Matt Walsh has a new post up at the Blaze*: Dear Millennial Men, Don’t Be Afraid of Marriage And Fatherhood. Walsh makes some good points. He notes that marriage isn’t the only way a man can embrace responsibility while pointing out that very few of the men avoiding marriage are practicing celibacy. He also notes the toxic impact of feminism on women, and that large numbers of women are delaying marriage. This last part is understated, but even acknowledging it is a massive improvement over the way (for example) complementarians pretend that men are insisting that women usurp men’s roles.
However, there is a huge piece missing from Walsh’s analysis. Men don’t just fear the responsibilities of marriage and fatherhood, they fear the way these institutions have been corrupted and assaulted by our laws, courts, Christian leaders and entertainment, and even attacked by Walsh himself. Marriage has been legally and socially replaced by a new family model. While some men only fear taking on responsibility, wise men rightly are weary of the evil of this new form of family. Under God’s family structure, marriage is for life and husbands are head of the household. Under our new culture and legal structure, marriage lasts precisely as long as your wife says it will, and married fathers are either a punchline or a serious threat to the family and must be aggressively restrained. It isn’t the responsibility that many men fear, but the contempt of society (including conservative Christians) that being a married father earns, and the loss of their family on a whim that best demonstrates this contempt.
It isn’t just that the law and the courts stand forever ready to reward your wife with cash and prizes if she decides to destroy your family. The culture, including Christian culture, will constantly be working to undermine you and destabilize your family. Christian movies about husbands and fathers reliably degrade the role of married men. Fireproof was the Christian entry into the genre of divorce fantasy, and Courageous went to unbelievable lengths to tear down good husbands and fathers so it could ostensibly build them back up. More recently War Room followed in this well worn anti husband and father path. But these are just the more serious expression of the dark modern Christian contempt for husbands and fathers. There are also Christian comedies like Mom’s Night Out which portray Christian husbands and fathers as buffoons. It is true that Christian movies are following the lead of secular movies in this regard, but this is a deeply troubling defense. Moreover, Christian films aren’t just following, they take the secular contempt for married fathers to the next level. Modern Christians haven’t noticed this because the movies reflect how modern Christians collectively feel about married fathers.
Yet while modern Christians can’t spot the contempt for married fathers in Christian movies, secular critics very often do. In his review of War Room on rogerebert.com, Matt Fagerholm complains that the movie portrays the Christian husband and father as lacking any redeeming qualities (emphasis mine):
The film’s centerpiece sequence occurs early on, as Elizabeth sits weeping in her closet while pleading, “God, help him love me again.” This moment is heartbreaking for all the wrong reasons. Since the Kendricks have mistaken one-dimensional caricatures for people who exist in the real world, they forgot to provide Tony with any redeeming qualities that would make us want to root for his marriage. As for the film’s advice to women who are beaten by their husbands, one of Elizabeth’s co-workers advises, “Learn to duck so God can hit him.”
Likewise the feminists at Dame were astonished by the anti-father message of Mom’s Night Out, as they explained in Manchildren Are Not Sexy. Neither Are Helpless Dads. This is a movie that Christians adored, yet feminists were made deeply uncomfortable by the anti father and anti family message it carried:
And that’s the biggest problem with Moms’ Night Out: The moral of the story isn’t that the women are supposed to stay home and not have fun, but that the men are totally hapless morons without them around—and that this lesson is still being drilled into our heads in 2014. We’re supposed to feel better about this “men are total idiots, the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world” philosophy (and that latter piece of wisdom was actually uttered in the movie in case you missed the point). But this story of the helpless manchild is a disservice to men—and families—everywhere.
There is of course a good, strong, competent man in the movie, but he isn’t a married father. He is a sexy badboy biker. Christians say that marriage and fatherhood is the path to respectable manhood, but the man we really (collectively) respect is the man who doesn’t listen to what we say about respectability and marriage.
Walsh rightly wants men to man up. Yet if they do, how will Walsh respond? Does his support for marriage go deeper than posing as the only real man in the room? Too often the answer is no. If your wife writes to him complaining about you, Walsh won’t hesitate to join the gossip and denigrate you to your wife and the rest of his audience:
She told me about her own prize catch; he wakes up at around 11 AM to play video games, meanwhile she brings their two sons to church. Something tells me this is the sort of guy who would call his wife “the boss.”
…I don’t know this woman. But I’m guessing she’d be overjoyed if hubby dropped the video game controller and picked up the Cross of Leadership.
This hopefully won’t be fatal to the family in question, assuming Walsh has it all wrong; if Walsh is merely unfairly maligning a good husband and father, the man can probably push through the discord Walsh is sowing in his home. But what if Walsh is right, and this wife who lacks discretion also has a failing husband? Is the ego boost Walsh received by denigrating another husband and father worth the risk that two young boys will grow up without their father in the home? And what about the other women (besides this man’s wife) that Walsh is posing for when he whispers that their life would be so much better if they were married to a real man like himself? Are their husbands good enough to survive Walsh’s clumsy attempt to AMOG them? We should pray that they are.
Even worse, at the same time Walsh mocks other Christian husbands for not being the kind of big strong Christian leader that he is, he is careful to avoid upsetting the feminist sensibilities of the women in his audience:
I believe that men have a duty to lead, and I believe that there are many, many women who agree with me.
Notice: I’m not saying that the man should be the boss. Being a leader doesn’t mean being a “boss.” But I don’t need to spend time dispelling the notion that men ought to be the boss, because, as we’ve covered, that notion doesn’t really exist.
For most marriages the sand Walsh throws into the gears will only create low level strife; we can’t blame the nearly 50% divorce rate on acts of grandstanding by Walsh. But his inclination to malign good men and destabilize fragile families is a dangerous game with no upside except to Walsh himself.
Likewise the Christian husband and father Jenny Erikson divorced almost certainly can’t single Walsh out as instrumental in encouraging his wife to blow up their family. Nor can their two daughters blame Walsh for the fact that they will grow up without their father in the home. However, Walsh undeniably provided Jenny Erikson comfort by aiding her in rationalizing her treachery. We know this because shortly after Jenny Erikson announced that she was tired of honoring her marriage vows, she tweeted:
Married men: your porn habit is an adultery habit http://themattwalshblog.com/2013/11/25/married-men-your-porn-habit-is-an-adultery-habit/ … (I love this guy)
But again, Walsh is only a bit player in the cacophony of voices whispering marital strife and destruction. Men who take Walsh’s advice to marry and have children aren’t safe if they merely keep their wives from reading bad influences like Walsh himself. They also need to overcome the discord being sown by a legion of Christian leaders. Modern Christian culture’s contempt for married fathers is so great that it has become customary to tear down fathers from the pulpit on the very day set aside to honor fathers. And while Father’s Day is a special day set aside to tear down Christian fathers, the threats aren’t limited to just one day. Christian wives are now being taught that submission means throwing godly tantrums, and many pastors now want to turn your marriage into a threesome.
But just because Walsh has a disturbing habit of sowing discord into other men’s homes, doesn’t mean he is wrong when he says men should man up. We all should. For some men this will mean carefully selecting a wife and doing everything possible to protect their family from what Walsh, secular culture, and Christian leaders throw against their home. For others it will mean finding purpose and responsibility while foregoing the profound benefits of marriage, including sex, romantic love, and children. For all of us manning up should also mean respecting the respectable, and doing what we can to fight against our society’s relentless attack on the family structure God created.
*H/T The Question