Menu iconFilter Results
Topic: Eikon

Feminine Emotionalism and the Evangelical Conscience

March 21, 2024
By G. Shane Morris

Editor’s Note: The Following essay will appear in the Spring 2024 issue of Eikon.

A former colleague of mine recently pointed out on X that pornography use repulses godly women and is a huge impediment to marriageability. He was, of course, right about that. But he went on to blame this moral failure among men for the low marriage rate in general, and claimed that he knows “ZERO single women genuinely uninterested in a virtuous, courageous, thoughtful man.” Expanding the discussion beyond the church, he concluded that “the American man’s inability to find a wife is a function of him not living in ways that women respect.”

Is this true? Is the primary obstacle to the formation of godly families in our churches and our nation simply the fact that men are unwilling to live up to the exacting moral standards of women? Is the solution to browbeat those men into doing better—often in mixed, public settings—until they make the cut? And can we really expect women to respond naturally to the moral reformation of men with interest and respect?

Many evangelicals seem to think so. As I’ve noted elsewhere, the typical Bible study feels like an exercise in getting men to instinctively behave, think, and pray more like women.[1] Evangelical publishers now roll out titles demeaning traditionally masculine traits as toxic, perhaps holdovers of the American west. And we’ve all heard the observation that Mother’s Day sermons tend to be unconditional, velvet-cushioned celebrations of the women in the congregation, while Father’s Day sermons tend to be barbed wire jeremiads about men’s shortcomings and the need for dads to grow a pair and fulfill their responsibilities. Usually, these condemnations of men come from men.

Shaping or Shaming?

The most famous is probably a sermon by former Mars Hill pastor Mark Driscoll, who literally screamed at the guys in his congregation over what he saw as their unwillingness to grow up and fulfill the expectations of their “mothers, sisters, girlfriends, and wives.”[2] The language he used to describe these unnamed men, which he seemed to count among the majority in his flock, was telling: “cowards,” “passive,” “impish,” “worthless,” “little boys,” “making a mess out of everything in their life.” By contrast, the main fault Driscoll found with women in his congregation was that they “enable” such men when they “permit them to continue in folly…”

Looking back on this episode, Aaron Renn notes that “Driscoll doesn’t offer much in the way of building back up in the sermon. It’s mostly tearing down, with simply a call to shape up and man up in response.”[3]

Driscoll’s brusque style may set the fallen pastor apart, but he wasn’t an outlier among evangelicals in treating men as the more sinful sex, or in assuming that women’s natural role is to sanctify males by holding us to their standards. As Nancy Pearcey argues in her book The Toxic War on Masculinity, this view of women as the conscience of men is part of a cultural shift that took place following the industrial revolution.

As men began to work more frequently outside the home, Pearcey explains, writers romanticized and moralized domesticity—along with the sex primarily associated with it. Poets, philosophers, and generals began referring to women as “the angel in the house,”[4] “God’s appointed agent of morality,”[5] and “the civilizers of mankind.” “In the nineteenth century,” writes Pearcey, “society began accepting the idea that men are naturally prone to sin and self-centeredness, while at the same time giving women the responsibility to hold them in check.”[6]

In his review of Pearcey’s book for Eikon, Steven Wedgeworth notes that the view of women as intrinsically upright eventually made its way into evangelical imaginations through authors like George Gilder, whose 1973 book Sexual Suicide asserts that “women’s morality is the ultimate basis for all morality.”[7] Women, argued Gilder, have an essential duty to pass their natural goodness on to men, who are naturally “poor and neurotic,” “disposed to criminality, drugs, and violence,” “irresponsible about…debts, alcoholic, accident prone, and venereally diseased.” Women, in this view, “transform male lust into love; channel male wanderlust into jobs, homes, and families;…change hunters into fathers; divert male will to power into a drive to create.”[8]

Something like my former coworker’s sentiment is evident, here: Men are the ones who need to shape up. Women are, by nature, inclined toward higher moral ideals, and if only their sons, husbands, and boyfriends would get their acts together and behave as women expect, all would be well.

Typical Sins

Years ago, an acquaintance sent me a clever blog from circa 2005 in which the author, who is evidently a teacher or professor, asked students to name the typical sins of men and women.[9] These students apparently had no trouble rapidly listing off internet porn, pride, lust, and anger as common vulnerabilities among men. Yet when asked to name sins typical to women, they struggled. Eventually, the ladies in the room settled on “lack of self-esteem” as the characteristic sin of women.

Presumably, that lack of confidence in their own goodness is what leads women to “enable” wayward men in their sins, as Driscoll put it. Perhaps women should instead assert themselves, doing what’s necessary to force the men in their lives to live up to their innately lofty feminine standards.

Around the same time as I encountered that blog, I watched Sherwood Baptist’s film Fireproof. In it, a selfish and pornography-addicted husband (Kirk Cameron) is jolted out of his moral stupor when his wife files for divorce and begins dating a coworker. Though this wife’s actions are not portrayed as godly, they are portrayed as effective. Cameron’s character smashes his computer and determines to fight for his marriage by pursuing his wife, even if she refuses to forgive him.

Another older “manosphere” blog identified this lionizing of female tough love as a pattern in Christian writing about the sexes, dubbing it “the wakeup call narrative.”[10] The author cited examples like a FamilyLife series on marriage in which a pastor’s wife says she refused to be intimate with her husband because she didn’t feel he was right with God.[11] [12] As this couple tells it, the wife’s “anger,” “bitterness,” “resentment,” and sexual coldness toward her husband served as a wakeup call—literally a message to him from the Holy Spirit.[13] Another well-known Christian marriage book tells the story of how a wife got her workaholic husband’s attention by throwing what she calls a “godly tantrum” and smashing their wedding China.[14]

Female Feelings

What unites these examples is the assumption that women’s feelings and reactions—both in marriage and beforehand—serve as a reliable metric of how godly the men in their lives are. Like my well-meaning former coworker, they seem to take for granted that men have bad moral instincts, while women have good moral instincts. We guys, it seems, must fight a stiff gravitational pull toward depravity and dereliction, while women spontaneously know and do what’s right—to such a degree that their emotions alone are a barometer of male godliness.

We must not miss how much of this canonizing of female feelings comes from males, often in mixed company. Here we step into delicate territory, because I truly believe that much of what we call “white knighting” is well-intentioned, albeit naïve. From the moment we can speak, Christian men are socialized to put women first, to give up our seats for them, to open doors for them, not to belch or pass gas in front of them, and never, ever to hit them. All of this is quite right. But when combined with post-industrial pieties about how women domesticate men these deferent customs can morph into a pseudo-chivalry that treats every distressed woman as a damsel in need of saving. Naturally, since dragons are in short supply, other men usually furnish the foe to be vanquished.

So far, this can be innocent, however misguided. It even has the feel of something traditional, which is why so many Christian men whose moral sensibilities were honed at Promise Keepers rallies still engage in this kind of behavior. We’re not feminists, they think. We’re the opposite! We stand up for women, rather than expecting them to defend themselves. Again, innocuous, however mistaken. But add in a dash of social anxiety, sexual frustration, or just plain arrogance, and you have a recipe for men whose entire public persona depends on putting other males down in order to earn points with spectating women. We’ve all known them, and none of us like them.

Writing about this dynamic in 2016, Alastair Roberts notes that most men are instinctively suspicious of “potential turncoats” in their ranks—of the man who would “willingly betray men and compromise his convictions in order to retain social standing in mixed society.”[15]

He continues: “Men cannot trust men whose primary concern is what women think, or who demonstrate little concern for what other men think. Such men will routinely falsify their preferences and betray other men and the male group in order to advance in the favour of women. Men like this cannot be relied upon to show appropriate loyalty to other men, nor to speak the truth when those actions might displease women.”[16]

That last bit is key. In a culture or church with a robust wariness toward both male and female depravity, turncoat men might remain an annoyance. But in an environment where women are treated as intrinsically superior from a moral and spiritual standpoint, knowing what tickles their ears becomes an extraordinary source of power and influence for unscrupulous men. This is where discussions like Joe Rigney’s recent essay on female ordination and empathy become highly relevant.[17] If women are “angels in the home” (or church?) whose job is to morally direct their husbands and sons, (and pastors?) then significant, sub-surface pressure will be exerted on pretty much all institutions to move toward feminine preferences—even if women are not officially in places of power.

What are those feminine preferences? As Pearcey has been pointing out lately, they’re increasingly and extremely progressive.[18] Highlighting a 2023 survey by the University of Michigan, she notes that American high school girls are veering leftward in their political instincts, while their male peers are now twice as likely to identify as conservative.[19] Sociologists Brad Wilcox and Lyman Stone unpacked this trend last summer in The Atlantic, warning that it will further dampen conservative men’s hopes for finding a wife in an already historically depressed marriage market.[20] It turns out that the American man’s inability to find a wife may be just as much a function of the American woman’s embrace of anti-family political and social beliefs as it is men’s failure to live “in ways that women respect.”

Feelings over Truth

It doesn’t help that modern women seem to have an instinct to prize feelings as such over truth. In a stunning 2022 essay at Quillette, a psychologist and behavioral scientist collected published research showing how this instinct has measurably reshaped academia.[21] One survey found that a large majority of women (64 percent) thought college students ought to be protected from offensive ideas, while most men (56 percent) did not. Another survey discovered that over 60 percent of male psychology professors believed scholars should be free to pursue controversial research without fearing “institutional punishment,” while roughly the same percentage of female professors said, “it’s complicated.”

Apt words to describe a situation in which women are increasingly left-leaning and increasingly impervious to contrary arguments, convinced as many are that emotions are the most reliable guide to reality.

To be clear, American men—particularly Christians—absolutely need to get their acts together. They’re in bad shape, in ways scholars have written whole books about.[22] But it is at best a misfire and at worst culpable sabotage against the church for leaders to bellow at men about their shortcomings while assuming or affirming the innate virtue of female feelings, together with the premium females tend to place on those feelings.

To state the obvious, women are fallen. They sin—often in ways inflected through their emotions that subvert and destroy marriages, families, churches, universities, and (did you think otherwise?) whole societies. And because of that, they need the gospel—not the one that portrays them as angels born to save men, creatures naturally interested only in virtue, creativity, and thoughtfulness, whose main shortcoming is a lack of self-esteem—but the gospel that lays bare their peculiar vulnerabilities and temptations, and points them to the only Man who can save us all.


[1] Shane Morris, Savior or Stoics?: Why Modern Men Look for Spiritual Wisdom Outside the Church, The Gospel Coalition, February 3, 2023:

[2] Mark Driscoll’s 2009 sermon “Men and Marriage,” available on YouTube:

[3] Aaron Renn, “Newsletter #77: Mark Driscoll’s Gender Teachings,” June 12, 2023:

[4] Nancy Pearcey, The Toxic War on Masculinity (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2023) pg. 108

[5] Ibid, 111.

[6] Ibid, 113.

[7] Steven Wedgeworth, “Half the Battle: A Review of Nancy Pearcey’s The Toxic War on Masculinity,” Eikon (Fall 2023),

[8] Pearcey, The Toxic War on Masculinity, 168.

[9] Keith Drury, “Do Women Sin?” Drury Writing, March 11, 2005:

[10] Dalrock, “The wake-up call,” The Red Pill, March 3, 2014:

[11] Dalrock, “How to tell if you are a godly man,” The Red Pill, February 2, 2016:

[12] Ann and Dave Wilson, “The Dance of Intimacy,” Family Life Today Podcast, September 14, 2015:

[13] Ann and Dave Wilson, “Vertical Marriage” Part 1 “Lost Feeling”:

[14] Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage (New York, New York: Dutton, 2011) pp. 175-177.

[15] Alastair Roberts, “A Crisis of Discourse—Part 2: A Problem of Gender,” Alastair’s Adversaria: November 17, 2016:

[16] Ibid

[17] Joe Rigney, “Empathy, Feminism, and the Church,” American Reformer, January 26, 2024:

[18] On February 29, 2024, Nancy Pearcey shared a graph on X, remarking: “Young women are becoming more liberal”:

[19] On March 6, 2024, Nancy Pearcey shared a New York Post article on X entitled “No wonder boys are turning toward conservative beliefs — it’s rebellion against parents’ woke ideology.” She remarked: “A 2023 survey of 12th graders by University of Michigan found that, while American girls are headed leftward, their male counterparts are twice as likely to identify as conservative than liberal, as they tack toward a new, edgy kind of anti-woke politics…. “Surely she’s noticed that a certain demographic is legitimately falling behind. Some 60% of college students are female, meanwhile boys were seven times more likely to drop out during the pandemic. Brookings Institute senior fellow Richard Reeves tactfully points out in his 2022 book “Of Boys and Men” that men are actually facing some unprecedented challenges — including falling behind in standardized testing and prematurely leaving the workforce in droves. Saying as much isn’t reactionary. In fact, men account for seven in ten opioid deaths and four in five suicide deaths. Perhaps hearing out some grievances, rather than waving them away as “reactionary and unformed pseudo-ideologies” would allow parents and sons to actually learn from one another. Respect is a two-way street.”:

[20] Lyman Stone and Brad Wilcox, “Now Political Polarization Comes for Marriage Prospects,” The Atlantic, June 11, 2023:

[21] Cory Clark and Bo Winegard, “Sex and the Academy,” Quillette, October 8, 2022:

[22] See Richard Reeves, Of Boys and Men: Why the Modern Male Is Struggling, Why It Matters, and What to Do about It (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2022).

Did you find this resource helpful?

You, too, can help support the ministry of CBMW. We are a non-profit organization that is fully-funded by individual gifts and ministry partnerships. Your contribution will go directly toward the production of more gospel-centered, church-equipping resources.

Donate Today