Toxic Apathy

The Antidote to Apathy is Masculinity

“The most deadly poison of our time is indifference,” wrote Maximilian Kolbe, a Catholic saint and martyr at Auschwitz. Kolbe penned the words having likely never heard the phrase “toxic masculinity”–a term that, for some, describes the most deadly poison of our own time. 

“Toxic masculinity” is popularly defined as the “harmful social norms about how men should behave that lead to misogyny, homophobia, violence, and mental health issues.” While conservative Christians may quibble with the definition, we can agree that certain forms of pop-masculinity are, indeed, destructive. Perhaps the most notable example is Andrew Tate–an internet personality who has attracted 8.5 million followers on X (formerly Twitter). He’s been facing criminal charges of rape and sex trafficking, and built a brash brand that denigrates women and idolizes self. (I won’t boost his platform by linking to it.)

But back to Kolbe for a moment. Why would a Polish priest on death row, when faced with the national chauvinism of the Third Reich, suggest that indifference was the deadliest poison? We will never know for sure on this side of eternity, but I believe Kolbe was on to something. And I contend that male apathy and indifference may actually be the most rampant and damaging form of “toxic masculinity” in our modern era. I also suggest that adopting a Christian vision for manhood will be the most compelling and helpful antidote for this modern poison. Let me explain.

Tate and similarly “toxic” online provocateurs are drawing a crowd for a reason. I think the reason is deeper than male natural tendencies toward lust and the abuse of power but also include a hunger for direction, backbone, and role models. 

This hunger can be seen in the rise in prominence of men like Jordan Peterson, Joe Rogan, and Matt Walsh. To my knowledge, none are facing criminal charges and all are comparatively less offensive than Tate. But these men are prepared to be provocative, and they’ve been encouraging young men to grow up and take on responsibility. 

Peterson et al are speaking up because it’s becoming obvious that American men are suffering and the consequences of this masculine floundering have severe societal implications. Former presidential candidate Andrew Yang articulated these consequences in The Washington Post

The data are clear. Boys are more than twice as likely as girls to be diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; are five times as likely to spend time in juvenile detention; and are less likely to finish high school. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get better when boys become adults. Men now make up only 40.5 percent of college students. Male community college enrollment declined by 14.7 percent in 2020 alone, compared with 6.8 percent for women. Median wages for men have declined since 1990 in real terms. Roughly one-third of men are either unemployed or out of the workforce. More U.S. men ages 18 to 34 are now living with their parents than with romantic partners.

The consequences of this masculine floundering also play out in concerning stats on male loneliness, drug abuse, and suicide. Whether we see it in Tate’s followership or look at other metrics, American young men are facing a crisis of direction and purpose: 

The crisis is bad enough that we’re beginning to see a cultural correction–a renewed courage, if you will–outside conservative and religious circles. The vocal, bold stances from Elon Musk to Bill Maher on such topics as freedom of speech and the gender binary stand out as examples of courage against a current of conformity and indifference. 

Brendan O’Neill, chief political writer for Spiked (and an atheist), is pushing back against the cultural insanity of “gender identity” in his book A Heretics Manifesto, where he argues that the acceptance of the phrase “her penis” is

…a failure of reason. It’s a failure of rationalism, that ‘her penis’ appears everywhere – from The Times to court proceedings to the deliberations of police forces investigating allegations of rape – speaks to the modern eras abandonment of reality and its acquiescence to a new form of cultural authoritarianism that demands the sanctification of peoples subjective delusions over and above objective truth. The untruth of ‘her penis’ is reflective of the legion untruths we are all forced to labor under in this era of linguistic and moral tyranny. 

It is encouraging to note how even some non believing elites are identifying the challenges of the culturally normalized apathy and offering solutions and direction informed by truth. Christians should celebrate the common grace examples of sanity and courage. But we would be foolish not to recover and apply a robustly biblical masculinity in our everyday lives. 

Richard Phillips outlines such in his book The Masculine Mandate (published by Ligonier Ministries in 2016). Building off of Genesis 2:15, Phillips contends that the masculine mandate is to “work and keep” this world. He defines them both: 

  • Work– To work is to labor to make things grow. In subsequent chapters I will discuss work in terms of nurturing, cultivating, tending, building up, guiding, keeping safe, watching over, caring for, and maintaining. 
  • Keep– To keep is to protect and to sustain progress already achieved. Later I will speak of it as guarding, keeping safe, watching over, caring for, and maintaining.

Phillips’ book is divided into two parts, the first “Understanding our mandate” and secondly “Living our mandate.” In the second part of the book Phillip helpfully applies the mandate, “to work and keep,” to a man’s general spheres of influence–marriage, children, friendship, church, and personally as servants of the Lord. He states that a man’s “calling” is the opposite of what this culture is telling young men, “Our calling in life really is this simple (although not therefore easy): We are to devote ourselves to working/building and keeping/protecting everything placed into our charge.”

Phillips is not the only biblical voice, Matt Fuller is another pastor providing solutions to the challenges men are facing. He has written on the topic in Reclaiming Masculinity (published by The Good Book Company in 2023), where the call is similar to Phillips. He argues men are to “take responsibility” and provide “Sacrificial Leadership” – similar themes to “work and keep.”

With the work of these two men and many others, we see a glimmer of hope. There seems to be a cultural “vibe shift” beginning. We see frat boys patriotically defending the American flag against pro-Palestinian protesters. We see men like Harrison Butker boldly encouraging young Catholics to faithfully pursue their callings –despite great pressure to conform to the DEI ideology plaguing the NFL and most of corporate America. But whether the tide turns in our lifetime or not, Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s words can inspire us: “Let your credo be this: Let the lie come into the world, let it even triumph. But not through me.” 

Toxic masculinity exists. We see it primarily in those who do not stand up for truth, are plagued with indifference, and fail to guard and promote God’s creation order. We don’t need to be in Auschwitz with Kolbe to identify the “poison of indifference” or be part of the cultural cure. But we do need to, with eyes wide open, boldly fight the chaos and “work and keep” the spaces we have been given.

Image Credit: Unsplash

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Logan Smith

Logan Smith is an IT professional with 12 years in corporate and nonprofit management. He lives with his wife and two children in Cumberland, MD and can be followed on X at @logansmith86.

2 thoughts on “Toxic Apathy

  1. Toxic and Masculinity are mutually exclusive terms. Masculine means to be a provider, protector and defender of family and society. Toxic means to be everything NOT masculine. I find the use of the two words put together to be demeaning and way to ascribe any behavior not endorsed by today’s radical feminist doctrine as a way to attempt to control men. As an example, look back a few generations to the greatest generation that fought a world war, came home and built the greatest nation on earth in recorded history. Try to envision today’s generation of 18–30-year-olds and tell me they could or would do the same. The radical feminist movement has destroyed manhood in western countries and unless we reject these concepts such as toxic masculinity we are headed to disaster in these same countries.

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