Keeping The Reward

It is clear to anyone of good sense nowadays that something is very wrong within the Church when it comes to marriage. Divorce, once near unheard of, has become so commonplace as to be an accepted part of life. The median and mean age of marriage continues to get pushed back. And many young Millenials have decided that they simply won’t marry, for a variety of reasons. Marriage among Christians has never been in a more precarious position.

This crisis has come about due to a multitude of factors: no-fault (aka unilateral) divorce, rampant promiscuity, legalized and easily available contraception and abortion, feminism and the elevation of romantic love are just a few of them. As Christians living in a post-Christian culture, there is little or nothing we can do about many of these. In many respects it seems that the only thing that Christian parents can do is educate their children in the faith and impart as much moral guidance in them as possible. But this isn’t true. There is something that Christian parents can do, something that used to be done, the absence of which is amongst the many reasons why marriage is in such a poor state today.

What is this “something” that parents can do to help their children?

They can actively work to help their children marry young.

Parents used to do this- they used to seek out wives and husbands for their sons and daughters. They used to help arrange marriages for their children at a young age. [Contrary to popular myth, an arranged marriage is not the same thing as a forced marriage; the latter were terribly uncommon, generally found only among the nobility.]

Unfortunately, this practice, like so many others, has fallen to the wayside in recent decades/centuries. Our love of freedom and independence has lead most parents to let their children handle matters of marriage all by themselves. Ostensibly this is because young Christian men and women have the right to choose their own future for themselves. Yet in practice what is really going on is that young Christians are being thrown to the wolves- they are thrust out into a broken Marriage Marketplace that chews most of them up. A lucky few manage to make it through unscathed, but most are caught up in either promiscuity or involuntary celibacy.

Sadly, few Christians seem to be willing to take the steps which will help their children escape this fate. Again, the solution  is very simple, with just two components:

1) Help their children find worthy spouse candidates…

2) and help them marry those candidates while they are young.

The excuses are many as to why parents won’t help their children out here, and amusingly enough, they aren’t original either. My research into the early history of the Church has lead me to discover that the advice I and others are giving now has been around for a long, long time. Here is what Saint John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople and Doctor of the Church, had to say on the subject of parents raising their children and caring out their souls:

Hear this, ye fathers and mothers, that your bringing up of children shall not lose its reward. This also he says, as he proceeds, “Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children.” (1 Tim. v.10.) Among other commendations he reckons this one, for it is no light praise to devote to God those children which are given them of God. For if the basis, the foundation which they lay be good, great will be their reward; as great, if they neglect it, will be their punishment. It was on account of his children that Eli perished. For he ought to have admonished them, and indeed he did admonish them, but not as he ought; but from his unwillingness to give them pain he destroyed both himself and them. Hear this, ye fathers, bring your children up with great care “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” (Eph. vi.4.) Youth is wild, and requires many governors, teachers, directors, attendants, and tutors; and after all these, it is a happiness if it be restrained. For as a horse not broken in, or a wild beast untamed, such is youth. But if from the beginning, from the earliest age, we fix it in good rules, much pains will not be required afterwards; for good habits formed will be to them as a law. Let us not suffer them to do anything which is agreeable, but injurious; nor let us indulge them, as forsooth but children. Especially let us train them in chastity, for there is the very bane of youth. For this many struggles, much attention will be necessary. Let us take wives for them early, so that their brides may receive their bodies pure and unpolluted, so their loves will be more ardent. He that is chaste before marriage, much more will he be chaste after it; and he that practiced fornication before, will practice it after marriage. “All bread,” it is said, “is sweet to the fornicator.” (Ecclus. xxiii.17.) Garlands are wont to be worn on the heads of bridegrooms, as a symbol of victory, betokening that they approach the marriage bed unconquered by pleasure. But if captivated by pleasure he has given himself up to harlots, why does he wear the garland, since he has been subdued?

Let us admonish them of these things. Let us employ sometimes advice, sometimes warnings, sometimes threatening. In children we have a great charge committed to us. Let us bestow great care upon them, and do everything that the Evil One may not rob us of them. But now our practice is the very reverse of this. We take all care indeed to have our farm in good order, and to commit it to a faithful manager, we look out for it an ass-driver, and muleteer, and bailiff, and a clever accomptant. But we do not look out for what is much more important, for a person to whom we may commit our son as the guardian of his morals, though this is a possession much more valuable than all others. It is for him indeed that we take such care of our estate. We take care of our possessions for our children, but of the children themselves we take no care at all.What an absurdity is this! Form the soul of thy son aright, and all the rest will be added hereafter. If that is not good, he will derive no advantage from his wealth, and if it is formed to goodness he will suffer no harm from poverty. Wouldest thou leave him rich? teach him to be good: for so he will be able to acquire wealth, or if not, he will not fare worse than they who possess it. But if he be wicked, though you leave him boundless wealth, you leave him no one to take care of it, and you render him worse than those who are reduced to extreme poverty. For poverty is better than riches for those children who are not well-disposed. For it retains them in some degree of virtue even against their will. Whereas money does not suffer those who would be sober to continue so, it leads them away, ruins them, and plunges them into infinite dangers.

The above quote is from his Ninth Homily on First Letter to Timothy. Written over 1600 years ago, Saint John Chrysostom’s words ring true now just as they did in the early days of the Church. There is so much wisdom contained therein that I am not sure where to begin in dissecting and analyzing these two paragraphs.  Here is but a brief encapsulation of his sage advice and teaching, along with my thoughts about it:

– Parents ought to be concerned most of raising their children to be virtuous. Nothing else is nearly so important. If they raise them well, great will be their reward. Raise them poorly, and the punishment accordingly great.

  • This sentiment is now mostly lacking in Christian parents. Rather than raise their children to be virtuous, they raise them to be successful. How many of you have heard parents brag about the successes of their children? About the great deeds they are accomplishing, or the bright future they have ahead of them? Then ponder, if you have the stomach for it, on how many times you’ve heard parents praise the virtue of their children, and deeds which clearly manifest that virtue (as compared to the modern equivalent of blowing a horn ahead of them).

– Rather than be given great license, young Christians need to be restrained, disciplined and mentored. Discipline applied at an early age will bear fruit later in life.

  • This advice is so eminently true and obvious you almost wonder why it need be said. But sadly there are some Christian parents who clearly need it, because they spoil their children and give them free reign. What befalls those children later is entirely tragic, and entirely foreseeable.

– Train children to be chaste. The best way to do this is for them to marry young (especially sons). Promiscuity before marriage weakens the marital bonds, and invites future sin.

  • Preaching young marriage is counter-cultural even in the Church these days. I know plenty of Christians who advocate that people “wait” to marry, including many parents. They seem to have little to no concern about the dangers of temptation when they thrust their children out in a world that is fully of vice and promiscuity. Speaking from personal experience, I know that it is extraordinarily difficult to maintain a virtuous life while still single, especially in this culture. The temptations and frustrations are incredible, and many will not be up to the challenge.

– Parents take more care preparing their property for their children then they do actually raising their children. They spend a great deal of time thinking about who will work with their son, but not stop to think of who will marry him and whom he will spend his whole life with. If a child has strong morals, and is full of virtue, then they will get through life safely and securely. No amount of wealth can cover deficiencies in character or virtue.

  • This part I found disturbingly prescient. I mean, isn’t he describing the general phenomenon of parents sending their kids off to college to get an education and develop a career to a T? Parents are doing everything they can to prepare their children to succeed at life in all areas except (for many) the most important: marriage. This is an obvious recipe for disaster.

In conclusion, Christian parents these days need to reconsider how they are raising their children. Are they raising them to succeed at worldly matters, or are they raising them to excel at loving God and keeping His commandments? Unfortunately, most nearly everyone in the Church has, whether willingly or not, conformed to the world. While we may profess different things from our secular brothers and sisters, we act little different when it comes to raising our children. This needs to change.

A vital step in that change is the role Christian parents play when it comes to their children and marriage. Christian parents need to reject the secular approach of leaving marriage entirely to their children. Instead, they need to get involved early, and often, in their children’s lives to help prepare and train them to marry well. The effort begun with the Courtship Pledge by Scott and Mychael is an example of how Christian parents can do their part to change how Christians look at and understand marriage. This project, and efforts like it, is critical to restoring Christian marriage and raising up a new generation of virtuous Christians who will bring light to the world.

I would entreat all Christian parents reading this to ask themselves what they are doing to prepare their children to live virtuous lives, what they are doing to help their children maintain their virtue, what they are doing to prepare their children for marriage, and what they are doing to help their children find and marry a worthy spouse. Then ask yourselves what more you can do for those entrusted into your care, so that you might not lose your reward.

[This is cross-posted over at the Courtship Pledge]

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19 Comments

Filed under Christianity, Courtship, Marriage, Men, Sex, Sin, Temptation, The Church, Women

19 responses to “Keeping The Reward

  1. Saint John Chrysostom,

    Born c. 347[1]
    Died 14 September 407[2]

    No surprise that his life was during the decline/collapse of the Western Roman Empire:

    1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decline_of_the_Roman_Empire#Highlights
    2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fall_of_the_Western_Roman_Empire

  2. Ev

    Donal, great essay, as far as it goes. Please list specific steps that parents who want to arrange marriages for their virtuous daughters and sons can take to *locate* suitable candidates for marriage. That was your criticism of parents at the beginning of the piece and it showed up again in the conclusion, but the body of the essay was a “man up” tangent on raising chaste children who want to marry young. We’ve done that. We just can’t find any other families that have done that, too.

  3. @ Deep Strength

    Not really, no. Despite nominally becoming Christian, the Roman Empire’s citizenry, at least at the upper echelons, didn’t act or think like it.

    It should be noted that St. John lived in the Eastern part of the empire, which was “civilized” longer and survived the fall of the Western empire.

  4. @ Ev

    The middle wasn’t a tangent; this is part of a longer series on the topic. I’m going to address what you specifically ask for- locating suitable candidates for marriage for one’s children- in a future post.

    And this wasn’t a “man up” essay, it was a “Christian up” essay. Christian mothers and fathers are both at fault for not being involved here.

  5. @ Donal

    Interesting then that this pervaded the Empire even before the collapse. That says something significant.

  6. mdavid

    Ev, Please list specific steps that parents who want to arrange marriages for their virtuous daughters and sons can take to *locate* suitable candidates for marriage.

    Just like good property goes up in price and you generally have good neighbors when you move there, it’s similar with decent pools of marriage partners. If one wishes to marry both young and well in this day and age, one must a) find a tribe, and then b) pay up to join it. Mormons, Catholics, and some Evangelicals are doing this today. Indians, Chinese, and Japanese have done it for ages.

    Good Catholic colleges like St. Thomas Aquinas cost $80k per year. The reason they cost so much? it’s a winnowing fork; only the children of parents who give a damn can then afford to be there (or parents who work hard to chase scholarships and/or homeschool for academic superiority). That’s where parents put their good girls encouraged to marry before age 22. This selects for good genetics and good upbringing, with no tramps or players around to cause havoc. Hard doctrine, like marriage until death and the need for spiritual suffering, is the norm. Birth control, not to mention abortion, is considered a grave evil. Good marriage pool, methinks.

    This is no longer a country where a person can expect to marry the girl next door and for it to last; the culture has collapsed, and weak will perish through mere exposure.

  7. @donalgraeme:

    About your first point — raising children to be virtuous — I would like to highlight this quote (which Cane Caldo posted a few times):

    “Here in [The Book of Job] the question is really asked whether God invariably punishes vice with terrestrial punishment and rewards virtue with terrestrial prosperity. If the Jews had answered that question wrongly they might have lost all their after influence in human history. They might have sunk even down to the level of modern well-educated society. For when once people have begun to believe that prosperity is the reward of virtue, their next calamity is obvious. If prosperity is regarded as the reward of virtue it will be regarded as the symptom of virtue. Men will leave off the heavy task of making good men successful. He will adopt the easier task of making out successful men good. This, which has happened throughout modern commerce and journalism, is the ultimate Nemesis of the wicked optimism of the comforters of Job.”

    — G. K. Chesterton in “Introduction to the Book of Job”

  8. Ev

    @Donal

    Apologies, I was too subtle: virtuous children > virtue > L. “vir” > Eng. “man” > manliness > “man up.” IOW, as Deti elsewhere says it used to mean: “your tribe needs you,” not “a woman needs your money, services, and labor.”

    @mdavid

    “If one wishes to marry both young and well in this day and age, one must a) find a tribe, and then b) pay up to join it.” Wisdom! Let us be attentive!

    “This selects for good genetics and good upbringing.” This, I am not convinced of. At least, I am unconvinced by what I observe among the students at a nearby Catholic college, which is reputed to be among the best traditional campuses in the country. Feminism is rife there, too, draped in Mariology and social justice. (Bear in mind, I am about as pro-RC as a non-RC can get.)

    “the culture has collapsed.” And with it, the old methods of arranging marriages.

  9. @ Choking

    That quote is always a good one to include. And captures exactly what many (most?) Christian parents are doing these days.

  10. @ Ev

    I caught that Deti quote. Its one that I agree with- the phrase has been stolen and “re-purposed” towards ill ends. Not quite sure what you were trying to get across with the first part of your comment. I think I get it, but I can be pretty dense at times so I’m not sure.

  11. The excuses are many as to why parents won’t help their children out here, and amusingly enough, they aren’t original either.

    There two biggest reasons for this are laziness and apathy, both commodities in great abundance in today’s churchian franchises. It’s a self-perpetuating problem. Given a churchian divorce rate of “only” 38 percent (still enough to spread toxicity to all the come in contact with it), it is ze-ro wonder that so few “believing” parents have not even the vaguest clue how to prepare their offspring for marriage, given that many of them are failures at it themselves. Given too the fact that most Amerikan churchians value “pursuing the Amerikan debt and materialism nightmare dream” over obeying and living God’s word, it’s just as little wonder that instilling lasting values into their children isn’t even on the priority list.

    Despite nominally becoming Christian, the Roman Empire’s citizenry, at least at the upper echelons, didn’t act or think like it.

    The red letter year in history to remember is A.D. 314, exactly 1,700 years ago, when the Emperor Constantine made his faux “conversion” to Christianity. This could correctly be regarded as the birth date of churchianity.

  12. mdavid

    Ev, …nearby Catholic college, which is reputed to be among the best traditional campuses in the country. Feminism is rife there, too, draped in Mariology and social justice.

    I’m interested in your experiences; can you name names? I know a few of these types of schools (all fame, no game) but am always hungry for more info, especially from folk outside the fold, so to speak.

    I’m also curious about the Marian/feminism link you propose…it’s the hard-core trad types seem to have the intense Marian devotion in my neck-of-the-woods (aligning with anti-abortion, veils, long dresses, & kids). I’m fascinated how the silent, obedient Mary stereotype can grow into a feminist icon…I’m not doubting you here (feminists can pull anything off) but again, I’m curious.

  13. Patrick Pedat Ebediyah Golston

    A little liberty if I may do so:

    “Man
    Up” = Because of the Female Imperative, women need your money,
    services, and labor without any reciprocal requirement.

  14. Ev

    @Donal

    The way I joke around with my friends doesn’t translate well to comboxes. I know that, and I should try harder to remember it, so the fault was mine.

    @mdavid

    Google “Benedictine” and “Messersmith” from about a year ago. Consider the adriot response of the athletic department reps and the non-chalant attitude of the students interviewed. Can you find a dissenting or concerned opinion anywhere? Legally, the school probably had no alternatives once the student went public, but it required a comfortable institutional and social atmosphere in order for the matter to get to that point.

    Here is an out-of-context quote that circulated among some of the co-eds earlier this year: “It is theologically and anthropologically important for woman to be at the center of Christianity. Through Mary, and the other holy women, the feminine element stands at the heart of the Christian religion.”-Pope Benedict XVI. Against a backdrop of other social justice/women’s victimization remarks, comments, quotes, etc. (which I’ve seen and won’t bother reproducing here), what could the feminine element be interpreted as manifesting?

    I’m glad the students bus to the March for Life every year. I’m glad many of them seriously attempt to discern a calling to marriage or the religious life. I don’t question their faith or chastity. It just strikes me as a lot of girl power/sisterhood/insidious feminism in skirts, and not worth the price of tuition.

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  18. Andrea Renee

    You say milleies are choosing not to marry. But I want to get marrige. I want to have sexual relationship with the Godly man I serves as wife, helper, prayer warrior, ei. But , I can’t dueto not bring young (27) to having job, due to having BA in communication. Why do I get a Godly man with background. I have to work to help my family

  19. Andrea Renee

    And wher is Jesus in your writing?

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