women over men—it is to choose women over the rule of law. And so it is that a large army of singularly unattractive and bitchy women have come to have any authority in our culture at all. How is that possible? Men go along because of fear.
Women are being given a genuinely unpalatable choice—hookers or harpies. The option of being a woman prized above rubies by a man who fears Jehovah . . . that is off the table. Toxic. Triggering. A man who loves one woman more than life itself is clearly a threat to everyone.
So what do I mean by masculinity “without permission?” I mean that men who want to be obedient to God in this faithless generation are going to need walk up four steep hills. There are three basic governments that God has established among men—the civil government, the government of the church, and the government of the family. In our time, all three are in disarray, and all three are deeply compromised. We live in a time when any attempt to restore godly order to any or all of the three will be fiercely attacked.
The first step out of the confusion is this. I mentioned there were four hills. The fourth and steepest hill is the one of individual commitment. This occurs in the realm of self-government. Christian men must come to understand that there has been a vast conspiracy to neuter them. They must decide before God that they are done cooperating with this demented program, and that they are going to walk away from it without permission. They need to decide that they are going to be masculine without a license from the civil magistrate. They are going to be masculine, even if it means forgoing that servant-leadership stamp of approval from the elders, which it almost certainly will. And they are going to be masculine without a permission slip from their wife.
And when men have done so, it will not bother them that the elders wring their hands while pointing out that Jordan Peterson is not a Christian. That’s right, he isn’t. So why is he sounding more biblical than you guys? The fact that he is not as Christian should not be the foundation of your argument. It should be the foundation of your embarrassment. After all, when Jesus referred to those who were made eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom, this enterprise is not what He was talking about (Matt. 19:12).