From The Mailbag – The American Conservative

Foreign Affairs


A selection of reader letters

Believe me, I hear you loud and clear about the awful new comments policy, which has pretty much shut down this blog’s comments. I believe the Mothership is working in some way to fix this. In the meantime, if you have something substantive you would like to say, email me at rod — at — amconmag — dot — com, and I’ll consider posting your words. I won’t use your name unless you explicitly ask me to. Be sure to leave clear instructions if you want me to edit out anything.

A reader writes:

Just back from a week at summer camp as an adult leader for my son’s scout troop.  My kids live in sort of a conservative catholic cocoon, we do a few things “beyond the pale” (in the sense of the old border with Scotland).  For many years scouts has been like baseball: kept safe more by inertia than by anything else.  

Now that “scouts BSA” (formerly the Boy Scouts) also has girls, cross-dressing can actually be harder to see at first glance.  Someone walks past, girl or boy?  Maybe it’s a good thing there are girls, my son is often oblivious to these things. 

So, I know I’m not reporting anything crazy, nor unexpected.  Of course, now that American youth are on a trans / genderbender kick, of course that streak will infect the scouts.  How could it not?  Years ago, scouts BSA was officially unwelcoming to LGBT scouts and leaders, so there were some constraints – that’s all to the wayside now.  Now the only thing holding it back is who runs scouting… moms and dads mostly.  But you know how that is.  If there’s no express counter-cultural rule, you know which way this goes.  

So among the camp counselors this year, there were a good 2-4 who didn’t, shall we say, dress according to their biology.  

What do you do as a parent?  Do you say something on the survey?  As if that would accomplish anything (other than labeling you as a hater).  Do you seek after authority, to try to rein this in?  But could you do it, even if you tried?  

Do you encourage your son to be a counselor when he gets older?  Would you send your kid off to room with folks like that for a couple months?  Sacrifice your son on that alter-altar?  A really good boy from our troop is there this summer as a counselor… I will pray for him.

So another institution is taken over, kids lose one more place where they can be a kid, and you have (sadly) one more example of why we need a Benedict Option. 

Here’s a letter from a Reformed pastor:

I read your blog today about the feminization of Christianity and the need to “man up.”Thought provoking for sure.Then I read your Substack about the Reformed Church in the Netherlands and I was surprised to see that my thoughts were somewhat tracking yours…Here are some observations in no particular order.1.  Hyper masculine church leadership often results in catastrophic disasters.  Men who can’t control their sex drives, (Ravi… long list here Canadas Bruxy Cavey is the most recent addition to this hall of shame) or their need for power (James MacDonald) or their competitive spirit (Driscoll) destroy what they build in the most fantastic ways.  Jesus is aware of this as he commands the path of cross bearing, suffering and models rhetorical poise in the face of intense attack.  Be ready to die for God, for truth, and for your neighbour.  But first, you die to yourself.  1.5 Hyper masculine Christianity is Islam.  Rules, oppression of women, violence, strict discipline, little to no grace.  Hyper masculine Islam is ever waiting in the wings and is actively recruiting.  They will tell a man to fight and shed the blood of the enemy.  The Christian idea that the fight is against powers and principalities and ultimately against the evil within is in competition with those eager to find warriors to battle external foes who can only kill the body.  2. When I grew up all the men went to Mass on Saturday nights.  We were Protestant and my dad would often note that the Catholics had the most men in church.  Why?  Maybe it was the ritual.  Maybe it was the fact that the church with its huge bloody Christ painted on the wall, the focal point for all to see, created the sense of death, and with it the sense of adventure the spurs a man to be the best.  Or maybe that’s just me, from a strict Calvinist iconoclastic upbringing being shocked by such an image.  I can still see that Christ arms out stretched with a grey bearded God the father above him holding up his arms with his and a dove above them both.  Blood and water being collected from his side into a communion chalice.  No mystery here when it came to theology.  Blood, death, God, Christ.   A church that still could pack the place at 11:30pm on Christmas Eve. When we Protestants lost the visual arts, we started to lose everyone.3. Bible study with a group of young men the other night.  Our discussion of the Virgin Birth devolved into a discussion about the mysterious birth of Anakin Skywalker.  They knew more about George Lucas and his parody of the virgin birth than the story in Matt 2 and its theological implications.  You are right on about Myth, men crave myth, and when they can’t find it at church they will settle for light sabres in a universe far far away.  4.  Protestants kept the Bible though.  A Protestant understands what is going on.  The Orthodox have the liturgy, the Catholics the dogma, the Protestants insist on the Bible to keep the others honest.  :).   But we are losing the Bible now.  My denominational seminary continues to weaken its Greek and Hebrew requirements.  Apparently you don’t have to sweat and struggle through difficult course work to be a pastor anymore.  Men looking for a challenge need not apply.  Makes me mad. I chose Calvin Seminary because an old professor of Old Testament looked at me over his glasses and said “Seminary is school and it is difficult.”  “As it should be,” my 25 year old self thought. I wish I could say that my seminary education was almost as rigorous as an MD,  should be more rigorous.  The doctor can only kill the body, a bad pastor wrecks a lot of souls.  My seminary also actively recruits women, an odd thing since our 30 some years of women in office has yet to yield much more than 10% of pulpits as actually being available to women.  The congregations, not a bishop, choose and they tend to be conservative.  5.  That said, do I want to fight the trans issue? In some ways we are like King Theodon when Gandalf says “War is upon you.”  There isn’t a choice anymore.  I’ve got public school teachers telling me they have to lie to parents to hide a kid’s “trans” identity.  I’ve got members who work for large organizations that have to promote the June agenda, as part of their jobs.  I meet with them, we talk about it.  Is this “fighting?”  I am not sure.  People don’t come to church to hear what is blasted at them 24 hours a day everywhere else.  I hate having the culture dictate what I have to talk about.  But, the war is upon me and an enemy gets a vote.  It is foolish to ignore an enemy.  What does fighting look like?  -I have a Bible study for broken drug addicted young men.-our church keeps men at the upper levels of leadership, even though not all agree with this.-we have an explosion of little children and growing young families.  Where will we be in five years?  Strategy…I am not sure how to fight. 6. Many people don’t get it.  Things that are obvious to me are not obvious. We are masters at adapting to bad circumstances, and often blind to how bad those circumstances really are.  Iniquity is probably the right word, avon in Hebrew, crooked path, lost way, falling in the pit one dug, exchanging truth for lies and losing all sense of truth… it’s the same problem. 7. Why did Jordan Peterson succeed?  I wish I knew.  

Another reader writing about men in the church:

This is in regard to your second “men in the church” post.That article you wrote about Anna, the young Catholic woman who had been struggling to find a husband, has stuck with me since you published it in 2019. I am an evangelical man living in a “seminary town” who attended the seminary off and on over the past eight years, finally graduating last year. The seminary environment had a similar gender imbalance to what Anna speaks of in her complaint, but reversed — there were far more men than women at the seminary. This was to be expected, it being the flagship seminary of a theologically conservative evangelical denomination who believes only men should be ordained as pastors. But I found it to be the worst possible environment to try to date in. The deck was stacked against me. I was “competing” against hundreds of men far more godly (and handsome, charming, intelligent, etc.) than myself, and the attractive single women at the seminary had their pick of the litter.The churches, on the other hand, were a bit different. As with most evangelical churches, the ones I attended did have more single women than single men. However, I now, like the reader you quote at the beginning of this post, attend an ACNA church. What drew me to the Anglican tradition is what draws most young men to more liturgical traditions — the beauty and seriousness of the liturgy and the gift of an actual path to walk in terms of spiritual discipline. Unfortunately (but also fortunately, because I love my church!), I now attend a church where there are currently precisely zero single women in attendance, apart from one or two who appear to be straight out of high school, which is a bit too young for this 32-year-old.I actually asked my pastor about this when I first met with him after beginning to attend the ACNA church. I noted semi-jokingly that I was concerned about never finding a wife if I stopped attending a baptistic evangelical church, since most of the single Christian women in town were of that ilk. He assured me there were plenty of Anglican women, and even joked that maybe I could get a Catholic girl to make the jump to Anglicanism! Well, these Anglican women must be in other congregations in other cities, because after six months of attending, I haven’t seen any at my church. I say this not out of bitterness or discontent. I am merely noting a curious fact.(There is a saving grace for me, though, because I work at a fairly large classical Christian school, which sees an influx of young, single female teachers each year. There’s the awkwardness of navigating workplace romance, but at least there are options. I tried the online dating thing and found it to be largely a waste of time, and the platforms designed to be addictive. I can’t see myself ever doing online dating again, though I know it works well for some people.)

All of this is to say that more and more young men are going to realize, when they jump ship to more liturgical churches, that their pool of potential mates rapidly shrinks. (Although perhaps this is not true for Catholic churches, if Anna’s Australian experience is anything to go by.)  If they are coming out of evangelical circles, they might be able to find a woman willing to make the jump with them (especially if, like my ACNA church, their church allows them to be a member and still hold to believer’s baptism). But they need to prepare for that reality. I think, too, that pastors and other leaders in these liturgical churches need to be prepared to play matchmaker across their networks to find these eager young men wives who are similarly committed to liturgical Christian living and serious discipleship. It’s an old-school approach, but what other option is there, especially for men unlike myself who don’t also work in a Christian environment?

Reader Joan in Mass. writes:

for the first “Where Are The Men?” postFor all the digging Podles does into the beginning of the feminization of Western Christian congregations in the High Middle Ages, I’m surprised that he didn’t mention the most famous change from that time, the one still being debated: mandatory priestly celibacy. It altered the appeal of the priesthood, ensuring that a very different sort of individual would choose that path. I don’t know much about organizational dynamics, but I do know one thing from my years as an employee: the personality of the individual in charge sets the tone, both the CEO for the organization as a whole and the first-level supervisor for the team or sub-unit. At the top of the church, elite families still placed their younger sons in positions of power, tolerating mistresses and secret families, but at the parish level, the priest was more and more likely to be the sort who had never fit in with his male peers and who still couldn’t relate to them. Thus, without changing anything else, the church became less welcoming to normal men, simply because the guy in charge was not one of them. And then the divide was baked into the culture and endured even after Protestants restored marriage for the clergy.

In response to your correspondent in the ACNA, I have heard before that religious groups oriented around addiction recovery tend to be overwhelmingly male because addiction is an overwhelmingly male problem. Unfortunately, a history of addiction, especially addiction to something illegal, is a huge red flag for large numbers of women, especially women who have never struggled with addiction themselves. A guy has to get a long, long way from a past like that before law-abiding women will start to trust him.

Here is a letter Harvard’s diversocrats sent to faculty and staff:

“Additional demographic categories”! Well, never let it be said that these people working these bullshit jobs are just laying around.

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