A blog for Christian men "going their own way."

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A Light Goes On at Boundless (Well, Kinda')

Hmmm. Nobody informed me of a lunar eclipse. No news on a comet, either. A strange turn of events has come to pass, nonetheless. After beating my bruised head against a thick wall of denial in the Evangelical blogosphere for more than two years, somebody at Boundless finally acknowledges the proverbial 300-pound gorilla in the room, a verity that many of us men have affirmed for some time. Could this be the start of some honest soul-searching by religious leaders, Christian women, and other appropriate parties regarding the challenges men face in a society that does not respect them? Don't hold your breath. Suzanne Hadley says:
If it's true that men are so afraid of bad marriages that they'd rather be lifelong bachelors, I'm glad there's a voice reminding them of God's values: that He desires to give them fulfillment and joy through good marriages. That, in fact, they will live out some of their greatest moments as men, leaders and spiritual warriors within this context.
What if God desires us to make our own choices about the matter, Suzanne? If he is that interested in our choices regarding our marital status, is he interested enough to make "soul mates" for each and every one of us? How far do we want to go with our presuppositions about what the sovereignty of God implies? As far as full-blown fatalism? I am keenly interested in what our obligations are under God's New Covenant with men as delineated by the teachings of Christ and his Apostles. Where in the New Covenant does the Holy Spirit decree that most men should get married? Where is this ordinance clearly spelled out? Do I have to wait another two years before I get an answer to this question and any counterarguments I might raise?

24 comments:

Amir Larijani said...

No...Anakin. It's another slam against men. This time, they are bringing up a legitimate reality--that men are being more risk-averse with respect to marriage--and framing it in un-Biblical terms (fear) rather than Biblical ones (prudence).

This is another case of our friends at Boundless assuming the worst in men. Quite frankly, I find it very disappointing.

How hard should it be for them to concede reality?

wombatty said...

...assuming the worst in men

...par for the course...

Mordecai Lament said...

I left a comment that goes something like this (let's see if they post it):

So, here's what I'm not getting: I fail to see how exactly being a man means getting married to show how much of a man you are. If that's the case, then I think we can safely take Jesus and Paul out of the equation.

Then we bring I Corinthians 7 up, and proclaim that this an exception, not a rule. To a point, I agree. Most people will marry. But it seems after reading this and other articles that your manhood is based on whether or not you are married or not. Why? I just don't see what it has to do with being a man.

So, not marrying is a sin? And where in scripture (not in traditions) can you show me this? I am not interested in traditions. I'm far more interested in what God has to say on the matter. And thus far, I'm not finding a scriptural argument, but I am finding an argument based on traditions of men. It therefore becomes a matter of opinion, not inspired truth.

I understand... singleness isn't for everyone. Most people do marry. That's fine. I'm not disparaging you for your choice, but I am asking you leave me to mine. Even scripture commands us to "work our our salvation with fear and trembling."

Those with the desire to marry are no more second class citizens in God's Kingdom than those who choose not to. To pit these two groups against each other further divides the church. And this would seem to me exactly what is happening.

I would caution men to be very careful who they marry. This is an age where your manhood is distorted by all: By Society (As materialism in the office all the way down to the entertainment we celebrate is perverted. Males as portrayed as idiots, sex-crazed, violent drunks who desire to get ahead at the office, marry and have two and a half kids with the big house and white picket fence.)and sometimes even by the American church itself (Because they seem to think that men owe women marriage. Or perhaps the inverse that God doesn't desire for men to marry. Neither of which seem scripturally sound)

Here's what I can tell you about men from scripture:

1. We are Created in the Image of God. (Genesis 1:26-27)

2. Men weren't created to be alone, but for community (Genesis 2:18, and I think there's some importance to the word "help meet" in the greek, but I'll leave that to everyone's perusal.)

3. Marriage isn't the end all and be all of what God desires. (Luke 20:34-35)

That's probably an oversimplification, but I don't think being a male is simple. Or at least as simple as people would make it out to be.

Suzanne said...

Hmm. I didn't intend to assume the worst in men. I happen to like them a lot and know some extraordinary ones. One of them actually sent me the link to that article and said, "Here's one reason guys are staying single."

I thought the fear of a bad marriage was actually a fair reason why men might not be rushing to the altar--I mean really, who wants a bad marriage? And prudence is important. I sympathize with that. However, men, women, sex, procreation and God's commands being what they are...it seems in the cards for most of us to get married. As you point out, it's not for everyone. But for the rest, fear of a bad marriage could possibly hinder them from experiencing something God-ordained. I really didn't mean to slam, Amir. Had the article been about women fearing marriage, I would have written the same post. Peace.

Amir Larijani said...

Suzanne: Fair enough. I'm just saying that we need to look at this rationally. Men aren't quaking in their boots about marriage any more than women are.

Fact is, risk has gone up for both sexes, because the overall risk of divorce has gone up due to "no-fault divorce".

Fact is, men will lose more in a divorce today than they would have lost 30 years ago.

Some may celebrate that as a matter of equality, but we must never forget the Law of Unintended Consequences.

The increased risk of divorce, combined with the increased consequences of divorce, has resulted in increased risk aversion--by both sexes--which results in fewer (and later) marriages.

Can some of that risk-aversion be "fear"? In some cases that would be correct.

It is also true that much of that risk-aversion is prudence.

In your case, I would have at least included the latter in my piece, when discussing Christian men.

singlextianman said...

Suzanne: Can you unequivocally (without going down side rabbit trails about "gifts of singleness" etc.) state that a man is not sinning by being single? Better yet, can you get Ted to say this? On the boundless blog?

If you can do this, than I would presume to ask for yet another thing: Can you (or Ted) - on the boundless blog -- state that it is, or could be, a sin for a pastoral figure to tell a single man that he is sinning by being single?

I'm not asking for a discourse about about the wisdom and/or glories of marriage; or a defense of the same. I'm asking for precisely what I am asking for.

Suzanne said...

singlextianman,

I'm trying to understand what you're looking for here: validation? I absolutely believe that a person can be single and in the center of God's will. I see this in Scripture (Paul's discussion of singleness) and I perceive it to be true in my own life (single, 30, bearing fruit). So if you believe God is asking you be single, obey Him! I will speak for myself only, because I am not Boundless. But I believe someone could marry in disobedience (lack of prudence as Amir points out) or remain single in disobedience. The point here is to submit to WHATEVER God is requiring. It's a known fact that selfishness motivates much of what my generation does.

Here's a thought. God does not change. He created Eve for Adam for some obvious reasons and some mysterious ones—both of which remain today. The point I often try to make is that singles should not discount some of the basic biblical principles surrounding marriage and family. I wrote about this here: http://www.boundless.org/2005/articles/a0001360.cfm

So, no, I would not unequivocally say that singleness is either sin or righteousness. Obedience to God is righteousness; disobedience unrighteousness. And only the individual knows if he or she is right with God. If you know you are right with God, keep following hard after Him! He will reward you. And if a pastor is being a stumbling block to you, find a new pastor! Rely on God's Word. Best!

Triton said...

So, no, I would not unequivocally say that singleness is either sin or righteousness. Obedience to God is righteousness; disobedience unrighteousness.

Wow. Suzanne actually seems to get it. Way to go, Suzanne!

Don't let the folks at Boundless see your comment, though. ;)

singlextianman said...

How to put this in a Godly way....

Suzanne, I was laying hands on the sick and seeing them recover when you were stooling your diapers, excuse me for my bluntness. I've tried to win back an unfaithful wife for years when I was biblically and morally free to go my way. I'm not looking for validation from Suzanne. You really should, excuse me, have a Christian man with a psychological and spiritual backbone vet your comments before you say something that could be interpreted in an unfavorable way. I hear the irenic intent of your coming by here and your statement that you weren't trying to slam men - and I honor you for that. Thank you. Grace on you. I'm going to pray daily for you for the rest of this year for your act of Graciousness in that regard.

...I hear your wish of "peace" and "best" - but actions speak louder than words -- and so does a lack of action when action is what is called for. Let me try to explain why you should keep listening:

.... I really am not raising a fuss here about your words, but I'm trying to wake you up to something: Sometimes boundless doesn't "hear" what it sounds like, and I'm pretty sure they aren't in touch with what some churches and church leaders do with what they/you say. And you are, excuse me, speaking as a representative of boundless here. Hence the importance of choosing your words with great care.

(Your buddy Ted has a different ecclesiology, btw - don't let him see your suggestion to me that I change churches if a pastor reproves me for being single. He is of the opinion that pastors have been put in our lives by God. If I were to to choose a different pastor it might lead us to speculate that I am the one choosing a pastor, which makes the idea that God has placed him in my life ontologically difficult.)

Here's what I would like you to take away from this, younger sister:

Realize that when you at boundless identify, even only implicitly, something as sinful, or imply or directly state that something is "unbiblical" or vs. versa (say "biblical" dating)- you have done something to alter the social ecology in the church when people believe your words. And sometimes you have made an ecologic mess that needs cleaning up, excuse me.

In my life I've been on the receiving end of a church elder who tried to make relational decisions for me based, I suppose, on what he had for breakfast (i.e. what he thought God was telling him) rather than stick to his biblical responsibilities. This is what puts the fire in me about this on behalf of my son and others.


So: It is important for you - for boundless - to explicitly disavow the idea that single men are sinners per se. You might have said this here, but you haven't said it unambiguously at the boundless blog. You need to leave out that bit about whether someone believes God is speaking to them about this, as a) they may not know what God is saying and b) it is moot to the point here, which is that a man is not sinning by being single, PERIOD.

You presumably have the freedom to do this. Or maybe you don't. ... But I hope I've helped you to see why you should. Consider the social ramifications for a single, ernest, Christian man who is thought to be sinning because he is single (or dating without an elder's permission or approval, say). Catch-22.

And while you are at it, consider those social ramifications for the man who is called to be single but doesn't feel the need to announce it to every believer he meets, like a leper calling out "unclean, unclean!" Ted has expressed disapproval of a man "dating" if he has a "gift of singleness" - I'm still trying to wrap my mind around that mind-boggler. I guess you all live in a world where every believer has perfect revelatory knowledge of what is going on with them.

singlextianman said...

Lamentation of the Single Christian Man

by singlextianman


We in Sardis, the weary, we strive, as you
also do. We know Him, too; we do not fail Him
in our state as men alone. Our love is true
for Him. We contest world and flesh, no whim
animates our life with God. But when you
gather in His name you forget these black sheep
you wish to change. Point us to our Strength.
Why will you not sow what you wish to reap?
Or you forget not, but think us childish sons
and not brothers, as He named us. At length
of this we learn your mind, and hear the sound
of shame. Rather, teach us as eaglets, to fly
with sight, to ride His Wind and not come down.
Strengthen what remains and is about to die.

Christina said...

It sounds to me, SXM, that you would rather have evangelical leaders affirm your standing regardless of obedience to God rather than encourage obedience to God.

That they seem to think that obeying God means only one thing (getting married in this case) is not something that Boundless or anyone else is responsible for. That's their own fault for being duped or falling for a hidden agenda no matter where it originated.

Maken, as I understand, actually had some good points - that she took a bit too far.

Boundless has good points, which admittedly can tend to be rather biased.

YOU can not demand what you are demanding. And appealing to your age is unbecoming. Age has very little to do with this. I can respect you because you have seen more and know more, but just because Suzanne and I are young does not give you any reason to disregard what is said.

She was right. Whether you remain single or get married, you are sinning only if you are disobeying God.

And all the talk from Boundless about pursuing marriage has been directed at men who do not pursue marriage, not because of some obedience to God to remain single, but because of not wanting to engage in such a risky institution - which simply smacks of disobedience, because at the heart of that lack of want is a fear - whether it is "quaking in your boots" as Amir would put it or not.

And Boundless has addressed those that are called to not marry. However, they don't spend a lot of time on those because, as I understand it, the goal of Boundless is to bring focus to the single years and prepare singles for marriage.

To QUESTION and hold oneself accountable to what they believe God is asking of them is a good thing. And being told to evaluate yourself and re-evaluate is not a bad thing. If anything, it re-affirms you in the path God laid out for you or helps you realize that your reasons for choosing one path over another had little to do with obeying God.

Personally, I think you're asking for something that's just as wrong as evangelical leaders not acknowledging that there's more than one way to obey God. You're asking for affirmation regardless of whether you are obeying or not. And I don't think that should be given to you or anyone else.

singlextianman said...

Christina: You have missed my point, because it is very subtle. By getting boundless to either a) acknowledge that I am not sinning by being single or b) recognizing that such a statement sticks in their throat, I hope to cause them -- and you -- and the sister next to you in the pew -- etc. etc. -- to primarily recognize and see me as a fellow believer rather than someone innately in need of "fixing" or "repenting" by virtue of the fact that I do not have a woman on my arm. When they get the fundamentals correct, other things will begin to follow. And maybe more men will be around. And Suzanne was avoiding my point by changing the subject. She is free to do that. But someday I -- or someone like me -- will force feed this question to them, using the internet as a feeding tube, and it may cause them then to gag and choke until they do address the question directly. Much hinges on how this and other questions are dealt with church-wide in the states. And I do think such a thing can be done in love.

singlextianman said...

Christina (and eavesdroppers): I might add that my words will make more sense if you consider me to be speaking as a kind of atavar for singlextianmen rather than for myself, per se. Amir can enlighten your understanding about whether I need affirmation from the folks at boundless (though I do wish I would see some postings there along the lines of commending ernest single christian men who are swimming upstream against a hostile culture instead of only postings that seem to shake the verbal finger in one way or the other at them)/ As to "appealing to my age", I've gone back over what I've written and see how it could be interpreted thusly.

Christina said...

to primarily recognize and see me as a fellow believer rather than someone innately in need of "fixing" or "repenting" by virtue of the fact that I do not have a woman on my arm.

I don't understand this - and I have to admit, I have not seen it happen...ever.

A woman doesn't walk into a church and scan the pews and say "He has no woman on his arm, therefore he's a sinner". They walk in the church, scan the pews, and say "He has no woman on his arm, I wonder if he's available"...because...*gasp*...your a man in church...and omg, could that mean that you actually take your faith seriously? And omw...is it possible that woman going to church on her own without her parents might actually take her faith seriously and want a husband who does the same?

They start being judgemental when they discover that yes, you are single, yes you take your faith seriously, no you aren't interested either because a) you aren't attracted to her or b) you are called to singleness.

Then the judgement comes as a wounded response. Yeay.

I don't understand where this attitude has come from. I have more issue with the men who tell the pastor that they want to meet and marry a godly young woman who don't acknowledge or attempt to start up a conversation with the one in the same room as them. I have more issue with the men who flirt with every girl with the perfect body, perfect blonde hair, clear complexion, and the cute little sundresses and completely ignore the more down-to-earth, homey girl who'd make a better Godly wife, albeit not so great of eye-candy...and then they complain about how ditzy she is, how unintelligent she is, and how all she cares about is shoes and shopping. Give me a break.

Never have I put any kind of label on a man other than christian that I've met in church and never had reason to think otherwise of.

And I really don't think that many do.

Maybe Debbie Maken does, but that's about it.

Christina said...

While you guys complain about the women, I'd like to make you aware that this happens more in the church in MY experience:

Men who flirt with every girl with the perfect body, perfect blonde hair, clear complexion, and the cute little sundresses.

And judging from how you guys talk about the women you have dated or had experiences with, it reminds me of this:

they complain about how ditzy she is, how unintelligent she is, and how all she cares about is shoes and shopping

Oh, and lets add in the Soccer Mom meme that MLV criticizes on a daily basis.

And the more you complain, the more annoying it gets. The more you spout off your hate for women who are like that, the more frustrating it gets for the women who aren't like that.

One girl (Rachael I think) commented on one of these blogs (I think it may have been Vox Day's) that at first, the girls who aren't like that begin to be wary of...and then strongly dislike...then resent...and learn to hate the women who are like that who have given us such a bad name. That's not how this should be.

And you know why its so frustrating? Because THOSE women capture men's attention. The godly women do not. They are quiet, laid back, concentrating on other things like not getting a husband. And the ones that are trying to get a husband are focusing more on how to be a good wife while putting them in places, situations, and scenarios where a man MIGHT take notice...but those women that you criticize always become the blaring eye-sore that you see. And detest. Because they capture your attention and draw it away from the most genuine of them all.

Admit it. If all of you went to Panera Bread and there was a girl reading a Bible or a philosophy book or Utopia sitting at one of the tables outside and two girls wearing mini skirts, with nice tans, hair done, french manicures, and sporting sun glasses and lip gloss walked by, who'd have your attention?

No wonder this is all you get. Because she captures your attention for a split second until someone who is seductive walks by and wipes all thoughts of the girl with the Bible out of your mind...only for you to remember her as your driving home never to see her again...

Ken said...

Thank God for this blog and thanks for the clear thinking, Mordecai Lament.

The ONLY things a state-licensed marriage guarantees in today's culture with today's laws and courts is this:

1. The spouse who earns more money will pay the other spouse money in the event of divorce. (In California and I'm sure other states, ten years of marriage means the spouse who earned more - which is usually the husband - will pay alimony FOR LIFE as long as the other spouse does not legally remarry.)

2. Any child born to the wife will automatically be considered the husband's by law, even if they haven't shared a bed in years.

There's no penalty for infidelity.

This makes it possible for wives to cheat on their husbands, birth their adulterous lover's child, divorce their husband, shack up with their lover, and collect alimony for life AND child support for 18+ years from their ex-husband.

Fact: women file for divorce more often, and there is no penalty for doing so.

So yes, men should be very cautious about getting married and very choosy about the woman they marry, and the church should encourage this, NOT discourage it.

The Luthier said...

Isn't it just possible that the pretty, clear complexioned, cute sundress wearing women are the godly ones?

The homey appearances don't presuppose a better choice. I have known bookish, homely women who are just as vapid as any supermodel.

There is no crime against noticing attractive women. Women after all only notice the tall(and rich), handsome (and rich), and passionate (and rich).

Neither gender can claim victimhood in the sphere of romance. Set your sights too high or too low and you get what you pay for. Neither does anyone "deserve" to find the love of their life. It only works if both believe that the other truly is.

The way the gender divide is going, neither side is going to be able to admit victory or defeat.

Christina said...

Luthier,

Yeah, its possible.

But in all my attempts at "beautifying", I've discovered some rather important things go by the wayside in order to have the perfect tan, the perfect manicure, the perfect body, and the perfect clothes.

A LOT.

Your right, it goes both ways. Which is why men who complain about the women they've had experiences with really have no room to complain, while the women have the same problem - you chose them.

But like I said, the flashy ones that know how to seduce a man are the ones that get the attention (no matter how good or bad the attention) while the not-so flashy or seductive ones do not.

The Luthier said...

Beauty is a relative thing. I personally never bought into the Madison Avenue version of beautiful. I find most so-called supermodels to be women with great makeup (or should I say fakeup) and the bodies of pre-pubescent boys.

It's a shame that women feel compelled to chase this ideal. All I can say is that most men aren't all that attracted to this false sense of beauty. My observations, of course.

What good does it do anyone to go to such lengths, when it's all artificial?

Clearly, there has to be some kind of middle ground here. There are far more choices to make between the pillar and post of Madison Avenue beauty and frumpish unappeal. Most women fall in that middle zone regardless of their efforts.

However, if certain men are only attracted to the artifice, what are the other women losing, precisely? They are not the kinds of men who will love you for you, and will dump you like an old shoe at the first sign of the artifice fading.

By the same token, why is it that a man who was born short, has male pattern baldness, and perhaps doesn't care to blow his money on useless designer labels get ignored by women? The standards of beauty and attraction are unfair in both directions, and both camps are equally vapid in their standards; it's not just the guys.

Christina said...

Luthier,

The thing I'm starting to wonder is how often those women become the center of attention...no matter what that attention is.

I mean, a guy oggling her full chest and a guy despising how superficial she is are both giving her the same amount of attention.

When she's the one getting the attention (which that type is good at doing =p), the ones that don't mind not being the center of attention get kinda forgotten.

There are those that are really good at getting themselves noticed without being seductive and pushy (and its completely unintentional) - they are some of the most amazing women I know...and one just got married this last weekend to one of my best friends growing up.

But the vast majority of the women you guys would really enjoy getting to know aren't like that. Its not that they are unattractive...just that some of them would rather not have the attention that others get.

And...you are right that it definitly goes both ways. I can only speak for myself when I say that I've tried my damndest to give anyone a chance (within reason). Bald doesn't bother me, nor does fat or short (at least not as much as it could...). Its not that I was always like that, its just that as I get older, my horizons broaden =p And actually, Suzanne's article about unnecessities kinda has been helping me to look around. I was going after fat and bald before the article, though =p

The Luthier said...

It's not so hard to understand, though if you look at what is happening. The effort put forth in getting the perfect tan, et. al. are by their very nature attempts at getting people to notice them. It's akin to wearing a big flashing neon sign that says "Hey look at meeee!"

Imagine attending a performance of Beethoven...symphony or quartet, take your pick...and all of the sudden, somebody in the cadre of musicians puts down their violin and starts blowing a kazoo. They might actually be able to stay in tune and keep the proper meter, but it's still a kazoo. Everyone else might want to ignore it, but it's just too prominent to do so.

By contrast, let's take a look at one of the other musicians. He or she would play her instrument with the dignity that befits their calling. It doesn't matter how many times they have presented this same piece of music, nor whether or not the part they play is flashy and full of hot licks. They are paying homage to their own dignity, and that is likely to be admired far more than the wisenheimer with the Cap'n Crunch cereal box toy.

The point is that the amount of attention is not that important. The people who do such things don't care if it's positive or negative attention, just so long as it's attention of some kind.

Those with dignity don't miss out on a whole lot by not being the focal point.

Amir Larijani said...

Christina says:

Admit it. If all of you went to Panera Bread and there was a girl reading a Bible or a philosophy book or Utopia sitting at one of the tables outside and two girls wearing mini skirts, with nice tans, hair done, french manicures, and sporting sun glasses and lip gloss walked by, who'd have your attention?

Guys are generally visual. That has been the case for at least 6,000 years, and it won't change. Harping on it will be an exercise in futility.

All things being equal, the gal with the Bible would get my attention. And I might actually start talking with the gal with the Bible, assuming she did not appear to be working on a paper or some other assignment her completion of which would be hindered by my interrupting her.

On the other hand, let's assume that the gal in the miniskirt was quite attractive--and clearly attempting to show it off--whereas the gal with the Bible was obese.

In that case, both would get my attention, but neither would get more than a look.

You can harp on guys for being shallow--most guys are probably in the same boat with me here--but we are visually wired. That is a fact, it has been a fact of at least 6,000 years, and castigating us for that will not advance the discussion in any meaningful direction.

Christina said...

Amir:

Guys are generally visual. That has been the case for at least 6,000 years, and it won't change. Harping on it will be an exercise in futility

That was my point =p

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