Tuesday 12 June 2012

Christianity and masculinity


It is a fact and a problem that so many types of modern Christianity are unmasculine: it is a problem for men, and for women.

I won't go into detail - but a lot of what goes on in and around church, and how it goes on, does strike masculine men as effete, and therefore either uninteresting or actively-repulsive.

This is not, of course, a core attribute of Christianity - if Christianity really were intrinsically unmasculine then it could not have survived and thrived for so many centuries; and if Christianity were fundamentally unmasculine then it would be very popular among Leftists, instead of loathed.

(It is, of course, the residual masculine aspects of mainstream Christianity which Leftists most vehemently attack.)


The most fully masculine form of Christianity seems to me to be the Orthodox - and this presumably derives from the style and lifestyle of the majority of priests: stereotypically being large, bearded, deep-voiced patriarchs who dress massively and imposingly.

This makes for a big contrast between the Western and Eastern Christianity which I find very obvious between otherwise-similar countries such as Spain and Greece.


In the West, evangelical Protestants (and Mormons) are among the most masculine of Christian churches, and more masculine than most other modern social institutions - but mostly lack the advantages of a distinctive (and impressive) 'uniform' and a standard liturgy with formal ritual, language and music.


But effete Christian churches are much more significant than style or lifestyle.

The fact that Christianity does not appeal much to masculine men is a criticism and severe weakness of the Christian churches, and a measure of how far they have been corrupted by modernity.

It is also, and primarily, a criticism of masculine men. They need the church, whether it is masculine or not! And there is no doubt whatsoever, that if even a few joined a church and participated actively, then soon it would be more masculine.


Of course, men have also been attracted-out from churches by Leftism, especially with its inducements of sexual and lifestyle license ('sex and drugs and rock and roll'); an ideology which equates masculinity with impulsive self-indulgence.

But such hedonists are easily overcome by religious, disciplined and self-denying men, united by a higher goal.

If a Christian church or denomination can assemble and organise such men - and any such success would be very obvious - it may yet be a formidable and constructive social force.


Note added: A comment from Thrasymachus (below) recommended this useful book:


which gives data to suggest the problem is restricted to Western (not Eastern Orthodox) Christianity and dates from about 1200 - which I interpret as suggesting that 1. the unmasculinity of Christianity is ultimately a consequence of the Great Schism (which I take as the start of modernity), and 2. that a probable cause was the movement leading to enforcement of priestly celibacy in the Roman Catholic church, but that having begun the trend was reinforced by other factors - which spanned the Reformation.

I found particularly interesting the idea that the masculinity of Christianity is apparently related to the understanding life as Unseen or Spiritual warfare - and to the martyrs and ascetic monks as quasi-military heroes.



Anonymous said...

"The Church Impotent" by Leon J. Podles is a good history of this.

sykes.1 said...

This is not a new problem. The ancient (as in ancient) Spanish proverb is that a man goes to church three times: to be baptized, to be married and to be married.

Bruce Charlton said...

@sykes1 - I'm guessing that should read "to be baptized, to be married and to be buried"

But it depends what you mean by 'ancient' - Christianity is 2000 years old. I don't think this was a problem for the first millenium and a bit.

The Crow said...

Strangely, I was discussing this very phenomenon with my wife the other day.
I observed that I had never met, or seen, a Christian priest, pastor, vicar, bishop, or missionary that I could admire.
That they always seemed the very antithesis of their gender. And that it was no wonder, really, that this could only lead to the inclusion in their ranks of women and homosexuals.

If religion is to speak to men, then it would seem obvious that men need to be the ones doing the speaking.
I always liked the image of John The Baptist.
He seemed more masculine than any of the others.

Bruce Charlton said...


Thanks very much for that recommendation.

I just speed-read the whole thing at


and found it valuable.

Anonymous said...

"The Church Impotent" is a good starting point. At times, when reading it, I thought that he was reading too much significance into the mystical writings of St. Bernard and other Catholic saints. As I have thought over the state of the Roman Catholic Church, of which I am a member, I found myself coming to greater and greater agreement with him.

Without a prayer life, anyone's faith will die. Podles argues that in western Christianity, the interior life has become understood in feminine terms. Is it any surprise then that men have no faith, if they have been turned away from prayer- prayer having been presented as a feminine thing?

Brandon said...

Thank you for addressing this. The seeming emasculation and softness of (modern) Christianity was the biggest obstacle I've had to overcome in accepting Christ as Lord. My personality is mostly pagan by nature and I've always found Nietzschean thought to be highly attractive. (not to mention Nietzsche being the only atheist with a convincing argument)

So I've struggled. But ultimately, I read of Nietzsche's demise and realized that no salvation can come outside of Christ.

It should be the first task of true Christians to become men again, if not, then we will lose against the onslaught of modern tendencies.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I can think of a few guys in various churches that one could admire as unqualifiedly masculine. Archbishop Philip Hannan of New Orleans is a good example. He served as a combat Chaplin in WWII with American units who liberated Nazi death camps, he was an outspoken anti-Communist, he fought hard against the pacifist currents at Vatican II, and in old age, he defended his church from looters after Hurricane Katrina. Admittedly, he passed away a few years ago, and there would appear to be few replacements coming up through the ranks, but feminine Hannan was not. There are still a few like him out there.

Anonymous said...

The Greeks, in the time of their greatness, appeared to be markedly more macho than moderns, which suggests that Christianity is inherently feminine.

The real life people in "The March Up Country" appear to be about as macho as the semi fictional characters of the movie "300"

The locals have been harassing Xenophon"s ten thousand, and have stashed all the food and women in a hill fortress. The walls are not vertical and can be climbed, but are steep enough that if you fall off, you die.

The ten thousand charge up the walls in full armor. The defenders drop rocks on them, with devastating effect. Xenophon calls a retreat.

Xenophon has a bright idea. Instead of charging up the wall all at once, they will send up one hero at a time. That way the enemy will not have enough rocks.

A big dispute ensues as to who will have the glorious honor of attacking the fortress single handed. Spartans insist that it be one of theirs, so first to charge up the wall is a spartan hero. He reaches the top alive, and proceeds to engage the entire enemy army single handed.

At this point Xenophon's brilliant plan falls apart in massive military insubordination.

Everyone is worried that the first hero is getting all the glory, so they all charge up the wall in full armor to get their fair share of the glory.

They slaughter the enemy army. Unfortunately most of the women commit suicide by jumping off the wall.

Compared to that lot, even first millenium Christians were a bunch of girly boys. Compared to the women in the fortress, first millenium Christian males were a bunch of girly boys.

Bruce Charlton said...

@JAD - that is, ahem, a rather *narrow* view of masculinity, surely? The earthly essence of masculinity is being a patriarch (a role that embraces spirit, society and biology). Warrior courage is related to this, but not identical.

Ariston said...

In the West, evangelical Protestants (and Mormons) are among the most masculine of Christian churches…

There is no way in which one can argue against this in Mormonism; however, while Evangelicals are known to usually have male ministers (but not always), church life is dominated by women, and it shows to people who visit only briefly (which is all I have done). I know many converts to Orthodoxy and Catholicism (the latter avoiding the typical American parish which is just as—if not more—female dominated than Evangelical parishes are) who left in part over this issue.

The Megachurches in the US that are the most successful at attracting men do so in two ways: (1) Setting up their "small groups" in such a way as to arrange the next partner in serial monogamy, and (2) being wealthy enough to be attractive to older men as networking opportunities. Further, Evangelicals of the Megachurch variety become "male–friendly" by increasingly fragmenting the church itself, creating man–safe ghettos which are largely infantilizing.

The one real example of a male–dominated evangelical (though they would prefer "emergent") Megachurch is the Mars Hill church in Seattle, WA. The pastor there, Mark Driscoll, is almost uniquely sex–obsessed and has encouraged women in the parish to perform more fellatio, etc… so it is somewhat easy to see why it would be attractive.

Perhaps the situation among "Evangelicals" is different in the UK, but this is the situation in the NA Anglosphere. It is easy to buy into the Left's narrative of how conservative denominations are patriarchal, but this is rarely so.

Alan Roebuck said...

Christianity would be more appealing to men if they saw it as we reactionaries see it: essential to the defense of family, nation and culture against the twin jihads of liberalism and Islam.