I am going to try and finish that post on Moral Agency today, hopefully uploading it later tonight. In the meantime, I found via Instapundit an interesting article on the impact of Christianity on sexuality in the Roman world. The bias is bare and grating at times, but overall I still found it fascinating. Perhaps some of you will as well.
Monthly Archives: December 2013
A number of female bloggers who sometimes associate with this part of the web engaged in what I hope will be a tradition: they took this Thanksgiving season to thank their husbands for everything they do. This Gratitude project, or “Brag-a-thon” was originally suggested by Velvet, although yours truly did play some role in it. I am going to use this post to compile a list of the bloggers who participated in this project, plus the posts that they wrote for it. I am sure that I missed some bloggers who participated, so let me know and I will update this post accordingly.
Velvet at Turtle and compass:
Elspeth at Loving in the Ruins
Hearthie at To Be Lovely
Sunshine Mary at Sunshine Mary and the Dragon
[Today’s post is a guest post by reader Donald R., who has submitted a guest post before to plug his book about Christian marriage. Since I am somewhat tied up right now, I offer it without commentary, although I might do so later.]
[The rest is in response to the video linked above. To understand the post, you really need to watch the video.]
Mark Driscoll isn’t a bad guy. He can see that there’s a masculinity crisis facing this generation and he wants to tackle it head on. This is admirable. It’s true that many of today’s young men are beginning to shun traditional masculinity. They no longer seem to care much about the historical provider role and are often choosing to spend their twenties having fun instead of preparing to head a family. This trend obviously has huge implications for our society and it does need to be addressed; unfortunately, Mark’s proposed solution is misguided at best and may even make things worse in the long run.
From the video above:
Today, the average guy who’s in his 20’s is less likely than the average woman to go to college, to have a degree upon graduation, to have a job, to go to church, even to have a driver’s license.
So you guys who have no vision of future, career, no intent of taking a gal on a date maybe to get a wife out of the deal. Maybe you have a kid, you can’t take him to little league; you can’t go pick up your groceries. I mean, they’re not even thinking in terms of a legacy or a lineage or a future.
You gotta tell them that they’re wrong. That they’re absolutely wrong and they have no idea what they’re doing.
Guys just don’t think about anything other than a good time. And it’s about thinking about a good legacy, not just liking where you live but what legacy are you going to leave? It’s boys who can shave, man. It’s just a joke.
Mark has identified a cultural shift away from traditional masculinity; but the real question is, what is causing this shift? Have today’s young men really decided to collectively abandon traditional manhood out of sheer laziness, or are there other forces at work here? If the “check engine” light comes on in your car you’ve got two options – fix the underlying problem or unplug the light. Mark is suggesting that we unplug the light. To really fix the problem, though, we need to open up the hood and take a deeper look at the inner workings of our civilization.
When listening to Mark, one gets the distinct impression that he believes there to be some kind of external measure of manhood that today’s generation is failing to meet. Historically speaking, he is correct. The traditional view of manhood can be summarized in five basic points:
Traditional View of Manhood
1. Men have a role to play in society
2. It is their duty to fulfill this role
3. If they fulfill this role there will be rewards
4. If they don’t fulfill it they are shirking their duties
5. Men who shirk their duties aren’t real men
Mark is fully committed to this view and therefore believes that young men who fail to live up to a traditional male gender role are shirking their duties and not real men. But what if this was only half of the equation? What if the very concept of traditional manhood was built upon a delicate balance between the men and women of a society and that balance somehow got out of whack?
I believe this is precisely what’s happened. You see, guys like Mark always conveniently forget the fact that our civilization has spent the last hundred years completely redefining womanhood. In the old days, men and women had different (but complementary) roles in society. So, the flip-side of Mark’s traditional worldview should look like this:
Traditional View of Womanhood
1. Women have a role to play in society
2. It is their duty to fulfill this role
3. If they fulfill this role there will be rewards
4. If they don’t fulfill it they are shirking their duties
5. Women who shirk their duties aren’t real women
But our culture doesn’t view womanhood that way anymore. Today’s women are free agents, completely autonomous individuals who can choose whatever kind of lifestyle makes sense for them personally. This is not only accepted, but celebrated – even by the likes of the supposedly conservative Mark Driscoll. And it’s here that the system is beginning to break down.
Now, I’m not suggesting that gender roles ought to be so rigid that a society can’t make necessary adaptations as it grows and matures. But I do think it’s fair to say that the current masculinity crisis is largely an unintended consequence of the women’s liberation movement. In our effort to give women more options and freedom to self-determine their own identity, we have unwittingly opened Pandora’s Box:
Single young women in their sexual prime—that is, their 20s and early 30s … are for the first time in history more successful, on average, than the single young men around them. They are more likely to have a college degree and, in aggregate, they make more money. What makes this remarkable development possible is not just the pill or legal abortion but the whole new landscape of sexual freedom—the ability to delay marriage and have temporary relationships that don’t derail education or career. To put it crudely, feminist progress right now largely depends on the existence of the hookup culture. And to a surprising degree, it is women—not men—who are perpetuating the culture, especially in school, cannily manipulating it to make space for their success, always keeping their own ends in mind. For college girls these days, an overly serious suitor fills the same role an accidental pregnancy did in the 19th century: a danger to be avoided at all costs, lest it get in the way of a promising future. (Source: The Atlantic)
Men in their age group aren’t getting as strong a signal that working hard to become a provider will result in a long term relationship and later marriage … [therefore] a significant percentage of men haven’t felt the incentive to prepare themselves as a provider. Even worse, these [career women] pushed out men from their slots in school and the workplace. So the men they one day hope to marry both have less incentive to do the extra work and planning to become a provider and face additional obstacles to do so. (Source: Dalrock)
This, then, is the root cause of our masculinity crisis. It used to be that, by following society’s path of traditional manhood, a young man would gain socially approved access to sex and, by extension, a positive male identity through his role as a husband and father. But our society changed the rules in order to allow women more autonomy and, as a result, the rewards for men who follow the traditional path have begun to dry up.
Today’s young men are beginning to react to these changes by embracing autonomy, themselves. The net effect of this shift is that they often don’t work as hard in life. It’s easy to point the finger at these men, as Mark does, and complain that they are being lazy; however, this argument is ultimately futile. Because we have embraced the idea that modern women should be autonomous, we have no choice but to grant the same freedom of choice to modern men – even if we don’t like what they do with it.
With that being said, I do agree with Mark that the current trend is harmful to our society as a whole. But we can’t fix the problem by forcing men to keep playing by the old rules. Mark has this idea that young men somehow owe traditional masculinity to the world. They don’t. Traditional masculinity was earned by society through a complex system of incentives and rewards that were largely dependent on the counterweight of traditional femininity. With that framework dismantled, these men have every right to cast off the yoke society is attempting to place on them.
This is why Mark Driscoll gets it wrong. He thinks that, if he can just shame young men back into their old societal role, everything will go back to normal. But this plan is doomed to failure because it doesn’t address the root of the problem. The problem isn’t men; the problem is men and women. The whole system is down and it’s going to take all of us working together to get it back up again.
We need to re-calibrate the societal balance between masculinity and femininity if we’re to have any hope of fixing this mess. That means accepting and embracing the complementary natures of men and women as well as providing some kind of incentive for those who participate in the cultural re- awakening. How that will work in practice (if it will even work at all) is anyone’s guess, but it’s the only practical option we’ve got. We need to quit trying to unplug the “check engine” light and, instead, get busy working on the real issue – rebuilding the symbiotic partnership between men and women.
Today’s first passage is from the Book of Judges:
11 Then the Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and worshiped the Baals; 12 and they abandoned the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt; they followed other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were all around them, and bowed down to them; and they provoked the Lord to anger. 13 They abandoned the Lord, and worshiped Baal and the Astartes. 14 So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers who plundered them, and he sold them into the power of their enemies all around, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies. 15 Whenever they marched out, the hand of the Lord was against them to bring misfortune, as the Lord had warned them and sworn to them; and they were in great distress.
16 Then the Lord raised up judges, who delivered them out of the power of those who plundered them. 17 Yet they did not listen even to their judges; for they lusted after other gods and bowed down to them. They soon turned aside from the way in which their ancestors had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the Lord; they did not follow their example. 18 Whenever the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge, and he delivered them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the Lord would be moved to pity by their groaning because of those who persecuted and oppressed them. 19 But whenever the judge died, they would relapse and behave worse than their ancestors, following other gods, worshiping them and bowing down to them. They would not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways. 20 So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel; and he said, “Because this people have transgressed my covenant that I commanded their ancestors, and have not obeyed my voice, 21 I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations that Joshua left when he died.” 22 In order to test Israel, whether or not they would take care to walk in the way of the Lord as their ancestors did, 23 the Lord had left those nations, not driving them out at once, and had not handed them over to Joshua.
Here we see the biblical pattern of God’s relationship with His people explained clearly:
1) God rescues his chosen ones from darkness
2) They follow him and fear him for a time
3) Then a new generation arises which never knew the darkness
4) This new generation is unfaithful to the Lord
5) As a result of their unfaithfulness the Lord withdraws his protection from Israel
6) Without the Lord’s protection Israel is plunged into darkness and is violated by its pagan neighbors
7) In their despair God’s people call out to Him for help
And then we move back up to #1. As far as I understand it (and my knowledge of Scripture is still very poor), this is the first time in the Bible where this pattern is clearly laid out. I find this cycle important to understand, because it is clear that we are undergoing our own descent into darkness right now. So the question arises whether or not this cycle will repeat again. The next passage, which is from the Gospel of Mark, seems to indicate that it will not:
Then he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a pit for the wine press, and built a watchtower; then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. 2 When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants to collect from them his share of the produce of the vineyard. 3 But they seized him, and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. 4 And again he sent another slave to them; this one they beat over the head and insulted. 5 Then he sent another, and that one they killed. And so it was with many others; some they beat, and others they killed. 6 He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 7 But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 8 So they seized him, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. 9 What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10 Have you not read this scripture:
‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;[a]
11 this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is amazing in our eyes’?”
12 When they realized that he had told this parable against them, they wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowd. So they left him and went away.
One way to read this passage is that the arrival of Jesus brings about the final cycle. When next it comes full circle, the Lord will return and bring judgement upon the world. The final period of darkness will be the last. However, another way to read it (though not necessarily the right way) is that the master’s return is actually Jesus’ resurrection, and His putting them to death was a metaphor for setting in motion the destruction of their identity as a cohesive people. Nor is there anything to suggest that the new tenants (the New Israel) is not locked into the same cycle. I am going to devote some time into looking at various theologians and scholar’s take on this.
The final passage is from Sirach again, which I have become very fond of:
7 A bad wife is a chafing yoke;
taking hold of her is like grasping a scorpion.
8 A drunken wife arouses great anger;
she cannot hide her shame.
9 The haughty stare betrays an unchaste wife;
her eyelids give her away.
10 Keep strict watch over a headstrong daughter,
or else, when she finds liberty, she will make use of it.
11 Be on guard against her impudent eye,
and do not be surprised if she sins against you.
12 As a thirsty traveler opens his mouth
and drinks from any water near him,
so she will sit in front of every tent peg
and open her quiver to the arrow.
13 A wife’s charm delights her husband,
and her skill puts flesh on his bones.
14 A silent wife is a gift from the Lord,
and nothing is so precious as her self-discipline.
15 A modest wife adds charm to charm,
and no scales can weigh the value of her chastity.
16 Like the sun rising in the heights of the Lord,
so is the beauty of a good wife in her well-ordered home.
17 Like the shining lamp on the holy lampstand,
so is a beautiful face on a stately figure.
18 Like golden pillars on silver bases,
so are shapely legs and steadfast feet.
Lots of interesting tidbits here. Verse 9 provides Scriptural support for the so-called “thousand cock stare” which many modern day harlots seem to maintain. Verse 10 can be translated several ways, I have seen wife or daughter used in different translations. In either case, the truth behind it is still spot on. Although I think it might be more appropriate when referring to daughters when considered in light of this passage from the same book. If I had to guess, the skill mentioned in verse 13 is probably the wife’s cooking ability. Verse 15, which I put in bold, is something that I really can’t add to. Other than to bring it up again. To close up, verses 17 and 18 hint that there is something divine in the nature of a woman’s beauty, which suggests that like all holy things, steps should be taken to keep it pure.
The following story was originally left as a comment on my post concerning Moral Agency in Women. The author of the comment asked that I take it down, but later graciously allowed me to use it in a post. My thoughts will come after the story, which is a tragic one:
I think that you could set up a confessional…
Recently discovering the “manosphere”, I quickly became fascinated by it if only because I sensed that I could learn something not only about men, but about myself as well. Suffice it to say that this blogpost in its entirety is *truth* and has been borne out in my experience. Let’s see:
–made it into my mid-20s without so much as a kiss; I was often approached by men, but I accomplished this by not entertaining unsuitable men and not being alone with men. Had made the “true love waits” pledge while quite young and 100% believed that’s what I would do.
–found myself by happenstance in the middle of nowhere for a school assignment–middle of nowhere meaning that even a Wal-Mart was an hour’s drive away. No friends, family or church around.
–before leaving on the trip, experienced frustration and disappointment from a man I was interested in –> emotional vulnerability
–Limited housing meant I had to stay in an apartment with other students–young men. I was initially uncomfortable with it, but it was clear to me that nothing whatsoever would ever happen between me and those 2 guys (beta and lower beta). Nothing did.
–One fine day, Lower Beta says his friend is going to join us for the summer. He does, and when I meet him I immediately start praying for an “out” to this situation…every alarm bell is ringing within me. Tall, muscular, immodestly cocky; and Alpha is clearly interested. I mostly avoid him.
–One night, Alpha wants to play cards and chat. Seems friendly enough. He quickly hones in on my relationship history, and then, surprise surprise, sexual history. In my naivete, I admit to being a virgin and inexperienced in even *other* forms of sexual play. Like a shark smelling blood, his flirtation becomes more overt and the evening ends with a kiss. He wants to come to my room. “No.” Yet, my curiosity and his boldness together produce a very heady and honestly exhilarating feeling. I know all the more that I have to get out of there.
– Prayer answered! Someone in the community offers me alternate housing. I pack and leave with a quickness the next day. Alpha asks for a proper date. I say OK. [I should not have done this. I think this is the part where self-deception started kicking in. I mean, really, I knew what he wanted–so why would I be going out with him?]
–We spend more time; he acts and talks as if he’s genuinely interested, though I tell him I don’t think we really have anything in common. I’m not falling for him, but am highly attracted. He pushes physical boundaries in ways I am not prepared for—never had to resist at all before (avoidance method), nevertheless resist with such forcefulness. But curiosity again, attraction, boldness, the feeling of being desired, and buttons being pushed that were never pushed before—I’m drunk on all the feelings and my mind races to take it all in. My attempts to talk to him about not going too far ring hollow even to myself.
–He takes no pains to hide his intent to seduce me and truly goes all out in doing so. He succeeds. For a period of time as this “relationship” continues, I recognize within myself that I cannot process what is happening between us on a rational level. My actions are other than what I think I should do. I find myself acting without intention.
–It’s not romance, and it’s not friendship. I don’t believe it’s love, but now I have to try to “make good” on virginity lost. So I attempt to play out a relationship with Alpha (he asked, not me) though in my right mind I still doubt any longterm compatibility. It doesn’t work and fizzles. I’m not heartbroken, but disillusioned with myself.
I shared all of this because I think it lays out step-by-step with a very real example exactly how “good Chrisitan girls” can end up compromising. And I hope that other Chrisitian women can avoid the same. I think it also shows how women do respond differently to alphas than betas (for instance, living with the betas was inappropriate to me, but not at all a temptation). *And to the point of your post in general, I 100% agree that the temptation we are to flee is to be in the situation in the first place.* I do not believe that we can reliably count on being able to resist once those instinctual physiological responses start kicking in. I completely agree that this is why most societies in human history have prevented unrelated men and women from being alone together. I do think that such avoidance is really the only guarantee of chastity when it comes to pre/extra-marital sex.
There are some women and couples who claim that resisting sexual temptation really isn’t that difficult for them. Prior to that experience, I (pridefully) thought that I would never do something like that, that saying no should be so easy. God *did* provide my way of escape. But I chose to go back—and choosing to go back to the place of temptation was the first sin that made way for the second. I told myself that I could enjoy the thrill of being around Alpha without anything else happening. Many women either do not have high enough libidos for sex to be a great temptation at all, or they are mainly experienced with men who are easy to brush off and have just not encountered the type of man (Alpha) that really sets things off in them.
This unfortunate story supports the general trust of the theory I advanced in that post. After a certain point, women do lose their ability to resist an Alpha Male’s advances. That is not to say that they don’t have moral agency, but their agency is not without its limits. Or stated another way, they make their moral decision much sooner than they (or most people) realize. As I explained in the comments:
What I am arguing is not that women can’t resist temptation, but that the temptation comes sooner than we might think in the process of seduction by an alpha male. The temptation comes not when the alpha male is making his final moves. Rather, the temptation to be resisted by the woman is to place herself in an isolated place, without additional moral support, with the alpha male. That is where the temptation is to be found. And that is where she can resist. My theory is that if she gives into that temptation, it is past the point of no return. She knows, deep down inside, what it really means, and has decided to follow that path nonetheless.
Stories like this sadly show that I am on the right track. I wish I wasn’t, but we deal with the world as it is, not how we want it to be. Seeing as I haven’t addressed Moral Agency in a while, I think its time that I address it again. Expect a post in the next week or two on the subject.
The “Carousel,” and the women who participate in it, is a frequent topic in the manosphere, especially the Christian manosphere. Many are the laments about the current state of affairs, and many are the wishes of a return to “better times.” But we forget that harlotry and wanton sexual immorality is nothing new. We seemed doomed to repeat a terrible cycle: that once the memory of dark times is past us we repeat the sins of our ancestors, until we are plunged into darkness once again and cry out for deliverance from God, who invariably delivers us from the darkness, only for us to forget it again. There is nothing new about the carousel at all:
19 Yet she increased her whoring, remembering the days of her youth, when she played the whore in the land of Egypt 20 and lusted after her lovers there, whose members were like those of donkeys, and whose issue was like that of horses. 21 Thus you longed for the lewdness of your youth, when the Egyptians handled your bosom and pressed[c] your young breasts.”
Sound like anything you might have heard before?
This passage provides us with a valuable truth: the original carousel rider was Israel.
For some reason I find this both humorous and tragic at the same time.
What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done;
there is nothing new under the sun.
[Post inspired by a comment left here.]
The first passage in my second Selected Scripture series comes from the First Letter of Peter:
14 But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear,[b] and do not be intimidated, 15 but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; 16 yet do it with gentleness and reverence.[c] Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil.
(1 Peter 3:14-17)
I think this is an valuable passage because suffering is a part of life. We can never entirely escape it, no matter how hard we try. Given this fact, it is better for us as Christians to choose to live our lives in such a way that our suffering, when it does come about, results from doing good instead of doing evil. In this way it has purpose and meaning and value.
The second passage comes from the Book of Sirach:
18 The one who sins against his marriage bed
says to himself, “Who can see me?
Darkness surrounds me, the walls hide me,
and no one sees me. Why should I worry?
The Most High will not remember sins.”
19 His fear is confined to human eyes
and he does not realize that the eyes of the Lord
are ten thousand times brighter than the sun;
they look upon every aspect of human behavior
and see into hidden corners.
20 Before the universe was created, it was known to him,
and so it is since its completion.
21 This man will be punished in the streets of the city,
and where he least suspects it, he will be seized.
22 So it is with a woman who leaves her husband
and presents him with an heir by another man.
23 For first of all, she has disobeyed the law of the Most High;
second, she has committed an offense against her husband;
and third, through her fornication she has committed adultery
and brought forth children by another man.
24 She herself will be brought before the assembly,
and her punishment will extend to her children.
25 Her children will not take root,
and her branches will not bear fruit.
26 She will leave behind an accursed memory
and her disgrace will never be blotted out.
There are a few things I found important in this passage. To begin with, a husband’s adultery, while seemingly less odious (based on other parts of scripture), will not escape punishment. God sees all, and any thought of escaping justice is folly. Second off, we can see that a wife who commits adultery and cuckolds her husband is actually wronging three different figures. The first, and most important, is God. Then her husband. And then finally her children, who must suffer the worldly consequences of her sins. This is think is a template for understanding all sins within marriage: they wrong God, our spouse and our children.
The last passage is from the Gospel according to Mark:
He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. 2 On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary[a] and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense[b] at him. 4 Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” 5 And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. 6 And he was amazed at their unbelief.
What intrigued me here is the part in bold, which seems to indicate that the ability of Jesus to work miracles was dependent on the faith of the one who would benefit from it. This was a bit odd to me at first, because it almost seemed like a limitation on Jesus’ power. As I think on it, I suspect there is actually something very deep going on here. Possibly several somethings. Perhaps a statement that when we lament the lack of God’s presence in our lives, it is because our faith is lacking. Once we regenerate our faith in God, then we will be able to witness his miracles at work. Or maybe Mark is trying to teach us that God works through us and our faith, although that seems very much like the first point. This I think is worthy of further prayer and reflection.