Eddie Kaufholz at Relevant Magazine has an article on an old standby topic, Why Don’t the Guys in my Church Ask Women on Dates? (H/T Robert Yates). Relevant reader Erica kicks off the discussion with a letter asking why weak men are screwing feminism up:
Where are all the brave men? I will not go on a rant—and I firmly believe women can be just as brave—but I do notice a lot of Christian men who are afraid to pass the friend threshold. This is why so many women date non-Christians; because Christian guys rarely can just keep it casual and go on a date, give it a chance. What are your thoughts on this?
Kaufholz is smitten by Erica’s display of what he sees as deep wisdom in asking such a profound question, and by her ability to complain about men not filling traditional roles while simultaneously establishing her feminist bona fides:
Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaang! Erica bringin’ the wisdom with a punch-in-the-face question as sentence #1, a sly wink to societal norms in sentence #2, and a scathing (and true) assessment in sentence #3. Well done, and great question!
Kaufholz explains that there is nothing for Erica to improve, because she is doing everything right but the men are screwing it all up. The rest of his article is therefore directed to the men who read Relevant:
Sweet Erica is sitting next to you in church. She is brilliant, wise, articulate and principled. And you know you’ve noticed her because you notice every brilliant, wise, etc., woman in your circle. They think you don’t notice, but we we know better, don’t we?
Kaufholz lays this at the feet of Joshua Harris and his book I Kissed Dating Goodbye, and per standard operating procedure identifies a need for men to man up. There is of course nothing wrong with advising men to be men. However, while everyone knows men need to man up, the Christian cultural advice on how to do this is very often meaningless and even contradictory from one man up rant to the next. Kaufholz is certain that the problem is that men aren’t interested enough in casual dating:
We have some serious issues to work out, namely, the lack of courage displayed by really good men who are hiding their heads in the sand, even as their heart longs to connect. But why?
We’ve got yet another Christian culture problem. Somewhere in the formative and oh-so-tacky ’80s and ’90s, a message spread through Christian bookstores (R.I.P.), pulpits, youth groups, and all the nooks and crannies of God-fearing culture. This message was that casual dating is not good, women’s hearts must be guarded by men, and all romantic relationships better have marriage in mind—or the people in them are just using each other.
According to Kaufholz, courage means man up and date casually. Stop focusing on stating intentions regarding marriage. Instead focus on just talking:
Today’s conversation is about sweet Erica, and the Ericas that are sitting right next to you. They’re not looking for a husband right this second, and they’re sure as heck not looking for a savior. They’re looking for a kind conversation, a respectful follow-up, and a nice cup of ethically sourced, fair-trade coffee.
Yet at the CBMW JD Gunter is telling these same men to stop being such cowards by dating too casually; they need to man up and state their intentions. In We’re Just “Talking” Gunter explains that only weak men have casual conversations with women:
Our culture suffers from a large number of males wallowing around in quasi-manhood for many years. Boys used to grow up, get a job, and move out of the house. But we have inserted this chain of life stages from adolescence, to the college years, to early career, and so on – all of which permit young men to put off growing up, taking responsibility, and generally acting like a man.
This new phase of pre-dating called “talking” is like adolescence for relationships: an unnecessary stage in the relationship allowing young men to avoid taking responsibility and acting like men. It prevents the man from having to be clear about his intentions to pursue or end the relationship.
Notice that not only are both prescriptions for being a real man contradictory, but each starts from contradictory assumptions about why modern Christian women are so frustrated with modern Christian men. Kaufholz is certain that fabulous Christian women are being left entirely alone, with no Christian man willing to even engage in a casual conversation with them. Gunter is sure that the unmarried women at church are being talked to death, and are powerless to direct the relationship towards the marriages they desperately crave.
The problem is neither one of them have bothered to get a good fix on what Christian women want regarding dating, because the complaints of women are merely a springboard for telling other men to man up. Telling other men to man up secures their own place as the only real man in the room. The only thing Kaufholz, Gunter, and many other Christian leaders agree on is that other men are a bunch of cowards, and if only other men will become real men like themselves all of the problems feminism has wrought on dating and marriage will be solved. While this pattern is extremely popular for obvious reasons, it doesn’t do anything to help either the frustrated young women or the deeply confused young men.
Since we started with Erica’s letter, it makes sense to go back to her complaint. What Kaufholz should have asked is if Erica is looking for a husband, or if she merely wants to be entertained. If Erica is looking to be entertained, as I highly suspect is the case, her best chance for this is to court for sex. This isn’t the moral choice, but it is the practical way to get what she is likely searching for. All she needs to do is put herself out there with a promise of relatively quick sex in exchange for being suitably entertained. I believe Erica already knows this though, as she hints at it when she writes:
This is why so many women date non-Christians
If Kaufholz had determined that Erica wanted to be entertained, he could have reminded her that she already knows how this is done and pointed out the moral problems with this path. In doing so he would have avoided assisting her in rationalizing this as part of a noble pursuit of Christian marriage.
There is however an odd chance that Kaufholz’s diagnosis of the situation is correct; it is possible that Erica is looking to become a biblical wife, and that her problem is that she brings her fabulous self to church every Sunday but can’t manage to get to know the men in her field of prospects. In this case Kaufholz has still badly failed Erica, because he left her with the impression that sitting pretty is her only possible course of action. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
There is a very easy way Erica can quickly find out which men in the church are eligible for marriage*, and also find herself casually introduced to each of these men. All Erica needs to do is let one or more of the married women in the church know that she is looking to get married. Married women love to play matchmaker, but only if it is for marriage. They will go to great lengths to scour their extended social network for potential suitors, but only if the ultimate payoff is the potential for a marriage. To the extent that the married ladies in the church aren’t tripping over themselves to locate every last eligible bachelor in the land and finding any and every excuse to put Erica in a position to interact with these men, it is because they don’t believe Erica is looking to marry. This isn’t to say they need to believe that Erica will marry any given man they subtly or not so subtly put her in contact with, but that they don’t believe that if they find enough good matches for her that marriage is in the cards.
The irony here is Erica’s problem with the married ladies in the church is the same problem she has with the unmarried men in the church. The reason Erica isn’t getting asked out on dates by marriage minded young men isn’t because of a fad which fell out of favor before the men her age quit fearing a terminal case of the cooties. Her problem is no one but already married men like Kaufholz and Gunter believes she is seriously looking to marry. The unmarried men and the married women believe that Erica is very likely a waste of time and effort. Based on her letter to Kaufholz, I can’t think of any reason to believe that this assessment is wrong.
However, some of the young women reading this post and Kaufholz’s article will be sincerely looking to marry. My advice for them is to find a way to convince the married women at church (or even just the married women they know) that they want to marry. If they are young and pure(ish) and seem sincerely interested in getting married soon, this should be fairly easy to do by simply mentioning it to a married woman or two. But the reality here is such young women already know this, and are generally terrified of what they know will come next. They know that for the next year or so they will constantly be invited to social events or manuvered to one side of the room or another while the married women make introductions to eligible men. This is embarrassing, because it means asking for (or at least accepting) help, and more importantly it doesn’t involve sexy strangers running day game on them at the most unlikely times and places. But again, this all comes down to the fundamental goal. If the goal is to be entertained, court for sex. If the goal is to look for a husband, find a way to convince those who know you best that this is what you actually want.
*There is a bit of corollary advice for men looking to marry. Such men only need to convince the married women that they meet the basic requirements of eligibility. Note that convincing married women that a man wishes to marry isn’t on the list. Unless a man goes out of his way to signal that he does not wish to marry, the married women know it is a pretty good bet that he would be willing to marry if introduced to the right young woman:
- The man has a good job.
- He isn’t already married and doesn’t have a girlfriend.
- He has moved out of his parent’s house and supports himself.