Since my last post I’ve poked around a bit on James Russell Lingerfelt’s blog love story from the male perspective. The title of the blog itself gives a great deal away, starting with him referring to himself as a male and not a man. The other striking feature of the blog is something I’ve written about before, which is the fundamental problem of elevating romantic love to a virtue. As I explained in Lovestruck:
What nearly all modern Christians have done is place romantic love above marriage. Instead of seeing marriage as the moral context to pursue romantic love and sex, romantic love is now seen as the moral place to experience sex and marriage. This inversion is subtle enough that no one seems to have noticed, but if you look for it you will see it everywhere.
Indeed, the elevation of romantic love as a good in and of itself is something Lingerfelt argues with a passion in the few posts he authors himself, and it is implicit in his choice of content from other authors. In his post Don’t apologize for loving someone – not ever Lingerfelt argues that offering unrequited romantic love is both wise and courageous:
We can love, love, love but sometimes that love isn’t returned. That’s not our fault. To love or not to love is a choice. We chose to love. They chose not to. This does not mean we are unloveable or unworthy of love. We’re not idiots, fools, or weak for loving. Rather, we have courage.
Whether chaste or not (it isn’t clear from what I have read), he argues from the moral and philosophical frame of the serial monogamist:
Because we chose to be vulnerable and self-sacrificing; a requirement for love. And when it was over, though the echoes of the painful experiences reverberate in the depths of our being, we picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off, and we keep pressing onward.
Either way, misusing romantic love outside of marriage isn’t moral just because one decides not to misuse sex in the same way. In fact, as Zippy Catholic explains in Women have harems too, the man who offers romantic love inappropriately is in some ways the male equivalent of a slut:
from an intersexual behavior standpoint, the male equivalent of a slut is the beta orbiter. Modernity has turned sexuality into a buffet: what used to be a loving commitment for life to a particular person, where sexual intimacy and provision formed the mutual society of a family, has turned into cafeteria sexuality wherein people are encouraged to assemble their ideal virtual mate from the disparate contributions of different real people. Like the slut who gives away her sexuality on the cheap, accepting sexual attention with no commitment or provision, the beta orbiter gives away his provision and commitment without any corresponding receptivity to his sexual attentions.
But Lingerfelt and countless others would turn the vice of misusing romantic love into a virtue. In the same post Lingerfelt quotes from his novel The Mason Jar to make this case:
The following letter is from an eighty year old grandfather to his son, Clayton “Finn” Fincannon. After a relationship ends between he and his first love “Eden” during his senior year of college in California…
The use of a letter from a fictitious grandfather is a smart literary trick to package new age foolishness to seem like old school wisdom. In the novel the letters are passed from grandfather to grandson via a mason jar on the grandfather’s desk. Again, here we have more old school packaging literally surrounding and delivering new age ideas.
In another post Lingerfelt offers a synopsis of the book, and it reads like a beta orbiter’s manifesto. A character named Finn (bearing a striking resemblance to Lingerfelt’s own bio) falls deeply in love with a strong independent woman named Savannah and flies out to Colorado to meet her parents. During that meeting this sudden love-of-his-life steps away to take a call, and from then on she is distant from him. Shortly thereafter she breaks it off with Finn and returns to her abusive ex boyfriend. The rest of the story are the painful adventures of a beta orbiter, and his grandfather’s wisdom never to stop being what Vox Day has dubbed a feelings slut:
Unable to shake away his experiences in Africa, coupled with his memories of Savannah, Finn writes a heart’s cry on paper, and leaves it in the Mason jar on his grandfather’s desk…
…grandfather [tells] Finn that if he continues pouring himself out in love for others, he will find the healing he seeks.
In the end Savannah decides that she isn’t attracted to Finn, but with the intervention of her own father on behalf of Finn Savannah decides to formally LJBF him. Furthering my suspicions that this is an autobiographical story from Lingerfelt, in the book Finn also writes a book about Savannah which Savannah reads before deciding to LJBF him.
Not only does the book falsely elevate romantic love into a moral virtue, it confuses the sacrificial love a husband is instructed to offer to his wife with romantic love, and suggests that it is not only appropriate but wise for a Christian man to offer this sacrificial/romantic love to women (like Savannah) who aren’t his wife:
…Savannah explains to Finn that she is leaving him to reunite with an abusive ex-boyfriend.
Finn returns to the family farm that following weekend to clear his mind, where he and his grandfather have a lengthy conversation concerning sacrificial love.
While the plot device of wisdom from grandfather is an effective way to repackage foolish modern ideas as old school wisdom, the weakness in the device should be readily apparent. While I certainly can imagine grandparents who have imbibed our culture’s foolishness and then state it as old time wisdom, imagining Finn as a wise grandfather passing the same advice along to a grandson is something else entirely. Finn’s grandfather didn’t become a father and then grandfather by pining after career gal sluts, waiting for one of them to tire of hopping from one bad boy to the next to ultimately marry him. Likewise, I can’t imagine Finn’s grandmother as said ex career gal slut, a woman who rode the carousel of alpha bad boys before ultimately realizing that she needed a man to put a ring on it. While the plot device is effective, the world view it transmits has the effect of ensuring that those foolish enough to adopt it won’t be likely to find themselves the grandparents to a future generation, and if they are, they certainly won’t be seen as wise men and women whom future generations turn to for advice.
Edit: From his page on The Mason Jar, the book is being made into a movie:
The Mason Jar feature film is scheduled for pre-production in 2015 and will be directed in the same dramatic and romantic tones as The Notebook (Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, 2004) and Pride & Predjudice (Keira Knightley, Matthew Mcfadyen, 2005).