Christian Sociology Book Review

The Toxic War on Masculinity: How Christianity Reconciles the Sexes

by Nancy R. Pearcey
Reviewed date: 2023 Oct 21
344 pages
cover art

Thumbs down from me.

I wanted to like this book, but it's got so many problems. It's disjointed, broken up into little sections that rarely flow together well. Pearcey relies heavily on older, out-of-date sources. She says she draws a lot of W. Bradford Wilcox's book Soft Patriarchs, New Men which came out in 2004. That's 19 years ago, y'all.

I also noticed that although she cites a lot of sources and has copious footnotes, for some of her biggest claims there is no sourcing at all. Just claims existing all on their own.

The bulk of the book traces the historical development of masculinity (that is, views about men and male roles) from pre-industrial times to today. (Today being twenty years ago, that is, considering her sources.) And while I found some of it interesting, it is also a whirlwind tour of history, and based on some other reading I've done, is not entirely convincing. I'm not a historian, but Pearcey traces the decline of men's roles and the rise of toxic masculinity to the Industrial Revolution and of men working outside the home; this led to men being less involved in childrearing and in church, which in turn led to the church catering more to women. But I read Leon J. Podles's book The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity and he makes a strong case that the church's turn toward women began hundreds of years earlier. Pearcey even cites Podles, so she's clearly aware of his work, but she doesn't address it at all. That makes me wonder what else she's not addressing.

It's got some good bits. The chapter on how the church should deal with marital abuse is one highlight. On balance though, this one's not a winner.

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