Week 13 in the year of our Lord 2021

Masculine skills, virtues, isolation

10 minutes to read

A true Christian is one who has not only peace of conscience, but war within. He may be known by his warfare as well as by his peace. ―J.C. Ryle, Holiness

Here’s an insight we drew out while working on chapter 9 of our book. This section didn’t make it into the final cut, because it illustrates a different point than the one we were focused on there:

It is fascinating to compare Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven with Denzel Washington’s Equalizer. Like Eastwood’s villainous Will Munny, Washington’s Robert McCall is a man with a dark past—in his case, as a special forces commando. But unlike Munny, McCall has voluntarily given up that life by faking his own death to escape it; dying to his past, and being reborn a new man. He lives as a good, law-abiding citizen, and is determined to be content in his new life. Notably, however, he is also alone. He has no wife or family, and follows the same routine every day.

Whereas Munny stops being wicked by turning from a life focused on himself, and taking on the larger mission of marriage and responsibility to his household, McCall stops being wicked by turning from a life focused on an evil mission, and takes a step backward: to learning to live a good and quiet life, working with his hands.

When he partook in the larger mission of the state, he was deadly—but also, we infer, evil. Isolated, we suppose he is harmless; but he is also good. He works a job focused on serving others, and does it cheerfully and well. He helps a coworker in his goal of losing weight to apply to the police force. He doesn’t seem to miss the exciting life he gave up.

Munny, by contrast, lives a life of quiet desperation and frustration. He hates the hogs that he farms, and his enterprise is failing. When he is presented with the opportunity to solve his financial problems by bounty-hunting, his reluctance is not principled; it is based not on what he believes is right or wrong, but on what he believes he has become. “I ain’t like that any more.” It’s a story he and others tell about himself.

McCall is not like this. When he forms a relationship with a girl enslaved by a Russian gang, he sees the need to take action. He is focused on what is right, and not on some story he has told himself about who he is. When he gains a new mission, he immediately becomes deadly again. Munny was constrained by things outside himself, that had power because of a story he told in his heart. McCall is constrained by his own heart, by principles that have power because they exist outside himself.

So despite the superficial similarities between McCall and Munny, closer inspection reveals a contrast that could not be starker—or more important. Unlike Munny, McCall does not need to “recover” who he was; his skills never dulled. What he needed to learn was how to live in a quiet and godly way, serving others, before—if we read Washington’s own faith into the character—he could prove useful in taking on deadly missions of mercy that would corrupt an impious man. Munny, on the other hand, slowly becomes deadly again as his constraints against evil are removed. Absent the forces that domesticated him, he reverts to his old deadly, murderous nature. But McCall never stopped being deadly—he just stopped wanting to kill people.

The only times McCall is deadly is when he is participating in a mission that is greater than himself; and his story is really an exploration how a deadly man can become righteous for the sake of others. The only times Munny is deadly, however, is when he is pursuing his own wicked drives; and, like the story of Walter White in Breaking Bad, his story is really an exploration of how an evil man can become deadly by forsaking others. His temporary reformation while married is merely worldly sorrow; but McCall’s new life, by contrast, is portrayed as godly sorrow producing a repentance without regret (2 Corinthians 7:10).

Biblical manhood binds together three essential components: responsibility, authority, and ability.

God gives men responsibilities.

He delegates to them authority to fulfill those duties.

But mere authority isn’t enough to get it done.

Thus, men must develop their ability.

Much of what passes for biblical sexuality holds men responsible—but robs them of their God-given authority.

Conversely, much of what passes for biblical patriarchy celebrates men’s authority—but diminishes the need for them to able exercisers of that authority.

And much of the secular self-improvement sexuality you find in the red pill world, celebrates able men with command presence—but often denies them their unique God-given responsibilities.

There are errors to your left and right. So you must work hard to keep these three components together.

There is some truth to the cliché that “those who can’t do, teach.” But there’s even more truth to “those who can’t do, manage.”

Many who lack practical mastery, but pine for its status (and all that comes with it), are attracted to positions of theoretical mastery. The doorway to these positions of theoretical mastery isn’t actual mastery, but credentials. Hence, the left’s obsession with credentials.

Don’t confuse credentials with competence. Often the most credentialed today are the least competent. And the converse is also true.

Also don’t become unbalanced in your pursuit of competence. Every man should have his specialties, but every man should also develop foundational life skills. Gendered piety—taking your duties as a man seriously—should not prevent you from having baseline competence as a human.

For instance, as a man, whether single or married, you should know how to make at least a few good meals, sew on a button, and safely hold a baby.

Men who can’t do these sorts of things typically are fragile, easy to kill, and broadly incompetent at much else besides.

(By the same token, women should know how to hammer in a nail, or pump their own gas, or mow the lawn.)

If you turn 65 and your wife dies, and you you can’t manage day-to-day life any more because she always prepared dinner, or made your dentist’s appointments, that’s a bit pathetic. Same thing if you your wife is pregnant and you cannot take up the slack by ensuring the housework is done and the family fed.

Some wisdom from Tyrannus Hall:

Male headship is more than just commanding.

It involves reasoning, persuading, listening, exhorting, and so on.

A capable man has many leadership tools. Commanding is just one of them.

Have you run into problems communicating with your wife, where you state an aspiration for the family and she receives it as an immediate command?

For instance, you might share a 6-12 month goal that you’ve been pondering, but she hears it as something you want her to start doing right away—which is not feasible.

Many men will try to spitball with their wives, only to discover that it freaks her out. As a leader, your speech gets magnified, so you have to be careful. It is better to think about the intermediate changes that lead to the aspiration, and talk primarily about those. Focus on actionable steps.

For example, if you’re hoping to sell the house in a year or two, talk about neatening up the front—not (yet) about calling a broker. If you want to brainstorm serious, big picture possibilities, first do some preliminary work with good male friends who you can bound ideas off. Many wives don’t want you to think out loud. They want to know what the plan is. Don’t confuse the two.

There is no Overton window any more.

There are two.

The Overton window is (used to be) the range of policies politically acceptable to the mainstream population at a given time.

But at some point in the past year, it split.

It moved so far into radical statist wokeism, and left so many people behind, that the mainstream split in two.

There is now a window on the left, and a window on the right.

Unfortunately, the window on the right, while accommodating much that is reasonable and righteous, also contains nearly as much that is vile and contrary to sound doctrine as the window on the left does.

They both contain:

  • Hatred of other tribes and peoples
  • Idolatry of anything and everything that can replace the Most High God
  • Identity politics
  • Emotion-driven radicalization and unreasoning partisanship
  • Slander and divisiveness


The solution isn’t to turn back the clock. It isn’t to reunite the windows into one “moderate” Overton window. It is to tear down every lofty opinion in both windows that exalts itself against the knowledge and law of Christ, and to bring every thought into captivity to His rule. It is to disciple our nations by teaching them to obey everything He has commanded.

New content this week: #

Michael was interviewed by the Reformed Operator. Their summary:

Are you a clown who always angles for jokes and sees jokes as the “whole enchilada” rather than merely a sauce? Are you a self serious man who is unable to laugh or take a joke? Do you joke about the flesh too much? Do you mock authority? If you answered yes to any of these, you need this episode. Don’t float away. Don’t crush others as you implode. Learn the dance and save yourself from merely being a joke.

Listen here: Christian Manhood and the Difference Between Folly and Funny

Notable: #

Check out My Husband Happily Does The Laundry, But I Resent It, and then read through our essay on Who Does The Dishes. What insights do you glean? We’re interested to know, as this is a kind of lodestar topic that deserves further exploration.

A good summary of why practical preaching (i.e., the modern penchant for asking how a text “applies” to us) is wrong and stupid: Against Practical Preaching.

An excellent little article at The Masculinist, explaining the reality of inflation very simply: Inflation Is Disordered.

If you aren’t sure why the recent stimulus is such a terrible thing for America, and why calling it “stimulus” is adding a wicked insult to a wicked injury, this will be worth your time. Its conclusion is well stated:

Inflation is the reason there are grandparents working at Walmart greeting people. They did nothing wrong. Their retirement was stolen from them. No government ought to exploit its subjects. Yet we let our politicians do it routinely. Inflation is deceptive. It is theft. It is slavery. It is unjust.

A stirring, and perhaps convicting video on the primacy of Christ, not State: Open Your Church.

Talk again next week,

Bnonn & Michael

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