Kevin DeYoung has decided to pull a page from the Mohler-Maken playbook and take aim at the men over the complex issue of protracted singleness.
As a result, what we get is not only nothing new, but rather a recycled, regurgitated variation of an argument that is even LESS compelling than those offered by Mohler or Maken.
First, a few disclaimers, though:
(1) I am married. Happily. For a little over 2 years now.
(2) Before I got married, I was single. For almost 43 years. Doing the math, that adds up to almost a quarter-century of single adulthood.
(3) During my single years, I was (a) VERY involved in the Church, (b) gainfully employed for all but 15 months, (c) did not shy away from the women who were in my venues, and (d) cast a very wide net in my choices of women. In other words: I did not exclude divorced women, or women who had varying forms of baggage. I merely excluded those who were proven to be unstable or catastrophically overweight.
(4) I did not “play the field” during my single days.
(5) I was involved in a variety of churches–both small and large, including the largest Baptist church in Kentucky, where Al Mohler serves as a “Teaching Pastor”.
(6) I served as a teacher in various capacities: including children, youth, young adults, singles, and couples. I had a chance to see–firsthand–what goes on among the various groups.
Ergo, I think I’m qualified to speak to the issues here.
First off, we need to deal with the sterotypes that each sex has of the other.
The women often complain–not without merit–about three types of men: (a) the schlub who plays video games and downloads porn, and otherwise lacks ambition; and (b) the really cool “Alpha male” who won’t commit; and (c) the nice, quiet guy in the pews who “doesn’t take enough initiative”.
The men, in turn, will complain–again, not without merit–of three types of single women they observe in the Church: (a) the overweight gal who eats like a pig at those potluck events, (b) the pretty 24-year-old gal who will tell you how spiritual she wants her man, and yet changes boyfriends every proverbial five minutes, and (c) the otherwise cute, “Biblically divorced” 24-year-old gal with two kids.
While these are serious problems–and I’ll get to them later–they don’t fully account for the problem of protracted singleness. Yes, those are deep-rooted problems that are prevalent in the ugly, dirty world of Christian singles; and yes, those need to be addressed. But they are only part of the story. That is why I am going to start with the OTHER part, which has no simple answers.
With that, back to DeYoung.
In building his thoughts on the matter of protracted singleness, Kevin DeYoung has fallen for what is best-described as a false dichotomy. He looks at this exclusively in terms of single men versus single women.
While his treatment of THAT dichotomy–false as it is–has problems, he leaves out at least two key players here: (a) families that raise these men and women, (b) the Church culture that nurtures their views in childhood, youth, and adulthood, and unwittingly makes it MORE–not less–difficult for men and women to get married.
Moreover, he totally ignores demographic factors that work against singles in a way that they did not 50 years ago, and which are exacerbated by the fragmentation of the Church.
If there is a place where a Christian–male or female–ought to be able to go, express a desire to be married, and be encouraged rather than discouraged in that pursuit, it ought to be the Church. And yet, that is not the situation on the ground.
Contrast that with the Jewish community. If I am a Rabbi in Philadelphia, and a young single gal comes into my office, all I have to do is make a call to a Rabbi in Newark or Cherry Hill or New York, get the families together, and we’ll be having a wedding within 15 months. Jews are not the most resilient people in the world by accident: their networking skills are the stuff of legend.
Ditto for the Indian community. As an IT professional, I’ve known many Indians over the years. I’ve worked with them; I’ve played sports with them. When it comes to networking, and setting people up to get married, the Indians are up there with the Jews.
But Christians aren’t so good at this, and the reason for that can be summed up in one word: FRAGMENTATION. The Body is fragmented badly. One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, and God-only-knows-how-many denominations, the vast majority of which are non-cooperative.
What that means: you may have a couple of good, upstanding Christian gals at First Baptist Church in Anytown; you may have a couple of upstanding Christian guys at Reformed Presbyterian Church in a nearby city; and those guys and gals will never meet, unless they manage to connect through other social circles or online venues.
I’ve been in several churches in which I was the only single adult–of either sex–in the building. Did those pastors lift a finger to help in the networking capacity? Nope. Did any of them know of a pastor who knew a gal who was marriageable? Nope. And yet, we seem to have no small number of marriageable Christian gals who can’t seem to find a guy.
Distance is also a factor. MrsLarijani and I know some marriageable Christian gals. One is in her 40s–divorced with a 5 year old–in the Cincy area; two are in the Louisville area, both in their 20s and never married; one–in her 20s and never married–is in the Chattanooga area; one is 40–never married–in central Kentucky; another is 26–and never married–and goes to our church. Each of these gals ranges from reasonably attractive to very attractive. Each would probably make a nice match for someone. While each has baggage of some sort, those are not irresolvable.
I know some marriageable Christian guys. One–50, never married–is in the Louisville area. One–37, never married–is in the Nashville area. One–a 48-year-old retired Air Force pilot, whose wife left him after 16 years–is in the Memphis area; one–in his 20s, never married, and is in the Army–in the Louisville area.
But each of these guys and gals comes from various Christian backgrounds: some are Baptist; some have Acts 29 backgrounds; some are Pentecostal; one is with a Vineyard church; one is a PCA Presbyterian; one is an evangelical with Reform leanings; one has Catholic leanings.
And that doesn’t account for the folks we know online. There are Christian ladies scattered across the country–Lisa Anderson and Martha Krienke of Boundless are in Colorado; S/C is in Cincinnati; Savvy is in California; Catwoman is in Canada; LadyElaine is in DC (I think); Renee (who blogs at Boundless) is in California.
Single Christians are scattered geographically and denominationally.
Even worse, with the job market being what it is, mobility–or, shall we say–the lack of it, can be a serious issue.
(Let’s say, for example, a good guy–John Doe–was interested in Lisa Anderson, whom I’ve encouraged guys to pursue at Boundless. But let’s say his financial and job situation made relocation prohibitively difficult for him, and he lived in Florida. Would Lisa be able to uproot herself, leave a good job at FotF, sell her house, move to Florida, and marry John Doe? Maybe…maybe not. Only Lisa can answer that one. Jack and Renee–bloggers whom I hoped I could connect–were unable to make the pursuit because of their distance from each other.)
Why do I spend such time on these matters? DeYoung does NOTHING to address those issues, and yet they are very real ones for singles who wish to traverse the logistics of meeting, getting to know each other, doing due diligence, and–ultimately–getting married. Addressing them requires more than the stupid, pat answers like, “if only men would be men…”
And so far, I have only addressed logistical, circumstantial, and denomination issues that impede singles. While those are huge, there is a very large internal problem within the Church.
That is where we come to the Church culture, and the families.
The Church is locked in a very difficult battle over what real masculinity is and is not. This goes to the heart of who Jesus is according to Scripture, contrasted with the modern understanding of Jesus as presented in seminaries and pulpits. This also extends to how the Gospel is preached and fleshed out in the Apostles, in how they lived and admonished men and women in the Early Church. Men and women are in the crossfire in this battle, as a very false presentation of the Biblical Jesus–and the Apostles–has been prevalent for over a hundred years.
That false Jesus is known by the moniker “Gentle Jesus Meek and Mild”, or–as I call him–the “Metrosexual Jesus”. Here is how it goes:
Jesus was this really gentle man who called everyone to be nice and kind, never get involved in conflicts, never argue or contend about anything, never get angry, do lots of kind things for your community, be cheerful in church even if your life is falling apart, and never take any form of self-interest.
What this ends up producing: men who (a) lack a backbone, (b) lack the ability to negotiate basic things such as salary with an employer, (c) refuse to intervene in exigent circumstances, (d) avoid conflict even when moral duty requires engaging it directly, and (e) exude character that–rather than attracts women–actually drives women away. Moreover, this culture drives men away from the Church because the Church is utterly disconnected from men due to their jaded understanding of masculinity.
What this also ends up producing: pastors who have not the first foggiest clue how to counsel men or women, because (a) they don’t understand the masculinity of Jesus, (b) they don’t understand the masculinity of Paul, (c) they have no backbone of their own because they are products of the jaded understanding of masculinity, and (d) they refuse to stand up to their wives as well as those women who dominate the committees in the Church.
The end-result: their children often grow up and RUN–NOT WALK–from the Church. Everyone here knows a few pastor’s daughters who want nothing to do with the Church today. This is because they grew up in families that everyone else looked up to, only to see that their families were rife with hypocrisy.
Now, does any of this excuse single men or women for their sins?
Not by a long shot.
At the same time, for the Church to provide an effective answer, the Church is going to have to get dirty and engage the cesspool that is the world of Christian singles. That means addressing the vices of men and women.
The hookup culture–which is sullied both sexes–is a serious issue.
Serial monogamy–a polished variation of promiscuity–is a serious issue.
Game–or, more accurately, the abuse of it for the purposes of sexual conquest–is a serious issue.
Pornography–the use of which is on the rise among women whereas it was once exclusively a male vice–is a serious issue.
Addictions–from food to alcohol to porn to romance novels–are very serious matters.
Prudence and diligence–or the lacks thereof–are very serious matters.
Addressing them is not simply a matter of preaching hard sermons, although I’ll not discourage that. It requires getting to know these men and women, fostering the relationships that allow you to get into their business without being a Gestapo agent, and helping them make high-percentage decisions that allow them to pursue, in Godly fashion, the desires of their hearts.
It requires men to man up, but also for women to put on their big girl panties.
It does not require men to get married in order to prove masculinity, but rather that those who wish to marry should act that out in Biblical masculinity, and for those inclined to remain single to do so likewise.