That explanation never really sat well with me, though. It was convenient and it looked right, but something about it just didn’t fit. As I separated myself more and more from Christianity and yet couldn’t get over the sense that I didn’t much like myself it only became more readily apparent that I was missing a pretty big piece of the puzzle by just saying, “It’s Christianity’s fault.” There was something else going on.
MRAs, of all people, put the last piece in place.
There’s a weird hive mind amongst the MRA community. They run around the internet posting on the site of anyone who disagrees with them or fails to match up to their expectations of proper manhood in order to tell them of their failures. It was instructive, but probably not in the intended way.
One of them showed up at Fred’s place whenever Fred posted anything about his adopted daughters, of whom Fred is quite apparently proud. The guy would then castigate Fred for not being a real man because he was a mewling, pathetic idiot raising a real man’s children. In this the “real man” was defined as “capable of impregnating a woman” and “not real man” was defined as, um, not doing that, I guess. Because everyone knows that only real men can have unprotected vaginal sex with women. I guess. It’s a little fuzzy.
See, according to the MRAs the world is split into “alpha males” and “not-alpha males.” Alpha males are defined by their ability to fuck as many women as possible. Interestingly enough, too, alpha males are defined by their ability to then not impregnate said women or manage to not pay if they do end up going halfsies on a baby. If this is your first introduction to the concept you might be thinking, “Wow, so it sounds like ‘real men’ are actually selfish, immature wankers and to be avoided at all costs.” You’re not wrong.
The funniest thing about Fred’s particular MRA fanboy was the way said individual would show up and tell Fred he wasn’t a real man and then launch into a screed based entirely on quoting some other MRA with a stupid internet handle. In my various explorations of the world of MRAs I noticed that they spent an awful lot of time quoting other MRAs. It looked, in fact, as if they were intellectually unsure of themselves and needed reassurance from others in order to assert their superiority. That looked like nothing so much as the behavior of someone who wasn’t really an alpha male.
Then there was the John Scalzi/Vox Day dustup earlier this year. Vox Day, the contemptible little pissant that he is, got a bug up his butt about John Scalzi. I don’t really know why and I don’t really care, but I’d assume it’s because Vox Day is a terrible writer with delusions of grandeur in the world of sci-fi and John Scalzi is a wildly successful writer of sci-fi who is so well respected in the fantasy and sci-fi community that he just finished up a three-term run as the President of the SFWA. Scalzi is also a definite and unapologetic ally of women and happily married and raising a daughter who appears to be insanely well adjusted and self-assured.
I would contend, then, that Vox Day is jealous of John Scalzi because John Scalzi has something that Vox Day appears to completely lack: happiness. In this I would say there’s a common thread with Fred Clark’s MRA fanboy. As such Vox Day ended up enviously looking upon Scalzi’s very public life with the same contempt the Grinch held for all the Whos in Whoville at the beginning of…um…what was that book? Horton Hears a Who? Yeah, that one.
He then attempted to steal all of Scalzi’s joy by declaring Scalzi a gamma male and declaring all of Scalzi’s readers rabbits. The only way he knows to deal with others is to declare his own superiority and then just assume that matters. Long story short, it doesn’t. Scalzi turned that into a pledge drive that raised thousands of dollars for organizations that help women over the course of a day or two.
All the while Vox Day and his minions listened to the Whos down in Whoville singing their happy songs and managed to completely avoid letting their hearts grow three sizes. Because MRAs are idiots. There’s a moral to this story: don’t be an idiot.
What does this have to do with me, you ask? It proved to be the final key I needed to understand my relation to Christianity and how Christianity related to my own set of inferiorities.
It was easy for me to watch the MRAs impotently rage at John Scalzi’s or Fred Clark’s happiness. I simply do not and never will buy into their conception of what makes a person valuable. I’m baffled by why anyone would want to spend their time having meaningless sex with strangers. I’m alternately enraged and amused by their insistence that women aren’t people deserving of full respect. I’m definitely amused by their insistence on letting everyone know they’re just the tops and they’re true paragons of manly men who can dominate all the womens while they seem to mostly be posturing to each other in ways that make it seem like they should just give up and admit they really want to have sex with each other.
In short it’s easy for me to look at them and say, “You’re full of shit.” They can pass judgment on me all day and it won’t matter because their criteria for acceptance is so far outside of the scope of what I use to judge myself that it doesn’t matter. Watching Scalzi and Clark continue along with their happy lives and pissing their fanboys off simply by existing and having no shits to give only made that difference more obvious.
That’s where Christianity comes back into my story.
Evangelical Christianity is really little more than a minefield of social mores and opportunities to commit massive sins in front of an audience actively looking for something to take you down. I spent an awful lot of time trying to be outwardly perfect for that audience. I was good at it, but I usually knew I was only faking my success. The older I got and the more I became acquainted with the larger world the more I thought the whole system was bullshit.
It was much easier for me to see that with others, though. I knew people who weren’t Christians (or, in some cases, the right kind of Christians) who seemed to be happy and decent and didn’t really need any of the Jesus stuff I was supposed to be selling. It also seemed to me that if they became Christians like I was a Christian it would be a net negative for them, as they’d be thrown into the same world I lived in. In short, I was trying to tell a happily married man that he wouldn’t be successful unless he left his happy home with the wife he loved in order to try to have sex with strangers in bars every night.
What business of mine was it, anyway? It’s profoundly disrespectful to inject yourself into someone else’s life just to tell them they’re living their life wrong because they’re not matching up to your ideals. If that other person is healthy, hale, and happy and adding a net benefit to the world you’re doing them and everyone in their life a disservice by trying to get them to change to a different level of expectation and self-evaluation. If they’re not healthy, hale, and happy but they’re not asking you for help then it’s really none of your goddamn business. This counts double for Evangelical Christianity, since they offer the diagnosis and try to sell the cure and the diagnosis is always, “You’re not exactly like us,” while the cure is always, “Become exactly like us.”
There was no option to say, “Yeah, thanks, that’s not my bag.” I internalized the notion that other people got to tell me what I was supposed to be and why. That meant that anything I did that was outside of expected the norm was something I had to justify, hide, or apologize for. I never learned that it was okay to say, “Well, hey, you think A and I think B. That’s cool.” I learned that I was supposed to think A and that I thought B and therefore I was going to get in trouble.
I can laugh it off now and go on with my life. It took a long time to learn that lesson.
Except this site, since I have precisely the internet footprint of a sand flea.
And here I mean apparently not in the sense that he’s faking it but in the sense that it’s readily apparent that he’s proud of his non-biological progeny.
As a historian I’d say there’s nothing wrong with quoting someone else. Quoting indicates that you’ve done your research and are aware of other people’s arguments for or against a position. However there’s not a historian alive who would limit him- or herself to endlessly quoting other historians. At some point you have to stop saying, “Hey, so-and-so said this and so and so is right,” and start saying, “This is the information available and because of this information I believe that [insert argument here] is what happened and why.” At that point you bring in the words of other historians to say they’d probably support your assertion. It’s not possible to build a career on just parroting the arguments of others, though.
Or something. I’m still not entirely sure what the rabbit thing means and I refuse to give enough of a shit to find out.