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

Saturday, August 1, 2009

That CT Article

Puritan Calvinist has beat me to the punch in panning an article which appeared in this month's issue of Christianity Today about marrying young. I saw the hard copy at work earlier in the week, and like I told PC in the comments section of his blog, I was a bit dismayed when I looked at the front cover of the magazine and saw the title emblazoned there. My fear was that Christianity Today had drunk the Kool-Aid of the Marriage Mandate Movement.

I am in strong agreement with PC on one point: Unmarried people can live without sex (and that without too much effort). Any suggestion to the contrary flies in the face of the clear teachings of the Word of God, which sufficiently addresses the issue of choice and sexual responsibility (1 Thess. 4:3-5). My readers can attest that I have been quick to lower the boom on any statement asserting that "men can't live without sex, blah, blah, blah." That said, I can see some of the point made by Mark Regnerus, the author of the article in question, about the challenges of staying pure. The hoops we make people (especially men) jump though in order to get married well is, at best, an unnecessary barrier to promoting sexual morality.

Here is what the church should do: It should support a social trend towards making the goal of marriage obtainable, but nonetheless optional, for young people. Unfortunately, what some religious pundits seem to be doing is making the goal of marriage unobtainable by upholding unrealistic social expections (chiefly the ones they pile on men), and yet making marriage mandatory at the same time. This latter course of action is irresponsible, unscriptural, and downright stupid.

In his comments about Christian men, Regnerus drops the ball. Like so many other commentators, he can't resist the temptation to paint single women as victims and men as immature playboys. He also can't resist the temptation to overstate the benefit of marriage to a man's development as a human being. Ignored are the social realities of "lifeboat feminism,"shrinking economic opportunities for men, unrealistic expectations of men by women, the objectification of men as success objects, the Cinderella Paradox (where the increased socioeconomic status of hypergamous women collides with the decreased ability of men to be desirable mates for said women), male-bashing, the divorce industry, the domestic violence industry, the sexual harassment industry, our therapeutic culture's focus on making women happy above all else, and the simple plain fact that men don't need to marry if they don't feel like it (oh, and did I mention lifeboat feminism?).

Yet as much as I may disagree with some of the key points of the article, I though this line was pure gold: "In societies like ours that exhibit lengthy economic prosperity, men and women alike begin to lose motivation to marry and have children, and thus avoid one or both." Believers need to keep this in mind the next time they are tempted to blame the New World Order, environmentalists, Democrats, slacker dudes playing video games, or the such like for people not wanting to "play house."

At any rate, read Regnerus' piece with a large chunk of salt.

22 comments:

I'm so unworthy said...

Well thank God for hypergamy, it keeps me well off their radar. Even if I did have the level of income women are looking for they still could not give me a good reason to marry any of them. There is no benefit marriage offers to men. For women there are plenty of perks so I can understand their obsession over it. In fact I encourage all women to get married, just not to me. It is the best deal in life they are ever going to get. I mean where else can you sign a contract, do nothing for 10 years but complain, quit and get retirement payments in the form of alimony for life. Hey I would take that deal too.

Elusive Wapiti said...

I advocate early marriage too (I used to advocate for late marriage, but I've changed my tune).

But not because we humans can't control our sexual urges. Rather, my advocacy is based on the fact that if a marriage happens early, the wife doesn't have the opportunity to acquire (a) crushing college debt, (b) bad relationship habits, (c) f'ed up priorities wrt work and family and kids.

She'll have plenty of time to go and work after she's worked on her marriage skills and had however many children her and her husband want while they're healthy and have the time/energy to tend to them.


"In societies like ours that exhibit lengthy economic prosperity, men and women alike begin to lose motivation to marry and have children"

I'm repeatedly observing that human society begins to fall apart when we have it comfy.

The worst thing you can do to a people is give them plenty and prosperity.

Give us back hardship, I say, and watch birthrates soar and Feminism to wink out of existence.

"but the fact that there are far more spiritually mature young women out there than men"

Er, yeah whatever. Guess that maturity is why the Evangelical divorce rate is so high, eh?

But I posit that the Church runs out a lot of men early on, thus there aren't as many "spiritually mature" men as women out there.

"the plain fact that men are, on average, ready for sex earlier in relationships than women are"

He must not be familiar with Roissy.

"Marriage seems an unnecessary risk to many of them, even Christians"

Can't argue with him here.

"As a result, many men postpone growing up. Even their workplace performance is suffering: earnings for 25- to 34-year-old men have fallen by 20 percent since 1971, even after accounting for inflation. No wonder young women marry men who are on average at least two years older than they."

Ugh. What crap. First, shaming language alert! Men who avoid doing what Regenerus considers the "grown up" things may be plenty mature, they're just not behaving in a manner that he wants.

Second, men's workplace earnings have little to do with their motiviation. It's called supply and demand, and women's entry into the workforce has put the hammer on men's wages.

Third, women have always been hypergamous. They'll always tend to marry up. Couple that with the fact that men enter puberty two years later, and ta-da! There's your age gap.

I hate to say it, but this guy has drunk too much mangina kool aid.

Novaseeker said...

I'm going to comment about this one on my own blog.

Suffice to say: a horrible article, and one which appears to intentionally distort the truth.

Amir Larijani said...

The article is a mixed bag. A couple of quick notes:

(1) He's absolutely right about the focus of Church on sex--abstinence in particular--while placing little importance on marriage. That is because evangelical culture is a theological hodgepodge, with many youth ministers having the theological depth of a plastic wading pool, and who would rather plan the next camp meeting or lock-in, than have a serious Biblical study.

(2) The male-bashing might as well have been lifted from the Maken camp, and he completely ignores the larger social dynamics.

When he says on page 2: "Even their workplace performance is suffering: earnings for 25- to 34-year-old men have fallen by 20 percent since 1971, even after accounting for inflation", he reflects an abject lacking of economic understanding. Inflation is not the only factor in this, and earnings is not even close to a reflector of lacking productivity.

Quite frankly, (a) the decline of manufacturing, (b) the rising tax burden, (c) the percentage of women in the workforce, (d) the erosion of our standard of living by the Federal Reserve, and (e) the fact that inflation is grossly underreported and therefore difficult--using given numbers--to use in a meaningful way to assess productivity, makes his statement superficial at best.

(3) Near the bottom of page 3, he starts to get it, but tends to fail to ask the question, "Why is this happening?"

I've long maintained that both sexes are attempting to mitigate their risks, and are thus becoming choosier than they might have been 30 years ago when the their social structures were completely different.

On the immaturity front, it was once true as a general rule, that a woman was more mature than a man of the same age. That is no longer true, as both sexes are now equally immature. Having seen enough stupid, sometimes vindictive, games played--by both sexes--in the "Christian singles" world, I can attest to this.

(4) Near the end of page 5, he starts to make a good observation about "poor matches", but hits a single whereas he missed a chance at a home run.

On one hand, he is correct: "Indeed, marriage research confirms that couples who view their marriages as sacred covenants are far better off than those who don't". That goes back to my point that the evangelical culture is a theological hodgepodge with scant grounding. A more Reformed emphasis would be a great help.

Still, this would require that we overhaul the way we approach education for children and youth, and exhort families in matters of covenants in general, the marriage covenant in particular.

Anakin is on the money when he says, "Here is what the church should do: It should support a social trend towards making the goal of marriage obtainable, but nonetheless optional, for young people. Unfortunately, what some religious pundits seem to be doing is making the goal of marriage unobtainable by upholding unrealistic social expections (chiefly the ones they pile on men), and yet making marriage mandatory at the same time."

Again, as I said before, social structures that made early marriage probable, do not exist today. In addition to that, the larger culture has embraced sexual variations that are on par with the perversions of the Canaanites. Moreover, the Church, sadly, has absorbed the gender-relation dogmas of the world, and cross-dressed them as Biblical truth.

This has corrupted the response of the Church: from the "True Love Waits" campaigns to the "just wait for marriage, where sexual bliss awaits" mantras, to the "Jesus is all you need" smackdowns to singles who express aspiration to marriage, to "get married early or you are irresponsible".

singlextianman said...

What Amir said; yeah. Except for the bit about "reformed" - the idea of Covenant is correct; but there are other conceptual models and understandings that reinforce "covenant."

PuritanCalvinist said...

Hey Everyone!

I just need to clarify. I am not saying that we should not encourage marriage, and should not make getting married both economically and socially easier. Both of those are, indeed, good and noble goals. However, what I am objecting to is the attitude that is similar to the condom based sex education movement that says, "They are going to do it anyway. We might as well give them a condom." I am concerned that we as an evangelical community are replacing the word "condom" with "marriage," and yet keeping this attitude of anti-self control.

God demands continence no matter what age we are at, and to suggest that continence in any situation is unreasonable is to call God unreasonable. It seems to me that we need to trust in him, and rely on his strength to get us through times when we are being assulted with temptation, and not trust in ourselves, and our own abilities.

That being said, it does make it *harder* to be continent if you would like to be married and are not. However, that does not make it *impossible.*

God Bless,
Adam

Anonymous said...

What Adam's saying sounds good in theory, but it doesn't work in practice, at least not as far as the masses are concerned. The later the average age of marriage for any generational cohort, the higher the rate of premarital sex. We should still preach self-control to singles, but at the same time, we should encourage cockiness in this area either. Anakin's idea "support a social trend towards making the goal of marriage obtainable", and optional, yes, but at the same time not overreacting to any encouragement of marriage as "marriage mandate".

PuritanCalvinist said...

Anon,

I think we need both. Consider what happens when someone gets married, and does not learn self-control. What happens when their wife or husband has to go away for several days, and the secretary at work starts seducing them? If they have not learned self-control, they are a sitting duck.

Yes, we need to encourage those who want to serve God in marriage to be able to get married. However, self-control is not just something that is necessary before marriage. It is necessary at all points of time on ones life.

FWIW, I agree with Anakin on this issue. I just don't think you can divorce what he is saying from learning self-control. The premarital sex rate going up with the age of marriage is confirmation of what I am saying. When you have a society that is self-indulgent, and has no self-control, then you are going to see the rate rise the later marriage gets. The solution is to change the self-indulgent nature of our culture, while making it easier to deal with the temptations by doing what Anakin and Amir suggested. I simply do not believe you can divorce the two.

God Bless,
Adam

Novaseeker said...

Self control in this area for those who are not married is stated very clearly in the NT. I see no reason why anyone who is Christian should in any way condone extra-marital sex. It really is one of those cut and dried issues.

And, no, I didn't engage in pre-marital sex, and married at age 28. It *did* take some self-control, but that is the point.

Christina said...

Girls marrying older guys is what could be called an evolutionary trait. As the ones who bear the offspring, having a male who is capable of caring for both mother and child is important (even in the subconcious mind of anti-child feminist).

Its simply something we've always done and probably always will do regardless of "progress".

As to some of EW's comments, I've noticed two things in regards to spiritually mature men - a) they are taken at a young age or b) they are pursuing ministry before they seriously consider marriage.

I've found it difficult to find spiritually mature men within my marrying range since I was 18.

SavvyD said...

Without having read the whole thing, I've often jested that teenagers weren't a problem 100 years ago because they married them off so young. They were adults once married and supported as such. Granted, this business of being with peers on the basis of age was not happening and people were actually a part of a smaller community and this made it more likely that a woman would marry an older man who was actually ready, willing and able to marry. And if you were still at home as a girl, you were protected. Back then they understood that not everyone has the best of intentions. How did we forget that?

Wapiti--I'm with you on prosperity being a cause of problems. The average person may have been reasonably happy until the wealthy started divorcing and seeking personal enlightenment. Now I can guarantee that we are a nation of unhappy people who struggle to form satisfying relationships despite having every material need satisfied.

wombatty said...

Mark Regnerus exemplifies – perhaps unwittingly – one of the central problems with the ‘marriage or bust’/’early marriage’ movement: the insistence on holding men accountable (illegitimately or not) while excusing women:

As a result, many young adults sense that putting oneself in the trust of another person so soon may be foolish and risky. Many choose to wait out the risk—sometimes for years—to see how a relationship will fare before committing. (We seem to have lost our ability to shame men for such incessant delays.) Consequently, the focus of 20-somethings has become less about building mature relationships and fulfilling responsibilities, and more about enjoying oneself, traveling, and trying on identities and relationships. After all the fun, it will be time to settle down and get serious.

So he blames men – and only men – for delaying marriage; as if women themselves don’t do this. Ok, so what does he have to say about divorce rates in the church, the fact that the vast majority of divorces are initiated by women and what bearing all of this has on men choosing to postpone marriage? Nothing really; aside from discussing the relationship between marrying too young and divorce, all Regnerus has to say is this:

(4) Marrying for Sex: One byproduct of the abstinence culture is that some marry early simply for the promise of long-awaited, guilt-free sex. After all, Paul told us that it's better to marry than to burn with passion (1 Cor. 7). And modern America certainly bears a striking resemblance to Corinth, whose church was confused about what to do with marriage. Its people were delaying marriage, just like we are. Yet in our culture of shallow marriages and easy divorce., marrying simply for the lure of sex is not what Paul had in mind...

Note the way Regnerus refers to ‘easy divorce’ as an abstract notion, disconnected from the people involved whereas he was quick to affix blame for delay of marriage on a specific agent: men. Why no lament about the fact that ‘we seem to have lost our ability to shame women for such flippant treatment of the marriage covenant’?

I’ve noticed a couple of trends in all of this ‘marriage talk’ amongst the folks at Boundless and their ilk (Mohler, Regnerus, Maken, et al.).

First, serious, substantive discussion of divorce in the church is studiously avoided. When it is discussed, it is lightly touched upon, lamented about and then it’s on to ‘more important’ issues. Sometimes, it’s even blamed on men: if he wasn’t such a jerk, she wouldn’t have filed.
Until these people are willing to talk about this issue and hold accountable those responsible (both men and women), I will not take them seriously. I don’t anticipate a change though, as those who are so anxious to shame men are not nearly so about shaming women.

Secondly, while there is plenty of talk about getting married, there is little talk about staying married. Of course, that would mean talking about divorce in a serious way and we don't want to do that now, do we? Triton put it best some time ago:

Anybody can get married, it takes commitment to stay married

Dave said...

... and then there's Albert Mohler's commentary on this article:

All of this points to the fact that the delay of marriage has far more to do with the patterns of life adopted by many, if not most, evangelical young men, rather than those chosen by young women.

*sigh*

TMink said...

SavvyD wrote: "Back then they understood that not everyone has the best of intentions. How did we forget that?"

In our greater culture sex is treated as if it were Koolaid. Have some, it is only Koolaid. It can't hurt you.

In reality, sex is much closer to pure grain alcohol. It is likely to hurt people if used incorrectly and it can kill people.

But we live in a licentious culture.

Trey

SavvyD said...

Puritan Calvinist/Adam--

I totally agree with you. But I can't tell you how many times I've heard someone say that they were feeling hot and wanted some action and their significant other should have been there because they couldn't possibly control themselves. That's the danger of thinking we are like animals with itches that must be scratched immediately.

Pro-Male/Anti-Feminist Tech said...

Why are we promoting marriage AT ALL regardless of whether its early marriage or late marriage? In nearly all cases, its a bad idea for men, pure and simple. It's no longer good for society in its current form (marriage 2.0) since all it does is feed the divorce machine.

Give us back hardship, I say, and watch birthrates soar and Feminism to wink out of existence.

This is not a viable strategy. First of all, what this means effectively is that you are hoping Obama destroys the economy even more than he already is since that is what it will take. (EW, I know you don't really support that. I'm just pointing out what it will take.) Think about what it took to get the economy to get into this recession, massive levels of government screwing around with the economy (before Obama and now during). Otherwise, things would have just gone on unimpeded.

The depression didn't have any long lasting effects of making women better and even if we have a depression now the effect won't be permenant. We need a better strategy and as all you guys know I think it lies in technology.

Ken said...

Another great blog entry. Thanks.

"I'm so unworthy" said...
"There is no benefit marriage offers to men."

Unfortunately, this is very true for most, especially when one adds "...that they couldn't get while remaining unmarried."

Especially outside the church (but all too often inside the church as well), shacking up, fornication, raising kids alone or out of wedlock are no longer discouraged or shamed. They are even encouraged in many ways, and subsidized. People who don't take the Bible or tradition or "conservative" church leadership as authoritative can easily look at the difficulties presented by marriage 2.0 and decide they'd rather not deal with it.

It get to the point where they only difference within the believing church is the desire to have sex without sin. If you don't believe sex with someone other than your spouse is a sin, or you don't have a desire for sex... then in that mindset the motivation to marry is lacking.

Finally... of course men can live without sex. We don't need it the way we need to breathe or eat or whatever. Some of us have a very strong desire for it, others don't. But I do agree with the idea that in general, HUSBANDS "need" sex as a marital bonding mechanism, as an expression of love and affection, as recreation, encouragement, stress reduction, and more. There is a trade-off. A man who marries is taking on many obligations and responsibilities. There should be some reward. (And that reward should also be rewarding for the wife! This shouldn't be thought of as a chore!)

TMink said...

"Why are we promoting marriage AT ALL"

Because it is not good for man to be alone.

Because marriage to a good Christian woman is a wonderful blessing from God.

Trey

slwerner said...

TMink - "Because marriage to a good Christian woman is a wonderful blessing from God."

Agreed.

But, what are we to do, seeing as how good Christian woman are an endangered species, on the verge of extinction? [/snark]

Hi, Trey,

Long time, no debate.

On a more serious related note, blogger Learner hosted what appears to be a very good discussion on her site regarding "What is a good woman?" (http://learningtobalance.blogspot.com/2009/07/what-is-good-woman.html).

Time constraints prevented me from keeping up with the lengthy thread, but I'm going to try to work my way through it soon. Given your prospective on things, I think you might also find it interesting. (I don't know if you are aware of her blog?)

Learner said...

"It might sound like I devalue abstinence. I don't. The problem is that not all abstainers end up happy or go on to the great sex lives they were promised. Nor do all indulgers become miserable or marital train wrecks. More simply, however, I have found that few evangelicals accomplish what their pastors and parents wanted them to.”

Abstaining from sex outside of marriage is not about having great sex after marriage, it is about obedience to God. Sheez, could we get over this whole “do things God’s way because it will make you happier!” business and remember that we are to be obedient regardless of how “happy” it makes us. That is not to say that I don’t think obeying God will result in a abundant life…I do. I just don’t think that translates into “happiness” and I think the focus on “obey because it will make you happy” is the wrong way of looking at things.

“Evangelicals make much of avoiding being unequally yoked, but the fact that there are far more spiritually mature young women out there than men makes this bit of advice difficult to follow.”

I presume he is saying that spiritual maturity = church attendance and I question that assumption. I am not sure if there are more spiritually mature single women or men or not, but given that men and women express most things differently, why would we use the same yardstick to measure spiritual maturity in both?

And, slwerner, thanks for the plug. I would be very interested in your thoughts as well as those of anyone else on the thread you mentioned on my blog :)

wombatty said...

Learner wrote:

I presume he is saying that spiritual maturity = church attendance and I question that assumption. I am not sure if there are more spiritually mature single women or men or not, but given that men and women express most things differently, why would we use the same yardstick to measure spiritual maturity in both?

I think you've hit upon one of the central problems that Regnerus and his ilk suffer from: they have - wittingly or not - made 'woman the measure of all things'. From Maken to Mohler to some at Boundless, male behavior is deemed wrong, unspiritual, immature, etc. if it either conflicts with female norms on the same issue or makes women uncomfortable. For example, if women, in general, desire to marry young, then men better damn well get on board. If they don't there is something wrong with them.

On the other hand, they seem prone to excusing behavior in women that should be measured by a common yard-stick across gender lines. For instance, if women, of their own volition, engage in 'marriage-delaying' behavior, they are cast as victims simply making the best of a bad situation. If men do so, they are immature 'kidults'. Either such behavior is 'bad' or it's not. You can't have your cake and eat it, too.

The common theme being that these people seem to insist that women and their concerns receive special consideration over men and theirs. I think they have drank deeply of our culture's 'woman good - man bad' kool-aide.

TMink said...

Hey SLW, I do not recall any debates with you, but I have been blessed and encouraged by our discussions!

Thanks for the tip, I will check out Learner's blog.

Maybe I do not see Christia women as an endangered species because I am amarried to one and live in the South! hee hee. Just joshin.

Trey