Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Marry or Burn

I have a dear friend (he’s in heaven now) who spent his entire life waiting for the right woman to come along. Shortly before his death in his early sixties he was still doing it. Needless to say, she never appeared.

Mind you, the “right woman” was youthful, spiritual, fit, stunningly attractive AND willing to marry a much older, sedentary, admittedly peculiar man who didn’t bring home a whole lot of money even in the best years of his life and usually drove vehicles ten years past their prime.

You can see the problem. He was a great guy and he loved the Lord, but his fantasy just wasn’t happening, and everyone knew it except him.

Expectations, Meet Reality

Today, my friend would be much less exceptional. Increasingly, men are giving up on marriage, and that “giving up” takes many forms:
  • There are men like my friend who expect so much more of women than they are prepared to demand of themselves that they effectively take themselves out of the market. In the years before glamour girls, movies, TV and now ubiquitous porn, I suspect men’s aspirations were a little more realistic.
  • MGTOW (Men Going Their Own Way) do it by renouncing commitment and living for themselves. Casual sex is fine, they say, but long-term relationships with modern women are doomed: don’t bother. Not a lifestyle option that works well for Christians.
  • Eternal juveniles do it by declining to grow up and never learning to provide. Often this takes the form of years wasted accumulating useless university credits, or dead-end jobs combined with thousands of hours in front of video consoles and a perpetual place in their parents’ basements. Many of them like women well enough, but the amount of lifestyle modification required to keep one around for the long haul seems quite beyond them.
  • A number of recent articles online suggest there is a growing Western male demographic that fears being seriously burned by divorce laws in a culture in which divorce is rampant and women are the ones doing most of the divorcing, often unilaterally. I don’t know anyone in this category myself, but it would explain the rather large number of my white co-workers who either have not married, or who have opted to marry women from non-Western backgrounds in the hope of building something that might last.
  • Then there are realistic young Christian men determined to serve God who, for perfectly sound reasons fear pairing up with the wrong sort of woman. They’re for marriage in principle but recognize that women prepared to commit to live by faith are few and far between. They’d love to find one, but every time they think they’re close, some aspect of the budding relationship doesn’t quite work.
I’m of two minds about this trend.

Marriage and Civilization

From a civilizational perspective, less marriage is obviously a bad thing, because people will continue to have sex and children will continue to be born. If it matters to you who is doing the most reproducing in any particular nation and how its children are socialized, bastards raised by single mothers make statistically poor citizens. On average, children raised by single parents are poorer students, their social and emotional development is inferior, and their health and success in the labor market suffers. They are at greater risk of parental abuse and neglect from live-in boyfriends who are not their biological fathers, are more likely to become teen parents and less likely to graduate from high school or college. A nation riddled with such citizens will necessarily operate at a disadvantage.

Even if it were possible to end single motherhood and reduce the population of any given community accordingly, as Mark Steyn memorably puts it, “Demographics is a game of last man standing”. We are already seeing that Western nations that have experienced precipitous population drops from generation to generation find themselves without taxpayers to fund the liabilities accumulated by the previous generation. That works for nobody.

Civilizations thrive when two-parent families raise healthy, responsible citizens that work and pay taxes. Civilizations that are top-heavy with senior citizens and welfare cases simply … don’t thrive.

Christians differ about the level of social responsibility we feel toward the coming generation(s), but I think we can agree that if all Christians suddenly became ascetics, society would benefit significantly less from our presence in it.

Hmm, how can I put this delicately? Some of us need to have wives and families.

Marriage and Serving God

That said, from a biblical perspective, marriage is not for everyone. As the Lord Jesus put it:
“There are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”
Despite the undesirable conditions for marriage created by our present societal trends, the options available to young Christian men who want to please God are two, and only two: marriage or celibacy. There are no Christian Men Going Their Own Way, because Christians by definition do not go our “own way”. That’s what the “Lord” in “Lord Jesus” means.

Does that mean that as a young married Christian man you are at a greater risk of being frivolously divorced than in previous generations? Sure. Do current economic conditions mean you will likely have a harder time providing for a family? Absolutely. Does the ubiquity of feminist propaganda even within Christendom mean you may have a harder time finding a compatible, spiritual woman that meets all your personal criteria? I can guarantee it.

You may, unlike my friend, have to reconsider whether it’s possible to reconcile the desire for a Perfect Ten (as defined by our hypersexualized culture), or even a 7.5 with your commitment to find a partner that pleases the Lord and makes it easier to serve him more effectively. My experience is that the Proverbs 31 Woman is not always a smokin’ hottie. (Sorry ladies, guys really ARE like that, even Christian guys.) Also, she rarely come with another man’s child in tow, but that’s another story.

Yet despite the conditions in our current society, unless you can get on board with the idea of eunuch-hood, it remains better to marry than to burn.

There really isn’t a third way, notwithstanding what liberal Christians will tell us.

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