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.]