July 27, 2023

Unmasking Secular Views of Abortion, Transgenderism, and Hookup Culture with Prof. Nancy Pearcey

Inside This Episode

Professor Nancy Pearcey, bestselling author of Love Thy Body, reveals why she believes the secular view of human life and flourishing is contrary to nature itself and doesn’t deliver on its promise to value life or promote well-being. In this episode, she tackles issues like abortion, euthanasia, transgenderism, homosexuality, hookup culture and pornography. Plus, why Prof. Pearcey believes her latest book on masculinity has become her most controversial to date. 

Nancy Pearcey is the author of The Toxic War on Masculinity: How Christianity Reconciles the Sexes, as well as Love Thy Body, The Soul of Science, Saving Leonardo, Finding Truth, and Total Truth. She is professor and scholar in residence at Houston Christian University. She has been quoted in The New Yorker and Newsweek, highlighted as one of the five top women apologists by Christianity Today, and hailed in The Economist as "America's pre-eminent evangelical Protestant female intellectual."

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On today's episode of Maybe God, best-selling author and professor, Nancy Pearcey, is joining host, Eric Huffman, in studio, and she's revealing why she believes the secular view of human life and flourishing is contrary to nature itself, and doesn't deliver on its promise to value life or promote well-being.

Nancy Pearcey: What's happened is personhood now is a completely arbitrary, subjective concept as long as it's separated from being biologically human.

Eric Huffman: Yeah, there it is.

Nancy Pearcey: As long as it's connected to being biologically human. And this is what Christians would argue, God made us as physical beings, and so we should take our identity from our body. We should respect our biological sex.

Eric Huffman: Plus, why Professor Pearcey believes her latest book on masculinity has become her most controversial to date.

[00:01:44] <music>

Eric Huffman: Today I'm very excited to welcome into the Maybe God studio a fellow Houstonian, Professor Nancy Pearcey. A former agnostic, Professor Pearcey was hailed in The Economist as America's preeminent evangelical Protestant female intellectual. Professor Pearcey is a professor and scholar in residence at Houston Christian University, and she's the best-selling author of seven books.

Today we're going to dig into two of her most recent books, Love Thy Body, and her brand new book out a little over two weeks now, The Toxic War on Masculinity. Both are awesome books, and both are available at Amazon and wherever books are sold. Professor Nancy Pearcey, welcome to Maybe God.

Nancy Pearcey: Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

Eric Huffman: It's really an honor. Obviously, being in Houston, I hear your name all the time, and you've been to my church, The Story, with your son a couple of times several years ago. But I was just sharing with you that a lot has changed since then at The Story. And yet we still have the same mission, to speak to folks that maybe have more questions than answers. They might even be agnostic themselves or even atheist folks that just have a lot of questions about Christianity and the assumptions Christians make.

And that's what I really appreciate about you and your story and your approach to your work, is how you speak not just to the hardcore Christian base, but I think you write in such a way that it's really powerful and accessible to folks that aren't entrenched in the Christian camp.

Nancy Pearcey: Well, yeah, it is the reason that I write the way I do, because I'm much more aware of the secular world and the need to engage with it. And the reason is, I was raised in a Lutheran home. It was Scandinavian Lutheran. I don't know if you know, but Scandinavians are all Lutherans. It's like all Irish are Catholic.

The weakness of that, though, is they often rely on the ethnicity to hold you. There wasn't a lot of real personal commitment in my home. So in high school, I started asking questions. It was really one question. It was, how do we know Christianity's true? I'm attending a public high school, all my textbooks are secular, all my teachers are secular, and I just started asking, well, how do we know that Christianity's true?

Unfortunately, nobody in my life could answer that question. I talked to a Christian university professor and asked him point blank, why are you Christian? He said, "Works for me."

Eric Huffman: He was a professor, you would expect more from him.

Nancy Pearcey: Exactly. And then I had a chance to talk to a seminary dean, and I thought, "Here, I'm going to get something more substantial." But all he said was, "Don't worry, we all have doubts sometimes."

Eric Huffman: That's it.

Nancy Pearcey: As if it was a psychological phase that I would outgrow. So, I eventually decided maybe Christianity just didn't have any answers. And I very intentionally walked away from my Christian upbringing and decided it was up to me to find truth, to find out what really was true.

Literally, I started pulling books off the philosophy shelf, because I thought, well, if I can't get any live people to talk to me, maybe these dead guys... That's their job, isn't it? Philosophers' job is to answer questions like, is there truth, and how can we know it? And is there a foundation for ethics, or is it just true for me, true for you? Is there any meaning to life? I very quickly realized that if there was no God, the answer was no on all counts. There is no meaning to life. We're just an accident, a chemical accident flying through space.

Eric Huffman: Did you find yourself rejecting that philosophy or did you embrace that?

Nancy Pearcey: Oh, I totally embraced it. I wanted to be honest. That's how I thought of it. I thought it was a matter of intellectual honesty, that if there was no God, I really want to work out the implications of that. I had friends who were losing their faith but still hung around the church for social reasons, emotional reasons. And I don't want to do that.

Eric Huffman: Why?

Nancy Pearcey: I didn't think that was honest, you know? If there was no God, I wanted to face the fact that there is no foundation for ethics, no meaning to life, unyielding despair. I realized there was not even a foundation for knowledge. The way I thought of it was, if all I have is my puny brain and the vast scope of time and space, what makes me think I could achieve some sort of universal objective, absolute truth? Ridiculous. And that's how I thought of it at age 16. Ridiculous.

Eric Huffman: Sure. Especially if your brain is nothing more than just evolved tissue, you know, and a part of a greater process that is just basically a machine designed to crank out more life and propagate the species and nothing more. I mean, if that's all your brain is-

Nancy Pearcey: That's right. That's right. The ideas in your brain are there for survival value, not for truth value. So, yes, by the time I graduated from high school, I had absorbed all of these isms, you know, relativism, skepticism, and even determinism. From my science classes, I learned that we were just biochemical machines anyway with no free will.

But it was a couple of years later I was in Europe. We had lived in Europe when I was a child. So all through high school, I saved up my money so I could go back. That's how I stumbled across the ministry of Francis Schaeffer, who is known for an apologetics ministry. It's in Switzerland. The name-

Eric Huffman: What's it called?

Nancy Pearcey: L'Abri.

Eric Huffman: L'Abri, that's right.

Nancy Pearcey: Which is French for "the shelter." But that was the first time I encountered any sort of apologetics. That was the first time I ever heard Christians make a case that you could support Christianity with logic and arguments and reasons. And they knew the isms better than I did. I had never met any Christians who could engage with the secular isms that I had absorbed by that time.

Eric Huffman: Did they initially engage with you with hostility or was it a friendly sort of thing?

Nancy Pearcey: They loved it.

Eric Huffman: Really?

Nancy Pearcey: That was what was so unique about it. If I did talk to any Christians before this, it was always, "What's wrong with you? Why don't you have faith? Do you have a moral problem?" That was the response I got. And at L'Abri, it was like, "Oh, we love questions."

Eric Huffman: Wow.

Nancy Pearcey: "Great, let's talk."

Eric Huffman: And for someone seeking truth above all else, that must have been really refreshing.

Nancy Pearcey: Oh, it was very refreshing. I was stunned. I was blown away. I just never encountered Christians who were like that before.

Eric Huffman: Was there a moment at L'Abri when you became a Christian for real, I guess, or was it a process?

Nancy Pearcey: No, no, it was a moment. But actually it was not at L'Abri. I was there twice. The first time I left.

Eric Huffman: Why?

Nancy Pearcey: I left because it was so attractive I thought I might be drawn in emotionally.

Eric Huffman: Wow.

Nancy Pearcey: And I didn't want to do that. You know, here were Christians who were intellectually engaged, culturally engaged. Schaeffer was known also for supporting the arts. By the way, I was in Germany studying violin at the Heidelberg Conservatory. So his interest in the arts was very important to me. And then on top of all this, this was 1971 and everyone there were hippies.

Eric Huffman: And you?

Nancy Pearcey: Oh, yeah. Hair down to here.

Eric Huffman: Really?

Nancy Pearcey: Yeah. Granny dresses.

Eric Huffman: That's great.

Nancy Pearcey: And the rest of it too.

Eric Huffman: Sure.

Nancy Pearcey: Experimenting with drugs and such. But everyone was. That was before any Christians were really reaching out to that cultural divide, right, and reaching out to the counterculture, to these disaffected young people. So that really spoke to me as well. I thought, "Who are these Christians that they can talk to hippies?"

Eric Huffman: Sure.

Nancy Pearcey: But Christianity had let me down once before, and so I didn't want to be drawn in emotionally. I wanted to be absolutely convinced that it was true. So I left because I felt so much inner pressure to come to some kind of decision.

But it was through L'Abri that I discovered apologetics, C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton. So just on my own reading, I eventually did, I did. I did reach a very decisive moment when I said, Okay, you could keep learning for a lifetime, but I know enough that I am intellectually convinced that it's true. So there was a decisive moment.

And then I said, where do I find Christians? Because I wasn't in a church or anything. And I thought, "Well, I knew some back at L'Abri." So I went back. And that's when I really got grounded in Christian worldview and the whole personal side of it, as well as the intellectual side. So that it was more well-rounded, applying to the whole person.

Eric Huffman: Sure, the whole person. I think that's very important to your work. It's a common theme. I think that is a powerful story, Nancy, and one that I think will resonate with a lot of people, not least of which because of your misgivings or mistrust of emotion and emotionalism. I think that's a hang-up for a lot of people.

I think more and more people are okay with the logic of the Christian worldview. There's more and more evidence that comes out. I saw Stephen Meyer on the Joe Rogan podcast the other day, and I'm like, wow, these ideas are leaking out into the mainstream. But it's the emotional and trusting sort of Father-godness of Christianity that is so intimate and raw that it can be really intimidating for folks sometimes who might not be real strong in regard to building emotional bonds.

Nancy Pearcey: Well, I deal with that in my next book, The Toxic War on Masculinity. I start the book with my own story growing up in a very abusive home. My father was severely physically abusive. In books on abuse, they'll sometimes say, was it open hand or closed fist? It was closed fist.

Eric Huffman: Gosh, I'm sorry.

Nancy Pearcey: And he would not say, "Do this or I'll spank you." He'd say, "Do this or I'll beat you." He was very open about it.

Eric Huffman: It was normal for him?

Nancy Pearcey: I guess. Yeah. Not sure where it came from. So part of my story of L'Abri was on staff was a psychiatric social worker, and she agreed to be part of L'Abri because she realized that for many people their barrier to Christianity is not just intellectual. For many people, it's also emotional. And especially if you've grown up in a Christian home, it's often conflict with your parents, especially pastor's kids and missionary kids.

So this psychiatric social worker was a missionary kid from New Zealand. Her name was Sheila Bird, and we called her Birdie. So right from the beginning of my even considering Christianity, I was talking to Birdie and she was helping me to work through the emotional side, the emotional barriers. Because as my intellectual questions were being answered, then I had the freedom to sort of look beyond them and say, "Hmm, I actually don't want this to be true. I do not want to be at all like my parents. If my parents are Christians, I don't want it." That was my perspective. "Whatever they have done with their lives, I don't want it."

When I left home, I tried to totally wipe out my past. I said, "I'm going to start over. I'm going to create a blank slate and recreate my whole self from scratch." Well, Birdie helped me realize you can't do that. You actually have to work through all that trauma from your childhood.

L'Abri gave me both, therefore. You know, gave me the philosophical apologetic side, but it also got me started on very deep, profound, emotional healing, spiritual psychological healing. Birdie just showed me kind of love that I'd never experienced before. I mean, love heals.

Eric Huffman: That's right.

Nancy Pearcey: Love heals. And if you can get to a deep experience of God's love, that's what heals. When I left L'Abri, I would pray and kind of think of God as Birdie, because that way I could sense that kind of love, which I didn't know from anywhere else.

Eric Huffman: With the faltering numbers in terms of active and good fathers in the world, I think it is making Christianity a harder, steeper climb for people who are considering it. If you don't have an example of a loving father, how can you possibly relate to the loving Father? And it takes people like Birdie, you know, to sort of stand in the gap and show people who haven't had that what love really looks like, self-sacrificial, all-giving kind of love. Once you see that, you can't unsee it, right? And that's when I think the harder work of the emotional intimacy kind of comes into view.

For a long time, I hid behind apologetics as a way of skirting the emotional stuff. That's what interests me about your story, is I can relate in some ways. Just easier to read intellectual books and have intellectual conversations, for me, than it is to go deeper into the heart.

Nancy Pearcey: So in The Toxic War on Masculinity, I do have two chapters on domestic abuse and violence in Christian homes. So that was my chance to sort of bring it out.

Eric Huffman: Wow. Birdie would be proud. That's great.

Nancy Pearcey: I miss her.

Eric Huffman: That's great. Let's talk about Love Thy Body. This is a book that you said has been controversial. I mean, you tackle every hot-button major issue in our culture today. But there is sort of a common thread running throughout all these hot-button topics, and it comes down to worldview. And you want to posit a biblical Christian traditional worldview up against this other thing. So let's talk about that other thing. What is that other worldview that's in competition with the Christian one? And how does it affect all of these issues, from abortion to euthanasia to sexuality and gender issues?

Nancy Pearcey: That is what's unique about the book because Christians have often tried to sort of approach each of these issues separately. Schaeffer used to actually talk about this. He said we approach issues in bits and pieces. But if you get to the heart of it, it turns out there's a common underlying worldview that connects abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, transgenderism, and so on.

And it is the view of the body, actually, which is surprising, because most people think Christians have... they're otherworldly, they don't care about the body. But it turns out that Christians actually have a much higher view of the body.

Let's start with where it's most obvious: transgenderism. Because transgender activists argue explicitly that your authentic self has nothing to do with your body or your biological sex. A BBC documentary put it this way: "At the heart of the debate is the idea that the mind can be at war with your body. At war. And of course, in that war, it's the mind that wins.

There was another BBC video aimed at teenagers. It featured a young woman who identified as non-binary, and she says, "It doesn't matter what meat skeleton you've been born into, it's what you feel that defines you." So the body's been demoted to a meat skeleton.

The Washington Post recently quoted a curriculum for first graders in which teachers were told to tell their kids, You might not be a boy, even if you have what some people call boy parts. And you might not be a girl, even if you have what some people might call... not even what are, but what some people might call girl parts. So your boy and girl parts, your body parts don't matter, they're not really part of your authentic self.

Of course, since I write a book, I have to read what the academics say. So it was the first book, I think, that came out defending transgenderism by a Princeton University professor. And first of all, I was surprised that she acknowledged that transgenderism involves, in her words, self-alienation, self-estrangement, disconnect. And I thought, this is a defense. It sounds like a critique.

But then she says, it doesn't matter, because... and then this is her exact words. She says, "What the physical body tells us is nothing. It has no meaning at all." So that's the core of the transgender ideology. Your body has no meaning at all, it gives you no clue to your identity, it gives you no moral message.

Eric Huffman: And therefore it can be shaped into whatever form you need it to be to fit your - what? Mentality or how you feel?

Nancy Pearcey: Exactly. You can do with it whatever you want. There's another quote. Camille Paglia is a fairly well-known public intellectual. By the way, she's been a lesbian for many years, but now she's come out as trans. Interesting. She hasn't changed her appearance at all, she still looks the same. She's not trying to look like a man, but she's calling herself trans now in interviews.

But she has a wonderful quote. It's wonderful because it really reveals the logic behind it. And she wrote it when she had a lesbian identity. So what she wrote was... People find her interesting because she's a little of an iconoclastic feminist. She does not think sex is just a self-construction. She says, no, no, no, nature made us male and female. In fact-

Eric Huffman: She's old school.

Nancy Pearcey: Yeah, exactly. In fact, she says, this is a direct quote, "Our sexual bodies are designed for reproduction."

Eric Huffman: Wow.

Nancy Pearcey: "Designed" is an interesting word for an atheist.

Eric Huffman: It is, yeah.

Nancy Pearcey: But then you say, well, in that case, how can you justify being lesbian or now trans, either one? And here's how she puts it. "Nature made us male and female, but why not define nature? After all, fate, not God, has given us this flesh. We have absolute claim to our bodies and may do with them as we see fit."

Eric Huffman: So it's like a declaration of independence of sorts. Like we're our own gods and goddesses.

Nancy Pearcey: Yes. So the message is, if our body is a product of mindless, meaningless, purposeless forces, then they have no intrinsic purpose that we are morally obligated to respect. They give us no moral message, they give us no clue to identity, so we may do with them as we see fit, which is just what you were saying a minute ago. So that's the logic.

Eric Huffman: How does that worldview apply to other issues? Let's talk about, for example, euthanasia or assisted suicide and any other issues you see as relevant to this or pertinent to this conversation. How does that worldview infuse these other conversations?

Nancy Pearcey: Let me start with abortion because euthanasia is just the same reasoning, but it's sometimes easier to see with abortion. Essentially no professional bioethicist today denies that life begins at conception. Ordinary people may not all know that, but professional bioethicists. The evidence from genetics and DNA is just too strong to deny it.

So how do they defend abortion then? They say, well, biologically, physiologically, genetically, the fetus is human. That's clear from science, but it's not a person. So legal personhood is something different. You become a person when you reach a certain level, certain mental abilities, certain cognitive abilities.

Eric Huffman: Wow. When does that happen? Three or four?

Nancy Pearcey: That's the question, isn't it? I mean, you just put your finger on the weakness of that theory is nobody can decide when does it happen, how developed do these cognitive abilities have to be. And of course, a lot of people will say, well, sometime before birth. But there are bioethicists today who say, no, no, after birth.

Crick and Watson, the duo who discovered the double helix structure of DNA, have both gone on record publicly saying that we should give parents three days to do genetic testing on their newborn, and only if it passes those genetic tests do we call it a person.

Eric Huffman: So then you could have a post-birth abortion?

Nancy Pearcey: Yes, yes.

Eric Huffman: I remember the quote, I made a note of it, the quote from your book where you quoted the Journal of Medical Ethics, where it was published. This quote: "Since non-persons have no moral rights to life, there are no reasons for banning after-birth abortions."

Nancy Pearcey: Exactly.

Eric Huffman: Which is chilling.

Nancy Pearcey: Exactly. So there's now something called a human non-person. In other words, you can be human and yet not a person. So being human is no longer enough for human rights. And by the way, the most extreme position I've seen is Peter Singer, who is a bioethicist at Princeton.

Right on his website, he says three years of age is still a gray area in terms of personhood, which is what you started to say earlier. Well, what about three or four? He said that. Exactly. Because how much cognitive functioning does a toddler have? So for him, even that's a gray area.

Eric Huffman: Wow. That's scary. Scary stuff. I mean, I don't want to be alarmist and neither do you, but the fact that this is being seriously bandied about in our most advanced academic circles, that's terrifying.

Nancy Pearcey: Yes. Because what's happened is personhood now is a completely arbitrary subjective concept. Once it's separated from being biologically human.

Eric Huffman: Yes, there it is.

Nancy Pearcey: As long as it's connected to being biologically human... and this is what Christians would argue, God made us as physical beings, and so we should take our identity from our body. We should respect our biological sex. And we start with, well, is the fetus biologically, genetically human? Yes. Well, then they're in. They count.

Eric Huffman: Sure.

Nancy Pearcey: And that's empirically knowable. That's scientifically testable.

Eric Huffman: Yeah, you don't need religion to make that point.

Nancy Pearcey: Exactly. Once you separate personhood from biology, then there is no objective criteria. And every bioethicist out there draws the line at a different place. So it's become a matter of private views and values. And that's interesting.

There's a bioethicist, I think he's a psychologist actually, at Yale University, Paul Bloom. He was quoted in the New York Times saying, The question of abortion is really not about biology. It's about that magical moment, his phrase, that magical moment at which a cluster of cells becomes more than a mere physical thing. It is a question about the soul. He says this right in the New York Times. So in a sense, they're acknowledging this is their alternative religion.

Eric Huffman: It's a lot of mysticism in that sentence. Yeah. Very interesting. And clearly this has implications for our culture and we're seeing it playing out in a lot of different ways. But you have dedicated so much of your work in recent years to developing a theology of the body. I know all of these issues are important to you, but what was it really that led you to want to spend a good portion of your career on sort of staking this claim to the sacredness of biology and the integrity of the body?

Nancy Pearcey: I can't tell you. Because in my family... the book has a lot of anecdotes, a lot of stories, personal stories. And many of them are pseudonyms. And that's because many of them are people who were not ready to become public with this story.

Eric Huffman: Oh, pseudonyms.

Nancy Pearcey: Pseudonyms.

Eric Huffman: Got it. I thought you said synonyms. I just heard you wrong. Got it.

Nancy Pearcey: Pseudonyms. Fake names. So these were people close to me and in my family. It did grow out of a very personal experience. And when people read it, sometimes they guess that because they say, You couldn't write like this if you hadn't been there. And it's true. Through my own working through these issues, I realized the body is the core of it. Let's take homosexuality since we haven't touched on that yet.

Eric Huffman: Sure.

Nancy Pearcey: Even my homosexual friends agree that on the level of biology, physiology, anatomy, chromosomes, males and females are counterparts to one another. That is how the human sexual and reproductive system is designed.

Eric Huffman: Sure.

Nancy Pearcey: To embrace a same-sex identity, therefore, is to contradict that design, is to say, why should my body inform my identity? Why should my biological sex have any say in my moral choices? So we have to help people to realize that's a profoundly disrespectful view of the body. So when Christians talk about a biblical view, they're saying, you should respect your biological sex. You should live in harmony. We don't want to live in contradiction, that inner self-alienation, that disintegration of the body from the person.

Christian ethic actually is about self-integration and inner wholeness. So that's the way we should phrase it. Christians are so well-known for having a negative message. I was just talking to somebody who has a youth ministry in Hawaii. It was a podcast.

Eric Huffman: Sounds great.

Nancy Pearcey: And he was saying, until I read your book, all I had was a negative message. It's a sin. It's wrong. It's against the Bible. Don't do it. It's destructive. And there's something wrong with you. That's kind of what we're known for. I find that the hardest thing for people to get their mind around when they read Love Thy Body is how to change their language to say, No, the goal is to respect your body, live in harmony with your body, live in tune with the Creator's design.

I'll give you one story from the book. A young woman who has lived as a lesbian for many years and today is married to a man—you have to say that—and has two children. And she wrote an article about it. So here's how she put it. What made her change? She said, "I came to trust that God had made me female for a reason, and I wanted to honor my body by living in accord with the creator's design."

Eric Huffman: Wow. That's different. You don't hear that a lot because people don't think about same-sex attraction or other sort of alternative, let's say, lifestyles, a lot of people don't like that word, in relationship to the body and our intrinsic design.

Nancy Pearcey: Yes. So I'll give you another story. This is maybe my favorite story. It's a young man named Sean who grew up exclusively same-sex attracted. By the way, you have to say exclusively because when you do change, people will say, well, you weren't really.

Eric Huffman: Oh, yeah. Right.

Nancy Pearcey: You were bi all along.

Eric Huffman: Right. Sure.

Nancy Pearcey: So he makes a point of saying, no, I was exclusively attracted to other men. And the interesting thing about his story, he grew up in a gay-affirming family and attended a gay-affirming church.

Eric Huffman: Oh. So there wasn't that kind of pressure.

Nancy Pearcey: He didn't think there was anything wrong with that. Today, he's married to a woman and has three children. And by the way, he's a Christian ethics professor.

Eric Huffman: Whoa, really?

Nancy Pearcey: In London. So he says, well, you ask, why would he change then? It was not driven by shame and guilt. Even Christians sometimes think, well, if you changed, it was just shame and guilt and self-loathing.

Eric Huffman: He said, no, I came to realize that God had given me a male body, and therefore, he had created me to interact sexually with a woman. And that if I respected my body... oh, here's how he put it, "I didn't try to change my feelings. That doesn't usually work. What I did was I decided to take my identity from my body. And instead of changing my feelings, I accepted what I already had, which was a male body as a good gift from God." That was his term, a good gift from God. "And eventually, my feelings followed suit."

So again, do you see how his change was driven not by anything negative, but accepting my body as a good gift from God. You used the word "worldview" earlier, that's the worldview core of all of these issues. Do we live in a cosmos that was produced by blind material forces?

Eric Huffman: Indifference. Yeah.

Nancy Pearcey: Yeah. Richard Dawkins, blind, pitiless indifference? Or do we live in a cosmos created by a loving God, which, therefore, we should accept as a good gift from our creator?

Eric Huffman: I'll tell you this, what you say makes so much sense when you say it, but then we all go back out into the real world. And the plot has been so lost for so long, even in the church. I mean, we don't make this case strongly enough in the church, and we haven't for a long, long time, that I think the average person listening to this will go out and have a conversation about this, what they're hearing now, with a friend at the coffee shop, and not be able to make the case for body positive Christianity.

So I just want to be clear about what you're saying right now. I don't want anybody to hear you saying that you can, with the snap of a finger or a choice in your mind just let go of all of the same-sex desires. If you're a same-sex attracted or gay person, that doesn't necessarily just go away overnight or ever. Right?

Nancy Pearcey: It takes years. In the book, I give the story of Rebecca. Rebecca went through about a decade of being attracted to other women, even after... It started when she was not a Christian. It continued after she became a Christian, it continued after she got married.

So she talked to her husband about it, and here's what he said, "No matter what your feelings are right now, you can be confident that because God made you a female, you will ultimately be more fulfilled with a man. And of course, same for me," he said. "I mean, God made me a male. So no matter what my feelings might be, I can be confident that I will ultimately be more fulfilled with a woman."

That was the turning point for Rebecca. It was logical. It made sense. It took four more years. It took several more years for it to sort of gradually sort of fade. So it's not overnight. And that's what we have to be aware of when we're talking to people. Even if they do change, these things are very intractable and can take a long time.

Eric Huffman: Sure. And it's so countercultural to say-

Nancy Pearcey: And not everybody does. We should say that too.

Eric Huffman: Yeah, sure. But it's so countercultural to say, hey, maybe think about rejecting your feelings. You're not entitled to act out on your feelings and it's really bad for you actually to be governed by your own feelings of self-identity on any given day. And maybe we should pay more attention to our design or biology.

Nancy Pearcey: Another thing that's helpful is that non-Christians are starting to see it too. They're starting to see... you'll sometimes see the phrase transgender ideology is body hatred, rejecting the body. Or where's this anti-biology philosophy coming from?

I do include this interview in my book. There was an interview with a 14-year-old girl on a website. And she had lived as a trans boy for three years. She had transitioned at age 11, and then at age 14, recovered her identity as a girl. These are her exact words. She said, "The turning point came when I came to realize it's not conversion therapy to learn to love your body." And I thought, perfect. This was a non-Christian on a very secular non-Christian website. And she saw it.

Or another one was a girl, a young woman who transitioned at age 14... lived as a boy for five years until age 19, and de-transitioned. And she writes up her story on her blog. She says, "When I transitioned to boy, I got so much support and affirmation and everybody celebrated and told me how authentic and how courageous I was." Here's how she put it, "The boy me got a lot more accolades and affirmation than the girl me ever had."

Eric Huffman: Wow.

Nancy Pearcey: Then she de-transitioned, and she lost all her friends.

Eric Huffman: Nobody came to that party.

Nancy Pearcey: Oh, just the opposite. They attacked her. They accused her. So she writes, what is my advice then to a young woman? Since right now transgenderism is way up with women. So what would I say to a young woman who is having-

Eric Huffman: Women transitioning to men? Is that what you mean?

Nancy Pearcey: Yeah. They have rapid onset gender dysphoria. Teenage girls deciding to identify as males. Much higher numbers than males transitioning to a female identity. So she says, "What would I say to a young woman who had gender dysphoria?" She said, "If I could convince just one girl to love her body as it is, all the abuse I've suffered will be worth it."

Her blog was called Anti-Theist, so she's not even an atheist, she's an anti-theist. This is clearly a non-Christian. So even non-Christians are starting to recognize this. There's a book, probably the most recent book that's come out, it's just called Trans. It's by Helen Joyce, not a Christian. And the subtitle is something like, When Ideology Hits Reality. She's a well-known journalist in Britain. A lot of people endorsing it are non-Christians. Richard Dawkins endorsed it.

Eric Huffman: Wow. All of these evolutionary biologists are suddenly coming out of the woodwork and saying, well, we're biologists, and this transgender ideology rejects biology.

Eric Huffman: How interesting. The strange bedfellows-

Nancy Pearcey: Jerry Coyne at the University of Chicago has a blog called Why Evolution Is True, and he spent his career attacking Christians on the science issues. And now he's come out saying, whoa, this transgenderism is denying biology. So it's interesting, right now you're seeing all kinds of allies, and of course, feminists too.

Eric Huffman: Old school feminists, anyway.

Nancy Pearcey: The TERFs, right? The ones who are being slurred as TERFs.

Eric Huffman: You know the world's in a weird place when evangelical Christians, old-school feminists, and biologists are all in the same parade.

Nancy Pearcey: I'm actually in a group. It's a private group. We have a public presence on Facebook called Hands Across the Aisle, but we also have a private group so we can talk to each other. It's Christian women, and very liberal, leftist, socialist, largely lesbian women. Like you say, the old-school feminists. And we're co-authoring op-ed pieces together, and sample legislation. And several of them have testified before Congress, because they're so happy to get a radical leftist out there explaining why she thinks transgenderism is not a good thing, and how it's destroying women's rights. You cannot grant rights to a group that you cannot define. So if you cannot define women, you destroy women's rights.

Eric Huffman: Yeah, you made a claim in the book, Love Thy Body, that secular liberalism generally destroys human rights.

Nancy Pearcey: Yeah, go back to the abortion, because that's where it's the clearest. Because there they say, bioethicists say, the fetus is human, but it's not a person, and so it has no moral status. It does not warrant legal protection. So you're right. Being human is not enough for human rights.

Or you asked about euthanasia earlier. It's just the same reasoning in reverse. In other words, if you lose a certain level of cognitive functioning and self-awareness, then you are no longer a person, even though you're clearly still human.

Eric Huffman: I'm just thinking here. Wasn't the human versus person divide part of the pro-slavery sort of movement? Like, wasn't that the justification for keeping people in chains?

Nancy Pearcey: Yes. And it's not just slavery in the US. Many civilizations have chosen some group that they say, well, they're not fully human. And then that justifies oppressing them, going to war against them, depriving them of rights. But yes, here in America, it was particularly with slavery. Yeah, they were non-persons.

Personhood is a legal category, a moral category. So if you can be human, but not a person, then you no longer have human rights. The whole idea of human rights is if you're a member of the human race, you have these rights. You don't need to earn additional capabilities. You don't have to achieve a certain level of mental abilities in order to qualify.

I was invited to speak on a podcast in San Francisco once, and I thought this could be a challenging audience. So I had a time, the producer wanted to interview me, and he asked me for my views on abortion. And he said, well, most people think abortion is okay until the fetus becomes a person.

And I said, "There's a lot of philosophical baggage in that phrase. What you're saying is the pro-abortion side is exclusive, because it says certain people can be human, but not make the cut. You know, they don't qualify for the rights of personhood. The pro-life view is inclusive. It says as long as you're a member of the human race, you're in, you count, you have the full rights of personhood."

The pro-choice view is fragmented because it says you can kind of separate body from person, and say that the body is irrelevant. It's insignificant. It has no meaning. It has no value. It has no dignity. The pro-life view is holistic. It says, no, you can't separate the body from the person that way. The body is intrinsic, inherent part of who you are as a person, and shares in the dignity of your personhood. By the way, after hanging up, a few days later, they called me and said, "We've decided to cancel that show."

Eric Huffman: "We've had a scheduling conflict. Sorry, we'll call you."

Nancy Pearcey: And this was before cancel culture. But now, yeah, it got canceled.

Eric Huffman: What is it about Christian theology, as it's lived out in the West now, that causes us to miss this? I look around churches, and I've been around Christianity my whole life, and I don't see people treating their bodies much different than I do in the world. It would seem like if we really believed what you're saying here, that the body is intrinsically part of us, intrinsically worthy and sacred, because God designed it, and is not to be discarded or thrown away, then we would treat our bodies differently now.

I see a lot of gluttony, a lot of sexual issues, you know, a lot of unhealth, I guess, in the church, just as much as I do in the world. What do you think we're missing in what we're teaching in the church?

Nancy Pearcey: Well, let me start out with the early church where we still had the biblical view. The early church was born into a Greek and Roman culture that devalued the body, just like modern secularism does, though for very different reasons. You know, the early church faced isms like Gnosticism. A lot of the New Testament was written against Gnosticism, Platonism, Manicheanism. Augustine was a maniche, right?

So, all of these isms treated the material world as the realm of death, decay, and destruction. Plato called the body the prison of the soul, and salvation was defined as getting liberated from that prison, leaving the material world behind. Salvation was defined as, you know, reascending to the higher realms.

And in this context... oh, and this was partly because of their view of creation. Because this world was evil, it must be the product of an evil god. So, Gnosticism taught that there were several levels of spiritual entities and that this world was created by a low-level deity who was actually an evil god.

So, Christianity was revolutionary in this context, because it said, no, no, no, this world was created by not some low-level deity, but by the supreme deity, who is good, and therefore, this universe is intrinsically good. And the fall does not negate that. You know, the fall is like taking a beautiful masterpiece and a child scribbles on it. You know, yeah, it defaces it, but the original beauty still shines through.

Eric Huffman: Right.

Nancy Pearcey: But the greatest scandal in the early Church was the teaching of the incarnation because what it said was that that same supreme deity had actually entered into the physical world and taken on a physical body. That was the greatest scandal. And when He died on the cross, when he was executed, we might say He did escape the prison of the body, as Gnosticism taught we should aspire to do.

Eric Huffman: Sure.

Nancy Pearcey: But what did he do then? He came back in a physical body. To the ancient Greeks, this was not spiritual progress. And literally, they argued, why would anyone want to come back to the realm of the body? That's why Paul says the idea of a bodily resurrection was foolishness to the Greeks, 1 Corinthians.

Eric Huffman: And scandalous to the Jews.

Nancy Pearcey: Yes.

Eric Huffman: Yeah. Fascinating.

Nancy Pearcey: And then at the end of time, what is God going to do? He's not going to scrap the material universe as if He made a mistake the first time around. Like, "Let's do something different." He's going to restore it and renew it and create a new heavens and a new earth. And you and I will be there in physical bodies. From the very beginning, the Apostles' Creed affirmed the resurrection of the body. So this is an amazingly, astonishingly high view of the physical realm. There's nothing like it-

Eric Huffman: There is really not.

Nancy Pearcey: ...in any other religion or philosophy.

Eric Huffman: But we don't talk about it enough. Like you say, it's unique to the philosophical sort of conversation going on. And yet we just don't champion it enough. I'm not sure the average Christian gets it, Nancy. In the pews today, I think people still think our bodies go to the ground and our souls go to heaven.

Nancy Pearcey: Right, right. That last part, you know, what's God going to do at the end of time? I've attended a Lutheran church for a while, and every Sunday it was, "Aren't we glad we're saved so we can go to heaven? Let's thank God that we're saved so we can go to heaven." Everything was "so we can go to heaven". And I thought, does this pastor think that gospel has anything to say to this life? So that's what I grew up with.

But where did it come from? It came from the fact that... you know, I just mentioned that the early church was born into a Greek and Roman culture. And when they looked around for a philosophical vocabulary... you know, they had a theological vocabulary, the early church fathers. But of course, you have to also translate it into a philosophical vocabulary.

So they looked around and they said, well, there's some materialists here like Democritus and Epicurus. We know we don't like those. But Plato and Aristotle, hey, yeah, they're not materialists. They believe in some sort of a transcendent realm. So what they did is they absorbed a lot of Greek thought. And that's where we get our sacred secular split from. It's not from a scripture.

Eric Huffman: But what do we do then with "the spirit is willing with the flesh is weak"? What do we do with those dichotomies that do pop up in the New Testament, especially?

Nancy Pearcey: The trouble is, of course, that every language has different meanings for the same word. So God still loved the world. Okay, God loved the world. But 1 John says you should not love the world.

Eric Huffman: Right. Right.

Nancy Pearcey: Obviously, the word "world" is used in different places, different senses. And the same thing with flesh. Sometimes it does mean our sinful nature and sometimes it just means the body. So that's where we sometimes get confused. We have to look at the context and figure out, you know, from the Greek, you know, which meaning of flesh is being used in this particular passage? And I think that's where a lot of our confusion has come from.

Eric Huffman: Yeah. It just comes back to what I say often, which is I wish the church at large had a better PR firm because this is a beautiful message that you're sending. And I hope more and more people, and Christians in particular, will get wind of this and articulate it and live it out.

Because if you ask the average person today, who's more body positive, Christians or non-Christians? I'm thinking most secular folks will say non-Christians. I think the reputation comes from the Christian call to self-denial. And you're lifting up the Christian call to self-love, which is beautiful. Like love your body is something seems like the whole world is dying to do.

But self-denial is countercultural, I think. I think the miscommunication might be that when Christians say, Hey, just because you think you want something doesn't mean you should do that thing, it's not an act of self-hate. It's just really the best way to love God and love yourself sometimes is by showing restraint and self-control, which is a gift of the Holy Spirit, you know?

Nancy Pearcey: Well, self-denial means denying sin. It doesn't mean denying the way God made you. I had a student once who was a brilliant computer science student. So as he was graduating, I said, "Well, what are you going to do next?" "I'm going to be a lawyer." "What? Why aren't you going into computer science? You're obviously very gifted." He said, "Well, my Christian professors told me I had to do something that was more meaningful and that as a lawyer I could defend religious liberty cases. And I was supposed to deny myself and do something that was more important."

I said, "Deny yourself means denying your sin. It doesn't mean denying the gifts God has given you. And you don't think you can have a great impact on the world through computer science? Look at the impact that technology has on our lives. Of course you can." Well, I ran into him some years later and he's in computer science. But that mistaken notion that "deny yourself" does not mean your nature, your gifts, your talents that God has given you. It means deny your sin. And I find that's a common misunderstanding too.

Eric Huffman: Maybe as a little bit of pushback here, I would bet that this message is that the church is inherently body-positive. It's harder for women to accept than men because of some of the messages that are communicated to women who grow up in or around the church. I think there's sometimes a lot of shaming sort of thrown women's way about their bodies in ways that I never experienced as a boy growing up.

If I wore short shorts to church, nobody said anything about it. You know, not that I ever would or did. But if I ever did, you know, I might get people joking about it, but nobody would shame me for it. But I know a lot of women who have felt like, you know, if they weren't sufficiently modest in their dress or their appearance or whatever, they could be shamed for their body. And it's a hard message for them maybe to accept that Christianity is inherently body-positive.

Nancy Pearcey: Yes, although I think it's not just in the church. There was a psychological study done once when people were supposed to say... the task was sketch out sort of the stereotypical male and then the stereotypical woman. You know, just sketch it out. The men always had faces. In fact, often it was just a face. The women always had bodies, sometimes no head at all.

Eric Huffman: Geez.

Nancy Pearcey: No face at all. Or blank face. So we think of men in terms of their character. You know, when you look at someone in the eyes and you have a conversation, you're looking into their face. So you judge men more by their character and by their personality and who they are. Women outside the church as well are judged by their bodies. I thought that was a fascinating study.

Eric Huffman: Yeah, it is.

Nancy Pearcey: And women as well as men would draw the women, you know, all the-

Eric Huffman: Is that right?

Nancy Pearcey: All the physical details, you know, the shape. Yes, women as well as men would do that.

Eric Huffman: Interesting. We see that playing out in the world that sort of if we are just sort of meat packets and we can judge each other like you would judge a piece of, you know, meat at the livestock show or whatever, then maybe that's why we have OnlyFans now. Maybe that's why we have a problem, a problem to say the least, with pornographic material and the abuse and use of it online. Maybe that's why we have so many of the obesity-related problems that we have is if this is just meat and not really sacred at all, then it's just for show and for pleasure.

Nancy Pearcey: Yeah. It's funny when I speak at conferences and so on, I always get people coming up to me and saying that they're using Love Thy Body for other things besides the topics I covered. The first one was a woman... actually, she was one of my students, a grad student whose teenage daughter had a severe eating disorder, so severe that she had to be hospitalized.

And she said, when her daughter came home, "We are going through your book, Love Thy Body, sentence by sentence. She said, I didn't know that I should teach her to love her body, that she was destroying her body because she hated it."

I've had people come up to me after speaking, saying things like, "I'm using your book because I was sexually abused and I learned to try to detach myself from my body because my body was the source of pain." I've talked to people who've had drug addiction and obesity. So it is interesting that Love Thy Body is much broader than even the topics that I covered in the book.

But you mentioned pornography and the hookup culture is a chapter in the book. And I do talk there about how that too represents that sort of split between the body and the person. I quote a young college student named Naomi who said—it was in Rolling Stone magazine—"The mistake people make is they assume that there are two distinct elements in a relationship, one emotional and one physical, and they pretend that there are clean lines between them." So she was seeing that the only way you could really be involved in the hookup culture was to kind of separate yourself from your body.

Or another quote from a college student named Alicia who said, "The hookup culture is very scripted. You learn to turn everything off except your body. You make yourself emotionally invulnerable." People involved in hookup culture recognize the only way I can do this is to try to separate myself from my body.

Eric Huffman: Gosh. Otherwise, it just wouldn't be survivable.

Nancy Pearcey: Yes. In fact, there's a book out that came out after mine, so it's not in there. But it was a book on prostitution. It was the first book where she actually went and interviewed prostitutes. And it was amazing. One after another, they all said, The only way I can do this is to completely separate my person, myself from what my body's doing. That's how I survive, is I make that distinction." I thought, there it is again.

You know, the only way they can survive in this job, this line of work, is to say, you know, you're not touching myself, you're touching my body, but you are not touching myself.

Eric Huffman: I think that is the only way to survive a world in which we're called upon to give ourselves away.

Nancy Pearcey: There was a psychologist who I quote in the book who works on a college campus. And she said, "The two most prescribed medications on the college campus are birth control pills and antidepressants." And she said, that's not a coincidence.

Eric Huffman: Yeah, there might be a correlation there, actually, and a causation. But the question I think on many people's minds is, how is it better to tell young Christians and old Christians that sexually, let's say, putting everything else aside, food and all the other stuff we've talked about, just with people's sexual expressions and sex lives, to wait and save everything for marriage, you know. And even if it takes longer than you hope, to wait and hold on to your sexuality, keep that saved for marriage. How is that more liberating and more loving of the body?

Nancy Pearcey: Because it keeps the whole person integrated. I often get from my students, isn't it enough to be in love? But even then, that's not... if sex... think of it this way. The deepest, most intimate, most complete physical union is meant to express the most complete and intimate emotional and personal union. I mean, it's meant to be expression of the inner person.

So, if your inner person is not completely committed with this person, then in a sense you're lying with your body, you're saying something that's not true. Because if what you do is an expression of your inner self... And it is, I mean, how do we know the other person's inner self? By what they do with their body, what they say, what they do, you know.

So in one sense, your body is even more important because it's the only way I know your inner self. So, if what you do is expressing your inner self, then the most complete and intimate physical union is meant to be an expression of the most complete personal union. And anything less than that is not telling the truth.

I have to tell you, this was how I thought of it when I was a teenager even, when I was not a Christian.

Eric Huffman: Really?

Nancy Pearcey: Yeah, yeah. I thought, I'm lying. You know, if I let a guy even hold my hand, if I even let him hold my hand when I don't like him, in a sense, I'm lying with my body. I'm saying something that's not true. So if it's true of something as simple as letting somebody hold your hand, how much more is it true of the sexual union?

Eric Huffman: What's interesting about hookup culture is it's gotten to the point now where holding a hand is a bigger deal than hooking up.

Nancy Pearcey: That's true. You know, I've heard young people talk about how they've hooked up with more people than they've held hands with. And that seems to be a common phenomenon these days. It's a very sad sign of the times.

Nancy Pearcey: Yes, it is.

Eric Huffman: I think it's always shocking to people when they see the data, though, on sexual satisfaction. And the most sexually satisfied people seem to be folks that are monogamous and married and having more sex than anyone and better sex, apparently, by their own accord.

Nancy Pearcey: I do talk about this in the next book, the deity that you just mentioned. It first came to light in 1977 in the magazine Red Book. I don't know if you even remember.

Eric Huffman: I have vague memories in the checkout aisle.

Nancy Pearcey: Red Book was a, you know, completely secular women's magazine. And they did a survey, and they asked some questions about sexuality, and they asked questions about religion. And to their great surprise, they discovered that highly religious women who are married have much higher levels of sexual satisfaction. 1977. And it's been repeatedly replicated.

Eric Huffman: Clearly, that's a shock to people because they expect Christians to be prudish and boring and, you know, just utilitarian about sex. So it takes the world by surprise when they hear these things.

Nancy Pearcey: Exactly. If you want to keep up with it, the Institute for Family Studies is constantly churning out these studies and constantly finding out that married people, and especially married Christians, have the highest level of satisfaction.

Eric Huffman: Fantastic. I'm happy to hear that as a married Christian myself. Let's talk about the second book because it's so good, and we're not doing it justice today. It's called The Toxic War on Masculinity: How Christianity Reconciles the Sexes. I hope we can have you back in the future to get deeper into this, but just tell us why you chose this topic and why you wrote this book.

Nancy Pearcey: A couple reasons, but my eye certainly was caught by the level of hostility that has become acceptable to express against men and masculinity. The Washington Post had an article titled, Why Can't We Hate Men? Really? A mainstream publication like that?

Eric Huffman: Why Can't We Hate Men?

Nancy Pearcey: Why Can't We Hate Men?

Eric Huffman: Wow.

Nancy Pearcey: You Have Done Us Wrong, is the second part.

Eric Huffman: Sorry.

Nancy Pearcey: And the Huffington Post editor tweeted, hashtag, kill all men.

Eric Huffman: What?

Nancy Pearcey: You can buy t-shirts that say, so many men, so little ammunition.

Eric Huffman: Wow.

Nancy Pearcey: Books have come out with titles like, I Hate Men, No Good Men, and Are Men Necessary?

Eric Huffman: I think we are still, fairly. Biologically. For now.

Nancy Pearcey: You keep qualifying that. And even men are jumping on the bandwagon. There's a male author who wrote a book in which he said, talking about healthy masculinity is like talking about healthy cancer.

Eric Huffman: Wow.

Nancy Pearcey: And this one came out just a few weeks ago, so it's not even in the book. Did you see this? The director of the movie Avatar-

Eric Huffman: James Cameron?

Nancy Pearcey: Yes, James Cameron, said, testosterone is a toxin that you have to work out of your system. No wonder a survey finds that 46% of American men, almost half of American men, agreed with the statement "these days society seems to punish men just for acting like men".

Eric Huffman: Wow.

Nancy Pearcey: So whether you agree or not, that is a large percentage of people who do think men are getting a bad deal. In fact, there was one in Britain, even more recently, that was 55% of men. So it's going up.

Eric Huffman: When they say acting like men, what do you think they mean?

Nancy Pearcey: I found that Toxic War On Masculinity has proven to be the most controversial book I've written.

Eric Huffman: That's saying a lot, Nancy. You're not afraid of controversy.

Nancy Pearcey: The earlier one had homosexuality, transgenderism, abortion. So I put this survey right at the front of the book. There is a very interesting survey done by a sociologist. So he's not a Christian. He's very well known in his field, and so he speaks all around the world.

So he came up with this interesting experiment. He would ask young men two questions. He'd say, what does it mean to be a good man? If you're at a funeral and in the eulogy somebody says he was a good man, what does that mean? He said, all around the world, young men have no problem answering that. They say things like honor, duty, integrity, sacrifice, do the right thing, be responsible, be a provider, be a protector, look out for the little guy. I like that one.

And he's done these surveys from Brazil to Sweden to Australia. And he said men seem to have an innate knowledge. As we would say, they're made in God's image. They have an innate knowledge of what it means to be a good man. It's inherent. Romans 2, they all have a conscience.

But then he follows up with a second question. He says, what does it mean if I say to you, man up, be a real man? Oh, no, the young men would say, that's completely different. That means be tough, be strong, never show weakness, always win, win at all costs, that's how they put it. Be competitive, get rich, get laid. I'm using their language.

So in other words, the real man is what many people would consider more toxic traits. Certainly, if it gets decoupled from the good man, from the moral ideal, it can easily slide into traits like entitlement, dominance, and control. So what it means is that men around the world made in God's image, do have an innate sense of what it means to be a good man. But they also feel the cultural pressure to be the real man.

Eric Huffman: To man up.

Nancy Pearcey: To man up.

Nancy Pearcey: It does suggest a different approach that we can take. Instead of accusing men of being toxic, most men don't respond very well to being called toxic.

Eric Huffman: Yeah, imagine that.

Nancy Pearcey: But what we can do then is try to tap into their innate knowledge of what it means to be the good man. Can we affirm? Can we support? Can we ally with the good part of the man and draw that out? I think it gives us a much more positive way of approaching these issues.

Eric Huffman: How do you think we as Christians in particular can do that? Whether it's through someone in the Bible that we look up to or some model of masculinity, how do we cast this vision?

Nancy Pearcey: Well, this was the second reason I wanted to write the book. I ran across sociological data on Christian men that blew me away. It was astonishing. Obviously, Christian men are often considered exhibit A of toxic masculinity, right? They're considered the worst.

Eric Huffman: Because they're sort of controlling and-

Nancy Pearcey: If you believe in any sort of concept of male headship, then obviously you're going to be controlling, overbearing, domineering, patriarchal.

Eric Huffman: So evangelical Christians or classical Catholic Christians or someone like that would be the worst in their group.

Nancy Pearcey: I'll give you one. It was easy to find quotes. I'll just give you one of them. The founder of the ChurchToo movement, which came after the MeToo movement, said that the theology of male headship feeds the rape culture that we see permeating American Christianity today.

Eric Huffman: Gosh.

Nancy Pearcey: So the social scientists looked at these charges and said, where's your evidence? You're making these accusations, where's your evidence? So they went and did the studies. And found out that evangelical Christian men actually test out as the most loving husbands and the most engaged fathers. I quote more than a dozen different studies.

Eric Huffman: Oh, so there's multiple studies?

Nancy Pearcey: Oh, yeah.

Eric Huffman: I'm just thinking for our listeners if they wanted to sort of verify this. I can imagine some people would want to look these up.

Nancy Pearcey: Exactly.

Eric Huffman: So they'll have to buy your book to do that, I guess.

Nancy Pearcey: They have to buy it. They have to look at the end notes. Well, here's the deal. I had to go digging in the academic literature to find these. They're not being publicized.

Eric Huffman: Why? You don't have to tell me why. I know why. They don't fit the narrative.

Nancy Pearcey: But I did. I mean, I'm at a university, so I could go digging into the academic journals. And what I found is... Here's another pushback. I often hear people say, oh, well, of course, the wives said they were happy. Their husband's sitting right there.

Eric Huffman: Right, they have to, yeah.

Nancy Pearcey: No, the wives were interviewed separately. Most of the studies were done using these large databases with thousands of people, Christian, non-Christian, Muslim, Jew, all kinds of people.

Eric Huffman: Wow.

Nancy Pearcey: Most of them were not done by small Christian groups.

Eric Huffman: What were the metrics used or the questions asked in some of these studies?

Nancy Pearcey: Well, I'll just tell you how they test it out. So the evangelical fathers, their wives test out as reporting being the happiest with their husbands' love and affection.

Eric Huffman: Happier than any other?

Nancy Pearcey: Than any other group in America.

Eric Huffman: Wow.

Nancy Pearcey: The evangelical fathers test out as the most engaged with their children, both in shared activities like sports and church youth group, and in discipline, like setting limits on screen time and enforcing bedtime.

Eric Huffman: Sure.

Nancy Pearcey: Evangelical couples test out as having the lowest rate of divorce of any group in America.

Eric Huffman: Well, let's pause, because people are saying right now, everyone's heard Christians and non-Christians get divorced at the same rate.

Nancy Pearcey: Let me give you the last stat.

Eric Huffman: Okay, sorry. We'll circle back.

Nancy Pearcey: The last stat was, they also have the lowest level of domestic violence of any major group in America.

Eric Huffman: Wow.

Nancy Pearcey: So it completely shatters the media stereotypes, the media narrative. Now, the first pushback I get is what you just said: Haven't y'all heard that Christians divorce at the same rate? In my research, I found that it's one of the most widely quoted statistics by Christian leaders.

Eric Huffman: By Christian leaders, right?

Nancy Pearcey: By Christian leaders. So they went back to the data. The largest study was done by Brad Wilcox at the University of Virginia. His study was so large, it fills a whole book. And he said, they separated out Christian men, evangelicals who actually live it out, who actually go to church regularly and are very committed from nominal Christians. My students don't know what the word nominal is, so I have to explain. It means in name only.

Eric Huffman: That's right. They don't know... If you've ever done a survey and you don't know what other box to check, you're more Christian than anything else, you'll check the Christian box.

Nancy Pearcey: Baptist. In America in particular, because we do have a lot of cultural Christianity compared to other countries.

Eric Huffman: There's rarely a box for lapsed Christian on those surveys.

Nancy Pearcey: Or cultural Christian.

Eric Huffman: Right. Wish there was.

Nancy Pearcey: Yeah, my family background, you know.

Eric Huffman: Yeah, it would clarify some of our data, I think.

Nancy Pearcey: And nominal Christians test it out shockingly differently. I mean, they fit the toxic stereotypes.

Eric Huffman: How so?

Nancy Pearcey: So their wives report the lowest level of happiness with their husband's expressions of love.

Eric Huffman: Lowest meaning lower than other Christians or lowest lowest?

Nancy Pearcey: Lowest.

Eric Huffman: Really? Lower than secular people?

Nancy Pearcey: My memory is that it's lower than secular people.

Eric Huffman: Wow.

Nancy Pearcey: They are the least engaged with their children. But this one I know for sure is lower than secular. They have the highest rates of divorce, higher than secular men. And they have the highest rates of domestic abuse and violence, higher than secular men.

Eric Huffman: Goodness gracious. What do you attribute that to?

Nancy Pearcey: People ask me that a lot. And of course, the researchers don't exactly know. They just number crunch. But apparently it's because they're taking religious language like [Hatshep?] and submission, but they're infusing it with secular meaning, you know, the meanings of dominance and entitlement and control. They're infusing it with secular meaning, but they're putting religious language on top of it. So they feel justified. You know, their religion is justifying them, giving them permission to be like this. Well, the secular person doesn't have religious justification. So the Christian who has religious justification, but who's living off the secular script is actually ending up then being worse.

Eric Huffman: Yeah, because not only do I feel like doing the wrong thing, God is letting me or blessing me in doing the wrong thing. Added justification.

Nancy Pearcey: Exactly. So that's why the numbers are so skewed. Because if you just do a study of evangelicals, you're getting men who are better than secular men, and you're getting men that are worse than secular men. So of course, the numbers are going to be misleading. They're going to be skewed.

Eric Huffman: Well, I can't express this properly, but I know day to day in ministry, there's nothing more exhilarating than watching a man become a man in the best and biblical sense of the word. A man who really gets biblical manhood, not just because you see the lights come on in him, which is a beautiful thing to behold, but you see the ripple effects of one man choosing to become a man like Jesus affects so many others in ways that I don't want to demean or diminish in sort of other situations.

When a child comes to Jesus or when a woman comes to Jesus, all of those situations have different effects on others. But when a man authentically comes to Jesus and lives into his biblical masculinity, there is something profound and I would dare say generational in the shift.

Nancy Pearcey: It is generational. So there was an award-winning study, 35 years. So a longitudinal study done by... his last name is Bengston. And he found that if a father is a Christian, his children are more likely to follow him in the faith than if the mother is a Christian. That if the father is the spiritual leader in the home, the children follow him.

Eric Huffman: Right. But I would guess that if the father was nominal in his Christianity, that the effect on his kid's generation would be a net negative for the kingdom of God.

Nancy Pearcey: Well, here's what Bengston says. It has to do with the warmth and closeness of the relationship that the children have with the father. If he's got all the correct doctrine, if he's a pillar of the church, if he's an upstanding, respectable person, but he's not warm to his kids, they don't follow him.

Eric Huffman: Fascinating.

Nancy Pearcey: It has to do with the warm relationship. And there's another study, by the way, that even found the masculinity depends on the relationship. It's a science reporter, wrote a book, and he said, it doesn't hinge on the masculinity of the father. The masculinity of the son doesn't hinge on the father's masculinity. It hinges on his warm, close relationship with the son.

Eric Huffman: Wow.

Nancy Pearcey: The son will have a positive sense of his own masculinity if the father has a warm relationship. And that's the secular study. So both the Christian study and the secular study are saying it all depends on the father's close, loving relationship with the son.

Eric Huffman: Wow. So there's so much here that I want to talk about, but this book, again, Toxic War on Masculinity, is available on Amazon and anywhere you want to buy books. Have you had time in the last two weeks to stop and consider the deep and rich irony of a woman like yourself, having been raised by an abusive father, writing a book, a deeply researched book in defense of masculinity, and lifting up masculinity as something good and godly?

Nancy Pearcey: I was interviewed by a Christian psychologist. And he said-

Eric Huffman: Was this an interview or a session?

Nancy Pearcey: Yeah, yeah, a podcast. Podcast. And he said, "I opened your book and I read your story and I thought, oh no, it's going to be... it's an abused woman, she's going to be angry at men." And then he said, "As I got into it, I thought, no, it's very affirming of men. It's very supportive. It's very warm. It turns out what happened is your experience just gives you that authenticity of having been there. You know, you're not writing from an ivory tower. You had to personally work through a very negative view of masculinity."

Of course, I went through my feminist stage. A long one. A long feminist stage, you know, where, of course, men were evil. All the world's problems are because of men. You know, I went through that reactionary phase. But I appreciate him saying that. That it's clear you're not writing from an ivory tower, but from the trenches.

Eric Huffman: Yeah. You have a really unique perspective and unique story that adds a lot of credence to your work. I hope anyone listening or watching right now is absorbing that and seeing that and will go pick up your books. Because unlike a lot of academics, I will say, you speak to people who are sincerely on the margins of Christianity. And some of them are sort of Christians just barely on the inside. And some of them are non-Christians barely on the outside. And you speak, again, with such authenticity to those folks who have questions that I think, I know lives are changed by your work.

When you put a book out like The Toxic War on Masculinity, you're taking a lot of risks. You've mentioned how controversial it was. And just as a final question, I guess I would ask, what is your hope, your ultimate hope, in putting out a work like this one for people to read and consume?

Nancy Pearcey: Well, I have two sons. So that's part of the personal goal, too, is I don't want them growing up in a world that's hostile to masculinity. I have a quote in there from a psychotherapist who writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal. And she said, "In my practice, I'm getting young men increasingly who are coming in defeated, feeling demeaned, feeling demoralized, because they sense that they're growing up in a culture that's hostile to masculinity." Of course, this is for women, too, which is why the subtitle is How Christianity Reconciles the Sexes. Because obviously, women have a big stake as well.

Eric Huffman: For sure.

Nancy Pearcey: And men getting a biblical, God-centered view of masculinity.

Eric Huffman: Well, thank you again for all you're doing to get the truth out there, for telling your story and being vulnerable. Again, if you're watching or listening to this right now, I hope you'll go pick up both of these books, The Toxic War on Masculinity, and also Love Thy Body, both of them by Professor Nancy Pearcey.

Nancy, thank you so much for being with us today on Maybe God.

Nancy Pearcey: Thank you for having me. I've enjoyed it.

Julie Mirlicourtois: If you have any comments or questions about today's episode, don't forget to engage with us on social media or email us at [email protected]. Today's episode was produced by Julie Mirlicourtois and Eric and Giovanna Huffman. Our associate producer and social media manager is Adira Polite, our editor is Justin Mayer, and the director of all of our YouTube videos is Mark Calver. Please don't forget to rate us wherever you just listened to this podcast.