In a post-#MeToo and #ChurchToo world, religion and spirituality publishers are confronting problems stemming from archaic ideas about masculinity in a slew of new titles this year. It’s an essential move, according Todd Hafer, senior acquisitions editor at Harvest House. “Women are being brave, they are speaking out and standing up, and we need to be brave, too,” he tells PW.
Harvest House recently published Seven Friendships Every Man Needs: Gathering Your Pit Crew for the Race of Life by Justin Erickson, a pastor and church planter whose ministry focuses on men. Erickson bases his work on biblical role models such as David, Paul, and Timothy, and encourages men to establish meaningful connections with others. Due out in August from the publisher, We Too: How the Church Can Respond Redemptively to the Sexual Abuse Crisis by Mary E. DeMuth calls on the church to become a place of justice and healing for victims of sexual abuse and harassment.
“Our books have to do more than remind men, ‘Don’t be creepy,’” Hafer says. “We want to encourage men to do more than react to what is going on in [our] culture. We want to inspire and equip them to be proactive, to be leaders on the job, at church, and in their families.”
Dave Schroeder, marketing strategist for B&H, says: “Every Christian publisher needs a #MeToo book right now, to help the church.” To that end, the press recently released Heroic: The Surprising Path to True Manhood by Bible teacher Bill Delvaux, who looks to Jesus as the ultimate hero and urges readers to follow his example and serve others.
This month, B&H is publishing Becoming a Church that Cares Well for the Abused, edited by Brad Hambrick. It brings together abuse authorities—including attorney and survivor Rachael Denhollander, who helped reveal Larry Nassar’s abuse of Olympic gymnastic, to equip ministry leaders for appropriate first responses to abuse scenarios.
Several more religion publishers are also responding to the #MeToo movement by shifting a greater focus on male audiences. Multnomah recently published The Rise of the Servant Kings: What the Bible Says About Being a Man by Ken Harrison, a former police officer and business executive. In it, he argues that “true masculinity” can only be found in “absolute surrender to God,” he writes. Harrison is chairman of the board of Promise Keepers, which works with Christian men.
Written by female journalist Liz Plank, For the Love of Men: A New Vision for Mindful Masculinity (St. Martins, Sept.) leads the conversation on men’s issues in a world where men’s roles have stayed much the same even as society is changing. She writes: “Toxic masculinity is a disease we all benefit from finding a cure for."
Patrick Morley, author of The Man in the Mirror (Zondervan, 1989) which has sold over five million copies, according to the publisher, follows up his message about identity with the recently released The Christian Man: A Conversation about the 10 Issues Men Say Matter Most. Morley uses personal and others’ stories to answer questions such as, “how can I lead a more balanced life?” and “what’s the right way to deal with lust?”
According to David Morris, v-p and publisher at Zondervan, “We definitely need more books that help men be whole, grounded and healthy." Zondervan is publishing Male vs. Man: A Bold Vision for Honoring Women, Teaching Children and Changing the World (2020) by Emmy-nominated actor Dondré Whitfield, who draws a distinction between men and those who are simply male. He uses biblical insight to address the challenges and pressures of masculine identity in the 21st century and defines true manhood as never acting out of flesh or self-interest.
"Dondré Whitfield advocates that men should become productive servant-leaders who bring positive change to their communities," says Morris. "He offers insights on how men can heal and be authentic, strive for clarity, and create safe spaces."
As more stories of sexual abuse in the church are being shared, additional titles related to #MeToo and #ChurchToo are expected to be published in the future, especially as churches and other religious organizations work to better support victims and prevent instances of abuse. For example, at its annual meeting from June 11-12, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) "overwhelmingly passed" an amendment to its bylaws that would allow it to withdraw from membership any church that does not cooperate with the Convention's beliefs regarding sexual abuse, according to convention spokesperson Roger “Sing” Oldham.
"The new language is intentionally broad enough that the committee assigned to inquire about any issue which may arise will be able to make its determination based on a number of doctrinal and practical criteria," he told PW in an email.
The SBC denomination consists of over 47,000 "cooperating churches," according to its website, and the annual meeting provides a place to elect new SBC officers, trustees, and standing committees, discuss business items and proposed resolutions, and more.
“Now it is time for our Southern Baptist Convention to repent of any ignorance or indifference, turn from our inaction or insufficient action, and turn toward the sacrificial model of our Savior,” a report from the SBC's sexual abuse advisory board concludes. “We must cast aside our pride and our own agendas and open our eyes to the suffering amongst us, vowing anew to protect and walk with them.”