Why Most Evangelical Blogs (and Publishers) Became Left-Leaning

When I wrote for desiringGod.org and The Gospel Coalition, I wrote primarily about emotions. Compared with those authors who wrote about church doctrine and theology, my articles did exceptionally well. While I was actively writing for these publications, my readership was extremely high compared with their other authors. Simultaneously, I gained an enormous audience of readers. Through interacting with this audience, I discovered that about 80% of them were female. I was single at the time, so I think the fact that many of these readers saw me as a possible romantic interest played a part—but being an emotionally intuitive, smart, alpha male gave me a unique platform and niche among women.

The reason that I did so well writing for these platforms is precisely because my content played so well to a female readership. I have worked in Christian publishing for several years as an acquisitions editor, and there is one piece of folk wisdom among Christian publishing that guides a lot of book acquisition and marketing: men don’t buy books; women buy books. So even books that we acquired for men were actually marketed to sell to women to buy for their husbands, sons, etc.

In temperament and in content, the major Christian publication platforms and publishing houses forgot how to speak to real men.

This production mindset creates an internal cyclone of brand refinement in which future publishing decisions are directed by the typical female reader, rather than by an attempt to reach the male reader. In theory, and this certainly played itself out in the marketplace, intellectual books were for men, and emotional books were for women.

The Disruption of Female-Dominated Space

Then, the content industry was disrupted by leaders broadly affiliated with the intellectual dark web whose audiences were heavily masculine—Joe Rogan, Jordan Peterson, Ben Shapiro, Sam Harris, and Jocko Willink. These thought-leaders and intellectuals were characterized by four practices which attracted men:

(1)  Physical. The positive valuation of physical aggression through Brazilian jiu jitsu, exercise, and diet.

(2)  Patriotic. An explicit reverence for American values and identity. In Christian circles, certain platforms express patriotism—such as Pulpit & Pen—but lack the intellectual excellence that warrants their being taken seriously by male readers. Male readers are for the most part very smart, which is why they are so dissatisfied with most female-oriented literature which plays to the lowest common denominator—and are likewise underserved by Christian academic literature, which diminishes the value of bodily care and training.

(3)  Pedagogical. An excellence in intellectual exposition, undumbed and untampered by the pedestrianism of popular female-oriented publishing.

(4)  Taboo. Each of these intellectuals typically swear and engage in so-called “locker-room talk” that would never be found in the pages of publishing generally—and certainly never in the pages of higher quality Christian literature. Among Christian content creators, only the progressives who are laughably anti-intellectual and effeminate use curse words.  

The Silent Neglect of The Evangelical Male Reader

Under Obama-era leftism, Christian antipathy toward typical formulations of politics and gender grew—as the nation itself grew in polarization. Many publications went the way of the readers, who were 80% female. And, in a boycott culture, it was easy to alienate readers by posting one wrong article. In this way, we see among many larger evangelical platforms a race to accommodate Democrat Party ideals without compromising Christian values. The easiest way to do this was through an emphasis on social justice and a moral critique of Donald Trump. But in temperament and in content, the major Christian publication platforms and publishing houses forgot how to speak to real men.

Most Christian men within the evangelical institution want something more, because they sense that they don’t culturally fit there, even if they hold evangelical values.

Consequently, new editorial staff hires for these institutions were offered to effeminate men whose sensitivities were not aligned with the typical Joe Rogan listener, Jocko Willink reader, or Jordan Peterson zealot. In its adoption of left-leaning scripts about race, justice, and the need for men to simply listen, rather than speak, the silently neglected male populace within evangelicalism simply replaced many typically Christian content sources with secular sources. Even in so doing, many male Christians felt guilty and uneasy for sourcing from non-Christians commonsense male-oriented advice about politics, self-discipline, combat training, and professional development. 

Nevertheless—the most well-endowed evangelical institutions are expressively neutered in comparison to common cultural expressions of masculinity. Aggression is demonized as the vice of wrath. Bodybuilding and powerlifting are demonized as vanity and self-idolatry. Sexual attraction toward women is rebuked and vilified as rape culture, even though the most common fantasy among men, alongside sexual fantasy, is saving women from men who wish to violate consent.  

In short, evangelical publishing platforms have neutered their own content in an attempt to keep their 80% female base. You see this just as much at Christianity Today as you do at The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The New Yorker.

In this way, the evangelical male reader that these evangelical institutions never really had started showing up in record numbers for men who were willing to champion the ideas which so excellently expressed the male version of prosperous humanity. This includes the mockery of so-called male feminists. This includes the ability to identify a “beta male” and to believe that there is something unfitting and unbecoming of such men. This includes the praiseworthiness of physical effort. This includes the celebration and incorporation of male aggression into the fabric of spiritual practice. This includes a version of masculinity that doesn’t require a man to neuter himself in order to culturally survive among those with whom he shares a common Christian faith. 

Evangelical institutions have lost all of these values. Evangelical institutions have lost, or are currently losing, all of these men. Evangelical culture has, in large part, become a culture tailor-made for beta males. And I don’t say that as a way to posture over anyone. In fact, I think that most Christian men within the evangelical institution want something more, because they sense that they don’t culturally fit there, even if they hold evangelical values.

The Solution

The solution for evangelical institutions is to learn how to celebrate and cultivate traditional male values in a way that isn’t tacky and neutered. What does this mean? It means that the current evangelical guard needs to reshape its vision for the ideal man from a beta male to a real man.

The ideal man is a hunter.

The ideal man is a weight lifter.

The ideal man is intelligent.

The ideal man is a hard worker.

The ideal man is studious.

The ideal man knows how to tell a good dirty joke in small company.

The ideal man knows how to create a community of men who are seeking the same ideals.

The ideal man knows how to fight.

The ideal man knows how to fix a tire.

Of course, no one is the ideal man. But that’s what makes platforms like Jocko, Rogan, Brett McKay at the Art of Manliness better sources for Christian men than anything Christian platforms have to offer. They are all imperfect men seeking after an ideal. And evangelical culture needs to reacquire a taste for these traditionally masculine ideals so that men can come together around them and pursue them—not merely so that they can come up with a “Christian way” to be a hunter or fighter, but so that they can become good at being men, and consequently good at being Christian men.

What is a strategic way that the evangelical institution can re-aquire these ideals? The same way that these secular figures have attracted so many men in such a short amount of time—it must become physical, patriotic, pedagogical, and taboo.  

If evangelical platforms and publishing houses fail to recognize why they have lost their male readership, they will fall by the wayside just as other Christian sources.

This will be extremely difficult for Christian platforms to do, since doing so will risk their relationship with their 80% female audience—very likely now a 90% female audience. This could be accomplished one of two ways. First, Christianity Today—or a similar evangelical content site—could strategically broaden its brand by making key strategic editorial and staff writer hires that reshape the public voice of the blog itself. There are merits to this move, but it genuinely risks the survival of the platform since, in the content industry, reader experience is king—and an offended reader is a lost reader. Unfortunately for these platforms, there’s no one easier to offend than leftist women.

The second strategy these institutions could utilize to pick up on this giant upsurge of young, evangelical male content consumers and book buyers is to start an ancillary website—similar to what Christianity Today did with their previous site her.meneutics, now CT Women (a bad branding move—all the CT brands are very weak, precisely because they are niche-grabs attached to the hollow and bland CT moniker). Instead of starting bland left-leaning podcasts about the Bible and Social Justice, which are pointedly uninteresting for white men, they ought to hire the most Joe-Rogan like creative in the public eye, hire him, and allow him to build a brand that they own that pursues the excellent cultivation of male competencies from a Christian perspective. 

If evangelical platforms and publishing houses fail to recognize why they have lost their male readership, and remain unwilling to make an offensive, traditional, and bold branding integration of male interests into their content strategy, they will fall by the wayside as other Christian sources, such as Doctrine & Devotion and SelfWire.org, do it for them.

FOOTNOTES

[1] Arnold Schwarzenegger, with Douglas Kent Hall, Arnold: The Education of a Bodybuilder (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005; orig., 1977), 90.

[2] Arnold Schwarzenegger, with Douglas Kent Hall, Arnold: The Education of a Bodybuilder (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005; orig., 1977), 90.

 
 

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