My First Century Ride (2013 Horsey Hundred)

One of my all-time favorite quotes is from former Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick: “When you go in the lion’s den, you don’t tippy toe in. You carry a spear, you go in screaming like a banshee, you kick whatever doors in, and say, ‘Where’s the son of a bitch!’ If you go in any other way you’re gonna lose.”

There’s no other way to do the Horsey Hundred, the annual signature cycling event in Kentucky. While it’s not a “race”, but rather a ride, make no mistake: it is a brutal course, and not for the timid. You have to really WANT to do it.

I’ve made no secret of my aspirations to do the Louisville Ironman. The second leg of that race is just north of the century (100-mile) distance: 112 miles. I was going to train for it this year, but my work schedule killed me. So my goal is to do it next year.

But I figured I’d try a century ride this year just to see how I stacked up. Since the Horsey Hundred was coming up–it is held on Memorial Day weekend–and given that my spin instructor is one of the organizers of the Horsey Hundred, I decided to try the Horsey Hundred. On my triathlon bike, no less.

Oh, did I say that I had no previous organized cycling events under my belt?

(That’s the equivalent of not having done so much as a 5k race, but deciding–for your first organized run–that you’re going to do a marathon. And not just any marathon: the Pike’s Peak Marathon!)

Yes, I was that stupid.

(In my defense, I’ve done 6 marathons and an ultramarathon, so I’ve experienced endurance-related issues. I know what it’s like to hit the wall. I figured a century ride was within my capabilities.)

Oh, did I say that, barely three days ago, I was running a fever with body aches and a cough?

Yes, I was that stupid.

(In my defense, the antibiotics killed the fever and aches, and most of the cough was gone by Friday.)

So I decided I’d go out and take on this monster of a race. A friend of mine, who has done it a few times, told me to focus on getting to the next rest stop. That would be my strategy.

The first leg—just south of 13 miles—wasn’t that bad. There were some hills—tougher than any I had experienced before—but they were doable. I made that one comfortably.

Ditto for the second leg, which was about 12 miles. Again, it was tough–on the same level as the first stage–but I was comfortable getting into the rest stop.

(Note: I did not skip any rest stops. And at each one, I made it a point to get as much food—particularly oranges and bananas—down as I could, as well as Gatorade. I also had some Gu–an energy gel that is popular among endurance athletes–and kept my water bottle full with Gatorade in case I needed a drink in between stops.)

The third leg—a full 27 miles—was where it started getting tough. The length was one thing, but, really, it was the hills that made it tougher: they were substantially more difficult than the hills in the first two stages. But I kept my head, sticking to my fundamental course strategy: (1) don’t get stupid on the uphills; (2) take as much advantage of aerodynamics on the downhills as I could, and (3) don’t get too soft on the flats. (No worries there: there weren’t many flat areas.)

I hit the halfway point—mile 51—with more than an hour to spare. It was a tough leg, but I was feeling good. My only slight issue: I accidentally braked too hard coming into the stop, and my back end flipped. Gave me a bruise and dislocated the chain. But nothing serious. I was able to easily re-align the chain. I also took advantage of the on-site mechanic at the stop: they said it was good to go. I was back in business within 5 minutes. During that wait, I got hydrated and stuffed down some food.

At that point, my confidence level was high. I was well-within the cutoff, even though this was a very tough course. I had never gone this far before, but I wasn’t sore. I was jacked, but knew I could hit “the wall”. From here, I figured I’d play conservative: don’t let euphoria drive me too much on the uphills, relax but be careful on downhills, don’t get hit by a drunk driver, stay within my limitations (Callahan’s Law). I’ve got this in the bag.

Then, the brutality began.

In the middle of the fourth leg, the hills became epic in their difficulty. To say that this part was “hilly” would be the mother of all understatements. Very seasoned riders would stop and walk their bikes to the top of hills. I stopped three times to drink from my water bottle. That stretch was not quite 20 miles, but it felt like 50.

(On a sad note: there was a very nasty wreck on the L-turn coming down Clifton Rd. The downhill grade was 10%, and the two riders apparently took that turn too fast and hit the guard rail. When I got there, one was sitting up—bleeding badly—and one was laying down, but moving. I was going to make an emergency call, but someone who had already come upon them beat me to it. At the rest stops and after the race, I asked around but received no definitive word on their conditions.)

Still, I felt like King Kong when I got to the Jack Jouett House (mile 70), although I was rattled a bit from witnessing the aftermath of the accident at Clifton. The worst was over. There would still be hills, but nothing like what the last 20 had.

The fifth leg—17 miles into Keeneland—was probably the second-easiest leg in the course. It wasn’t easy, but it was a welcome relief compared to the previous stage.
MrsLarijani was volunteering at the Kenneland stop. It was great to see her at mile 87, and she even had some food waiting for me. I made a tactical decision to ditch my belt and water bottle at that point. I figured I had only 17 miles left, and the worst was behind me, so I didn’t need the extra weight. There was one more rest stop left—not even 9 miles away—and I could get some Gatorade there if I needed it.

Bethel Presbyterian Church had the last rest stop. They had lots of goodies, but I only concerned myself with Gatorade: I had only 8.7 miles to go, and wanted to make sure I had no dehydration disasters. I felt otherwise good–almost ecstatic–but was cutting no corners. Hydration, hydration, hydration.

The last leg was the easiest of all. It still had hills, but nothing like any of the other legs. I only stopped at traffic lights and stop signs. The worst part of that last 17 miles was the traffic.

In all, a nice ride. It was as brutal as anything I’ve ever done in my life, but–surprisingly–I experienced very little muscle pain afterward. Very slight soreness in the quads in the morning, but it was all gone by Sunday night.

(The only serious pain I had was related to what guys tend to experience from being on a bike seat for extended periods of time…)

I’ll do more centuries, but not this year. (Two marathons for which to prepare: one in September and one in December.)

I will probably do the Horsey Hundred next year.

Patriarchy is the Problem

Not really, but it seems that many lurking in the church–like Catherine Woodiwiss–are promoting the idea.

Most of us are too familiar with this story: an Upper Midwestern Baptist minister claims that “God made Christianity to have a masculine feel [and] ordained for the church a masculine ministry.” Or a Reformed Christian pastor mocks the appointment of the first female head of the Episcopal Church, comparing her to a “fluffy baby bunny rabbit.” Or a Southern Baptist megachurch pastor in California says physical abuse by one’s spouse is not a reason for divorce. Or numerous young evangelical ministers brag about their hot wives in tight leather pants.

While I share the disdain for the woman appointed as head of the Episcopal Church, my sentiments have nothing to do with how she looks. As for evangelical ministers bragging about their wives in “hot leather pants”, that’s almost certainly the exception: I’ve not met any of those personally, and I’ve been around the block.

As for Christianity, we need to face the fact: in Scripture, while women are valued greatly–and are equal before God with the men–Christianity, like Judaism, is overwhelmingly Patriarchal. While Jesus had women in His inner circle, they were not among the Twelve. Throughout both the Old and New Testaments, there were women in key positions of political–even spiritual–leadership. They were, however, the exception to the rule.

And yet, the dilemma that women are experiencing in American churches–highlighted by Woodiwiss–exists largely due to the feminism that has been absorbed into both societal and Church circles. But more on that later.

Fewer of us are familiar with this story: Tamar is raped by her half-brother Amnon. Tamar protests her brother’s advances, citing the social code of Israel, his reputation, and her shame, to no avail. Their brother Absalom commands her to keep quiet, and their father, the great King David, turns a blind eye.

What do these contemporary statements above, delivered into cultural megaphones with conviction and certainty, have to do with the Old Testament rape and silencing of Tamar? The difficult answer is, quite a lot. The narrative dominance of these stories rests on power and control, which — whether intentional or not — speaks volumes about whom the church serves and what the church values

I’m more familiar with the story than you appear to be. Don’t forget that Absalom sought justice for his sister: he killed Amnon for raping Tamar. In fact, Absalom showed more regard for the welfare of his sister than did her father, who–from the Scriptures–was aloof about what was going on in his own household. And while we are on the subject of rape, don’t forget Levi and Simeon: while their actions–killing the entire village of Shechem–were over-the-top, let it be known that they did show great regard for their sister Dinah.

It’s not like there aren’t men in Scripture who didn’t care about rape. In fact, they do. I would also suggest that, even in their flaws (Simeon, Levi, Absalom), their regard for their sisters were their strong points.

What do these contemporary statements above, delivered into cultural megaphones with conviction and certainty, have to do with the Old Testament rape and silencing of Tamar? The difficult answer is, quite a lot. The narrative dominance of these stories rests on power and control, which — whether intentional or not — speaks volumes about whom the church serves and what the church values.

In short, the stories that fail to treat women seriously are the kinds of narratives that lead to manipulation, devaluation, and sexual abuse of these very women.

In fact, these narratives do treat women seriously, and accentuate the evil of both the perpetrators as well as those who turned a blind eye to–or sought to mitigate the damage of–the abuses.

There is too often a shameful culture of silence around rape and abuse in the church. But equally pressing is the confusion or silence in many evangelical communities around the pattern-forming behaviors that lead to it. For men and women alike, this brand of silence has roots in a sexualized view of women, and is given context in a power narrative that is built to protect and perpetuate male dominance in the church.

That sexualized view of women was not merely concocted by men; in fact, feminists have a great many issues for which they should be held to account on this. Gloria Steinem sold it to men, saying, “You’ll screw more and enjoy it more.” Women’s magazines–from Cosmopolitan to Ladies Home Journal–have promoted a sexualized view of women. Romance novels–overwhelmingly written and read by women–promote a sexualized view of women.

Feminists have decided to have their cake and eat it too: one one hand, they denounce and shame men who won’t date obese women, while at the same time promoting a sexualized view of women in the course of promoting an agenda of free sex cross-dressed as liberation.

That element of culture has, sadly, made its way into the Church. Even then, the Church–which has swallowed the feminist pill, even among many conservative circles–is in its current dilemma in no small part because of the conundrum created by the feminist paradigm they have embraced.

Today, the Church is more feminist than the Church of Acts 2. And yet the abuse dilemma is greater today than it was then.

Ergo, chalking this issue up to Patriarchy is to erroneously equate correlation with causation.

In the American church today, men hold a significant proportion of narrative power. Though twice as many women as men join discipleship activities and greatly outnumber men in church attendance, a significant majority of men still hold the highest positions of leadership across denominations. Of course, if not from the pulpit, women may speak out in other forums (increasingly, for example, through publishing or online platforms, as notable evangelical women are doing). But it does not require rejecting a complementarian view of gender to recognize that the predominance of men in church leadership makes power a gendered issue for the church.

Don’t forget, however, that in many of those “male-dominated” evangelical churches, women have a tendency to dominate the key committees that wield much of the power. In no small number of Baptist churches, women will dominate the nominating committee (that recommends people for teaching posts), finance committee (that effectively controls the purse strings), personnel committee (that effectively controls the hiring and firing of key staffers).

And the church’s unsettled relationship with gender and sex in the context of power does contribute to an ugly storyline that too often crops up in this framework: that a woman’s value is inextricably tied up in her sexuality.

The consequences of this view was starkly articulated last week by Elizabeth Smart, a Mormon from Utah who was kidnapped at age 14 and sexually assaulted during her 9-month captivity. She spoke of her hesitancy to flee her captors in damning terms for our faith communities’ discussions of purity.

I was raised in a very religious household — one that taught that sex was something special that only happened between a husband and wife who love each other,” Smart said.

So for that first rape, I felt crushed. Who could want me now? I felt so dirty and so filthy. If you can imagine the most special thing being taken away from you and feeling that — not that that was your only value in life, but something that devalued you — can you imagine turning around and going back into a society where you’re no longer of value, where you’re no longer as good as everybody else?

While I empathize with Elizabeth Smart, we must also keep in mind that Mormons are not Christians. To take her plight–which was beyond awful–and conflate that with what is going on in the Church is an intellectually dishonest use of a false canard.

I’ll call BS. Every. Single. Time.

The church’s emphasis on young women, but not necessarily young men, remaining “pure” for their future spouse creates a double bind, Victoria Ferguson, founder of Kindred Moxie, a faith-based domestic violence advocacy network in Atlanta, Ga., said — one where women carry the burden of responsibility for sexual purity but have no power over the consequence.

“We are told every day, ‘boys will be boys. Your obligation is to not be raped.’ As if this is what just men do,’” she said.

This approach, Ferguson said, uncomfortably mirrors the broader cultural approach to rape and victim-blame.

For one thing, the Church does admonish both sexes to remain pure for marriage. In conservative circles, men are not told “boys will be boys”. In fact, it is the other way around: they are often taught that, if they have consensual sex with a woman, she remains innocent and the sin is all his. I had a long-running feud with our friends at Boundless, an arm of Focus on the Family, for exactly that.

“You don’t see the media discussing the impact or magnitude of intimate partner violence,” Ferguson said. “We are giving the perpetrators attention without accountability. We ask, ‘Why is she still with him?’ Not: ‘Why did he do that to her?’”

Actually, it is the other way around. We are very diligent in our punishment of men for abuses, even to the point that even an accusation–without proof–is enough to convict. Churches have a longstanding tendency to coddle the women rather than admonish them to take action through appropriate channels.

In the realm of sexuality and sexual violence, the media and the church share at least one frustrating commonality: the dominant voices are male, and their prominent focus and value judgments are directed at females.

“It’s the hyper-masculine kinds of comments that get the most publicity,” said Rev. Sharyl Marshall Dixon, associate pastor at the Presbyterian Church of Deep Run in Perkasie, Pa. “They’re louder and meaner, and make better stories. But they’re not making my job any easier.”

Who are those men and what are those comments?

Donna Schaper, senior minister at Judson Memorial Church in New York City, agreed.

“Nuns and Protestant women are also very much faith leaders. But the megaphone is captured by white Protestant men,” she said. “We need to say out loud whose voices are not being heard — and give women hope that they might be heard.”

Aside from the fact that Schaper made quite a racist statement, the women are being heard. The seminaries–even the conservative ones–are still undermining masculinity, are still shaming the men by blaming them for every failed marriage and every problem of women. Those students of those seminaries have gone on to preach a Jesus that is far-removed from the Jesus of Scripture.

That sexual abuses are going on at levels foreign to the New Testament Church should not be surprising.

Unfortunately, Driscoll’s consistently demeaning language towards women makes his narrative on sexual abuse precarious. If anything, it makes his sentiments all the more harmful and open to misappropriation.

Not really.

How can a young man learn to properly respect a woman when his pastor insists that women are unfit for leading the church “because they are more gullible and easier to deceive than men?”

Because it’s in the Bible.

How can young women learn true, self-respecting empowerment when their teacher compares an enslaved child-bride, Esther, to a sexy contender on The Bachelor (one who “allows men to cater to her needs, lands a really rich guy…and wows with an amazing night in bed”) — and calls her “simply a person without any character until her own neck is on the line?”

Now you’re trying to have it both ways. Having listened to Driscoll’s take on Esther, he is merely being honest about what was really going on in that book. Americans have a dressed-up mindset about how Esther became queen. In fact, the realities are quite sordid and sad. And yet God used that very evil set of circumstances for the good of His people. Throughout the account, God is constantly working great things even when His name is not even mentioned…

To say that Driscoll’s pointing out that Esther is not the clean, pretty account that many Western Christians envision is somehow undermining women does not do justice to either Driscoll or the book of Esther.

And what does it mean when otherwise-thoughtful and respected church leaders like John Piper and Rick Warren’s Saddleback co-pastor Tom Holladay insist that women have no right to leave their abusive marriages?

They’re suggesting that abuse is not a Biblical ground for divorce. Whether or not you agree with their position is not the point; they are making a statement based on what Scripture says. To say that this arises out of a disdain for women would not be fair.

The Scriptures can lead one to make very unpleasant conclusions. If Piper is wrong, then go ahead and show him–from Scripture–why he is wrong.

How can young men learn to not abuse women when they are simultaneously being modeled the behaviors that lead to it?

How can young men learn not to abuse women when they are simultaneously being fed a body of evidence that women prefer abusive men? (50 Shades of Gray anyone?)

For those trying to foster a culture of respectful men, the trend among such male leaders toward masculine swagger and gender prescriptiveness is worrisome, and too closely mirrors the crisis of power at play in abuse.

Women–as a group–reward that swagger and gender prescriptiveness. You don’t have to like it–I’m not saying I like it–but it is what it is.

“[Rape] is not about short skirts,” Schaper said. “It’s about fear of powerlessness. It’s a crisis of masculinity and social control.”

And who has been “controlling” the men? Who has been “controlling” what gets taught in social studies, health, and sex ed classes? It has been a government enterprise that has been indoctrinated by feminists who are fronting the sexual revolution.

She goes on to quite Jason Katz:

“Not about women, but men. Include things like: Why do so many adult men sexually abuse little girls and little boys? Why do we hear over and over again about scandals erupting in major institutions like the church? And what is the role of the various institutions in our society that are helping produce abusive men at pandemic rates? Once we start asking those questions, then we can talk about how we can be transformative.”

That is a culmination of factors in both secular society and the Church, which has bought into much of the secular agenda. And this is not about men. Nor is it about women. This is about men and women. We do no justice if we address each sex in a vacuum.

As people of faith, the stories we tell have spiritual and physical consequences. In order to salvage the good messages of church leaders like Driscoll, Piper, and Holladay from the ugly, marginalizing power dynamics, a richer vision of women as made in the image of God is desperately needed.

Actually, a more Biblical presentation of God–that does justice to masculinity–is a great place to begin. That would allow for a more cogent development of what Biblical masculinity looks like.

As I often say, the Jesus of Scripture had a pair.

In looking at progress made for women’s voices in the church, “We’re maybe 25 miles down a 100-mile road,” Schaper said. “The change ahead may be slow, or it may be radically transformative. I’m just not sure yet.”

Because you are going in the wrong direction, you have 125 miles to go in what should have been a 100-mile trip.

Why Is It So Hard to Leave Him?

Sandra Turton has written a piece about why it is hard for women to end a relationship with a man whom they know is not right.

While I don’t believe she is articulating the entirety of the dilemma, I disagree with Savvy in this respect: Turton is absolutely correct that sexual sin does play a large part of it.

Savvy is correct in that sex isn’t the whole reason, but sex isn’t irrelevant in this disucssion and is in fact a large part of the reason.

I say this for two reasons:

(1) Sex is not merely a physical act that is pleasurable. From a theological standpoint, the act of sex involves two people becoming “one flesh.” Biochemically, we know that the act of sex involves release of chemicals that contribute to the bonding of the people involved. (And yes, that applies even in cases where the sex can be painful.)

(2) I’ve seen many Christian women who–realizing that their premarital sexual relationships were wrong–refuse to break it off because they felt they didn’t deserve better. They would, in some cases, go on to marry these creeps, and end up in abusive marriages, then end up divorced.

Ultimately, if you are in a crappy relationship, sexual bonding–if you are indeed having sex–makes breaking it off more difficult. For many women (and even men), breaking that off is EXTREMELY difficult. No matter how well you explain the Biblical and practical truths.

That’s not to say that bad non-sexual relationships are easy to break off–they can be difficult in their own way–but Turton is correct: sex adds an order of magnitude to the dilemma.

“I Dont Like Church”

A FB friend of mine linked to this article. In it, Nyquist raises some valid points. OTOH I’m not buying the whole thing.

I don’t like church. And if I had to make a wager, I’d say the average Christian church doesn’t know what to do with me.

My church-attending routine is minimalist: in the door two-and-a-half minutes before the service begins; out thirty seconds after the closing prayer. Until recently, when I escaped before the end of the sermon and did my own prayer in the nursery hallway.

“I’m frustrated, God, but it’s not You–it’s Your church!”

I would say that, while the Church can be frustrating at times, keep in mind that it is full of imperfect people with every manner of baggage. Just like you, Ms. Nyquist.

I spent my twenties tasting a dozen flavors of churches, from Baptist to Catholic. I’d volunteer, build friendships, and tithe. Then my family moved, the church split, or a pseudo-romance fizzled. Weary, I’d return to Church Hopping 101, hoping that next time would be different. And after growing up as a pastor’s kid and graduating from Bible college, I made a venture into the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Well, I have an Eastern Orthodox friend. They are good folks, even if they get some particulars wrong. The problem is, switching denominations–or switching sectors (Catholic vs. Orthodox vs. different Protestant variants)–doesn’t remove the fundamental problem: Man. Sin is what it is, and it manifests itself differently among individuals, and even among the two sexes.

I wanted a stable community where honesty was welcome and failure was accepted. But we’re a generation whose comfort zone is in transience. Our relationship with church can resemble a spiritual friends-with-benefits pact: pleasurable companionship with the option to bail when something better appears.

I’ve been guilty of this more than once.

If this was your approach to personal relationships, then this is worth calling out. And if that reflects the way you have approached the Church, then you need to face the fact that you are part of the problem, and–before calling the Church out on this shortcoming–acknowledging that you yourself have contributed to the problem.

If you want acceptance in the Church, you must be willing to get into the ugliness of your own baggage, as well as deal with the ugliness of the baggage of others, all with the same grace you want for yourself.

Plus the church has both helped and hurt me—often simultaneously.

Its potential to heal is tied to the risk of new wounds; we all participate in the helping and hurting. Holding ourselves to impossible standards, we condemn others when they fall short. An acquaintance calls me damaged goods because I’m a divorced mom. I seethe at her narrow-minded judgment.

We both feel superior.

We both sin. We both crave community even as we hamstring it with our actions.

That is because each of us have baggage, and we each have this tendency to think that “my baggage isn’t as bad as someone else’s”, or even, “my baggage is so bad that no one will accept me, so I won’t bother trying.” Both approaches are rooted in pride, which is, in the words of C.S. Lewis, the great sin.

Before my first marriage, I felt accepted and worthy of belonging to a church.

That’s part of the problem: even without your baggage, you weren’t worthy then. You just FELT like you were. Fact is, none of us are worthy.

Now with two failed marriages, a toddler, and raging PTSD, I don’t fit. When someone initiates contact, it feels more like pity than friendship, though maybe that is my insecurities talking. When the singles events occur, I’m tucking my son into bed and settling in for a night of work.

When a young mom asks for a playdate, I don’t want to tell her I have a therapy appointment.

How much of my dislike of church is due to others, and how much is due to my failure to meet private expectations of a model Christian?

While the Church has its share of hypocrites who have rubbed you the wrong way, it’s a lot more on you than you think. If you aren’t willing to tell people the hard truth–and accept that how they deal with it isn’t your problem–then you are playing the same game that they are playing. You’re both being hypocrites; it’s just that your hypocrisy tends to garner more public sympathy among the church-bashers in MSM.

Could part of my struggle be rooted in my desire to control relationships?

Yes, and it goes both ways. Many churches seek to control their relationships with you; you seek to control your relationship with others. Some of that is legit; some of it is dysfunctional. The problem is no one–not you, not your pastor, not the folks sitting next to you in the church–is going to bat a thousand in the discernment department.

When I told one of my closest Orthodox friends that I was returning to a Protestant church, her response stung.

“It’s just as well,” she shrugged. “You didn’t make a very good Orthodox Christian anyway.”

Problem is, I don’t make a good Protestant either. How ironic that I grappled with my then-Orthodox faith at the same time my dad and brother were writing their book on why Millennials are leaving the church. By the time The Post-Church Christian released I was attending a nearby Protestant church, despite feeling out-of-place.

My relationship with God feels more strained than strengthened by going.

I think it might be worth asking what about it is strained? Is it what you are hearing from the pulpit? If it is that, then it might be worth having a discussion with the pastor. If it is others, then what is it about them that is frustrating you? Are they failing you, or are they just not coming off well? Perhaps you might want to talk with them and seek some resolution.

The Eastern Orthodox world–even in its richness–has a significant amount of legalism. That’s not to say that many Protestant sectors don’t–in fact they do–but my point is not so much about the shortcomings of the Eastern Orthodox, but rather to point out that you were jumping from one frying pan to to another.

Each side has its strengths; both sides, however, have a common denominator: the people.

I’ve yet to participate in a Protestant communion. One attempt landed me a shaky mess in that nursery hallway. A foundational sacrament of our faith paralyzes me, but I cry reading to my son from his Bible storybook. I choke on phrases like “I’m trusting God,” or “I’ll be praying for you.”

Yes, many times, when people say that, it’s empty crap. That said, it would be worth discussing what it is about Communion that is causing the difficulties. Is it your own sin? Is it a skittishness about identifying with the Church among whom you are worshiping? Are you beating yourself down over past sins? Is it some combination of the three?

I’ve had to learn, there are some things I’ll never understand about God, the Bible, and Christians.

Welcome to the club.

I’m now challenging myself to mature my faith in an imperfect situation. I am loving God in the confusion. Going to church is not about getting what I want or hearing what I agree with. God uses committed, honest people to make church what it needs to be: a haven of healing and hope.

We do it imperfectly, but we are the ones with a chance to get it somewhat right. That means I attend church.

I’m glad you are attending. And I am glad you realize that it is not about getting what you want or hearing what you agree with. Jesus was always afflicting the comfortable: He almost NEVER told people what they wanted to hear, and He was ALMOST ALWAYS frustrating even His inner circle.

That, perhaps, was one of the biggest problems with the Pharisees: they wanted Jesus to identify with them. They wanted Him to take THEIR side on divorce, THEIR side on taxes, THEIR side on handwashing, THEIR side on fasting. They wanted Jesus in their image.

As long as we insist on having God on our own terms, we’re playing the same game that the Pharisees played. We may not be wearing the same clothes, the issues may be different today, but the dynamics are nothing new under the sun.

Walsh Provides Frank Assessment of “Marital Market Value”

HT to Susan Walsh. I definitely prefer MMV (marital market value) over SMV (sexual market value). I cannot say I have an issue with most of what she has written.

As for her pointers to the ladies to “Up Your Girl Game”:

1. Achieve and maintain physical fitness.
2. Dress to flatter your body shape and use makeup to enhance your features.
3. Aim for a vibe in your appearance that says “girlfriend” rather than hookup.
4. Cultivate a friendly demeanor and pleasant personality.
5. Recognize that guys will care about your sexual history, and behave accordingly.
6. Indicate interest in a relationship to filter out cads and attract like-minded guys.

The only one I would take slight issue with is #2. I would recommend that a gal dresses casually to professionally. If she has “features”, trust me: the guys are going to notice no matter how suggestively–or not–that she dresses. We’ll notice because, well, that’s what guys do.

To her credit, Walsh does balance #2 with #3. I would summarize it like this: while it is okay to dress attractively, there is also a fine line between that and dressing like a slut. I recommend taking good care of yourself, dressing modestly–but not trashily–and being affable (#4).

#5 and 6 are huge. Listen up, ladies: Any woman–no matter her attractiveness–can get laid. Go to any frat party, and–without much effort–you’ll have at least one ride.

But here’s the thing: the men–even the good guys among us–don’t have it quite as easy. (Even the most successful PUAs–think Roissy–strike out about 70% of the time.) A good guy has to work very hard just to get a woman who is interested in him for anything.

We also know that, if you have had a substantial number of partners–the studies I’ve seen indicate that more than 5 is where things start getting bad–your chances of being good marriage material start dropping like a paratrooper with a faulty chute and no reserve.

The men know this.

This is why Christian guys–generally a forgiving lot–aren’t going to be enamored with the prospect of dating a Sigma Chi Gangbang Champion. While everyone–even a virgin–is going to have some sexual baggage (in our pornified society, it’s darn-near impossible NOT to), the guys are looking for a “keeper”.

Call me what you want to call me, but a high number of partners does not say “keeper”.

So ladies, in this marathon called life, please think twice before you drink of the sex-positive cup that the feministas are handing you.

The naked truth is this: they are a pathetic, miserable herd of rabid jackals who wish to make you as miserable as they are.

Hypergamy Leading to Misery of Chinese Women

Well Hell’s Bells!

(HT: Vox Day at Alpha Game)

BEIJING — Feminists are concerned that some Chinese women in their late 20s who are doing well in their careers but are labeled “leftover women” for not having married yet, may be their own worst enemies.

Yep.

“They are still living in a traditional mindset and values, even though there’s no way that those can solve their problem,” said Feng Yuan, a feminist and head of Beijing’s Anti-Domestic Violence Network, in a telephone interview. Other feminists agreed with her.

What is missing is a stronger awareness of the dynamics of gender, said Ms. Feng. “If they don’t gain gender consciousness then they can only rely on luck to solve their problem,” she said, meaning they can only hope to solve the problem if they meet a man who earns more than they do.

The other side of the coin is this: in China, thanks to the stupid “one child per family” law–compounded by the emphasis on having a male over a female, which incentivizes abortion–there are far more available men than there are available women. This is probably also contributing to the extra choosiness by the women, which–in turn–works against them as well as the men.

MrsLarijani and I noticed the same thing at her alma mater (Covenant College). A couple days before we got married, her college had a singles forum. Both sexes were well-represented (very much unlike my alma mater). Almost all of them were between ages 18-22. Almost all the women were at least moderately attractive. Every one of them wanted to be married. And yet there was little or no intentional pursuit going on.

I’ll bet I could have randomly paired each guy with a gal–tearing a page from Sun Myung Moon–and everyone who wanted to be married could have been married, and this would have resolved some of the anxiety on both sides.

One of the moderators–a graduate who was himself in extended singleness–did, to his credit, point out that the male students had a unique opportunity that they could not reasonably expect outside of college: a deluge of women. I gave him an earful afterward and told him to keep telling the guys that: it won’t get any easier.

“Shengnu,” or “leftover woman,” a term applied to China’s well-educated, unmarried women, has long been hurtful for those labeled in that way.

Recently, some have started to push back by swapping it for another word that is pronounced identically but is written differently in Chinese, and has a far more positive meaning: “shengnu,” or “victorious woman,” as I write in my Female Factor Letter today. (Some prefer to render that as “successful.”)

Yet despite the hurt, some women seem unaware that wanting a man to earn more, even when they themselves are equally well-educated and capable, may be working against them.

Zhou Wen, 27 and unmarried, is a secretary at an American marketing company in Beijing. She explained that it’s widely thought a man should earn more than a woman for the match to be right.

“Why aren’t girls prepared to marry a man who earns less? Because income represents your ability,” she said in a telephone interview.

“If you earn less it means you have less ability and no one wants to marry someone with less ability,” she said.

Why not be financially equal, sharing the rent and other living expenses?

“Most people think that equality isn’t just a question of 50-50 on bills,” she said.

“Male-female equality is about making men and women equal and if I contribute 50 percent of everything that doesn’t mean I’m equal,” she said. “Men should respect women, respect their ideas and ways of thinking, and not be the kind of person who says ‘everything a woman says is nonsense,’” she said. That said, she added: “I’m not opposed to going 50-50.”

I would not be so hard on the Chinese women in this case. While hypergamy is nothing new, there’s a lot more cultural emphasis on it over there. Compounding matters, these women are doing exactly what they have been pressed to do by their parents and society. Combine that with the poverty from which many families are now emerging, it’s easy to see how the women over there can get sucked into a proverbial death spiral.

Having said that, parents–on both sides of the Pacific–need to look long and hard at what they are teaching their children.

The fertility clock is not something invented by men. It is biological and it is what it is. Fact is, it peaks at about age 28.

If you graduate from college at age 22, your optimal fertility window is 6 years.

If you have not met your husband, that means you now have 6 optimal years during which to find a man, date, get serious about getting married, get hitched, and start working on having children.

During that time, if you date a guy and it doesn’t work out, you are back to square one.

After that 6-year period, you enter the sub-optimal phase, during which your best childbearing years are over, and your biological clock is in the 2-minute warning. Making matters worse, if you’re not careful, your peak attractiveness might also start slipping, and this could be a problem when you are competing with younger women for the same pool of men.

(Don’t start hating on me for saying that, because I didn’t create the reality; I’m just reporting it.)

Oh, and hypergamy doesn’t make this any easier.

Now I realize that a feminist can read this and conclude that I am against women getting an education and a career. In fact I have said nothing of the sort.

At the same time, going that route is going to require a level of prudence, planning, and purposeful action that cannot be taken for granted.

And society is behind the curve dealing with this problem.

China has the problem in spades, but it’s not exactly rosy over here either.

Field Trip Mom

Sigh. I don’t know her, but by the limited conversation I overheard, she has several children. When I saw her walking away with a group of middle schooler’s, it was obvious she was wearing a thong under her silky, slinky, skirt. Yep, she had a hot body. I am sure her selection was not missed by the boys – especially since many boys that age are still a bit short, and she is tall.

This is why young girls dress sexy … because their momma’s do.

Ladies, save the sexy for your husband … and then flaunt it all you want to his heart’s desire. But with middle school boys? Please dress a bit more modestly.

The Gay “Marriage” Revolution, and the Future of American Christianity

Almost 30 years ago, in 11th grade health class, we all had a very substantial discussion of homosexuality. (The health class included a sex-ed component, and it was in this context that the discussion took place.)

The teacher–RR, who was also my tennis coach–was quite liberal, but, to his credit, was fair in his presentation to the class. He was a secular Jew who, while not Christian, grudgingly appreciated the benefits that Christians brought to the table. Neither myself, nor any other Christians in the class, ever had a problem with him.

In fact, get this, folks: RR referred to anal sex as “sodomy” and, while conceding to conventional wisdom–which, at the time, dictated that one in ten people were gay–he seemed to think of that lifestyle as an aberration. (In fact, most of the teachers–even the most liberal, tolerant folks who were high up in the local teacher union–were of that mindset. While they harbored no hatred of gays, they did not look at the lifestyle as one to be embraced or promoted, either.)

The year was 1983, and the United States was a different country. Reagan was President; the Cold War was hot; the Moral Majority had its high water mark of relevance; and, while Americans were not on board with Jerry Falwell, the American people had no desire to ditch the Judeo-Christian consensus that made America–and Western Civilization–exceptional. Americans weren’t all Bible-believing Christians; they did, however–sometimes grudgingly–accept that the Christian consensus that informed our understanding of law and justice, even with its faults in execution, was a good thing.

Back then, gay “marriage” was on no one’s radar.

Sadly, the year was 1983, and the decline–while under the radar–was already in progress.

The same decline that has destroyed Europe had not quite come full-circle in the United States. But the wheels were turning.

Abortion had been legal for ten years; the process that led to its legalization had been in play for longer than that. The Kinsey reports of the 1940s were a culmination of the synthesis of Darwinian thought presented as science, Nihilist rejection of objective truth, academic hatred of all things Christian, and outright fraud.

But, over time, Kinsey’s key mantras were absorbed into the mainstream: the academy, the justice system, the news media, the entertainment sector, and–before long–most sectors of government.

Making matters worse, key sectors of the Church were already in the process of succumbing to European skepticism. This process began in Europe with the Enlightenment, then accelerated with the advent of Biblical liberalism, whose adherents promoted “Higher Criticism”. By the mid-1940s, the same Germany and France that gave us Luther and Calvin, and the same England that had given us Wilberforce, Spurgeon, Tyndale, and Edwards, was all but dead.

While the Europeanization of America had been going on since the late 1800s, this process accelerated after World War II. American seminaries welcomed European scholars, and sent their best students to study in European seminaries. Those great students would go on to become pastors, scholars, authors, and professors who would pass on that liberalism to their students.

This is why mainline Protestants in the 1960s, sadly, were making “care packages” for Communist soldiers in North Vietnam, all while our men were fighting valiantly–and dying–to liberate people from a brutality that was rooted in the godlessness of Communism.

This is why the Church was caught flat-footed by the onslaught of feminism and the ensuing Sexual Revolution.

This is why the response of the Church has been largely reactionary: opposition to agendas rather than a promotion of a better agenda rooted in Creation and Redemption. If the Church teaches a sexuality that consists of, “Don’t have sex until you get married; it’s better when you wait…” or “If you wait until marriage, you will be a better flower in the garden…” or “The men will appreciate you better if you wait until marriage…”, then that is proof-positive that they are being reactionary.

Otherwise well-intentioned efforts–such as the True Love Waits initiatives–reflect a Church that is in reactionary mode. As a result, the Church is failing in its role of salt and light. They first are caught flat-footed, and their response is proving to be years late and many dollars short.

Hugh Hefner started Playboy in 1953; he called himself Kinsey’s pamphleteer. This marked the advent of modern pornography, which added rocket fuel to the fire of the Sexual Revolution. A pornography industry that was once relegated to the seedy sectors of American society is now part of our mainstream. While I have never seen their movies, I know who Jenna Jameson and Ron Jeremy are. But they wouldn’t be mainstream without Linda Lovelace and Harry Reems. (That Bob Woodward would use the title of their signature movie as a code name for a Watergate informant speaks volumes to the impact that pornography was already having on our mainstream.)

During this time, the sexual revolution was in full swing, and homosexuals were gaining an unprecedented level of acceptance. The Church’s response: the liberals began the process of blessing homosexuality; the conservative response was mostly reactionary, providing Biblical exposition as to why homosexuality is a sin.

On abortion, the Church was sleeping at the wheel. While the Catholics were fighting it–even as they were decimated by the Griswold v. Connecticut decision–the Protestant world was all over the map, and didn’t have a clue what they were up against. When Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton came down in 1973, even the Southern Baptist Convention was ambivalent if not supportive of it. In fact, it would not be until after 1993 that The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary would bring in an ethics professor who opposed abortion.

During that time, conservatives embarked on campaigns against gay rights. In spite of these efforts, court decisions and corporate-political-academic tides have not only ramrodded homosexuality down our throats, they have managed to capture public opinion by pointing to social and economic inequities–that our liberal establishment has spent decades creating–in order to promote the cause of gay “marriage”.

On pornography, the reaction was similar: the Church mounted spirited campaigns against pornography. The Supreme Court punted on the issue of obscenity and established a “community standard”. That led to a plethora of anti-porn efforts in local circles. All of that was rendered moot with the advent of the World Wide Web.

When public schools began promoting promiscuity-based sex education, the reaction of conservatives was to bring in abstinence-based sex education. (Again, reactionary.)

While I have no qualms with the conservative viewpoints regarding pornography, homosexuality, and abortion–I oppose abortion, sodomy, and pornography–the problem is not the viewpoints, but rather the reactionary presentation of sexuality as a whole. (On sex education, I oppose all government involvement in this. That is the responsibility of parents.)

What Christians have failed to grasp is that the Sexual Revolution is not simply about sex. If it were just that, the “revolution” would have been over as soon as AIDS came to fruition in the 1980s. Roe v. Wade would have fallen during the Reagan years.

No, the Sexual Revolution was–and still is–merely one front in the larger attack against God’s created order. It is rooted in a denial of a God who Created everything; it is rooted in the denial of the primacy of Man over other created things; it is rooted in the denial of Man’s fallenness; it is rooted in the denial of Man’s need for a Messiah.

While Jerry Falwell was absolutely correct about the sinfulness of homosexuality, I think he missed it when he categorized it as one of our great “National Sins”. Ditto for pornography.

While we must rightly call homosexuality for what it is–just as we must call adultery for what it is, just as we must call lustful intent for what it is, just as we must rightly call covetousness for what it is–the societal recognition of these things is not the problem; it is a symptom.

Rejection of God’s Natural Law–and the implications of that–has led us to where we are today.

From here, it will get worse before it gets better. The Christian consensus that made America exceptional is eroding, and that erosion has accelerated from a slow, arduous process to a very rapid process.

Will we go the way of Europe, or will we experience a reclamation? Will we face the hard truths about our failings and act diligently on that truth, or will we continue to live in denial, providing–at best–reactionary answers to problems that require addressing the ugly roots?

I am not hopeful for the short-term. I believe we will probably see at least one post-Christian generation, during which we will witness an era of barbarism that would make the worst of our atrocities against the Indians pale in comparison. Legalized abortion is the tip of the iceberg, and that is fomenting a culture of death that has yet to come to full fruition. But it will, and the results will be ugly.

In the long-term, I am hopeful. Jesus said that not even the gates of Hell would prevail against the Church. Not even all the blunders of the Vatican of old could extinguish the Gospel; God raised up reformers like Luther, Calvin, and their contemporaries. Fallen men they were, but they were instruments of deliverance nonetheless.

Every dog has its day, and that is true of the godless. They will revel in their short-term victories, just as their predecessors–from Nero to Stalin–did.

And yet the Church–bloodied as She may be–is still in the fight. And while Her enemy will make that path ugly and nasty and dark, Her light will overcome that darkness.

But just as Jesus–when confronted by the Pharisees on various matters–responded by pointing to the roots (in some cases Natural Law), the Church must be forceful in doing this.

Whether you are a young earth Creationist or someone who accepts that the earth and universe could be much older, Creation is a big deal. Connecting sexuality with marriage, rooted in Creation–as Scripture does–is a big deal.

That’s because it never was “all about sex,” but rather about a God who makes and keeps His promises.

Yesterday, it was Syphilis; Today, it is HIV/AIDS; Tomorrow it will be

something really bad. Whether that is a new strain of gonorrhea, or something far more insidious than AIDS, we don’t know. But we’ll get another mass societal scare.

I’m old enough to remember when AIDS first hit the national scene. It had started out as a virulent illness largely confined to the male homosexual community, intravenous drug users, and those who slept with people in those groups. Early in the game, some hemophiliacs, organ transplant recipients, and others who relied on blood transfusions, were infected via a contaminated blood supply. But by the late 1980s, we turned the tide against that. But not before Ryan White–and tennis great Arthur Ashe–succumbed from tainted transfusions.

Back then, if you tested HIV-positive, it was tantamount to a death sentence. The only drug that had shown any promise was AZT, which was a crapshoot.

Today, HIV/AIDS is still largely restricted to the male homosexual community, intravenous drug users, and those who sleep with people in those groups. If you keep your pants zipped until you get married, eschew intravenous drug use, and neither you nor your spouse enter the marriage with HIV, and you each remain faithful, your chances of getting HIV/AIDS are infinitesimal.

It is the same with any other sexually-transmitted disease. HPV, syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, herpes, the list goes on.

On the bright side, HIV/AIDS is not necessarily a death sentence anymore. The treatments are more effective; the protease inhibitors developed in the mid-1990s sparked the development of new generations of drugs that are making HIV/AIDS a more containable condition, much like diabetes. While there has been huge talk of a vaccine, I wouldn’t hold my breath: HIV is not like the flu; it is as elusive as the common cold, only deadlier. Development of a vaccine–or even a cure–is probably many years down the road, perhaps decades.

On the downside, HIV/AIDS is merely the devil we know. If science develops a cure for HIV/AIDS–just we developed a cure for most strains of syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia–we still will have plenty of devils we don’t know.

The new strain of gonorrhea should be troubling. This is because–due to the misuse of antibiotics–even the development of a cure for these new bacterial strains will be problematic.

And that does not account for the new viruses we will see emerging.

Ultimately, we need to face the reality: the counterculturalists of the 1960s and 1970s were wrong. “Free love” is too expensive.

Before the sexual revolution, a smaller amount of women were engaging in the bulk of the promiscuity, and the female virgins outnumbered the male virgins across the board.

Today, it is the other way around, even though the women have more to lose: their bodies are more receptive to various STDs than the men’s bodies are. (Back in the day, I warned my CPC clients: “You have a greater chance of getting HIV from a man, than a man would have of getting HIV from you if the roles were reversed. And if you get HIV, your life as you know it–is over.” I said that because, back then, HIV was a virtual death sentence.)

The hookup culture has given women carte blanche to engage in sexual behavior that now carries far less societal stigma than it did 30 years ago. The men, sadly, have also taken the Red Pill. If you’re a man and have the audacity and no morals, it’s easy to get laid. If you’re a woman and want to “hook up,” that scene is easier today than it ever has been.

That said, the Law of Sowing and Reaping shall not be up for repeal. And as long as we insist on a society where our moral understanding is not informed by the Christian consensus that served America well–before we absorbed European post-Christian skepticism–we will continue to reap the whirlwind.