PODCAST: Wolves, Chimpanzees, and Deer: Let’s Dissect the Alpha Male Myth

by | May 2, 2024 | Men's Corner, Podcasts | 29 comments

Wolves, chimpanzees, deer; the alpha male myth among conservative evangelicals

Let’s talk Alpha Males!

It’s the last podcast of season 7, and we’re going to be taking May off of the podcast and the blog so we can finish up edits on our book and take a bit of a vacation.

But we thought, for this last podcast of the season, we’d wrap up what we started on the first when we cried, “Let men be men!”

Because often the conservative evangelical view of manhood isn’t a healthy one, and certainly isn’t biblical. We also see this in the idea of “alpha males”, that men are supposed to be aloof, vying to be the top of the pack, bullying, strong, even dangerous.

Is this true of the animal world? And is it true of Scripture? Let’s take a look!

Or, as always, you can watch on YouTube:


What do wolves, chimpanzees, and deer have in common?

They all supposedly have an “alpha male” that makes decisions for the social group, keeps control, is dangerous, and makes the others get in line.

Except that none of that is true. We used to think that was true–but more recent science has shown that our conception of alpha males in the wild is really skewed.

Keith enjoyed preparing the research for this episode, and I think you’ll like it too!

And if alpha males in the wild aren’t actually that alpha, and are actually more caring and nurturing, and more about consensus building, then what should that tell us about trying to impose a view of an alpha male on Christianity? Especially when it’s nowhere in the Bible?

Last week I had an amazing experience speaking in Fort Worth.

I was at New River Fellowship Church in Hudson Oaks, and Pastor Joey Willis opened the women’s conference with some amazing words. They really touched me, and I thought they may touch some of you too. There are safe pastors. There are pastors who get it. There are churches out there working to repair the terrible damage that’s been done to women and marriages because of toxic theology. There are churches that want to empower women.

And I just want you all to know that, because it can get so easy to believe that all churches are bad when you’ve been in a certain type of church your whole life. There are good ones. We all just need to find them, or even form them, and help the good ones grow!

Things Mentioned in the Podcast

To Support Us:

Things mentioned in the podcast:

All about New River Fellowship Church

Pastor Joey Willis is the Lead Pastor at New River Fellowship in Hudson Oaks, Texas.

What do you think? Have you ever heard Christian advice that sounds remarkably like alpha male stuff? What do you think about the Jezebel spirit talk? Let’s talk in the comments!


Sheila: Welcome to the Bare Marriage podcast.  I’m Sheila Wray Gregoire from baremarriage.com where we like to talk about healthy, evidence-based, biblical advice for your sex life and your marriage.  And I am joined today by my husband, Keith.

Keith: Hey, everybody.

Sheila: And we are going to talk about evidence-based stuff about whether or not there actually are alpha males and what alpha males are actually like.  So this is going to be a fun one.  Keith has done a ton of research into the concept of alpha males in the wild and how that relates to how Christianity often talks about masculinity.  Or rather current evangelicalism often talks about masculinity.  So we are going to—  

Keith: Yeah.  Certain parts of current evangelicalism. 

Sheila: Yes.  Yes.  Exactly.  So we’re going to have some fun with that.  Before we do, I want to give a thank you to everyone who supports us, everyone who leaves reviews for The Great Sex Review, She Deserves Better, Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex.  Those always help us.  Reviews this podcast.  When you rate it five star or leave a review, it just helps other people see it.  And, of course, people who support us monetarily.  Our patrons are just wonderful.  And I had an opportunity.  Last week I was in Atlanta and Dallas, and I got to meet up with some of our patrons in Fort Worth at the Altamesa Chik-Fil-A.  Just amazing to see them in person.  It kind of felt like coming home.  It felt like a community.  And sometimes I feel like I’m just talking into the void.  And to meet people, in the flesh, who have read our books and have been impacted, it was really special for me.  I needed it.  I needed that encouragement.  

Keith: Yeah.  And I want to say to you patrons, who took such good care of my wife when she was away from me for that week, thank you so much because she came back so energized.  And I just really—that was a real blessing to me to see her come back—see you come back revved up because it usually takes a lot out of you to be on the road like that.  You made a big impact, so I just want to thank you very much.

Sheila: Yeah.  I had some speaking engagements.  I had my girl talk at New River Fellowship in Hudson Oaks, Texas near Forth Worth.  I’m going to be talking about that church at the end of this podcast.  But just really, really good time.  So appreciate our patrons.  If you would like to support us in other ways, you can also give tax deductible donations within the United States to the Good Fruit Faith Initiative of the Bosco Foundation.  We have a link in the podcast notes for that.  I am sorry to Canadians that we can’t give tax receipts yet especially because we are Canadian.  We’re working on it.  But it was just easier to get this partnership first.  So there you go.  And then, of course, when you buy our merch or our courses, that is our main source of income.  So we have our biblical manhood and biblical womanhood merch, which go great with this podcast and some more, so you can check out our merch and our courses.  Now, Keith, this is actually the last podcast that we are going to do in season seven.  I don’t know why it’s season seven.  I don’t know when we started counting.  But supposedly, this is season seven.  And that’s because now that I’m back from speaking, you and I are going to be buckling down for the next two weeks to get the edits for our new marriage book that is coming out spring 2025, The Marriage You Want.  And you’ve been editing it while I’ve been gone.  And now it’s my turn, and we have a lot of work to do.  I’m excited about that work.  And then we’re going to take two weeks of vacation.  So we will be gone for the month of May.  There will be no podcasts, and the blog might post occasionally.  I’m not sure.  We might run some of Becca’s amazing posts from the Friday emails that 45,000 people read every week.  So we might some of those, but we will be off for the month of May and then back first week of June.  So I thought that since this was the last podcast for season seven that we could hearken back to some of the beginning ones because we opened the season in January with our let men be men series talking about how often Christian resources—the way that they describe men is actually really fragile.

Keith: Yeah.  Very infantilizing and condescending and—not a high view of men.

Sheila: No.  Men can’t handle temptation.  Men can’t handle you confronting them about anything.  Men can’t even handle you talking.  So we looked at that.

Keith: Men are fragile, and they can’t stand anything.  And they’re weak.  They need to be cared for.  And now we’re going to go to the other extreme.

Sheila: But even if they’re saying they’re weak and they’re saying it’s because men are strong so you’re not supposed to confront them.  But the net result is infantilizing.  And so I thought today we could do the concept of the alpha male and how that’s often portrayed in Christianity.  So I’m going to let you take over here because you are the one who has done the research for this.  

Keith: Yeah.  And that’s what I was trying to say too because the alpha male—when you hear the word alpha male, what do you think?  What does that mean to you?  In the common parlance.  

Sheila: I would say the guy who has clambered his way to the top, has won a bunch of battles, so he’s gotten this status, and because of his status he’s able to be domineering and make other people under him do what he wants them to do. 

Keith: Yeah.  It’s very much a domineering, I’m tough, I’m strong, I’ve clawed my way to the top, exert my will over others and make them do what I want them to do.

Sheila: Yeah.  And I see life as a battle because I can be challenged, and so I need to always be ready.  

Keith: Yeah.  That kind of thing.  What do you think about emotional health?  Where are they at from that relationship kind of?  

Sheila: I think alphas males are often portrayed as having no emotions.  They’re sort of aloof, but that’s only because we’ve—we haven’t defined anger as an emotion.  That’s not an emotion.  

Keith: I’m not emotional like women.  I just put my fist through the wall every once in awhile.  That kind of nonsense.  Yeah.  Yeah.  Exactly.  Yeah.  That’s kind of what I think too.  The alpha male mystique out there is this really tough guy, who makes everybody else do what he wants and doesn’t take crap from anybody.  That kind of stuff.

Sheila: And is often a loner.  He needs women.  He loves having women around him, but he’s actually quite aloof and can manage on his own. 

Keith: Yeah.  Yeah.  That’s the sort of mentality.  And as we’re going to talk later in the podcast, it’s really crept into the church such that certain parts of the church put up this view of masculinity as the Christian view of masculinity.  And if you don’t believe this view of masculinity, then there is something wrong with your masculinity, or there is something wrong with your faith which is ridiculous.

Sheila: Yeah.  Yeah.  

Keith: But anyway, so yeah.  So that’s the kind of concept that’s out there.  So I thought we’d start with talking about where it kind of comes from in terms of the—because they say that this the way that men are.  This is the way that nature works.  This is the way the world has been created.  And the classic example that’s usually used is the whole idea of wolves, right?  The alpha wolf.  That sort of mystique.  And that comes out of some work done in the 1970s via a guy named David Mech.  And he wrote a book about wolves and how they work and stuff.  And he talked about—he was the first one to coin the term the alpha wolf sort of.  And society just ran with it.  It caught the popular imagination, and it just went crazy.  It was before the Internet, but it went viral.  

Sheila: Yeah.  Yeah.  So the alpha wolf is the strong one, and the beta wolves are these weak ones that people laugh at.  And they’re not able to be an alpha.  

Keith: Technically, what it means is the alpha wolf is the one who is in charge, and all the beta males defer to him.  Right?  Because they’re scared of him, because he’s the biggest and the toughest.

Sheila: And often the betas don’t get the chance to mate in the same way as the alpha.  I don’t know if that’s true with wolves, but that’s kind of the way it is.

Keith: But the point is is that if you’re a beta male, you defer to the alpha.  And the alpha is the alpha because he’s tough and strong.  And you’re scared of him.  That’s the mentality that’s out there.  Anyway, the interesting thing is is that as David Mech continued to work with wolves and following the same packs year after year after year and taking further observations what he realized was this is not the alpha wolf because he’s the biggest and toughest and strongest.  He’s the alpha wolf because this is the dad of all the other wolves.  He basically found that wolf packs are basically just families.  So the alpha male and the alpha female are basically the mom and the dad, right?  And so basically, there are—occasionally, there are other wolves in the pack, but they are usually extended relatives like cousins or a nephew or a niece or that kind of stuff.  So other wolves that are—but they’re still from the same group.  So the other males that are deferring to quote the alpha male are not deferring because they’re scared of him.  They’re deferring because he’s their dad, or he’s Uncle Bob.  Or the female is Aunt Shirley.  These are familial groups, and they’re showing deference because they’ve been cared for by these older wolves their whole life.  So yeah.  They’re naturally going to defer to them because they raised them.  

Sheila: Okay.  So it’s not necessarily the strongest.  It’s just the one that has—yeah.  That is the guy, who—yeah.  Who raised them and who was always there for them.  Okay.  You’re a strong guy.  You do a lot of pushups and chin ups every day.  You’ve got good muscles, right?  But let’s face it.  Both of our sons-in-law could take you, right?

Keith: Oh my gosh.  Yeah.  They’re both getting pretty ripped.  Yeah.  Yeah.

Sheila: But they would still defer to you because you are—

Keith: Well, I think all three of us are confident enough in our mascunilinity that we don’t feel like we’re in competition with each other.  

Sheila: Yes.  Yes.  But it’s just a family group.  And we’re kind of like the head, and then there’s all the rest of the— 

Keith: Yeah.  You’re right.  It actually is a really good analogy because—yeah.  So you defer to your parents because they’re your parents, right?  Not because you’re scared of them.  At least not in a healthy family, right?

Sheila: Exactly.

Keith: And I think it’s—so David Mech has been trying the rest of his career to get people to stop talking about alpha males among wolves because they just don’t exist.  But the problem is that he’s not gotten traction because the idea has just taken off, and people have—they’ve just gone with it.  And they’re not listening to him.  He’s like, “Alpha wolves don’t exist.  They’re not real.”

Sheila: Yeah.  He’s trying to correct it, and people aren’t listening.  Yeah.

Keith: And part of it’s because of the—there are some studies that talk about wolves in captivity.  Now there are some studies of wolves that did show that there was a dominance hierarchy, sort of fighting with each other and that sort of stuff.  But those are—

Sheila: Okay.  What we picture alpha being.

Keith:   Yeah.  A little bit more similar.  But that was based upon studies of wolves in captivity.  All right?  So you’ve got unrelated wolves in an unfamiliar situation.  They do demonstrate those kind of behaviors.  But to say that that tells us how we should be then as humans—it’s kind of crazy, right?  Because it’s basically—the equivalent is like to wolves in captivity—the equivalent would be humans in prison, right?  So do we think that men in regular society should act like men in prison?  That’s the way that it should work.  

Sheila: I would say no.

Keith: Yeah.  So it’s like dysfunctional environments produce dysfunctional behaviors.  

Sheila: Right.  Now there are animals that doe vie and fight usually, I think, it’s for mating rights.  Lions, for instance, will do that.  

Keith: Yeah.  Or the bucks that bang heads together and things like that.

Sheila: Yeah.  But that’s not usually a social group where they’re vying for who gets to be the alpha.  That’s usually disparate animals in different places, aren’t they? 

Keith: Yeah.  Yeah.  Exactly.  And that also brings up the whole issue of why are we looking to wolves, for instance, to tell us how we, as human males, should act, right?  I find this particularly funny because the people in the churches who are the most conservative religious type people who are saying, “We all need to be alpha males,” are the ones least likely to believe in evolution and that we’re actually related to animals.  Right?

Sheila: So why are we looking to animals, anyway?  Yeah.  Yeah.

Keith: Yeah.  It’s kind of funny.  But I have seen unironically them say things like—when you dispel the wolf myth, right?  Wolves are not actually alpha wolves, right?  They don’t really exist.  When you dispel that, I’ve heard them unironically say, “Well, we’re actually more like chimpanzees.  We’re more related to chimpanzees than wolves.”  And they bring chimpanzees up which do have an alpha dominance system, right?  So kind of like you’re saying.  There are some animals that do that.  And so they point to chimpanzees because they’re more like us.  But they don’t believe in evolution, which I find is kind of funny.  Because if you don’t believe in evolution, why should we be any more like a mushroom or a jellyfish than a wolf.  It doesn’t make any sense.  

Sheila: Yes.  Exactly.

Keith: So chimpanzees do have an alpha structure where there is a male in charge, and he has to keep that position.  He could lose it by another male taking over or that sort of thing.  So it’s much more like the way that people picture alpha.  There is a person, who is in charge.  They have to maintain that status, or they could lose it.  It could be taken from them.

Sheila: And someone else is always trying to take it from them.

Keith: Yeah.  That’s the shtick.  And Frans de Waal is a guy, who has done a lot of work on chimpanzees.  And he’s got some really great YouTube videos like some TED talks and things like that.

Sheila: They’re really, really good.

Keith: They’re really quite entertaining.

Sheila: I’ll find some, and I’ll link in the podcast notes because they’re really interesting.

Keith: Yeah.  And he’s quite a good speaker, and he’s quite an engaging speaker.  He’s fun to listen to.  He wrote a book called Chimpanzee Politics: Power and Sex Among Apes.  But even he is saying—he kind of is upset that people are taking what he has done and using it to forward a narrative, which is really not what he was saying.  Because we get the idea of an alpha male being this brutish bully who goes in and makes his will known upon the troop, and that’s not the way that chimpanzees actually work.  So the alpha chimpanzee is much more—he has to navigate the social network that’s in the troop.  So he has to be very—understand the relationships and that sort of thing.  And yes.  It is a male, but the alpha female has a lot of power because she can rally the females around her.  And they get to help decide who is going to be the alpha male.  You have to form coalitions.  It’s not as simple as he’s big and tough and strong, and everyone just follows him or that he bashes everyone down.  And he gets to be in charge.  It’s a very intricate kind of social dynamic.  And the interesting thing is that the way that the alpha—the way that the males generate support for their campaign to be the alpha male is not the way that alpha males talk.  The things that chimpanzees are looking for, for their alpha male, are things that we consider very nurturing kind of activities.  So you become an alpha chimpanzee by being caring toward other members of the herd.  Grooming them, taking care of the weak and the sick, being generous and giving your food away.  One of the big ones is playing with the young and taking care of the young.  All these things are the things that are what make you favorable and get you to be the alpha chimp.

Sheila: This is one of the things I remember most about Franz de Waal’s videos or his TED talks is he was talking about that, about how alpha males—the way that they get support for their alpha status is by caring for the young.  And then he had all these pictures of all these presidential candidates kissing babies.  

Keith: Kissing babies.  Yeah.

Sheila: Showing how in human politics we do this too.  We kiss babies to show I am—

Keith: I’m the alpha.  Trust me.  

Sheila: I’m the alpha.  Yeah.

Keith: Yeah.  It’s kind of funny.  But I find this hilarious because they throw up chimpanzees as the example of yes.  We should be alpha males.  But it’s like all the things that the chimp does to become the alpha male are things that these stereotypical quotes alpha male humans would call beta, right?  They’re beta activities.

Sheila: Because it’s not necessarily the strongest male, it’s the one that has the most support of the troop.  Or the herd.  

Keith:   Exactly.  Exactly.

Sheila: Or whichever it is in that particular animal family.

Keith: Yeah.  Exactly.  And, again, because the whole point is not to look at the animal world and then learn about how the animal world works and then see how that reflects on human society, right?  They have an agenda.  They have decided that this is the way that men and women should interact in society, and there should be a dominant male.  And that should be me.  And they’re going to the natural world and trying to find evidence of that.  And so chimpanzees are a lot like humans, and look.  Chimps have alpha males, so that’s natural for humans to have alpha males. 

Sheila: Right.  But there’s other animals that are even closer related to us.  Or just as related as chimps, right?  The bonobo.  I’ve heard about the bonobo ape thing.

Keith: Yes.  Bonobos are as related to us, and genetically similar to us, as chimpanzees.  And they are a completely matriarchal society.  But I don’t see them saying, “Well, bonobos are a female society, so we should have an alpha female in our human society,” because the point isn’t to look at nature and learn.  The point is to push our agenda.

Sheila: Push their agenda.  Yeah.

Keith: And the thing is they don’t even realize they’re doing that because they are seeing the world through this lens of patriarchy and this is the way that things should work.  And they’re just seeing that’s the way the world works, and they think that that’s the way the world works.  But it’s actually them misunderstanding the world because they don’t have a knowledge of the assumptions they are bringing to it.  And a really perfect example of that is the example of deer, which is another group of animals that often the alpha thing gets touted as well.

Sheila: Like in the Bambi movie, right?  So you have the father standing aloof on the hill.  “Get up, Bambi,” or whatever it is that he says.

Keith: Yeah.  When mother gets shot and then who is this guy?  All of a sudden it’s like, “Get up, Bambi.”

Sheila: Yes.  He’s not nurturing.   

Keith: Suck it up.

Sheila: You need to be a man.  You need to stand up and be a man.

Keith: Be strong like me.

Sheila: Yeah.  I love that.  And he wasn’t really involved in Bambi’s life at all.  The mother was.  But standing off to the side and aloof.  Yeah.

Keith: And, again, all of that is more indicative of what masculinity was supposed to be in the 50s than about how deer actually work.

Sheila: Or whenever Bambi was made.  I don’t even know what year it was made.

Keith: The 30s.  I don’t even—it was a long time ago.  But, again, that’s a perfect example because they’re not—it’s trying to show the way they think the world should be, right?  So when people were studying deer, they would see the deer grazing.  And then a large male would stand up and then go off in another direction, and all the other deer would follow them to the watering hole or wherever they would go to next.  So what was put forward was, well, that’s the alpha male deer.  He’s deciding it’s time to stop grazing in this field.  We’re going to move to the next field, or we’re going to go to the watering hole, or whatever we’re going to do.  He’s deciding that.  And they’re all following him because he’s the leader, and they obey him.  That’s the way alpha males work.  

Sheila: Right.

Keith: And here’s another example of it in nature.  Until some female scientists looked at it which, I think, is funny.

Sheila: Again, it’s going to be good.  All right.

Keith: And there’s a number of them.  But one of the ones was Larissa Conrad, and she did some studies in 2003 where they looked at deer populations again.  And they saw a different story because they were looking at it through different eyes without this lens of I am going to see the alpha male deer here.  They looked at it and just saw what did they actually see.  And they saw something different.  What they saw was as this herd was grazing in this particular field all of the deer would intermittently look up.  And they’d look in one particular direction.  Each particular deer would look in a particular direction.  There’s only so many things you do as a deer, right?  So are we going to go to the next field over?  Are we going to go back to the—are we going to go to the watering hole?  Are we going to go back down and bed down for the night?  Is there something we should be fleeing from?  Whatever.  But they are all looking up, and they keep looking in the same direction.  Each individual deer.  And what they realized was the big—the one big deer was not making the decision for the group of where they were going to go next.  That big deer was tallying all the responses of the other deer.  They were observing what everyone else in the herd was thinking, and then kind of just tallying the votes, and then deciding that, yep, okay.  So it looks like people want to go to the watering hole now.  So let’s all go to the watering hole now.  So completely the opposite of the idea of the decision maker, the one who is going to tell everyone what to do.  They’re the representative.  They’re looking at what’s good for the group, and they’re just being the voice of the group and putting that into practice rather than being in charge of everybody.

Sheila: Well, it’s kind of interesting because there’s some animal groups that actually punish aggressive males.  There’s a lot of animal groups that are more matriarchal.  Elephants are a perfect example.  I think water buffalo.  A lot of the ones we saw in Africa anyway.  But with elephants, you have a group that stays together for life.  It’s a family group.  So you have the grandma, the mom, even the great-grandma might be there, and all the kids.  And the males are allowed to stay until they hit—they’re sort of teenager.  Equivalent of teenagers.  Or until they get too violent or messy or whatever.  And then they get pushed out by the females.  And so in the African plains, you’ll have these large groups of elephants where they’re all female except for the young—there might be some young males.  And then you might have a couple of teenage male elephants that kind of stick together and go around and cause havoc.  And the grandmas will sometimes get mad at them if they come anywhere near, and they’ll prevent this roaming band of teenagers from coming near.  And then you’ll just have the lone bull elephants that walk around.  And they’re only allowed in when it’s mating season.  But other than that, they’re just kept out.  But we don’t see that as—and I’m not saying that’s what we should do either.  I am not saying that we should be following animals either.  I just find it interesting, like you said, that this stuff is held up as, well, we need to be alphas just like in nature.  But that’s not what nature necessarily shows.

Keith: Yeah.  Exactly.  Well, and also too what nature does show is that there’s a variety of different ways for social animals to learn how to cooperate.  And cooperation always works out over coercion and command and that sort of thing.  And so social animals do better if they cooperate, and they learn different strategies to cooperate.  And that’s what is successful.  And that’s kind of what the Bible talks about too is doing unto others as you would have them do unto you and this sort of thing.  It doesn’t talk about being alpha males and being stronger than everyone.  And this is why I thought it would be important to talk about in the podcast because this is something that is really infiltrating the church.  This whole idea of the stereotypical alpha male.  And by alpha male, they don’t mean the nice chimpanzee.  They mean the I’m tough.  I’m in charge.  You better listen to me.  That’s what a man is supposed to be.  And they portray this as the Christian ideal.  We are Christians, and we are masculine sort of thing.  The Stronger Men’s Conference, right?

Sheila: Yes.  Just for reference because not everyone will have heard of that.  This is an annual conference.  It’s a Christian conference.  It happened just in March.  Or was it early April?  But it was quite recent.  And there was a huge hubbub this year which we’ll get to later.  Mark Driscoll complained about one of the acts that was there—the opening act.  But they often have tanks and guns and motorcycles and tanks running over motorcycles or motorcycles jumping over tanks or whatever it might be.

Keith: Things on fire.

Sheila: Some combination of—yeah.  Very, very prototypical—yeah.

Keith: Yeah.  Last year there was Chuck Norris.  It wasn’t the real Chuck Norris.  But it was a guy pretending to be Chuck Norris.  Chuck Norris shooting a machine gun while driving a tank over monster trucks or something like that.

Sheila: Yeah.  And this is supposed to be Christian.  Yeah.  It’s just weird.

Keith: This is the Christian idea of masculinity.  And this, to me, goes so counter to what I see in the person of Christ in the New Testament.  This is not what I see in Jesus, right?  “I am gentle and humble of heart,” right?  “Turn the other cheek.”  That guy, right?  But they don’t—

Sheila: We had an article on turn the other cheek earlier this week which I will link to because—and there’s actually a really interesting take on that which is really cool.  So I will link to that later.  But yes.  Go ahead.

Keith: Exactly.  But they don’t like that view of Jesus, but they want to hold on to this idea of alpha male Christianity.  And so they just change the story to make it fit.  And the one I think of that is the Joe Rogan podcast that Jordan Peterson was on.  Now I know Jordan Peterson is not specifically a Christian voice.

Sheila: Yeah.  I’m not sure what he claims to be now.  He does work a lot with Scripture, which is interesting.  But yeah.  He was a professor of psychology in—what is it?  Linguistics.  I don’t even remember what he was a professor of at U of T.  But yeah.  Not Christian, per se.  Mm-hmm. 

Keith: Yeah.  But he was talking on the Joe Rogan podcast about how he was reading the Sermon on the Mount, and he got to the section where Jesus said, “The meek shall inherit the earth.”  And he said, “Well, that doesn’t make any sense.  I don’t see meekness as a virtue.  So I did some digging, and I figured the word must have changed in the years since it was written because it’s not what it means.  It doesn’t mean be meek.  What it means is those who have swords and keep them sheathed will inherit the earth.  That’s what meekness means.  You should be a monster,” he says.  This is a literal quote.  “You should be an absolute monster, but you should learn to control it.”  Right.  And that was his idea of what Jesus meant when he said that.

Sheila: And I just want to say.  That’s nowhere in the text.  He is reading into that.  The word means meek.  

Keith: Yeah.  And these are the people—the people who spout this kind of stuff are the ones who say, “The Bible says what it says.  And if you don’t like the word, wives, submit to your husbands, that’s—it means what it means.  Don’t change the word head to mean something different.  That’s what it means.”  And then they get to this, and they go, “Well, meek doesn’t mean meek.  It means this totally complicated weird thing, which requires you to through the eye of faith believe that the word has changed meaning over 300 years.  And somehow meek once meant people who have swords keep them sheathed.”  It’s ridiculous, right?  But this is the idea that—I’ve heard this in other places too.  Meekness is strength under control, right?  Meekness is meekness.  The word means what it means.  It means be meek.

Sheila: Now there’s nothing wrong with strength under control.  Strength under control is very, very good.    

Keith: Absolutely.  But there’s also nothing wrong with meekness.

Sheila: Right.  And they aren’t the same thing.  Yes.  Yeah.

Keith: And meekness is a virtue.  And Jesus taught us that, and we should just be clear that that’s what Scripture says.  Being meek is a good thing.  But a lot of Christians in these environments think that this alpha masculinity, this toxic masculinity, is true masculinity and the only form of masculinity.  And to be a true masculine person, you can’t be meek.  So I need to make the Bible say something other than Jesus wants me to be meek.  And I’ve got a quote for you from the Desiring God website, which says that specifically.

Sheila: Okay.  And Desiring God is from John Piper just so everyone knows.  So he founded Desiring God and John Piper—we’ve talked about him before on the podcast.  He’s the one who said that women should endure abuse for a season and all kinds of really terrible things about (cross talk).

Keith: Yeah.  If she gets slapped around for a night and then she should go to the church for help.  Not call the police.  But anyway.  So this is what this writer on the Desiring God website said.  “Today’s virtuous man,”—and he puts that in quotes.  “Is depicted as much more virtue than man.  He is compliant, deferential, and soft.  He is nice.  He works his job, pays his taxes, keeps his head down, and avoids scandal and, by all means, anything that could be called abuse.  He is safe, but not much more.  There is no fire, no passion, no strength, no purpose to make him a risk or a nuisance to his evil generation.  Traditional masculinity—that muscular, bold, and weighty thing—has been curbed with bit and bridle.  When it emerges, it offends.  And he wouldn’t want to offend.”  The dripping sarcasm he’s writing about these beta males.

Sheila: Well, okay.  So the things that he says are bad, right?  So that a virtuous man is deferential.  Yeah.  That’s what we’re told to do.  Ephesians  5:21.  “Submit to one another.”  He is nice.  Yes.  Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit.  He works his job.  That’s right.  That’s what people are supposed to do.  They’re supposed to be diligent.  He pays his taxes.  Yes.  Because we’re supposed to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.  He avoids scandal.  Yes.  Because if someone wants to be in leadership, the Bible says that they must be thought of well by outsiders.  These are all things that the Bible calls us to do.  And he says that they are wimpy and bad.

Keith: They’re all positives, and they’re all wimpy and bad.  That’s not real masculinity.  What is real masculinity?  Okay.  Being the kind of person, who people start using the word abuse concerning you, right?  Because he says, “He avoids anything that might be called abuse.  He doesn’t want to offend.”  He needs to be that kind of a dangerous guy.  He needs to be just like Jordan Peterson said.  A complete monster.  But keep it under control.

Sheila: Yeah.  It’s like no.  You don’t have to have a hint of abuse to be a man.  You really don’t.  

Keith: Yeah.  And so sometimes we talk about toxic masculinity because we believe there are toxic forms of masculinity.  And there’s healthy forms of masculinity.

Sheila: Yes.  I find this so funny because the very fact that the phrase toxic masculinity exists means by definition that there is masculinity that is not toxic.  Because if all masculinity was toxic, we would not have to say toxic masculinity.  So when people say, “Oh, you just hate men, or you just hate masculinity,” it’s like, well, then you’re the one who is assuming that all masculinity is toxic.  It’s not me.  I don’t assume that all masculinity is toxic.  I don’t assume that all strength or initiative or responsibility or kindness or any of the things that Jesus showed and demonstrated and that you do—I don’t assume those things are toxic.  No.  I assume that when someone wants to be a bully or wants to have just a hint of abuse or whatever it is that Greg Morse on Desiring God was saying—yeah.  I think that’s toxic.  

Keith: Yeah.  Exactly.  And this is the thing.  So they actually do think the toxic elements of masculinity are inherent to masculinity.  So they rightfully feel attacked when we talk about toxic masculinity.  But they are disingenuous when they say they are defending masculinity.  They are not.  They are defending the toxic forms of masculinity.  As for me, I think a guy, who cares for others, pays his taxes, works hard, provides for his family, keeps his head down and gets the job down, I think that’s a pretty masculine man.  I think a man, who is a partner with his wife 100%, 100%–they each are equal and they work together to create a family that honors God—I think that is a masculine man.

Sheila: I think a man, who changes all the diapers and gets up in the middle of the night to help with the baby because his wife has just gone through labor or just had a C-section and is really scarred and not well—that’s a man, who is getting up with that tiny baby.  That’s wonderful.  He’s caring.  He’s taking on some of her exhaustion.  And he’s taking it on to himself.  

Keith: Yeah.  Because he cares more about his wife and his child than he cares about what other men think about him.  Because, to me, that’s what a real masculine man is is I don’t care what Greg Morse thinks about my masculinity.  He clearly, from the way he writes this thing, would think I’m not a real man.  That actually, to me, is a badge of honor because I don’t want to be the kind of man that Greg Morse talks about because he does not sound good.  And he doesn’t sound Christian.  And he doesn’t sound like the kind of person that I want to emulate.  

Sheila: Yeah.  Exactly.  

Keith: And I think Kristin Kobes Du Mez summarized it really well when she wrote Jesus and John Wayne.  We’ve talked about that book before on the podcast. 

Sheila: Yes.  She was on.

Keith: Here is her quote about this whole idea of how this view of masculinity has kind of taken over, and it’s put forward as Christian.  And it’s changed the way that Christians think about masculinity.  She writes this in her book, “In the end, Doug Wilson, John Piper, Mark Driscoll, James Dobson, Doug Phillips, and John Eldredge all preached a mutually reinforcing vision of Christian masculinity, of patriarchy and submission, sex and power.  It was a vision that promised protection for women but left women without defense, one that worshiped power and turned a blind eye to justice, and one that transformed the Jesus of the Gospels into an image of their own making.  And they had been right all along.  The militant Christian masculinity they practiced and preached did indelibly shape both family and nation.”  And it’s a tragedy that that has become the story of what it means to be a Christian man.  

Sheila: Yeah.  Here.  Let me give you another story.  Okay?  So there is a book.  I love all you guys, by the way.  All my listeners.  Every day I get dozens of requests for me to look at this book or that book or do a one sheet on this book.  We’ve prioritized stuff.  We do have one sheets coming and podcasts coming, but I can’t look at everything.  But one of the most frequent ones I was asked to look at last year was Michael Foster’s book, It’s Good to be a Man, which was published by Canon Press.  The whole Doug Wilson, Vision Forum thing.  And the man point that he’s making is that Adam was called to have dominion, and so men today must have dominion over their families, over their work, over the world.  Men must practice dominion which is a little bit hard to make that case when you look at the Bible because that’s not what Jesus did.  Okay?

Keith: Right. 

Sheila: And they actually explicitly address this.  And so I want to read you this.  “This is a point lost in modern Christianity, where the focus is almost exclusively on the model of Jesus in the Gospels.  But while that model is, of course, perfect, it is not complete.  It is a model of God, as the second Adam, humbling Himself to correct the mistakes of the first.  It is not yet a model of Him ruling over the world as Adam should have.  Jesus did not take up the rule of Adam until after His resurrection from the dead and ascension into heaven.  To see how God exercises dominion, therefore, we need to look to the rest of Scripture.”  And then throughout the book, he explains why we don’t have to follow Jesus.  We get to follow Adam and have dominion.  So they’re actually explicitly rejecting Christ.  They are rejecting Christ.  

Keith: So what Christ did was perfect, but let me just add a bunch of stuff to it which is completely the opposite of it and say it’s all the same package.

Sheila: Yeah.  Because their main point is about dominion and authority, God calls us to have—as men, to have dominion and authority, but Jesus didn’t actually have that until He got to Heaven.  And so Jesus isn’t our model, they say, because He never exercised dominion and authority on earth.  And as men, we’re supposed to exercise dominion and authority, and that’s why they spend their whole time talking about Adam.  It’s wild.  And to think they call this Christian is just—it’s wild to me.  

Keith: And then you look in the New Testament when Adam is referred to, what is the story?  Adam is the one who fell.  Adam is the example that we are to not follow.  Adam is the bad case, and Christ is presented as the positive, right?  And Christ is the new man, and He brings us back.  And He brings life.  The first man brought death, but Jesus brings life, right?  The contrast between Adam and Jesus.  And we’re supposed to be like Jesus.  And yet, they make us to be like Adam.

Sheila: Yeah.  It’s wild.  It’s just wild.

Keith: It’s just insane.  And I think you’re right.  I think the point is they just want power.  And it’s—

Sheila: They’ll say that they want power so that they can protect women and because we need to raise our kids and protect our kids from the world.  And so we’re going to exercise this dominion and power for everybody’s good.  I think that’s the way that they would tend to argue it.

Keith: Yeah.  And well, that’s what Kristin said too that it was supposed to benefit women, but it left them defenseless, right?  And I actually had—I was recently looking for an old blog post of mine of yours that I wrote.  

Sheila: So a post that you wrote on my blog.  That’s what you’re saying.  Yeah.

Keith: Oh sorry.  Yeah.  A post I wrote for your blog.  Yeah.  And then I was looking for it to find it, and I just Google searched it.  I found an article of a guy, who on his little blog, was—quotes refuting me, right?  And I won’t go into all the details.  It was all the same stuff about we’re straw manning complementarianism, which we should actually—we talked about that in one of our podcasts recently.  So go back and listen to that one.  But we’re straw manning complementarianism.  But then he said this thing, which I thought was hilarious.  I was making the mistake that all these people do in conflating authority and power.  And that was the concept.  Men, we don’t want power.  We just want authority.  And it’s this whole idea of we don’t want to be in charge for our own sake.  We just want the authority, so we can take care of all of you, right?  And that’s the mentality, right?  But do we see them living that out?  Is that what we actually see happening?  No.  Not at all.  If you really honestly just want to take care of people, just take care of people.  Don’t scream at your wife that she needs to submit to you.  Just take care of her.  If you’re really honestly concerned about being the one who lays your life down for your wife, you don’t need your wife to be a submissive doormat for you to do that.  And if you do, you have some growth you need as a human being.  Stop worrying about wives submitting and start worrying about just laying your life down for your wife, if that’s really honestly what you believe.  It doesn’t make any sense to me that we focus so much on women submitting except for the fact that they really just want power.  And I think that’s a very natural human condition.  So let’s take some examples of whether they’re looking for authority or power in modern situations, right?  So let’s talk about a man who lusts, right?  So we want to give authority.  So what would we do with men with authority or men who lust?  Well, do we see a man who is responsible for his own thought life, who takes ownership of his heart and his mind, who takes ownership of where his eyes go?

Sheila: No.  We see them telling women to cover up because they’re a stumbling block.  

Keith: Women need to cover up even girls who are just coming into puberty.

Sheila: Or younger.  Like the eight year olds in Secret Keeper Girl.  The bellies are intoxicating.  Yeah.  Mm-hmm.

Keith: Is that for the benefit of others?  Or is that exercising your power to tell other people what to do, right?  What about a man who has an affair?  Do we see these spaces stepping up and saying, “He’s responsible.  He takes ownership for what he did.  He doesn’t blame his wife for any of it.  It was all him”?  No.  

Sheila: No.  As Love and Respect quotes a guy saying, “She is not to blame, but she is not blameless either because she didn’t have sex enough.”  Or Mark Driscoll recently said, “We consider infidelity a sin.  But what about the woman who withholds?”  And then he has to turn to porn or something else

Keith: Yeah.  Or the Focus on the Family book, The Other Woman.

Sheila: Oh yeah.  I talked about that on the blog last—

Keith: Right?

Sheila: Yeah.  That was so weird.  Yeah.  This woman wrote this book on how the other woman, who had the affair with her husband, taught her so much.  Yeah.  Mm-hmm.

Keith:   All the things she’d done wrong to drive him into her arms, right?

Sheila: Yeah.  That’s a Focus on the Family book.  Yeah.

Keith:   Yeah.  Absolutely.  So again and again, it’s not men stepping up and taking responsibility, taking ownership, taking leadership.  It’s about men devolving that onto women.  I mean even at this men’s conference where Mark Driscoll got up on stage, and he talks about a problem at the men’s conference.

Sheila: Okay.  I need to tell the story about this one.  Okay?

Keith: You want to tell this one?  Okay.  You go ahead.

Sheila: Because this is wild.  So this Stronger Men’s Conference that happened this year at this church.  One of the opening acts was this performance artist guy, who has done stripping in the past.  I don’t think that’s really what he’s doing now.  But he’s a sword swallower, and so he took off his vest.  That’s the most stripping he did just so that he had a bare chest.  I think so that you can—he can show more that he was honestly swallowing the sword.  And then he swallowed the sword, and then he climbed up this pole.  There was a pole or whatever.  

Keith: And he does this thing where he falls face down and catches himself right before the very end, so he doesn’t impale himself on the sword sort of thing.

Sheila: Yeah.  It’s pretty wild.

Keith: It’s like a daredevil thing.

Sheila: Yeah.  And he’s performed at the Olympics.  He’s done lots of things.  Anyways, so the next day Mark Driscoll got up on stage because he was supposed to speak.  And instead, he called out the conference organizers for inviting this guy because the guy had a Jezebel spirit because he was acting like a female stripper, who was seducing these men.  And I just think this is amazing that you are at a conference with all men that is organized by all men where all of their performers and speakers are men.  And what do you end up doing?  You end up blaming women.  So this male stripper is reminding you of a female stripper.  And there’s just—I have a real issue with the Jezebel spirit thing too.  Can I just go off on this for a minute?

Keith: Yeah.  Yeah.  It’s your podcast.

Sheila: Okay.  First of all, Jezebel spirit is never mentioned in the Bible.  There is no Jezebel spirit in the Bible.  Okay?  There is a Queen Jezebel in the Old Testament who is very terrible and destroys all kinds of profits and is going after Elijah and is just a bad person.  And she ends up getting eaten by dogs.  Okay?  And then in Revelation 2 during the letters to all of the churches that John writes, they’re warned against that woman, Jezebel, who has seduced many and has made some—eaten food scarified to idols.  Okay?  But in that same chapter, they also talk about a man name Balaam in reference to the Balaam in the Old Testament who has done the same sins as Jezebel pretty much.  They’ve done pretty much the same sins.  Okay?  But we never hear about a Balaam spirit.  We only hear about a Jezebel spirit.  And the Jezebel spirit is usually used to refer to a woman doing one of two things.  Either a woman involved in some sort of a sexual scenario like often Jezebel spirit is used to talk about a girl, who has been sexually assaulted.  She has a Jezebel spirit because she seduced these men.  And then they had to rape her.  

Keith:   Oh my gosh.

Sheila: Okay?  So it’s often used in that way.  And it can be used to talk about a woman, who is speaking up on behalf of other women because that’s a woman who is trying to take authority away from men.  So if she’s trying to raise awareness about the problem of sexual abuse, she is called Jezebel.  I cannot count how many times I’ve been called Jezebel.  At this point, it is a badge of honor because the only people who talk about Jezebel spirits are basically like the Mark Driscoll people.  So at this point, if you’re called a Jezebel spirit, it’s a badge of honor.  It’s not because I think Jezebel is good.  It’s because of the way it’s being used.  It’s basically the equivalent of the witch trials today where they’re calling out witches.  But even as Mark Driscoll was talking about this, okay?  The scenario that he was using is these female strippers have a Jezebel spirit because they are seducing the men.  Okay?  These women are not grabbing the men and making them drive to the strip joint and pay the cover charge to get in.  These men are doing that all on their own.  And many, many women—this is a form of sex trafficking.  Okay?  So where is the real sin?  Is it in the seduction of men, or is it in the abuse of women?  What about the men who are paying money to objectify women?  Why is that not a sin that is called out?  But we only ever hear about Jezebel spirit.  We don’t hear about Nabal spirit.  We don’t hear about Ahab spirit.  We don’t hear about Balaam spirit.  We don’t hear about Judas spirit.  And I just want to say to my charismatic friends because I was talking about this on social media.  And many of my charismatic friends say the Jezebel spirit—it’s not sexist because it can apply to both a man and a woman.  And I want to say no.  It is sexist.  Because when you are using a female name to apply to all sexual sins including many that are abusive in nature, what you’re saying is that that abuse was really a woman’s fault rather than a man’s.  Okay?  It is not okay to name sins after women when you’re not doing that about men because basically what you’re saying is this is a feminine sin.  And so yes.  A man can commit a feminine sin, which is what Mark Driscoll was saying, but the sin itself is feminine.  And it’s not.  Okay?  And I’m not saying there’s not spirits working in the world but just call it what it is.  Spirit of seduction, spirit of lust, spirit of abuse, whatever you want to call it, my charismatic friends, but do not call it a Jezebel spirit, not when that has been so misused and has so hurt women and is basically just a weapon used against women today.  Okay?  And that’s what Mark Driscoll was doing.  In an all male thing, he somehow managed to blame the women.

Keith: Yeah.  Exactly.  Well, and the thing that Jezebel in the Bible was doing was taking people away from the worshipping of God to worship idols.  Right?  So if a machine gun wielding Chuck Norris driving a tank over monster trucks is not an idol, I don’t know what is.  Right?  Why don’t we call it the spirit of Baal?  Right?  It’s crazy.  Anyway, so, again, perfect example.  These things are not being done to educate people about spiritual things.  They’re not being done to—they’re being done to keep men in charge of women.  And they use words like—they say things like, “You’re conflating authority and power so that we will continue to give them the authority, which gives them power over women.”  Right?  Because they don’t want to change things.  Now like I said earlier, this is a very natural, normal thing.  Human beings want to do this to each other.  Even Jesus’ disciples did this.  And there’s a really great story in the Bible where Jesus’ disciples got debating on the road about which of them was going to be the greatest.  They were doing the dominance hierarchy, right?  Just like in nature.  They were trying to pick on each other to figure out who was the top dog.  And what did Jesus say?  “Well, here you are.  You are the alpha.  You guys are all betas.”  He picked out who was in charge and what the pecking order was.  Did he do that?  No.  Of course not.  We all know the story about this.  Jesus took them, and He brought a child before and said, “Whoever wishes to be the greatest must become the least,” right?  Whoever wants to be over everyone must be the slave of all.  He said—specifically He said, “You know the Gentiles lord it over each other.”  You know the quote better than me.

Sheila: Yeah.  “The Gentiles lord it over each other, and the high officials exercise power and authority over one another.  But it shall not be so with you.”

Keith: But shall not so among you, right?  He topples hierarchy, throws it—He turns it completely on its head.  Now I’m not saying that doesn’t mean that there’s no hierarchy in the world.  I’m not saying that means your—in your denomination, you’re going to have a pastor, who is under other people’s authority.  You have bosses and stuck like—it’s not to say there’s no authority.  But Jesus is saying that it’s not about seeking to have power over each other.  That’s not what I’m about.  It’s not about making yourself great, making yourself bigger.  It’s about making yourself smaller.  And these people all use that language to say I’m trying to be smaller by being lord over you.  Give me authority.

Sheila: Yeah.  I need to be lord over you so that I have the ability to lay my life down for you.  So I can’t lay my life down until I have the ultimate authority.  It’s nuts.  But Jesus turns it around and says, “For the Son of Man came not to serve,”—oh sorry.  “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.”  So our attitude should not be one of trying to get power but should be one of how can I serve.

Keith: Mm-hmm.  And if we are given power, our first thought should be how to use it for other people, not how to accumulate more of it.

Sheila: I have a story about this.  I have a story about this.  Okay.  This touched me deeply last week when I was in Fort Worth.  I met a man in Fort Worth who follows our stuff.  And he’s been writing to me about some of the issues with his daughter, and she’s in a very destructive marriage.  And then I met him, and I realize no.  It’s not his actual biological daughter.  It’s an employee that’s been working for him for over a decade, and he’s basically just taken her into his family and loved on her.  And he’s really worried about it, and he’s trying to get her help.  And then I heard another story about how there was a business near to his business where a woman, who just lost her job because she had been really upset at work because she’s in an abusive marriage, and she just wasn’t coping well.  And he hired her on the spot, and she’s now working for him.  He just keeps hiring people that he can help, and he’s just so being Jesus to them because he has this business.  And he’s using it to serve others.  And I don’t even know if he realizes how much he’s doing that.  The way he talked about it was just like, “Oh, yeah.  I had to help this person.  Oh my goodness.”  And it was lovely.  But that’s what it’s supposed to be.  When you have power, you use it to help.  You don’t use it to lord over others and make sure everybody is looking up to you like you’re the head honcho.

Keith: That, to me, is a really great example of what being Christ like is.  That’s great.  But I want you to contrast that version of what it means to be a Christ like man—that person—with what Greg Morse said in that article I read earlier.

Sheila: From Desiring God.

Keith: From Desiring God.  Okay.  Here is what he says.  He’s talking about how we don’t like masculinity in modern society, and that’s why he’s talking about it.  He says this, “Many are offended by the roar of the cosmos, the heads of humanity, the kings of creation, men.”  That is what he wrote.  He doesn’t mean humankind.  He means males.  We, apparently, as men, are the heads of humanity, the roar of the cosmos, the kings of creation.  How do you square that with the example that Jesus gave us, with the example that this man is living out in his life?  Tell me which is much more similar.  Why are these people roaring to be in charge?  It’s not following Jesus.  Jesus was indignant when He saw that kind of stuff.  Completely indignant.  And from my point of view, if you have to scream and scream and scream that you’re the alpha, you’re the alpha, you’re the alpha, everyone better listen to me because I’m the alpha, then you’re not the alpha.  It’s the people who are—like this guy—going about their life getting things done, helping others, who are inspiring others to be better people.  That’s the kind of alpha that I want to defer to.  That’s the kind of guy that I want to—I want to be like that guy.  I hope I am like that guy to other people in my life.  That what I want to be like.  So the people who are screaming and screaming to be a monster and being meek just means all these other things which don’t mean meek and you should submit to me because I’m—God has put me over you, don’t listen to them anymore.  

Sheila: Yeah.  That’s just not of Christ.  And strength is a good thing.  We’re not trying to say that strength is bad or that protecting people is bad because a lot of people think that’s the image of masculinity.  And I think that’s really great.  But the thing is people who are truly strong and people who are truly protecting others they don’t have to yell about it.  They just do it.  And that’s the thing.  Whether God has given you strength or put you in a position in your job where you’re able to protect others, military, police, firefighters, EMTs, whatever it might be, you just do it.  You don’t need to yell about how you guys need to let me protect you.  No.  Just go and do it.  Just go and do it.  The toxic part is not the doing of it.  The toxic part is the yelling that because I’m a man and, therefore, I can protect people then you need to give me special dispensation.  And that’s not how it works.

Keith:   Exactly.

Sheila: The I’m entitled to your body, I’m entitled to all of these things, I’m entitled to deference, I’m entitled to be the king of the universe, that’s not how it works.

Keith: Yeah.  I agree.  And it shows the immaturity, right?  Because it’s basically saying, “Me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me.”  And our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, taught us to think of others, not ourselves.  I mean not that we should ignore ourselves.  But that we should think of others, and we shouldn’t be grasping for power.  We should be following His example.  And whatever power we do have, we should be using for the good of other people.

Sheila: Yeah.  “For Jesus did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but made Himself nothing taking on the form of a servant.  And being found in human likeness, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.   Therefore, God has highly exalted Him and given Him the name that is above all names that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God Almighty.”  Yeah.  Yeah.  He didn’t consider equality with God something to be grasped but made Himself nothing.  And that’s what we’re supposed to do.  We’re supposed to have the mind of Christ.

Keith: Yeah.  And when His followers were trying to figure out who was in the pecking order, He said, “Stop it.  Stop it.  That’s not what we’re about.”

Sheila: And so all of these—and what worries me is this Stronger Men’s Conference—and Josh Howerton was there, by the way.  That’s one of the reasons that it got in the news.  Rick Pidcock from Baptist News wrote an incredible article.

Keith: Oh my gosh.  It was so good.

Sheila: He brought the Barbie movie into this.  What is it?  Mojo dojo casa church.

Keith: Mojo dojo casa church.

Sheila: Mojo dojo casa church.  It was pretty well done.  And I will link to that as well.  But there’s such a movement that the church won’t survive unless we let men be men.  And it’s like actually the church won’t survive unless we let Jesus be Jesus, and we emulate Him.

Keith: And the church won’t survive unless we let men in the church be like Jesus instead of being like William Wallace from Braveheart.  Or Chuck Norris.  Not that there’s anything wrong with Chuck Norris.  But that should not be our only view of what it means to be a man.  

Sheila: Yeah.  Exactly.  Because that’s the whole point.  God created the world with variety.  He created human beings with variety, and there are going to be some Chuck Norrises.  But there are also going to be just some very unobtrusive men, who do incredible things or who just simply are faithful.  That’s worth talking about too.    

Keith: Yeah.  But you should not have to be a monster to be a Christian man.

Sheila: No.  You really shouldn’t.  You really shouldn’t.

Keith: That’s ridiculous.

Sheila: I mentioned that last week I was on the speaking thing.  And I did my new girl talk.  Before COVID, I probably spoke—I don’t know.  150 times giving my sex talk, my girl talk over the decade.  It was a lot.  I don’t even know how many times.  But I had it down pat.  And then we wrote Great Sex Rescue.  We have all of our new findings.  And I rewrote the entire talk, so I was a little bit nervous about how it was going to go.  But I gave it last week in Fort Worth, and it was wonderful.  But I gave it at this church, New River Fellowship, which is in Hudson Oaks, Texas, so sort of near Fort Worth.  It’s a nondenominational church.  And they came out of some difficult times around 2016, 2017, and they had to really rethink what leadership meant.  And as they dug deep trying to figure out how abuse happens, they realized that their view of women had been off.  It’s coming from leadership, but it’s also coming from the grassroots where they’re really wrestling with how we practice community in a Jesus-focused way.  And so last weekend, they had—they called in the Woven Conference.  And it was a Friday, Saturday event, and I spoke on the Friday night.  But the pastor opened the weekend with a one-and-a-half-minute video address to the women, who were there.  And it was a really healing address.  And I would like to play it to end this season of the podcast as we’re going to take a month off.  I think this is just the perfect way to think about things and a blessing to give over our listeners.  And it was a really healing thing for me to see an evangelical church that’s doing this well.  And I just want to tell people out there if you’re in a church like Josh Howerton’s where the pastor is telling you to stand where he tells you to stand and do what he tells you to do on your wedding night—meaning the husband—you don’t need to stay there because there are other churches with good people pasturing.  And that is not the image that we need to have of church because there are so many other churches that are wrestling with this stuff.  And they are doing it well.  And I just want people to have hope that those churches are out there.  I want them to have the assurance that they are out there.  And I think if we all band together we’re going to be able to strengthen those churches and create more of them when we say, “No.  We want better.  We want Jesus.”  And that’s my prayer over the end of season seven of the Bare Marriage podcast.  I’m not quite sure why it’s season seven.  I don’t know when we started counting.  But for some reason, people think this is season seven, so that’s fine.  So I’m going to say this is the end of season seven where we’ve looked at a lot of images of the men in church just being ridiculous whether it’s this alpha male stuff or the things we looked at, at the beginning, with let dads be dads or the Josh Howerton stuff or all of these crazy things.  This is not of Jesus, and there are churches doing this well.  And so as we leave out this season, thank you for listening to us.  We will be back the first week of June.  But I invite you to listen to Pastor Joey Willis as he speaks to the women and blesses them over the conference last weekend.  So here we go, and we will see you again in June.  Bye-bye.

Keith: Bye.

Joey Willis: Hey, ladies.  Welcome to Woven 2024.  My name is Joey, and I’m the lead pastor here at New River.  And I want to thank you for choosing to spend your weekend with us.  Our teams have prayed into this weekend and sought out how to best encourage, equip, and empower you.  We do believe that God has a plan for you, and it can start today.  But before we go any further, I want to make one thing clear that women are called and equipped by God to lead and love at every level of leadership in the church, home, and the world.  And no matter where you come from, what you were taught in your past, or what you believe about yourself today know that we affirm you and celebrate you as an equal in God’s creation.  He designed you to be coheirs with men and reign and rule together.  And today is the day that you should believe it too.  So on behalf of any church or pastor that may have ever hurt you, I want to repent.  I want to say that I’m sorry for the ways the church has undervalued you, held you back, and expected you to remain silent when God has given you a voice that matters.  You matter.  Chris in you matters.  So don’t hold back this weekend.  Step into the plans that God has for you.  The church needs women like you.  And it can start right now.  

Written by

Sheila Wray Gregoire


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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. Jo R

    It’s bad enough we do proof-texting with Scripture. We now proof-text the animal kingdom?

    There is enough variation in the animal kingdom that any point of view can find support if only the right species is focused on. Why don’t these people focus on some of the insect genera that have the queen?

    Also, it’s interesting that when the science changes with further study, folks just don’t want to let the old theory go. Phlogiston, anyone?

    Oh! And let’s not forget that in most of the animal kingdom, it is the female that controls mating and that mating is strictly for the purpose of procreation. And for many animals, estrus is only for a few weeks per year.

    So pucker up and suck it up, boys!!!! You don’t want kids? Or don’t want more kids? Let me channel my inner Soup Nazi: “No sex for you!” 🤣🤣🤣

    • Marina

      Also, in many species like birds and reptiles, the females are normally larger than the males. I wonder how many of these “alpha” guys would be willing to sign up for a girlfriend/wife who is taller than them…🤣

    • TJ

      Fun fact, in some species of Anglerfish, the male is downright tiny compared to the female. And lacks pretty much any ability to hunt or fend for itself. In order to survive, it latches on to the female, hundreds of times it’s size and permanently fuses to her, becoming, essentially, an utterly dependent, sperm supplying parasite.

      And of course there are the various species of insects (mantises, some spiders, etc) where the female just eats the male after mating.

      Wonder why the appeal-to-nature alpha bros never talk about any of those parts of the animal kingdom? 🤔

      • Angharad

        Or what about the spiders and other insects where the female kills and eats the male after mating…funny how they never claim we should use those examples of wildlife as models for our human relationships!

        • Angharad

          That’s weird – my comment was supposed to be in response to Marina’s, instead of which, it’s latched on to yours where you’ve already said the same thing!

    • Taylor

      Then there’s bees: multiple drones mate with a queen on a mating flight, and as a direct result all the males die immediately afterwards.

      Or seahorses, where the female impregnates the male and he goes through labor and delivery.

      Or elephants, where the main family groups are females and their young. The head female dictates which males are allowed to mate with the females. And at a certain age, the males get kicked out.

      Animals are not supposed to be our example of how to have marriages or other relationships.

  2. Angharad

    Greg Morse is now added to my list of men it is not safe to be in the same room with. Anyone notice the bit in his article where Jane is described as being afraid of “being treated as a thing, an object of barter and desire and possession” and RIGHT AFTER THAT, Morse refers to ‘such Janes’ as being rebels?!

    Yep. According to this article, ‘good’ women are supposed to be happy to be treated as ‘objects of barter’ by men.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, I have a list of people I would never be near, ever.

  3. Erica Tate

    If we’re going to model human society after an animal, can we please choose geese? Geese are perfectly egalitarian, and they raise their babies together. 🙂

    • Marina

      Plus, you don’t mess with goose parents! Ask anyone that has had to deal with a broody goose!🤣

      • Erica Tate

        Yep, you’ll get attacked by BOTH parents. #Awesome!

    • NM

      I just saw a mama & daddy goose walking their brood across the street yesterday. The cutest!!!

  4. Codec

    Again as someone who both loves animals and many characters that could be considered “alphas” I find this discourse interesting.

    I honestly do find the whole Greek alphabet social hierarchy meme to be absurd.

    For one example the alpha wolf is indeed nonsensical. You know what else is nonsensical? The idea of a lone wolf. Wolves are social pack animals. A wolf is not going to be able to “Sigma grindset” his way out of his ecological niche of pack hunter.

    What is more a lot of these masculine characters people point to are far more nuanced than they are often given credit for.

    Conan as a king ensures religious freedom and even before becoming king is frequently described as moody. He is respected as much for his strength as his cunning.

    Snake in Metal Gear Solid one tells Otacon that he doesn’t want Otacon to have to hurt anyone. He doesn’t tell Otacon that he needs to be dangerous to be valuable to him or their mission or as a person. In Metal Gear Solid 2 part of the plot is that the idea of Snake is being manipulated to create soldiers. Raiden throughout the whole game is portrayed as a foil of Snake. Snake is stoic and confident in his accumulated experience. Raiden is shown to be constantly questioning his own ability to accomplish the mission and later is shown to not really know who he is. Snake tells Raiden at the end of the game that he has to find out who he is and what to pass on.

    Raiden comes back in later games and part of his development touches on the concept of becoming dangerous. Raiden is a man torn between two extremes. The child soldier who took on a violent persona to survive the Liberian Civil War and the man trying to live for a more just world without the manipulation that he had to endure. Part of his journey is coming to realize that his pain is a part of him and that allowing himself to feel pain again is part of how he is going to overcome people far more dangerous than him.

  5. Matt A.

    I was born in 1980 and came of age in the late 1990s – early 2000s, right in the middle of purity culture. One of my favorite books at the time was Wild at Heart by John Eldredge, published in 2001, which expresses a lot of the ideas and ideals listed here – a manly man who’s masculine and a little wild and dangerous. In 1995, Braveheart had come out as well as First Knight, Die Hard 3, and GoldenEye (James Bond). Gladiator followed in 2000. So these movies espoused the ’90s version of the Ubermensch, the superman: independent, fierce, loyal, smart and savvy, handy with weapons, who fought for ideals greater than their own individual self. They sweetly wooed and gently bedded women or swore vengeance against people and systems who robbed them of the women they had. It was a natural evolution from the heavy, able-bodied action hero of the ’80s – think Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Seagal, Lundgren, etc. – who were able to take on an entire army and win. (As an aside, I think that’s why the medieval age still resonates with so many of us – chivalry, honor, knights and damsels, and kings and queens, those are all fun ideas with swords, dragons and wizards, to boot!)

    Right in the middle of those five years, 1999, Fight Club came out. There are a ton of ideas in that movie that deserve to be explored, but at its core was the basic premise of men who were rebelling against a world that was trying to domesticate them and rob them of their “inherent” danger and violence. What a lot of men missed after watching that movie is that it wasn’t a rallying cry for men to reclaim their lost manhood from IKEA stores. Fight Club is actually a cautionary tale about unchecked toxic masculinity and violence. After all, the fighting and chest-beating between the men in the fight clubs keeps escalating and escalating until it explodes out of local basement fights into domestic terrorism. The movie punctuates this point as it violently ends in mass destruction.

    Why am I talking about all this here? It’s because I am wondering if there’s a bit of a conflation happening here. When Eldredge and his fellow authors at the time wrote about the dangerous wild masculine man, I wonder if they were thinking about the romanticism of the William Wallaces and Maximus Decimus Meridiuses as well as the Daniel Boones and Davy Crocketts. These were valiant and virtuous men who guarded and protected their people and lands with violence. They were masculine and, yes, dangerous. The problem is that this became the idealized archetype of masculinity. Masculinity became conflated with violence, not chivalry nor gentleness nor meekness. Men are not masculine unless they’re violent and dangerous. Real men of today don’t buy IKEA furniture. Emotions? Forget about it. The only legitimate emotion is anger over being domesticated and declawed by the world. Violence is the only therapy needed.

    The implications of adopting this particular philosophy of the dangerous virtuous ideal man, the ’90s-early ’00s version of the Ubermensch, in the evangelical church has caused a major problem in the years since. Fight Club extrapolated to extremes on what happens when disaffected men are given a violent identity and are allowed to roam the world. Not every man will become a domestic terrorist, but following this philosophy logically leads to a world where women become ciphers and penis homes and shy, introverted men become soy boys. There’s no room for squishy nuance, emotional understanding, bonding, or internal processing of trauma.

    But, I hear some of you say, isn’t Aslan – the lion that is a symbol for Jesus Christ – described as dangerous in C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe? Here’s the full passage from the book:

    “Is–is he a man?” asked Lucy.
    “Aslan a man!” said Mr. Beaver sternly. “Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea. Don’t you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion–the Lion, the great Lion.”
    “Ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he–quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”
    “That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver. “If there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”
    “Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.
    “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ’Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

    A careful reading will show that Aslan isn’t safe because of two things. The first is that he’s a lion, the king of the jungle! If you and I came across a lion, we would quickly move away, knowing what they’re capable of! The second is because he’s the King of the Beasts, the King of the wood, the Son of the great Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea. Aslan isn’t safe because he has tremendous authority and he can do ANYTHING that he wants. If you and I met someone with that kind of authority and power, we would definitely feel overwhelmed and frightened, just like an ant might feel next to an elephant. Fortunately, like Mr. Beaver reminds us, Aslan is good. Note that there is nothing about Aslan being dangerous because of his masculinity.

    So, yeah, I may have gone on for a bit (sorry!), but I do think that understanding a bit of the context of the time that Wild at Heart as well as some of the books of that time were written is helpful in understanding where some of this “masculinity needs to be dangerous” philosophy comes from and how masculinity got yoked with all this extra nonsense in the evangelical church. Unfortunately, this has ravaged marriages and left a long trail of broken people – both male and female, but unfortunately overwhelmingly female – in its wake. I appreciate the work that’s been ongoing to steer the discourse away from this “alpha male” toxic mentality and towards a healthier, safer, holistic version of masculinity.

    • Angharad

      I know it’s important to view a book in the context of the time in which it was written (and it can also be hard to be objective about a book which meant so much to you as a young person), but in my view, no amount of ‘context’ excuses a Christian author from twisting Scripture to promote his or her own beliefs. The Eldredge books are full of misapplied Scripture and twisted facts, all designed to shore up their beliefs. Plus, more than two decades on, they are STILL promoting this stuff. Women are still being encouraged to believe that they need to marry ‘dangerous’ men. Men are still being told that they need to be unsafe toward women to be manly. And they are still being told to ignore what women say, because Eldredge says if women disagree with his statements on what all women want, it’s the women who are wrong.

      In ‘Wild at Heart’, Eldredge claims that because Adam was “created outside the Garden, in the wilderness” that is his natural home, where God designed him to be – and that ever since then “boys have never been at home indoors”. He also claims that girls prefer being indoors because they were created in Eden. Put aside the fact that many guys like being indoors and many girls are outdoor types (because Eldredge just claims those who don’t fit his stereotypes are not ‘real’ men and women) But take a look at the Bible. Adam and Eve were banished to the wilderness as a consequence of their SIN – so it’s crazy to say that the wilderness was what God designed for them all along. And the claim that women like being indoors because Eve was created in Eden makes no sense either – Eden was a GARDEN, not a house! Yet Eldredge claims Genesis 1-3 proves that men are meant to be outdoors-loving and women are meant to be homebodies…

      Pretty much the whole book is like that, and ‘Captivating’, the one for women, is more of the same. (And sometimes, the level of ignorance is breathtaking – Eldredge ‘proves’ that men are meant to fight battles by saying that men invented hockey and that male explores ‘prove’ men are meant to be adventurous…he obviously doesn’t realise there have been many female hockey players and explorers too!) So no, no amount of context justifies producing this kind of ‘personal preference masquerading as theology and science’ rubbish.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Excellent points, Angharad.

      • Matt A.

        Oh, absolutely agree with you, Angharad. I did not write my comment to defend Eldredge. What my comment was mainly about trying to figure out when and why masculinity started to be conflated with violence and being “dangerous.” I mean, you look at the soft-spoken wisdom of Andy Griffith or Ward Cleaver and no one ever accused them of not being a man. Can you imagine Ward telling Beaver that his girlfriend’s job is to define the sexual boundaries of their relationship?

        I just think these authors who espouse this sort of “dangerous theology of man” need to look at how popular culture has defined masculinity throughout the decades and see how they got suckered into the ’80s-’90s archetypes of men.

        • Angharad

          That’s a possibility. Although looking at Eldredge’s writing overall (I don’t feel I’ve read enough of the other guys’ work to make a judgement) I think it’s also probable that he is simply basing all his beliefs on what he and his wife are like. So if he likes A and his wife likes B, then ALL Christian men must like A and ALL Christian women must like B. He doesn’t seem capable of understanding the difference between personal preferences/characteristics and the core beliefs of the Christian faith.

          He likes the idea of being a rugged, outdoorsy, reckless Christian man, so therefore, assumes this is how God designed all men to be.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            I think that’s exactly what’s going on, yes.

  6. Micah

    Foster’s claim that Adam was given dominion isn’t even in the Bible: Genesis 1:28 tells us that God blessed THEM (Adam AND Eve), telling them to “fill the earth and subdue it.” Reproduction is a joint endeavor, so it follows that ruling the earth is also a joint endeavor, not a male prerogative.

    • Codec

      Even more so in the Hebrew as the word used for what Adam and Eve were called to do has militant implications.

      They were called to subdue a wild earth together.

  7. M

    Has anyone noticed that CS Lewis is practically a Protestant Saint, especially in the Desiring God community? And that his works are eerily referred to almost as scriptural canon? It concerns me that Mr Morse made almost as many direct quotes from That Hideous Strength to describe God’s character than the actual Bible. And that he conveniently left out any of the many references to God being as tender as a mother bird, or as fierce as a mama bear. Moms can have been shown to have quite a bit of “masculine” protective instinct.

    • Angharad

      Yes. It’s especially odd since 30 years ago, the same type of Christian reviled him for writing fantasy, pipe smoking and marrying a divorcee!!! So it’s telling that now they think he’s amazing – primarily, I suspect, because of his 1950s attitude to gender roles.

      Although, bearing in mind Lewis’s status and background (mother died when he was young, and he spent most of his life as a fellow of Oxford college surrounded by fellow bachelors), I think he was surprisingly non-stereotypical for his time, considering his limited interaction with women. For example, while the boys’ weapons in The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe were meant to be used in battle, and the girls’ weapons were only meant for self-defence or in time of great need, he does have courageous female characters who are not afraid to fight when necessary and even save male lives through their expert use of weapons! Also, he wrote most of his books while single, since he didn’t marry until his late 50s. I suspect if he’d married when he was younger, his female characters might have been even stronger.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Susan always made me sad!

      • Lisa Johns

        Yeah, well, John Piper also said that Lewis has nothing to add to the discourse about free will vs. predestination because he obviously “didn’t read his bible” but read ancient philosophers. Still sounds like reviling to me. (Except, of course, when Lewis’s 50’s attitudes toward gender roles conveniently line up with the current infatuation with essentialism.)

      • Marina

        Yeah, I sometimes think that many people don’t really fully read many of C. S. Lewis’ works. It can be argued that he is far closer to Catholic or Orthodox christians in theology than Protestant (he even started going to an Anglican confessor later in life!). I think it has even become something of a running joke that many who really resonate with Lewis’ writings end up fitting better as Catholic, Orthodox, or high church Protestants instead of with Evangelicals or the Desiring God crowd.
        His writing of women gets flak for the gender roles, but you can still see some influence from his beloved mythology of valkyries and mystics. (He included the Maiads and dryads, after all!) But even as someone who considers him the closet thing I have to a spiritual father, I agree his writing is more from lack of being around women than arrogance. Little sister in Christ would have words with him when we get to Heaven, if I didn’t know that Joyce and some other sisters have probably beat me to it!

        • Lisa Johns

          I love this! 😀


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