If you are someone with an interest in internet weirdos, you will probably enjoy the QAA miniseries MANCLAN, and in particular their episode on "godpilled" masculinity influencers (preview here). It seems like a lot of guys whose raison d'être was telling thirsty teens how they can lay as much pipe as possible have had a revelation and decided to denounce their womanising ways and embrace conservative religiosity, with particular attention to Roosh, who the old-heads will remember, and someone called Hamza who's apparently a Youtube lad and with whom I'm completely unfamiliar.
This topic obviously holds particular interest for me given the project on masculinity I'm currently attempting, very slowly, and my own relationship with faith, but unsurprisingly the people they were talking about seem intensely frustrating. There's certainly a significant amount of bathos to guys who were previously self-publishing books on how best to sexually harrass women turning on a dime to becoming "I must find a tradwife" sorts—Roosh is the funniest here, as he's apparently published a book about going round America and not (in the vein of his previous books) attempting to sleep with every woman he meets, but rather surreptitiously looking for a wife, which also really put me in mind of the first Borat film.
Now, as a Christian, I certainly believe that forgiveness is there for those who repent—forgiveness from the Almighty, at least: the world may, justifiably, be a bit slower to get there. I even believe that those who lived lives of sin can become shepherds themselves—the minister and hymnwriter John Newton, for instance, was famously a slave-ship captain. He did, however became an active campaigner for abolition, while in the case of the influencers covered by the documentary... well, there there seems to be relatively little sign of real repentance of their past misdeeds. They are merely using past foolishness as evidence of current sagacity: look at me, I spent all this time doing the bad thing, now I have realised how mistaken I was, listen to my wisdom. They've jumped from structuring their lives around an evil and foolish form of masculinity to structuring their lives around a half-understood notion of religiosity (or not even really structuring their lives around it, in at least the case of the younger people they cover)¹.
You see over and over that they've either embraced the most stupid possible conception of their preferred religion and then started setting themselves up as authorities on the topic, despite their utter lack of credibility. The role of clergy—and while I'm obviously most familiar with this in a Christian context, I think this is pretty true of all religions—is in a lot of ways a combination of spiritual guide and social worker. Sunday services are the thing everyone sees (and there's a lot of admin as well) but you're there to help not only those in your flock but anyone who walks through the church doors, who approaches you in the street—spiritually, yes, but also materially as best you can. If homeless people came past the vicarage where my grandfather lived, he'd feed them and take them to the nearby abbey where the monks would look after them. This is not the vibe I get from these lads.
Someone on the episode said they've not really converted or reverted to Orthodox Christianity or fundamentalist Islam or whatever, but rather they've converted to the many-flavoured Religion Of Being Redpilled, and that rings true to me. They're clearly grabbed by a strong feeling of "wrong-ness"—about their past actions, or society, or whatever, but can't really work out what to do with it, so just carry on doing pretty much what they were before but with a new spin. Especially in the case of the younger influencers–they've so thoroughly geared their brains to look for how they can make content that will get engagement they can't actually stop making videos long enough to think about any of this stuff or really put it into practice. At least Roosh deleted all his old stuff (though there are also some comments in the episode to the effect that his old site got blacklisted by payment processors, so, y'know, possibly some more material incentives there.
Annie Kelly, one of the podcast hosts, mentions that a lot of this feeels like the influencers are just getting older and wanting to settle down. Age also, though, brings with it a sense that everything's getting worse, and that can push you in some funny directions. Adam Mastroianni did that paper about how everyone has always thought things are getting worse, but I've got to say, I'm starting to feel it a bit. If you were lucky enough to have a relatively stable upbringing, you find that as time goes on the social base on which your impression of stability rested just stays static, then slowly decays. Some of it is right in front of you, because it's material condition decay, but it also, more scarily, happens when you're not looking. Relatives of your parents' generation and friends' parents get divorced. Grandparents get ill and die. Pets get ill and die. Since I started writing this piece I've been home to visit my family and Lola, the best dog in the world, and she is undeniably ailing. My grandfather's health is deteriorating so rapidly that he's soon going to have to be moved into full-time care. My parents no longer live in the house where I grew up. Again, this is all me and my expereince, but I've got to admit, I do sympathise somewhat with the feeling that seems to me to be behind at least some of the things the podcast discusses. I'd suggest maybe some attempts at earnest meditative introspection and a sincere and humble spiritual practice might be better ways to approach the problems the guys seem to be having, though.
¹ I find myself reminded of something Jordan Peterson said a few years back about how churches can appeal to young men more by... being more strict in their dress code?
Tell those who have never been in a church exactly what to do, how to dress, when to show up, who to contact and most importantly, what they can do. Ask more, not less of those you are inviting. Ask more of them than anyone ever has. Remind them who they are in the deepest sense, and help them become that.
I'm not inherently opposed to the idea that sometimes asking more, not less of people is good in certain situations, but this really is the kind of thing you can only say if you've not actually been to church since your childhood in the 1800s. Churches do, in fact, have websites and signs up outside which will have contact details and service times. Sunday best isn't really a thing any more, I don't know any churches with dress codes, and what exactly is meant here by "what they can do"? Services are pretty explanatory—you are told what to do and when—and if he's talking about getting more involved in the life of the church, I know from personal experience that if a young person walks into a church, they will be enthusiastically greeted by the minister or a churchwarden or someone like that, and if they display the slightest enthusiasm, immediately press-ganged into doing the teas and coffees or something. This is a misdiagnosis of a problem that's irritated me for ages and only now have I remembered it enough to put it in a footnote. How are you going to get them in the door in the first place, you ask? Oh:
To the churches…Protestant—you’re the worst at the moment, Catholic, Orthodox, invite young men. Put up a billboard, saying young men are welcome here.
Famously churches do have boards that say people are welcome, and I dunno, maybe that specific wording isn't the kind of thing to be putting up outside Catholic churches in particular? Just a thought.