Saturday, November 24, 2007

Why are older Christian men less marriage-minded than men in the world?

Captain Sensible writes: Just some random thoughts here that may or may not have any basis in the truth - it's only working through a subject for consideration.
It was sparked by this comment that I received recently from an Assistant Pastor: "I know about six or seven single Christian guys well, but I have to be honest that most of them do not seem to be anxious to get married for some reason."
Now I don't know the ages of the men concerned, but I get the impression he is talking about mid-20s guys onwards.
I do think younger Christian men are marriage-minded. But something happens to them as they get older. What it is? It can't be just the direct influence of the enemy, because that would also apply earlier in life. Why is it that single Christian men seem to be able to live for years, even decades, into adulthood following sexual maturity and not feel the need for a woman in their life?
Men in the world may also delay marriage, but they have lots of "mini-marriages" ie. they have girlfriends, they have sex with them, they even live with them. (They also end up having lots of "mini divorces" when they then eventally split up!) But actually, a lot of them then find that is ultimately unsatisfying and they do end up marrying. Not so for many Christian men, who you'd have thought were more keen to marry given that they are apparently living a chaste life. Why it that?
I think the answer is this: We are bombarded daily with pornographic, or near pornographic, images. A man may be watching an innocent wildlife or sports programme. Up come the adverts and it's for a perfume and there is a beautiful and seductive, near naked woman suddenly before their very eyes. A man may go into the kitchen at work. There is a newspaper lying on the table and, low and behold, there is another near naked woman in front of them. You get the idea, and I do think it's probably a daily occurrence (and this is aside from any deliberate attempt to view this stuff).
Now here's the difference between the Christian man and the worldly man. The worldy man is also exposed to the reality of a naked or near naked woman. They have sex with real women, after all. The single Christian man doesn't (okay, most Christian men don't) have real sex. So for him, his sexual drive is only fired by these unreal images. Therefore, when he meets normal-looking, more modest Christian women, he is actually ceasing to find them attractive. And of course, the longer this goes on, the more reinforced this becomes. And then when the pressure gets too much, and they have a computer in their bedroom, with no one looking over their shoulder...
Another issue comes into play here. I think it is natural for men to be a little commitment phobic. That's why in previous generations, men got married younger and in higher number than they do today, because of the pressure on them from society, the church, and parental influence. They knew that remaining a bachelor for too long was weird and that they would be viewed strangely by society (and probably nagged by their mother!). Today, we have lost that pressure. It is remarkable to me that men in the world however still do get married at all. They can have sex, they can have a woman to ease their loneliness, and still they choose to commit to marriage. I think that's because deep down they are hard-wired to want marriage as much as women, despite the effects of the fall, and find these constant mini-marriages ultimately unsatisfactory. They may also come under pressure from their "partner" to commit at some point otherwise she'll be off! Of course, with the divorce rate such as it is, unless they take their marriage vows seriously, it is probably not a great deal different for them if they do marry - they know they still have an opt-out clause! Not so the Christian man. And nowadays with the church no longer exerting any pressure on them to get married either, they see no reason to do it. Their sex drive has become so warped over time, they possibly view marriage as having a stifling effect on their sexuality, rather than the God-ordained outlet.
Going back to the Assistant Pastor that told me about the single men he knew that were not anxious to get married, he also appeared to believe that it wasn't his job to encourage them to seek a wife. Instead he tells them to "seek first the Kingdom". Which apparently means doing just about anything but making finding a wife a priority! It reminds me of Debbie Maken's point that we see Kingdom expansion now coming about through evangelism alone, and not by the raising of Godly children and being fruitful with our stewardship of our bodies. And as for the creation mandate, well, it appears that, along with all the other exhortations to get married, is not on the curriculum of Bible colleges! (I think a possible reason for this is that it never needed much teaching. It was normal for men and women to get married in their youth, and not much needed to be said about it. Not so nowadays, but if there is any teaching on this subject at all, it is probably of the "gift of singleness" variety and does more harm than good!)
Again I say, this leaves single Christian women with a double whammy. There are not enough single men to go around, and the few that there are available, are the least marriage-minded of all men!
That's why I say single Christian women must look for marriage-minded believers in the world that they can then encourage in their faith, as another avenue for marriage. It's not an either/or proposition, but an essential both/and!


Anonymous Lucie said...

It's my guess (and guess only) that "most" Christian single men today are not celibate. That's based on what I've personally observed as well as what I have read over a long time.

7:20 AM  
Anonymous Lisa Brown said...

Dear Captain,
I think there is alot to what you say. You may very well be right about the pornography. My idea about Christian men not being marriage minded is this: Men (both Christian and otherwise) are hunters. They are hardwired to pursue a mate. My husband has always told me this. Part of pursuing a mate is being rejected. I've been to Africa on safari. Even out in the wild, the lion doesn't always capture his prey. Sometimes the prey gets away. It's the same in the pursuit of marriage. You're going to get rejected--lots. My husband is of the old school, he believed that rejection was part and parcel of his fate as a man looking for a mate, and just learned to totally shake it off and go forward. I think there are a lot of shy men among the Christian men, or really sensitive men who are afraid of being rejected. THEN, on top of everything you throw in this Gift of Singleness teaching that actually tells men THEY'RE NOT FOLLOWING GOD's WILL when they try to actively pursue a woman. It's a toxic combination. On top of that, I have to be honest and say that some Christian women have their values totally messed up as far as what's important in a mate, and this doesn't help either.
My approach to my singleness, in the end, was heavily influenced by my upbringing as a Reorganized Latter Day Saint. My first duty, as far as I was concerned, was to keep what the Mormons call, "The Law of Chastity." If I could not find a man that would agree to uphold these standards, then I believed that it was not God's will for me to marry, and I accepted that. I was massively ticked off that I couldn't seem to find any Christian men who wanted to uphold these standards, but that is another story. My frustration and anger towards Evangelicals came about later as I struggled with the question, "God, why did you want me to leave the only life I had ever known to join up with this group of people who approached singleness and marriage with what was to me a hideous belief system.
In the end, I have no regrets or bitter feelings towards the Evangelical Christian men who wouldn't ask me out, who didn't want to give me a chance. Obviously, they weren't God's choice for me. I am rather happy with the liberal United Methodist I married. And I have the peace of mind that comes from knowing that I didn't compromise my standards.

7:51 AM  
Blogger Captain Sensible said...

Thanks for your comment, Lucie.
So, if that's the case (although I am not sure I agree to be honest), it does blow my theory right out of the water!
So, my next thought was maybe it is just good old commitment phobia then, compounded by the fact that divorce is not seen as a realistic option for Christians, should they decide they want to get out of the marriage?
But then, if these men are having sex outside of marriage anyway, I wouldn't have thought they would have major qualms about breaking another of God's commandments regarding divorce?
Okay, so maybe then single Christian men are not less marriage-minded than their secular counterparts, it's just because there are so few of them to begin with, it is more noticeable and just seems that way?
Oh I really don't have the answers to this!

7:54 AM  
Blogger Captain Sensible said...

Thanks for your comment too, Lisa, which came in after I had written my reply to Lucie!
Your point about being "hardwired to pursue a mate" is a very good one.
Now here comes in another consideration: Because women outnumber men in the church Body, there is no sense of competition for the women. I think that also has an impact on how they view the whole pursuit of a mate business?

8:08 AM  
Anonymous Lisa Brown said...

Captain, I don't see how the surplus of women can't help but have a negative impact on the situation.

9:07 AM  
Blogger Captain Sensible said...

By the way Lisa, I don't mean this to be in any way critical personally (and it maybe is in the same bracket as scolding women for saying they want to "get married" rather than "be a wife", that so infuriated me when Carolyn McCulley said it!) but I would like to start changing our language when we refer to a "surplus of women". There really is no "surplus of women" in God's Kingdom. What there is, however, is a shortage of men! I would like to drum the message home that we need to be reaching out to men urgently, not that there is any problem with the number of women!
Lisa - honestly, hopefully you know this is in no way getting at you! Just another new soapbox for me, and something for me to get hot under the collar about generally! (As if there wasn't enough already!)

9:53 AM  
Blogger Captain Sensible said...

Oh, yes, I knew there was something else to do with this that was on my mind, but when it came to writing my last comment, I forgot what it was!
I have now remembered! ;-)
Not so long ago, I left a church I had been in for the past three years, because I could not share their vision for a new church building and the priorities that they had for that building. I looked on their website today and my decision was confirmed (not that it needed to be confirmed though!).
This is what comes under their vision for the new building:

* A quality Fair Trade Community Cafe

* Auditorium, training rooms and children's facilities

* A variety of children's clubs and programmes

* Language and citizenship courses vocational training and family learning

* Offices

Where in any of this, is a focus on using the building to outreach to men? It was the "variety of children's clubs and programmes" (plus "children's facilities" and "family learning" whatever that means, that really got to me!) Do they not know that the best thing they can do for children is outreach to their fathers in the world? Children do not need these clubs and programmes as much as they need a Christian father! And if (as I believe it is) their idea of outreach is to provide after-school clubs for children, I think they are sadly misguided. (And as I personally know the leaders quite well, I would say that the Pastor's wife is having too great an influence in the church's priorities, as I know she loves anything to do with children's ministry. Not that there is anything wrong in that, but it should not be dictating the church's priorities.)
And there are other things I could say about the non-child centred activities, but never mind that for now.
Shabby, cowardly and self-indulgent if you ask me! (No one has asked me, but I am in a bit of a belligerent frame of mind!) I think that's why I commented on the "surplus of women" wording particularly!
It also reminds me of some single Christian women that seem to shrug their shoulders when we talk about the lack of men as if, oh well, that's just the way it is and there's nothing we can do about it!
I always challenge them on why this is apparently acceptable too!

10:34 AM  
Anonymous Lisa Brown said...

I stand corrected. Really, I didn't mean anything bad against women when I wrote what I wrote, it just came off the top of my head. I will refrain from using such a term in the future. And no, I don't take it personally.
I agree with you totally that there should be outreach to men.
Remember that I come from a totally different tradition. I know the Evangelicals really seem to hate the LDS and the RLDS, but please hear me out. We (LDS and RLDS) are laymen's churches. We have a lay clergy, and in addition, all regular members, male and female, have callings. Specifically, every Mormon male who is considered to be living righteously has a priesthood calling. Men are more likely to be active when there is something for them to do, and our churches place alot of responsibility on our men.
I'm not saying Christians should start doing things that are unbiblical, but if there was someway you could work things so that people (men and women) had something to do, maybe that would help. I know I was bored alot just sitting around with nothing to do. When I asked to volunteer, all the slots were filled. I finally went to a more mainline church that had room for volunteers.

11:27 AM  
Blogger Captain Sensible said...

Thanks Lisa, yeah, I know it's one of those things that we just tend to say. I have probably said something like that myself! :-)
But hey, maybe it's good for us all to challenge each other on some of these things.
Having said that, I am feeling like I need a break from this blog and everything to do with singleness and marriage!
I feel a Christmas holiday coming on!

12:06 PM  
Anonymous Celia said...

Captain, I suppose what puts us girls off finding 'men in the world' to encourage them in their faith is the whole thing of not being unequally yoked with unbeleivers.

For my part, I'm so into Church and God, I have a hard time imagining an real common ground anyway with a worldly man not into his faith.

12:40 AM  
Blogger Captain Sensible said...

Thanks for your comment, Celia.
I will do my best to address it in a new post, as it is very important. I am not saying I have all the answers! Just something to consider.

1:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a really important question, why are older Christian men less marriage-minded. I recently met a seemingly eligible 40something Christian single man who was keen to talk to me. We'd actually 'met' before online, but I'd turned him down because of his bad manners in his approach to me. When we bumped into each other in real life, I realised that I'd also met him in another context in which, again, he had been bad-mannered in his approach to me. Then I discovered my flatmate had also met him and he'd been rude about me to her, and overfamiliar with her as well. This guy kept on asking me did I know so-and-so single Christian women (obviously just looking for anybody who would have him, and not
bothering to pay exclusive attention to me - very immature for a 40something man).
We worked out between us that this man, who on paper was eligible, had never really bothered being polite to single Christian women because he thought he had the pick of who he wanted. I know from other friends that this man is actually looking for a wife, but frankly, it's too late for him, becuase those of us he's been chasing won't put up with his bad manners.

So, some older Christian men are marriage-minded, but I'm afraid that some of them have not developed their relational muscle during their single years. This is exactly what Liz Speed said in the Premier TV interview. The men are not using their 'masculine muscle'.

10:07 AM  
Blogger Captain Sensible said...

I think Diane-Louise Jordan summed it up very well too. The single Christian men treat women "carelessly".
Think about what happens when a child has too many toys to play with. He doesn't value them right, and may end up not looking after them properly and breaking them? Contrast that with a child who has just one or two toys. He will treasure them and look after them very well.
Ultimately who is most fulfilled and gets the most pleasure from their toys? The one that treats them carelessly and trashes them? Or the one that treats them as precious, values and treasures them?
That's why Diane-Louise Jordan also believes men in the church have a "rubbish deal". They are seemingly in a prized position - lots of women to choose from! But actually they are frustrated and far less fulfilled than the man with just the one precious wife, whom he treasures.

10:43 AM  

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