Have you ever heard of Carolyn McCulley? Carolyn is an Evangelical commentator who recently wrote a book entitled Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? She also attends the same church where the reputable Evangelical author Joshua Harris preaches. At Carolyn’s website there is a quote from another woman writer, Elisabeth Elliot, that is noteworthy:
“Everywhere my husband and I go we meet lovely Christian women, beautifully dressed, deeply spiritual, thoroughly feminine–and single. They long for marriage and children. But what is it with the men? Are they blind to feminine pulchritude, deaf to God’s call, numb to natural desire? . . . Where are the holy men of God willing to shoulder the full responsibility of manhood, to take the risks and make the sacrifices of courting and winning a wife, marrying her and fathering children in obedience to the command to be fruitful? While the Church has been blessed by men willing to remain single for the sake of the Kingdom (and I do not regard lightly such men who are seriously called), isn’t it obvious that God calls most men to marriage? By not marrying, those whom He calls are disobeying Him, and thus are denying the women He meant for them to marry the privileges of being wife and mother.”
Well, this is a serious charge for someone to be making against religious men. It’s not the first time the charge has been made and it will probably not be the last. Because of its serious nature (accusing men of being disobedient to God), it merits an answer. Here’s the short answer: You are way off base, Mrs. Elliot (as is Ms. McCulley and many others). Why do you and so many other religious pundits wonder aloud about the spirituality of single Christian men? I expect anti-male sexism from feminists, but that it also comes from many so-called “Bible-Believing” religious leaders is mind-blowing. It’s utterly scandalous and a reproach to the name of Jesus. Let’s get a few things straight about the Anti-Bachelor Marriage Craze currently infecting some pundits, shall we?
It’s Not in the Bible
First of all, and most importantly, the idea that God mandates most people to marry (pronuptialism) is a blatantly unscriptural idea. I have already dealt with the exegetical weaknesses behind this doctrine (see the essays “Does God Expect Most Men to Get Married?” and “How the Marriage Movement Misuses 1 Corinthians, Chapter Seven“). Ladies and gentlemen, you can drop James Dobson, Joshua Harris, Albert Mohler, Debbie Maken, every single one of your favorite Evangelical authors, and even John Calvin himself on one end of the scales and the Bible on the other. The Bible wins hands down, every single time. I don’t care how popular someone is. If their exegesis is off, then they aren’t speaking as the oracles of God (1 Peter 4:11).
It’s Not a Harmless Doctrine
Secondly, I do not believe the doctrine of pronuptialism is a harmless doctrine. I think it has the potential for making a shipwreck of people’s faith. For one thing, imagine a young soul being told he has no control over his sexual desires and therefore he has to marry (a notion based on a popular misreading of 1 Corinthians 7:2, 7:8-9). The problem is that he hasn’t won the obligatory popularity contest with the opposite sex. He remains single and frustrated. He gets angry at God because he assumes his Creator has given him an appetite that he can neither check nor lawfully sate. Robbed of any confidence he might have in controlling himself, he reasons, “I can’t help my feelings therefore I am going to do something illicit.”
Then there is another young man who looks at the onerous burden of marriage, all of the obligatory social expectations, the fallout from failed unions, etc. and shies away from matrimony. But here come the religious leaders to point their fingers at this young man and shame him for his choices. So, he gets bitter and drops out of church, or he ill-advisedly enters into marriage out of obligation to a social custom (not because he has any substantive feelings for his wife). The seeds of an unhappy marriage are thus sown. In short, the idea that most people have no choice but to marry needs to have a spear driven through it Phineas-style.
God created marriage as a gift, not as a requirement. It’s true that human beings were made with reproductive organs, but God gave us mastery over our desires. Thus, it can be said that marriage was made for man but not man for marriage. Evangelicals, like the Pharisees who became legalistic about the Sabbath, have gone overboard with their pro-marriage agenda, falling into a pit of absurdity. The kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom, not a physical one. We are not under the Old Covenant of Israel anymore, therefore God’s kingdom is not preserved by family lineage (Matthew 3:9; Luke 8:20-21; Luke 12:51-53). That is, the kingdom increases by sharing the Gospel (Matthew 27:19; Romans 1:16-17; James 1:18), not by making babies and filling padded pews with third-generation parishioners. And what if no one gets married and has children? Gasp! Well, do you think the “game of love” is going to go on forever (Psalm 102:25-26; 2 Peter 3:10-13; Mark 12:25)?
Why Men Aren’t Stepping Up (Like Sheep to the Slaughter)
Why do people keeping ignoring the 300-pound gorillas in the room? Are the pundits clued in to the real reasons why religious men are refusing to marry? For any Christian ladies reading this, let me offer some possible reasons …
It takes money to raise a family, Sherlock. We are not in Kansas anymore, and we don’t grow our own food. Many Christian women expect to stay home, have a brood of children, and yet live quite comfortably. Where do they get the idea that God will necessarily bless us with creature comforts? Don’t parrot the line, “God will provide.” I don’t need the sham promise of a materialistic, prosperity theology. Shall we suppose that godliness is an automatic “means of gain” (1 Timothy 6:3-11)? What on earth are some Christian women thinking? That every Christian man has a shot at a cushy, middle management job in some Silicon Valley outfit?
Let me direct your gaze to the social pyramid that stands before you, ladies. Where is the middle class? Yeah, it’s shrinking isn’t it? Carolyn McCulley points to some guy as the model of what male “servant-leadership looks like in a godly home.” No he isn’t a model. The guy in question has a comfortable position in the upper echelons of our corrupt, bloated government. Forgive me for being blunt, but Carolyn and all her middle-class, yuppie cohorts on the Evangelical writer circuit need to come down to earth where many of us live with low-paying jobs, increased costs of living, and other stressors in our daily lives.
What do the religious pundits expect rank and file men to do? Barely live from paycheck to paycheck just so we have the luxury–yes I said luxury (Luke 12:15; Luke 14:26; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31)–of having a housewife and three kids? Is that the message they preach from the lecterns of their comfortable, posh megachurches? Yep, go ahead and bind heavy burdens on religious men, but refuse to lift a finger to help them. Where have we seen this before (Matthew 23:4)?
Arrogance about Sex Roles
We hear about how men need to take the lead in relationships, need to fill the roll of “the provider,” etc. We read that women should pick men who are “physically, mentally, and spiritually” stronger than they are (Jaye Martin, “The Marks of a Godly Husband,” The Tie, Winter 2005, pg. 17). Hmm. Let’s consider those attributes, shall we? I wonder what happens when a man gets a disability and his wife has to care for him. Does he cease being a man since he is no longer physically strong? What about mental strength? I guess a college-educated woman has to pass up a man with a high school education, even though he’s wonderful in every other way. And spiritual strength? We are all called to be mature in Christ, but don’t tell Jaye Martin that.
Seriously, are we using the same Bible? Where is all of this stuff about “Biblical Manhood” spelled out in the New Testament, the spiritual law under which Christians live (Hebrews 8:1-13)? Let’s see … do you want to sling 1 Timothy 5:8 at me, for instance? That passage is not talking about male breadwinners. The original language, grammar, and context point to those of either sex needing to take care of family members in need. That so many self-appointed experts on “Biblical manhood” rip this and other passages out of context is utterly astounding.
Anyway, if Christian women are so adamant about following traditional roles, why don’t they stay at home with their parents, learn how to cook, clean, etc., instead of going to work and competing with men for scare jobs in a tight job market? I think I know the answer. So many “conservative” women have jumped aboard the neo-traditionalist bandwagon. Do you think I exaggerate? Willard Harley, a popular author among many Evangelicals describes the type of man that women supposedly find “irresistible”:
“He assumes the responsibility to house, feed, and clothe the family. If his income is insufficient to provide essential support, he resolves the problem by upgrading his skills to increase his salary. He does not work long hours, keeping himself from his wife and family, but is able to provide necessary support by working a forty to forty-five-hour week. While he encourages his wife to pursue a career, he does not depend on her salary for family living expenses.”
Ah yes. What’s yours is yours. What’s mine is yours. Here’s the kicker: I know that many of you ladies don’t want to really go back to the time of your grandmothers and have your opportunities limited. You don’t want to make the kind of sacrifices in your personal lives that many women in the past had to make. Yet you want us men to live by the old codes of chivalry. You want to make us lie down in the mire, while you step on our backs to get inside the carriage that summarily rides away from us. You want to have your cake and eat it, too. Bottom line: Your neo-traditionalism is a sick joke, a pathetic double-standard.
Moreover, your views on “Biblical manhood” and romantic relationships are just as unrealistic and demeaning as all the airbrushed, photoshopped images put out by Playboy. In your marriages, you expect some sort of Superman who will make all of the hard decisions for you, read your mind, and somehow arrive at the choices you would pick. He will be emotionally strong, never have any fears, doubts, uncertainties, vulnerabilities, weakness, or (gasp) needs. The husband you want is not human. Indeed, I wonder why so many marriages in the Evangelical community end in divorce. You ladies need to get your head out of your Christian romance novels and deal with life.
Who is the Real Shallow One?
Speaking of romance novels–ladies, do you believe us men are the shallower sex? Yes, we are the ones that supposedly don’t accept you because you are morbidly obese. Cry me a river. You want to excoriate us for our physical preferences in women, even thought it’s pretty much proven that men are visually attracted to the opposite sex. Well God made us this way. A lot of young women used to die in childbirth before modern medicine. Did you think God thought it expedient for us to seek out women who don’t physically take care of themselves? Well, at least the answer to this question never got in the way of you seeking out someone taller or “physically stronger” (How many times have I read that your dream man “must be athletic”?). These attributes, while acceptable, have nothing to do with the character of a man. So, why aren’t you accused of being shallow and “hung up on looks”?
And what about judging us by the amount of money we make? I haven’t heard a sermon on how women need to stop objectifying men in this way, lately. Have you? Again, you compete with us for our jobs, but you refuse to marry us when we make less money than you (because your concept of “Biblical manhood” rests on the size of our paycheck, of all things). Then you wonder where all the men are at the end of day. Surprise, surprise. You priced yourselves out of the market, sweeties.
Sex – Yes I Said The Word!
Not too long ago, Stephen Arterburn and two other men wrote a book entitled Every Man’s Battle : Winning the War on Sexual Temptation One Victory at a Time. In essence, the book portrays men as wanton beasts and women as passive victims of male lechery (although one Amazon.com review entitled, “A Mixed Bag” has some shocking things to say about the “fairer sex”). This is not the first time men have been harangued for there sexual behavior. Everywhere, Christian men are confronted by the same unflattering stereotypes: Male sexuality is so suspicious. It is so dangerous. People need to rein all our sons and brothers in with stern, Biblical teaching. Really?
Who demeans sex? Is it the male philander? The man who gawks at physically attractive women? What about the wife who uses it for her own ambitions!? Yes, I typed that. It is sad to know that there are religious women who are so conniving in this regard. Ladies, let me inform you of something: Sex isn’t just about having children. Is marriage just the means of getting a trophy husband and trophy children so you could be among the Martha Stewart glitterati at church? Some of you probably want children for the same reason girls go overboard and collect dolls. Human beings in this case just become pawns to boost your ego. Alas, the desire to be a mother isn’t always noble (especially when men get treated as nothing more than glorified sperm donors).
Also, some of you see sex as something to be rationed out for a husband’s good behavior. If he mows the lawn on Thursday, you’ll passively allow yourself to be used on Friday. Utterly sad. Sex is what two married people who love each other do for the sheer intrinsic worth of it (Proverbs 5:18-19; 1 Corinthians 7:2-5). In the Good Book, it says the two shall become one flesh (Matthew 19:4-5). It’s that simple. That means if he wants you to dress up in exotic sleepwear and play Sex Queen from the Planet Venus, then you better drop the hang-ups from your childhood (which are probably the result of listening to too many sermons from old, cornpone preachers). And if you can’t do that, make an appointment with a counselor. It’s your turn to start being “understanding” of “your partner’s needs.”
Oh by way, single men can live without sex. It is ridiculous that so many religious pundits are utterly schizophrenic about male sexuality. Look, either we have the power of self-control or we don’t. Which way is it?? If we don’t have the power of self-control, no one can blame us for being like a bunch of sex-crazed farm animals that seek out porn, prostitution, and whatever else to sate our immediate desires. If, on the other hand, we do have the power of self-control (which I believe we do), then don’t try to frighten us into marriage by saying most people aren’t gifted to handle singleness. And stop your evil surmising about single men.
Even at a young age, some of us are seasoned enough to see through the sham pearls of physical beauty and charm. Ladies, when you smile and fluff your hair, we can just give ourselves peace of mind by looking the other way. We know what physically attracts us, but we are not obligated to pursue it.
If all else were equal, then sexual desire would be a compelling enough motivation to seek out female companionship. But else isn’t equal. There are so many other variables that have bearing upon a man’s physical, mental, and spiritual well-being when considering the company of women.
We are Not Your Whipping Boys
Some of you are really like the feminists deep down side. For you, it’s women good, men bad. If something goes wrong in your lives, well, it must be because of something men did or failed to do. Too many churches and ministries have sold out to the spirit of male-bashing. For instance, we have Promise Keepers to keep men on the straight and narrow, but where are the football stadiums full of women promising to be better wives and mothers? Are you women so infallible? Are you so untainted from the ungodliness in this culture?
Men have beaten down too much. We are told that we are insensitive; then we are told we are being too wimpy. We are too told that we need to be industrious and ambitious; then we are old that we work too much and don’t pay enough attention to our families. We were shamed for our desires for women; and now we are shamed for not desiring women. We are getting sick and tired of the blame game.
Why do religious pundits push this nonsense? Is it because of the fact that mostly women fill the pews and someone doesn’t want to offend the core audience? I hazard to guess which sex consults most of the books and media put out by the “relationship experts.” Who wants to bite the hand that feeds them? Really, this all looks like a replay of what the Apostle Paul complained about in 2 Timothy 3:6-7.
Women Behaving Badly
Men are beginning to understand that having relationships with women is a high-risk activity of uncertain benefit. Which sex initiates the most no-fault divorces? Which sex often gets bankrupted by court-ordered alimony and child support settlements of astronomical proportions? Which sex gets custody of the children most of the time? Which sex is often the target of false charges of spousal abuse (even though many studies prove that both sexes initiate spousal abuse at comparable rates)? Who often gets removed from their property and thrown in jail merely because of an unproven allegation by the other spouse? Which sex is often forced to pay child support for offspring who are not even related to the one paying that support? Simply put, the family laws on the books are decidedly stacked against men.
Courting among a religious group is no protection for a man, either. Christian women can break up families just like their secular counterparts. Divorce statistics among Evangelicals are scandalous. Too many churches have a lax attitude towards the practice of divorce and serial monogamy. So, where are the cries of reform from the marriage mafia?
But that’s not all. So many of you ladies used to chase the “bad boys” and the guys who were exciting and attractive by the world’s standards (or even by the church’s standards) but who weren’t really spiritual. In your youth, you snubbed many of us who dreamed of being married to a godly woman. Now the chickens have come home to roost. Your biological clocks are ticking. All of a sudden, Christian men that were formerly invisible to you somehow have the responsibility to line up and submit a job application to you for the position of Hubby. Give. Me. A. Break.
It’s All About You, Snookums
In short, too many conservative women have only cared about restricting sex, shaming bachelors into marriage, shaming men into old restrictive sex roles, and pretty much preserving the sex cartel and system of male wage slavery. Being a responsible husband to one of these women would be nice if they (a) stopped playing the hypocrite with regard to honoring traditional sex roles (e.g., they compete with us for our jobs, but they still expect us to make more than them); (b) realized that Corporate America no longer pays hubby well for the financing of their Cinderella dreams; (c) stopped treating us like walking ATMs; (d) realized that sex isn’t just for having children; (e) realized sex is something to be enjoyed, not something to be rationed out only when men perform certain tasks; (f) repented of putting down men; (g) repented of their crypto-feminism; and (h) appreciated what Men’s Rights Activists fight for. The ugly truth no one wants to face is this: Religious and politically conservative women in English-speaking countries have, in many cases, imbibed the sentiments of female entitlement, professional victimhood, and anti-male sexism found in the larger culture. So, it’s not enough to be just anti-feminist. You must be for men. You are either with us or against us, ladies. If you are not fully with us, stay out of lives, so that we can stay free from the leaven of your self-centeredness and malice.
Now what will be the reaction to what I said just far? Forget about the threats and shaming tactics, ladies. Too many women dismiss men’s problems with the attitude that we should “stop being so bitter,” “stop whining,” “get over it,” “show initiative,” “keep trying,” and “suck it up.” Women who voice these sentiments tell us all we need to know about them. As long as everything is going well in their little world, they don’t care about what’s going on in ours. If these women are not willing to listen to our concerns before we marry them, they are probably not willing to do so afterwards. They have nothing to offer us in the way of emotional support.
Ladies, stop and consider: Wanting you is not the same as needing you. That many of you wrap so much of your expectations into the institution of marriage is pathetic. You treat it as some sort of spiritual nirvana that will provide the answers to just about all of life’s problems. But for many of us men, God has carried us thus far through loneliness, social ostracization, and unrequited desire. He is able of carrying us much further (Philippians 4:11-13; 1 Timothy 6:6). He gives us a genuine choice about pursuing marriage (1 Corinthians 7:37-38). We can find our happiness and self-worth without you.
As for the religious pundits that speak soothing things into the ears of women, I call all religious men to stand up and recognize these spin doctors for the spiritual Philistines that they are. I hope that us men will turn against the ungodly ministries of these people and check their influence. Our worth as men is God-given, not derived from fulfilling some religious chick’s dreams.