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

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Drai-nage!!!

There is an article by Russell Moore in Touchstone magazine (HT: Boundless.org) about how consumerism and materialism is ruining the church. Especially noteworthy is this statement:
"Why do Christian parents, contra St. Paul’s clear admonition in 1 Corinthians 7, encourage their young adult children to delay marriage, sometimes for years past the time it would take to discern whether this union would be of the Lord? Why do we smilingly tell them to wait until they can 'afford' it? It is because, to our shame, we deem fornication a less awful reality than financial hardship."
Of course, Mr. Moore gets it wrong about 1 Corinthians 7. There is no clear admonition in 1 Cor. 7 for young to people to marry. It's just plain old marriage mandate poppycock to suggest otherwise.

But why all this talk about getting back to the warm fuzzies of relationships and spiritual matters? Where were people like Mr. Moore 15 or 20 years ago? I agree for the most part with what he has to say but his words ring a little hollow and disingenuous. As a young man, I languished in putatively conservative churches where the subtle implication was that if you were not Mr. Biff Success with a Bible, no Christian woman would want you. Indeed, the zeitgeist of "many luxury vacations" is older than Debbie Maken.

The men of my generation were told to take cold showers, realize that women don't need us, and to grin and bear it. They were given the "gift of singleness" talk by the pundits. Where are those pundits now? It seems that there is some theological revisionism going on these days. What is the matter? Did preachers decide their gospel of corporate consumerism is no longer suitable, and are they worried their grown daughters won't find a decent chap to marry? Are they are afraid of not having grandchildren? Are their pews getting empty? Are they getting nervous because the American Dream has been priced out of the market for so many people and people are thus not having babies?

Where were these preachers in the nineties and the earlier part of this decade when things looked good--when people had crummy jobs but economic bubbles seem to disguise the malaise? What did they have to say to young men who were struggling then? What did women have to say to young men who were struggling then--before middle age hit and the eggs started drying up? Where are Ani DiFranco, Alanis Morissette, and Meredith Brooks now?

I think some people are a day late and dollar short to be doing an about face. The plaintive cries of Russell Moore are akin to a deathbed repentance for institutionalized religion in North America, something that has become irrelevant to many men in my generation. It is odd that Russell Moore would lecture us about the possibility of living in trailer parks when he himself works in a very nice office. It really doesn't sound convincing when the people who would tell the rest us to stop being so materialistic look, well ... so predictably yuppie. And I wonder if Mr. Moore feels like he has "done something" about materialism by stating what the rest of us have already known for years.

I think about how men such as myself and others in the MGTOW community might feel about all of this. There is a well-known movie short that has made the rounds in cyberspace and which sums up nicely my feelings about the belated calls for men to get married, for men to come back to the sandbox, for Christians to become less materialistic, etc. I have my straw, so watch and understand ...

17 comments:

Elusive Wapiti said...

Was that Daniel Day Lewis? And did he just kill that guy? Holy crap.

Regarding the alleged shift of the marriage mandaters toward getting married young, perhaps this is in response to the fall-off in birth rates that comes from marrying older. Something must be done to replace the race, so to speak, thus the Mandaters push one and all to marry early as a result. That would be my theory anyway.

I'm beginning to think Bhanu Prasad has a point here re arranged marriage. Unfortunately, we as a society have rejected the wise judgement of parents in helping select, if not outright arranging, our marriage partners. This presents a problem for Mandaters because marrying young under the current framework is exceptionally risky; if one eschews the wisdom of parental units, it takes age to gain the wisdom (and self-control) necessary to ignore the inputs of hormones and sex drives in order to successfully select a mate on one's own and not end up in divorce court two years later.

As a result, the age at which the highest success rate for first (and only marriage) is the late twenties for both sexes, when it is the children themselves that select their mates. The data is abundantly clear on this point. And even then, these marriages are not nearly successful as those ones that are arranged/influenced by parents (and whose durability also tends to be more supported by the whole of society).

If Mandaters want people to marry young--and do so successfully, otherwise, what's the point?--they would do better than try to browbeat people, particularly men, to do something that is clearly not in their best interests. They would agitate for more societal acceptability of parental input in marriage.

Then we may see people getting married younger--successfully. Until then, fear of divorce on the part of men will continue to frustrate the Mandater's designs.

Amir Larijani said...

There are plenty of good reasons for recommending (not mandating) early marriage for those who incline to marry.

(1) Practical reality: women tend to see fertility dropping off in their late 20s. The window for prime childbearing years is not as wide as once-believed.

(2) Practical reality: the best mates generally get taken early. (This is true for both sexes.) If you wait until later, you might find your pool of potential mates greatly diminished. If you are older--and/or your potential mate is older--you almost certainly will bring more baggage than if you were married younger.

(3) Depending on the individual, there can be legitimate sexual reasons--as indicated in 1 Corinthians 7--that make early marriage beneficial.

(4) In addition, if we teach diligently to children and youth, drawing much from Proverbs--which has a large context of a father teaching his son--that will almost certainly foster the voluntary pursuit of early marriage, because a large part of Proverbs addresses this issue of marrying well, marital roles, staying faithful, what kinds of women to avoid, how to carry one's self, etc.

One need not take a mandator position to see the benefits of early marriage, nor must one take a knee-jerk reaction against the mandators by promoting late marriage.

We're better off by providing Biblical teaching to youth, letting the Scriptures speak for themselves. I'd venture to say that if we did that--without preaching mandates for marriage, number of children, etc.--you'd see more early marriage, more children, more SAHMs, and more happy marriages.

Anonymous said...

What about those of us who are 40+ ?

What are we to do?

We have commited the sins of not having enough money, and women not wanting us when we were younger.

No children for us then, but feel obligated to support a used up woman and her , not your children.

Amir Larijani said...

Anonymous: As a 42-year-old single myself, I feel your pain. Keep in mind that I'm not putting down older singles, just making the case for recommending early marriage for those so-inclined.

There are pragmatic issues that simply are what they are. Fact is, if you're a woman, time is not on your side. It is possible, but very difficult, to have that full professional career AND get a good husband AND have children. A lot of teachers, ministers, and counselors forget the VERY DIFFICULT part.

For the men, the time window is short, but in a different way. Fact is, most (not all) of the good women will get snatched early. Women will report the same dynamic the other way around.

None of this is to put down those who are older and single--I am in that bracket too--but rather to point out that there are facts that just are what they are.

Nor does any of this translate to a "marriage mandate" or an "early marriage mandate" for that matter.

There are simply practical realities that exist, mandate or no mandate.

If we teach Scriptures to Children the way they are taught by Solomon, you'll probably see more early marriages happen. You'll probably see more children honoring their parents. You'll probably see more families working together to match the children with suitable mates.

Triton said...

There is a simple solution: dowries.

If parents want their kids to marry younger, then put up some substantial cash. Take financial considerations out of the picture. Put your money where your mouth is.

Shoot, I'd marry just about any girl if the price was right.

Ken said...

Getting married before age 25 increases the chances of the marriage ending in divorce.

I know I would have married the wrong woman if I had gotten married by that age. That's a fact.

I'd rather my own children fornicate than marry the wrong person because they married too early. THANKFULLY, those two options aren't the only ones. They are just the EASIEST ones.

We don't live an an agragrian society any more. It takes people longer to finish their education or training and become professionally established now, and to make enough money to provide for a family without being an overall drain on society through taking more tax money than they are putting in.

Tim said...

Ken: the qualification I provided--that children and youth are taught Biblical values in these matters, particularly with respect to what we find in the book of Proverbs--is key for early marriage to work at the general level.

Moreover, the stats on divorce are overstated, as regular church attendees have substantially lower divorce rates than the rest of the population.

While it is honest of you to say that you would not have picked the right mate had you married before age 25, I would also caution you that it is not good logic to attempt to argue from particular to general.

After all, I know couple who married in their teens--he was 18 and she was 15--and they are the only couple married by their pastor during that stretch of time, that has not divorced. They are quite happily-married. They were, however, (a) Christians, (b) regulars in church, (c) active in the ministries, and (d) serious about their faith.

Triton: In Biblical times, the bride price--on a similar par with dowries--was a common practice. That type of system, while not perfect, kept the divorce rate down.

That is also something that can work when you have families working together. If you have a daughter that you want to reserve for really high-quality men, you can price her out of the market...

Elusive Wapiti said...

"Moreover, the stats on divorce are overstated, as regular church attendees have substantially lower divorce rates than the rest of the population."

Tim, do you have data to support? All I've seen is the Barna data that suggests that the religious are nearly as bad as the irreligious when it comes to divorce.

Amir Larijani said...

EW: Even in the latest Barna study, the divorce rate among evangelicals was 7 percent lower than the field of all adults. When all respondents who identified as "born again" were included, that was when the rates were the same.

Also, extrapolating from the University of Chicago General Social Survey, Brad Wright of the University of Connecticut has shown the following regarding divorce rates and church attendance:

49% Never attend church
46% Less than once a year
46% About once or twice a year
42% Several times a year
42% About once a month
41% Two or three times a month
31% Nearly every week
27% Every week
28% Several times a week

Amir Larijani said...

That was a great video clip: pure violence without any sex to ruin it.

Nothing ruins a perfectly gory, bloody, violent kill flick like a steamy sex scene.

catwoman said...

EW said: "re arranged marriage. Unfortunately, we as a society have rejected the wise judgement of parents in helping select, if not outright arranging, our marriage partners. This presents a problem for Mandaters because marrying young under the current framework is exceptionally risky; if one eschews the wisdom of parental units, it takes age to gain the wisdom (and self-control) necessary to ignore the inputs of hormones and sex drives in order to successfully select a mate on one's own and not end up in divorce court two years later.
...If Mandaters want people to marry young--and do so successfully, otherwise, what's the point?--they would do better than try to browbeat people, particularly men, to do something that is clearly not in their best interests. They would agitate for more societal acceptability of parental input in marriage."

They do. Maken has devoted an entire chapter in her book to the idea of parents and elders as "agents" in the marriage process.

Triton said: "If parents want their kids to marry younger, then put up some substantial cash. Take financial considerations out of the picture. Put your money where your mouth is...Shoot, I'd marry just about any girl if the price was right."

Thing is, that parents then want to make abolutely sure that the suitor is "worth it". Maken argues that modern women, without parental agency, are in the position of having to be their own "bad cop", and thus many avoid all the awkward screening questions so avoid appearing crass (and thus scaring off a suitor). You think that modern women are materialistic? Just wait until you deal with "traditional" parents.

Ken said: "Getting married before age 25 increases the chances of the marriage ending in divorce."

That is because getting married under 25 has now become countercultural, something that if you do it, you'll be outnumbered by single peers living it up, which doesn't bode well for marital satisfaction. Frederica Mathewes-Green, an orthodox commentator said something to the effect of young people today aren't ready for marriage because we no longer expect them to be.

Amir Larijani said...

Catwoman says: Thing is, that parents then want to make abolutely sure that the suitor is "worth it". Maken argues that modern women, without parental agency, are in the position of having to be their own "bad cop", and thus many avoid all the awkward screening questions so avoid appearing crass (and thus scaring off a suitor). You think that modern women are materialistic? Just wait until you deal with "traditional" parents.

Well...yes and no. There would be a lot of negotiating going on, and families would adjust their expectations with respect to their sense of urgency to marry off their children. Nothing like free markets at work. LOL

Personally, I find it hard to make the case that Middle Eastern or Indian families--where arranged marriages, complete with a bride price and/or dowry system are actually commonplace--are any more materialistic than our more "liberated" Western families are today.

In such cultures, people tend to marry within their socio-economic brackets. Dowries or bride-prices generally fall within ranges that are consistent with the socio-economic status of the bride.

A number of factors would drive that dowry expectation: (a) urgency for marrying off the daughter, (b) the number of guys who are interested, (c) the prospect of upward mobility, (d) the level of trust the family has with respect to other families.

And personally, I have no stew with that. In such a scenario, grooms run far less risk of being seen as gigolos. Women are also less likely to be accused of being "gold-diggers."

Contrast that with our society. I could almost guarantee that if you marry a man who is considerably wealthier than you, then you'll find yourself--fairly or unfairly--subject to derision by others.

Likewise, if you are very wealthy and a man of lesser economic means pursues you, then you may find yourself (with reasonable basis) wondering if he just wants you for your money. (After all, he might want to quit his real job and run for Senate, a la Kerry or McCain...)

Against that backdrop, I'm not convinced that the dowry system would be any worse than what we have now.

catwoman said...

The arranged marriage/dowry system probably has a lot to do with not only protecting women from looking like golddiggers, but from making a bad choice based on physical attraction. Of course, "love marriages" are the stuff of much Bollywood fluff, as well as Shakepearean drama. But it's the nightmare of every traditional parent that their daughter (or son, for that matter) might do what modern westerners consider to be the "noble" thing by pushing pedigree and financial considerations aside, instead marrying for love (which is usually pretty much marrying for looks, charm, etc.).

One problem that is seen where the dowry system meets modernity is with Indian ex-pats who have lived in the west and then go back to India for a bride, enjoy the honeymoon, take the dowry, go back to the west and never send for her. Abandoned brides have a horrible time over there, as well as those whose families are blackmailed by inlaws to keep providing dowry money well after the wedding or risk seeing her burnt in an "accident".

Amir Larijani said...

Catwoman says: One problem that is seen where the dowry system meets modernity is with Indian ex-pats who have lived in the west and then go back to India for a bride, enjoy the honeymoon, take the dowry, go back to the west and never send for her. Abandoned brides have a horrible time over there, as well as those whose families are blackmailed by inlaws to keep providing dowry money well after the wedding or risk seeing her burnt in an "accident".

If we had a dowry system in the Church, would these kinds of things go on? I'd bet on it.

Let's face it: there are plenty of families in church who are nominally Christian at best. There are going to be guys and gals who will seek to manipulate the system to maximize their sexual or material advantages.

A dowry or bride-price system won't eliminate that, any more than it eliminated such things in Biblical times.

One thing that is consistent in both Biblical times and today is human depravity. No matter what system we construct, no matter what level of freedom we grant, or limits we set, people will always seek ways to exploit those norms, limits, and standards.

A dowry system might serve to mitigate some of the abuses we see in our modern culture, but anyone who thinks it would be a panacea, has not studies history.

If it worked perfectly, Malachi would not have had to rip the Israelites a new one over their divorce rates.

Also, in Iran, the dowry system hardly prevents prostitution. In fact, it serves as a means to incorporate prostitution into the religious system.

If I was a lonely seminary student in Qom, I could go to a brothel that is run by Islamic clerics. I can pay a bride price, do my marital deeds, then get an Islamic divorce when I'm done. (In Islam, divorce is relatively simple: all I have to do is tell my wife, "I divorce thee" three times in front of male witnesses. In the brothel, the clerics are all happy take care of that for me when I'm done.)

In Iran, they call that "the 5 minute marriage".

catwoman said...

"In Islam, divorce is relatively simple: all I have to do is tell my wife, "I divorce thee" three times in front of male witnesses."

Or as in the country of Steve Martin's wild and crazy guy, say "I break with thee, I break with thee, I break with thee...now I throw dog poopie on your shoes"

Amir Larijani said...

Catwoman says: Or as in the country of Steve Martin's wild and crazy guy, say "I break with thee, I break with thee, I break with thee...now I throw dog poopie on your shoes"

LOL...only in the case of the Iranian women, they only wish the resultant issues with divorce was just a matter of dog poopie on the shoes.

Dog poopie can be cleaned off.

Anonymous said...

Anakin,

You have a straw, but no milkshake. You walked right by the milkshake stand and did not partake. No milkshake for you. The dregs are all that's left.