This is what it looks like when you hit a nerve. A couple days ago I put forward 7 reasons why young men should marry 6 years earlier (on average) than they are doing now. This was hailed by some as the best thing they have heard in a long time, and denounced by others as an outrage not to be tolerated. As I write this, the original post has 2.6K Facebook likes, presumably in the hopes that Billy Everyman will take the hint. Does anybody really doubt that this is a pressing issue?
Now I cheerfully grant that in a post like that it is not possible to cover every issue or anticipate every objection, and so I have a few additional things to say about all this. It should be relatively painless.
1. Some reasonable people want to see the gaps filled in, or additional things emphasized or given their due recognition. Others assiduously continue to miss the point, as though reading comprehension were now a hate crime. We live in time when a desire to keep mentally and spiritually disturbed men out of women’s restrooms is described as “hate,” and a modest desire to have the average age when young men marry be what it was in 1970 is described as “creepy” and “horrifically alarming.” One of the reasons this argument must be made is that advocates of the kultursmog not only want to normalize the abnormal, they also want to abnormalize the normal.
2. There is a sense in which no one is ever really “ready” for marriage. There are only various states of unpreparedness. I am simply arguing that (on average) there is a bell curve involved. A thirteen-year-old boy is not ready for marriage. A time eventually comes when he is as ready as he is going to get, and that after that point his preparedness declines.
I am talking about demographic populations. I am not saying that it is automatically an individual sin to be unmarried and 26. That would depend entirely on the reasons for it. I am simply saying that cultural expectations have the capacity to push the average age for marriage later, and that in our case it has been largely destructive, not beneficial.
3. I am a pastor, and this is a pressing pastoral problem. And I have talked to many other pastors who agree that it is a pressing pastoral problem. The nature of the pastoral problem is that of a large and growing population of unmarried women who would love to be married, and who would make good and godly wives. In the conservative church, it would not be unusual to find this cohort of women outnumbering the men in the same station of life by a factor of about 5 to 1. Some of this is caused by the church’s hostility to masculinity, resulting in men being made to feel unwelcome in the church, and some of it is caused by the men who remain being encouraged to perpetuate their teen years by a decade or so. Singleness is a gift, the teaching goes.
We are getting to that stage of feminism where the latest advancements consist of kicking women in the head.
4. Porn is an area where willful distortion of what sensible people are actually arguing is unfortunately common. Because it involves sex, not to mention communication about sex across the divide between men and women, a certain amount of misunderstanding can be expected. But for anyone to say that I was arguing that marriage is a “quick fix” for porn addiction is beyond irresponsible. Go back and read what I wrote. There are some whose addictions lie close to the bone, where the problem is some kind of misogynistic hatred. As I said, the repentance needed there is of another kind entirely. No sense repenting of lust when the problem was malice.
But, I argued, there are other men who are not gifted with celibacy, but who are not (yet) addicted to porn — although they are enticed by it. They do feel its pull. It would be a better idea, said I, for such a one to marry a woman and start building a real life together with her, than for that same young man to spend the next ten years pursuing a publicly-applauded lifestyle of self-indulgence, with his evenings spent in an apartment by himself, alone with his flat screen television and streaming Internet. What could go wrong?
And incidentally, I was not arguing that porn use is excusable. Sin is sin. And sin is defined by Scripture, not by our comparative weaknesses. Every instance of sin is a sin. My argument is not that such sin is ever okay, but rather that such sin is compounded when we make a concerted effort to avoid available helps and remedies. And by calling marital sex a help and a remedy, I am simply following the apostle Paul (1 Cor. 7:9). He appears to be under the impression that marriage quenches the fire, which rhymes with desire. This does not make marital sex a savior; but it is a help. A lot of Christians need to stop despising and disparaging God’s kindnesses to us.
5. Because we are talking about a culture-wide phenomenon, we cannot neglect the fact of legal discrimination against men. In order for men to have a socially useful role, and not a socially destructive role, it is necessary for that role to be supported and reinforced by society.
May I say something that will be a breach of decorum? And possibly something illegal? Men will always be dominant. The only choice we have is whether that dominance will be constructive or destructive. Part of the war on marriage has been to make constructive dominance illegal (e.g. Roe, no-fault divorce, not to mention numerous other court-ordered factors). For more on inevitable dominance, I would recommend George Gilder’s Men and Marriage. The net effect is that many unbelieving men have gone on strike. To do so makes their dominance destructive, and many Christian men have been more affected by the strike than they should have been. If men generally are on strike, this puts Christian men in the position of being scabs.
6. Because I was addressing the conservative church, where the initiative in courtship and marriage still lies with the male, I emphasized the need for men to have an accurate view of what league they are actually in. But the same thing needs to be directed at the women, some of whom have daydreams of their own. Here is a dose of realism — there are more options available than Mr. Collins or Mr. Darcy. When a woman’s standards are biblically high, she ought not alter them in the slightest. But if they are artificially high, then “lowering” them is actually raising them.
7. It is quite true that every Christian needs to find his or her primary identity in Christ, and not in things like vocation, or marriage, or anything like that. Our ultimate loyalty is to be always and everywhere attached to Christ. But Christ has given us His Word, in which He frequently tells us to do other things. We are not supposed to just sit on the sofa, finding our identity in Christ. We are also supposed to work, give, sing, marry, climb and strive.
Detaching our trust in Christ from the things of this world considered as His gifts and instruments is a gnostic move. Remember the joke about the guy sitting on the roof of his house during a huge flood. He was praying and trusting God for his deliverance. A boat came by, but he declined to get in it, saying he was trusting God. Another boat came by, which he refused also. The water kept rising. A helicopter came and dropped a rope, which he did not take hold of because he was trusting God. Finally the flood waters swept him away and he was drowned. He then stomped up to the Pearly Gates, soaking wet and kind of irritated, and demanded that St. Peter inform him why he was allowed to drown. “What did you want?” St. Peter said. “We sent two boats and a helicopter.”
Of course Christ is sufficient. But the sufficiency of Christ does not mean that we get to ignore His provision for us, as ministered through institutions like marriage. This principle is highlighted by the teaching of Westminster against their generation’s version of the gift of singleness.
“No man may vow to do any thing forbidden in the Word of God, or what would hinder any duty therein commanded, or which is not in his own power, and for the performance whereof he has no promise of ability from God. In which respects, popish monastical vows of perpetual single life, professed poverty, and regular obedience, are so far from being degrees of higher perfection, that they are superstitious and sinful snares, in which no Christian may entangle himself” (WCF 22.7).
It is not the same situation, but it is comparable.