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

Friday, October 24, 2008

Spaghetti Riots, Mandatory Fun, and Proles

When it comes to men and relationships, I thought it good to explore something I've observed about human nature. I am certain there is a technical term for it that has escaped my notice, but at any rate, the best way I can illustrate it is by giving a few examples.

Do you love spaghetti? I do. If I didn't, I wouldn't have ordered a plate full of it at the Olive Garden last Sunday after church. I like it the old fashioned way--with a thick sauce and meatballs, preferably with a Greek salad on the side. How could anyone have a revulsion at the sight of spaghetti? Well, a group of men had such a strong revulsion to it, they started a riot in Alcatraz back in the 1950s. What brought them to that point?

What about quail? I never ate it, but the Israelites complained about wanting meat so God gave a lot of quail to them. In Psalms 105:40, this provision is remembered: "They asked, and He brought quail, And satisfied them with the bread of heaven" (NASB). What a blessing from God, right? However, this is what God promised the Israelites before he served up the quail:
"You shall eat, not one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, but a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you; because you have rejected the LORD who is among you and have wept before Him, saying, 'Why did we ever leave Egypt?’” (Num. 11:19-20, NASB)
How could something inherently good from God become "loathsome"? Are you puzzled by this? Should you be?

I've heard that the military has something called "mandatory fun." What is it? I believe it consists of planned recreational activities or social outings. I'm certain there is, at the very least, an informal expectation that service members will participate--if they know what is good for their careers. Of course, "mandatory fun" may not always be fun.

Then there is the matter of booze and porn. My religious convictions dictate that I don't indulge in either. But a lot of men do. What if I told you there was an agency that was giving away free booze and porn. Do you think a lot of men would go for it? What if I told you that I described the government as it is portrayed in George Orwell's novel 1984? Yep, keep the proles pacified.

In every instance I described, something that might be ostensibly desirable to a lot of people becomes very undesirable or an insult to one's dignity in a different circumstance. What is the application that I wish to make? What about men and women? What about the complaint that "men won't commit"? The spin doctors keep clucking. Reasons are given, but perhaps there is something that is being overlooked.

Let me submit to you that religious men have their own version of "mandatory fun." It's called the Christian Marriage. As a man of faith, it may seem counterintuitive for me to say that--if not heretical. Marriage is ordained by God. It stands as a blessing, not a curse. Our religious leaders talk about "the joys of the one-flesh relationship." They wax eloquent about the beauty of sexual relations within the context of marriage. They insist that men have much to gain by seeking out a wife. They remind us of Prov. 18:22 and the maxim that "two are better than one." They quote the praises of matrimony penned by Tertullian, Luther, and others. No argument with the goodness of human love, but people are missing the point.

For some men, all the talk about the kind of love a godly woman can give them does not connect with their day-to-day reality. It does not inspire them. It only annoys and angers them. If women cannot understand this, then they need to reflect on their own experiences. What if a husband only showed affection and concern to his wife when he wanted sex? How would most women see his sexual advances after a while? Wasn't there a religious book that exclaimed that "sex begins in the kitchen"?

I think the problem is that society has forgotten that men are human beings. Like women, we have a complex psychological makeup. You can tell some men how great marriage is. Yes, you can even point to some personal examples of happy marriages. So what? In the end, you'd probably drive away the very people you are attempting to reach with such talk. Why? Because some men know deep down inside that they are really not free.

Men are dehumanized slaves in a societal structure that doesn't care about them. They have become the "disposable sex" in the Age of Postfeminism. In our churches, a man is treated like a boorish creature with base desires, or forced to sit castrated without any real dreams and hopes. In his workplace, he is treated like a machine with no human needs--always regarded as being replaceable by some upgrade. In his family, he is treated pretty much the same way. He is regarded by his spouse as a retirement plan, a necessary evil, a nuisance, "that guy" who is the father of her children, a household pet to be replaced if his company becomes too unbearable.

Women will talk about how they want a "real man." The problem is that they often don't allow men to be just that--real. I say "real" as opposed to some plastic ideal from a romance novel. Even with Christian women, a man may find that his religious sisters espouse some grandiose view of "biblical manhood" or "male leadership" that really has nothing do with what God expects of his children. The vision of manhood entertained by many women is nothing but a burdensome pile of expectations that denies a man the right to grow, to have personality quirks, to be uncertain, to make mistakes, to show weakness, to show vulnerability, to show brokenness--in short, to be human. Men already have to put on the mask Monday through Friday at their workplaces, Saturday when they go out to public gatherings, and on Sunday at the big, posh, lukewarm institutional churches. Why do we kid ourselves in thinking they want to wear the mask for anyone waiting at home?

Let me get to the point. If you are woman and if you are beautiful, intelligent, personable, affectionate, caring, spiritual, and "just the kind of person for so-and-so", it still may not matter. For an increasing number of men, you may not be taken as a promise of a better life for them, but as a reminder of their oppression. Yes, it's irrational, but then so is rejecting the sexual advances of your husband, per se. It's all a matter of the surrounding context when considering how an experience will be viewed by someone.

I haven't sworn off women, but I understand why some men are doing so. I don't write them off as crazy. I've never read the book Sex and the Supremacy of Christ, but I think I now know why I might agree with most of what the book says and yet a feel a subdued urge to hurl the book across the room. Like I said, it's all a matter of the surrounding context. If we want men to engage the traditional marks of a fulfilled life--marriage and family, then we need to deal with the surrounding issues that are causing them to turn their backs on these promises of blessing. Sermons about the joys of home and hearth may be factually correct, but they don't cut it anymore.

[Edit: The human trait I described in this piece may be a reflection of God's own nature (Isaiah 1:10-15; Amos 5:21-24). Perhaps some religious leaders need to take away the "noise" of their praises to marriage.]

14 comments:

Triton said...

Our religious leaders talk about "the joys of the one-flesh relationship." They wax eloquent about the beauty of sexual relations within the context of marriage. They insist that men have much to gain by seeking out a wife.

If it were really such a great deal, then there wouldn't be a need for any convincing; the benefits should be self-evident.

They're not, of course, so shame tactics are used to try to humiliate men into getting married.

SteveinTX said...

You note:
"What about the complaint that "men won't commit"? "

This I think is a large underlying issue. When men commit, they actually have to commit -- and it is enforced. OTOH, women don't commit -- they have a temporary arrangement. As long as they like the set-up, they are in; when it become disadventageous they end it.

The commitment only goes one way --her way. Women don't want to be married, they want to get married.

SteveinTX

The Learner said...

If we want men to engage the traditional marks of a fulfilled life--marriage and family, then we need to deal with the surrounding issues that are causing them to turn their backs on these promises of blessing. Sermons about the joys of home and hearth may be factually correct, but they don't cut it anymore.

What surrounding issues (I am assuming these issues are the things you mentioned in the post)do you believe the church is in a position to deal with? How?

Now I want a Greek salad.....

Anakin Niceguy said...

Hi Learner,

The surrounding issues I have in mind are essentially the ones I talked about. Whether or not the church can deal with any of them is the makings of a lengthy post unto itself.

Christina said...

You describe something along the lines of my mother and sister strongly recommending I read Madeline L'Engle books...

Which I'm quite certain are amazingly excellent and books I would very much enjoy...and yet I've never read them...

Because they were strongly encouraged by mom and sister...

I understand what your getting at. I loved the book "Number the Stars" and have read 4 or 5 times, but the first time I had to read it completely soured it because it was "required". Same with many books I absolutely love now.

However, I'd question the "correctness" in shunning something simply because someone is strongly encouraging or requiring something. Its one thing if you would really like to have "mandatory fun" with a good book in your bunk rather than play kick ball with your pals...but a completely different thing when you avoid something simply because people won't let it go.

My mother claims that its a rebellious spirit in me. Its one of the only places my rebellious spirit displays itself - I don't like doing things just because people think I should. If I'm really gonna enjoy it, I want to come to that conclusion on my own without your help.

Thing is, I end up missing out on good things because of it - like Madeline L'Engle's fantasy world (which is my favorite genre ever).

Anakin Niceguy said...

The human trait I described in this piece may be a reflection of God's own nature (Isaiah 1:10-15; Amos 6:21-24). Perhaps some religious leaders need to take away the "noise" of their praises to marriage.

Elusive Wapiti said...

"Our religious leaders talk about "the joys of the one-flesh relationship." They wax eloquent about the beauty of sexual relations within the context of marriage. They insist that men have much to gain by seeking out a wife."

Thank God I'm married. And I thank God that I found Mrs Wapiti. 'Cuz otherwise all this high-pressure car salesman crap would really be getting to me. Like Triton said, it can't be that good of a deal if so much effort is being applied at convincing reluctant men.

I've been a Believer since I was 16, and actively attending church for 7 of the last 20 years. Only once in that time have I heard pastors address biblical womanhood, and exhort women to support, respect, and follow their man. Don't know about you, but I think that's a problem. Heck, even today, we had a couple speak to the congregation. They were just back from a 4-year mission in Hong Kong. The wife joked that she always gets the last word, because she's the boss. And everyone laughed. Well, except me, because I was dumbfounded that she just chopped her husband's balls off in front of the entire second service today.

There are two problems here for the Church, IMHO, wrt marriage. The bigger one is the legal-cultural issue that the Church sidesteps for some bizarre reason. If the Church cares about marriage, it would stop trying to 'sell' men on marriage, and instead thunder from the pulpits about the evils of divorce. The Church should bring all of it's moral cannons to bear on the political state and make a full-frontal assault on the
laws and incentives that inhibit marriage formation and encourage divorce. The Church errs by considering divorce a sin problem instead of a political-and-sin one.

The second problem is the Church's fear of confronting the problem of divorce head-on in the Body. Can't tell you how many times women and men who initiate divorce are treated just like anyone else, instead of the home-wreckers they are. I've even seen women who've booted out perfectly good men be treated to free child care and free lawn-mowings by other members of the church, when what really should be happening is for her to be rebuked until she comes back to her senses.

But I guess the Church is too coopted by government--can't shake things up too much or risk losing that tax exempt status--to stand up to Caesar when the times call for it. And I guess pastors are too afraid to offend certain members of the congregation and threaten the flow of money.

Anonymous said...

EW - "Heck, even today, we had a couple speak to the congregation. They were just back from a 4-year mission in Hong Kong. The wife joked that she always gets the last word, because she's the boss. And everyone laughed. Well, except me, because I was dumbfounded that she just chopped her husband's balls off in front of the entire second service today."

I can't recall all the times over the years I've heard men from the pulpit chop their own balls off through self-abasement at the hands of their wives, and in the form of a joke. Of course, all the congregation laughs, especially the men who meekly entered the sanctuary following their wives as she decided where they would sit. It's an epidemic.

EW - "The Church should bring all of it's moral cannons to bear on the political state and make a full-frontal assault on the
laws and incentives that inhibit marriage formation and encourage divorce. The Church errs by considering divorce a sin problem instead of a political-and-sin one."

Excellent point. So much of preaching and teaching today seems to exist in some parallel universe. The church has been intimidated by the secular structures into giving in to their demands that religion be limited solely to the private sphere.

EW - "The second problem is the Church's fear of confronting the problem of divorce head-on in the Body. Can't tell you how many times women and men who initiate divorce are treated just like anyone else, instead of the home-wreckers they are."

In my experience, this occurs when the wife initiates the divorce. The default position of the church is to assume that the husband is to blame, and to offer her emotional support. In the rarer instances that the husband initiates divorce, the default position of the church is to assume that the wife is the innocent victim and threaten discipline, but will usually back down when he either tells them to stuff it or leaves the church. I find, sadly, that I can't blame the men for doing so.

emarel

gerican said...

"Can't tell you how many times women and men who initiate divorce are treated just like anyone else, instead of the home-wreckers they are."

Not everyone who initiates divorce is the bad guy. Sometimes good people initiate divorce for good reason. The "screw ups" --alcoholics, cheaters, beaters, shopoholics, spendoholics, whiners, procrastinators, no-shows and wanderers of various sorts -- aren't usually the ones to initiate, because their screw-ups make them too dependent on their spouses to ever split up with them. Although many of these folks end up marrying each other anyways.

The Learner said...

Anakin,

Amos 6:21-24? This is probably a typo, but I wonder what reference you meant to use?

EW,

The wife joked that she always gets the last word, because she's the boss. And everyone laughed. Well, except me, because I was dumbfounded that she just chopped her husband's balls off in front of the entire second service today.

Cringe worthy, indeed.

Anakin Niceguy said...

Oops. Meant Amos 5:21-24

Amir Larijani said...

"Mandatory fun"...reminds me of a scene on The Jeffersons where George intones, I believe at the housekeeper, "You are going to have to learn to enjoy life, whether you like it or not!"

The Learner said...

Thanks Anakin, that makes sense.

Epo said...

I object very strongly to the catch-all term 'screw-up' as the best reason for divorce. A screw-up with a partner has at least one person actually responsible for him/her that actually has a chance of KNOWING him/her. Versus the single screw-up being thrown on the mercies of the world, the flesh, and the devil, or worse, being co-opted by them.

SEPARATION for a time is often a necessary part of any rocky marriage. Divorce it ain't, except for marital infidelity, which is a statement of both separation and reconnection.

I am for marriage as the way of 'two people being responsible for each other,' and if the practices of government and credit reporting agencies are any indication, so are they.

Federalism for the fireplace! Local Control for the Living Room! Home rule for the home! The personal IS political in this very specific instance.