Is Christian marriage only for elite women?

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

–Romans 12:10, ESV

Last week Pastor Michael Foster and I had an excellent exchange in the comments of my post Unless the men are *Christian*.

The discussion was around what it takes for Christian young men to gain the respect of older Christian men, as we both agree that this is very important for a Christian man who hopes to attract a Christian wife.  Pastor Foster explained that for a Christian man to be respected by other Christian men he needed to prove himself to be exceptional:

In general, men gain status through diligent work. They outwork their peers in efforts and/or wisdom. That is what he meant by, “You’ll get men to respect you by working hard.”

I pointed out that only elite Christian men would be able to marry under this model, since he had also argued that earning the respect of other men was essential to finding a wife.  We can’t make the average man extraordinary, we can only improve the average.  Pastor Foster responded graciously and said he will consider the issue.  This is as much as I would ask for.  In the meantime I wanted to explore the question further in a post.

The larger issue is that modern Christian men tend to outdo one another in withholding honor.  This isn’t true just for young men looking to marry, it is true for married Christian fathers who bring their families to church.  This is why Christians have turned a secular holiday dedicated to honoring fathers into a day to dishonor fathers.  It is also why the much loved movie Courageous modeled discussing our fathers with contempt:

I wonder where all the good fathers went.
Ain’t that the truth?
What? I remember you talking about your dad.
Wasn’t he an usher at your church?
Yeah, but that doesn’t mean anything.
Soon as the church service started, he’d step out back for a smoke.
You know, one time he says to me, “I better not catch you drinking. ”
Had a beer in his hand when he said it.
My mom used to nag him.
That is, till they got divorced.
Look, it’s not like I don’t love the guy, but it’s hard to respect a hypocrite.
What about you, David?
I had a good dad.
I guess.
I mean, the guy wasn’t perfect.
My parents split after he had an affair.
But I think he regretted it.

Part of the temptation here is pride, but another part is finding a way to seem traditional without offending our feminist and chivalrous sensibilities.  Surely Christian women deserve only the best husbands;  they are after all the daughters of the King most high, the pearl of great price.  Non exceptional men don’t deserve a wife.  This last part is technically true.  No man deserves a wife.  But we should keep in mind that just like men half of all women are below average, and the vast majority of women are unexceptional.  Most women can’t attract an exceptional man.  All of those women who are married to the poor excuses for men that we look down on?  They are every bit the losers their husbands are!  If they had better options they would have taken them.  Even if a woman had better options but chose a poor slob for a husband, this generally tells us the woman was gifted with attractiveness but blew it due to being below average in wisdom.  Granted there will be a handful of true exceptions, but these aren’t the rule.

So when we look down on unexceptional men as unworthy, we are implicitly looking down on the loser women who can’t do any better.  But as Romans 12:10 reminds us, this isn’t a Christian way of looking at things.  It also sets marriage up as something only for elite men and women.  For if we take the non elite men out of the marriage market, who will their counterpart women marry?

And it isn’t just weddings we are saying unexceptional Christian women should be shut out of.  For those who are married, we strongly tend to deny them the hallmarks of Christian marriage.  We may be willing to hold our nose and go against chivalry and tell a woman married to an exceptional man to submit to him with fear and reverence, but we draw the line at the wives of those other slobs.  This is framed as an act of love for these women, with the implicit claim that God’s design for wives isn’t good.  For we would never deprive a Christian man of his obligation to love his wife and wash her in water with the word simply because he couldn’t attract an exceptional wife.

None of this is to say that we shouldn’t challenge fellow Christian men to excellence.  It is good for a man to demand excellence of himself and of his brothers (according to their individual capabilities). It is not good to expect men in general to be extraordinary.

Posted in Courageous, Disrespecting Respectability, Finding a Spouse, Marriage, Miserliness, Pastor Michael Foster, Submission, The only real man in the room | 171 Comments

John Zmirak is mostly right.

John Zmirak at The Stream writes in Tucker Carlson is Half Right that Carlson is right about the destruction of the family:

Carlson’s central complaint is serious. The family is collapsing in America, except among the upper and upper middle class. Marriage rates, birth rates, you name it — they’re all trending badly. The crisis of single parenthood that Daniel Patrick Moynihan identified in 1965 among black Americans? Working class white Americans now repeat the same pathology, and it’s far, far worse among blacks.

Kudos to Carlson for speaking truth to power.

The End of Fatherhood

As a rule, boys raised without fathers don’t do well. Many end up in prison. Neither do fatherless girls thrive, in fact. Much of the sexual abuse in America stems from stepfathers and transient boyfriends. Girls without stable father figures get pregnant much younger, and often end up trapped in the welfare system.

The decline of marriage is real. And one of the factors is the decline in male income relative to female. Survey after survey shows that women don’t tend to marry men who earn less (or even the same) as they do. Why? Part of it’s surely grounded in that horror, mammalian biology. Women far more than men are willing to sacrifice career advancement to spend time raising their children. Imagine that, giving up valuable hours spent in a cubicle to ensure your children’s safety, happiness, and avoid the lifelong, IQ-dimming effects of dismal daycare.

But if men can’t earn more to take up the slack, will women feel safe doing that? Since they can’t, lower-income men get locked out of the one institution that makes men healthier, happier, more virtuous and productive: marriage.

Instead they sow seed to the wind, producing more fatherless kids primed for social dysfunction. The welfare system, as George Gilder noticed back in the 1970s, has stepped in and replaced male providers. That makes it “safe” for young girls to get pregnant and bear children while still young, unmarried teens.

This conversation is a catastrophe for our conservative elites, who until Carlson upset the balance had clung to the liberal party line that nothing serious was wrong with our new family policy.  Compare Zmirak’s assertion that we have a serious problem to the 2014 NY Times article complaining about misguided “hand wringing” regarding the state of marriage. From The Divorce Surge Is Over, but the Myth Lives On

Despite hand-wringing about the institution of marriage, marriages in this country are stronger today than they have been in a long time. The divorce rate peaked in the 1970s and early 1980s and has been declining for the three decades since.

But it wasn’t just liberals at the NY Times trumpeting the “all is well” message.  Conservative Christians were in lock step.  The Christian Post declared in Author Debunks Myths About Divorce Rates, Including of Churchgoers

Many of the most demoralizing beliefs about marriage, especially when it comes to discouraging statistics commonly passed around, are just not true, says social researcher and best-selling author Shaunti Feldhahn.

“A subconscious sense of futility about marriage is everywhere, as everything we hear says marriage is ‘in trouble,'” states Feldhahn. “And while some of the bad news is accurate (for example, 41% of children are born out of wedlock), many of the most demoralizing beliefs just aren’t true. For example, the notion that half of all marriages end in divorce or that the divorce rate is the same in the church… neither are anywhere close to true.”

Moreover, Feldhan and the Christian Post were merely following in Glenn Stanton’s footsteps in this regard.

Carlson has dramatically changed the very nature of the discussion, from one of condescension for the “hand wringers” who are supposedly misinformed about the real state of the American family, to a conversation about the dire threat the destruction of marriage poses to our social fabric.  Under the pre-Carlson regime, conservatives were free to focus on blaming men for not manning up and reaping the wondrous benefits of our new family model.  Now we have conservatives openly speaking dangerous truths.

Yet while Zmirak is boldly laying out the problem, his analysis isn’t entirely correct.  Zmirak argues that the 1964 Equal Pay Act* is at the root of the problem:

What Carlson’s Too Smart to Say (But I’m Not)

Defenders of the free market such as Ben Shapiro and David French have chimed in to criticize Carlson for blaming these phenomena on the free market, and proposing government action. J.D. Vance offered an eloquent, qualified defense. But I don’t think many commentators are cutting to the dark heart of the issue. And for good reason: it’s radioactive.

The problem isn’t a genuinely free market, but the unfree market that now prevails in America. That’s been a problem at least since 1964. That’s when Southern Democrats, trying to kill the Civil Rights Act, added “sex” to “race” discrimination as part of what we were outlawing. But Republicans went ahead and championed the bill, and it passed. Suddenly, private businesses that used to routinely pay more to attract that desirable quantity — a stable, reliable married man with mouths to feed — could no longer do so.

Quite rightly, defenders of the free market opposed laws mandating a “family wage.” But if private businesses, churches, or others concerned about family stability and promoting marriage wanted to offer it, the state wouldn’t prosecute them. And many did offer it. Beyond social concern, many saw the advantage in hiring and keeping “established” fathers of families rather than rootless single men or women.

Outlawing the American Family

In 1964, that private market choice became illegal sex discrimination. The explosion of radical feminism, of course, went much further, and effectively declared war on “male privilege,” wherever it existed.

The problem with this claim is that after the law was passed, 17 years went by before women’s wages as a percentage of men’s started to climb.  Ironically what the feminist law ended up proving was not that businesses were favoring married men, but that businesses were claiming to favor married men in an altruistic effort to help families but were in fact paying individual men and women based on the value they brought to the table:

equal_pay_act_effectSomething clearly did change the balance between men’s and women’s earnings,  but whatever happened didn’t start until the early 1980s.  Yet the destruction of the family started much earlier:


Divorce rates only show a partial picture.  What we’ve seen is a combination of delayed marriage, a decline in the percentage of the population that ever marries, increased divorce rates, and a reduction in remarriage following divorce.  Fortunately there is a single metric that captures the impact of all of these changes combined:


This doesn’t mean that Carlson and Zmirak are incorrect in asserting that men’s falling relative wages is an important factor in the destruction of the American family.  I’m convinced they are correct in this regard.  But it does mean that the Equal Pay Act of 1964* can’t have been what kicked the problem off.

At any rate, the most important thing is the genie is out of the bottle.  Our conservative elites will have a very difficult time getting back to the good old days when they could ignore the destruction of the family and pretend that if men would merely put a ring on it everything would be just fine.  Like Carlson, Zmirak is bravely telling the truth, and is to be commended for his courage.

H/T Oratorian

*The act was passed in June of 1963 but did not come into effect until 1964.

Posted in Christian Post, Data, Denial, Divorce, Economics, Glenn Stanton, John Zmirak, New York Times, Pay Gap, The Stream, Traditional Conservatives, Tucker Carlson, Uncategorized | 101 Comments

Tucker Carlson’s dangerous wedge.

Last week Tucker Carlson broke a carefully guarded conservative taboo and called out our elites for their role in destroying american families.  Much of the reaction has been a predictable demand to stop holding our elites accountable and get back to blaming the working class, especially white working class men, for not being elite. At National Review David Bahnsen* complained in Tucker Carlson Is on the Wrong Side of the Crisis of Responsibility that the real problem is that weak men are screwing feminism up:

Carlson seems to suggest that our system itself is to blame for individual shortcomings, and that collective restructuring of free institutions will alleviate and cure those shortcomings. This is simply not reflective of conservatism, or of founding ideology.

I do my own argument no good to try to set the record straight about those barbs Tucker launched: His motive was to set the tone rhetorically and emotionally, and he did so effectively, even if dishonestly.

Our happiness was not taken away by a bad trade deal or a policy shortcoming, as bad as some policies and laws surely are. The pursuit of happiness is necessarily integrated with character, and the demoralization of our country has been a vicious cycle for a generation now. It does us no good to sit and play “chicken or egg” about this when our communities are in such disarray. No one who cares deeply for American families, blue-collar workers, and those who are on the outside looking in in today’s globalized and changing economycan plausibly claim that it is NAFTA’s fault that those young men playing Fortnite for eleven hours a day do not have shining neighborhoods. If we say that NAFTA hurt their desire to spend time more productively, we must discuss labor dynamism, not accept basement-dwelling and video-game addiction as the logical outcomes to changing economic circumstances. There has been a social deterioration in much of working-class white America—one that is not Wall Street’s fault, not private equity’s fault, not China’s fault, and not Washington, D.C.’s fault.

It is because I care for the plight of families in America, as Tucker no doubt does as well, that I cannot tell the disenfranchised: “Someone did this to you, and someone else will have to make it right.” Pretending that cultural deterioration was merely the byproduct of a disinterested or malignant ruling class is disingenuous and dangerous. Tucker appears to declare illegitimate the suggestion that those who are flourishing in the modern economy, which includes himself and myself, care for those who do not. Yet while it is patently false that those who are succeeding are always and forever aloof, I appreciate Tucker’s call that decision-makers should focus on expanding opportunity for those who have been left behind.

National Review’s Jim Geraghty wrote in Tucker Carlson’s Populist Cri de Cœur:

On any given weeknight, Tucker Carlson will sit down in front of the cameras at Fox News and say some bizarre or silly things (Beware the Gypsies!) or downright repugnant things, like that poor immigrants “make our own country poorer, and dirtier, and more divided.” But a lot of people are buzzing about Carlson’s opening monologue from Thursday night, a long and winding journey through what troubles the United States of America as 2019 dawns. Our Kyle Smith calls it “galvanizing” and a “populist cry of dissatisfaction that is underlain by certain grave truths.”

Leaders may want those things for us, but we should have no illusion that they can provide those things for us. Dignity, purpose, self-control, independence, and deep relationships have to come from within, and get cultivated and developed by our own actions. Good parents and relatives, teachers and communities can all help cultivate that, but it all starts with the individual — and if the individual isn’t willing to try to cultivate that, no one else can cultivate it for him.

But not all of our conservative elites chose to double down on blaming the masses for the results their own policies had created.  Brad Wilcox went to The Atlantic and concluded in What Tucker Carlson Gets Right:

Just as Carlson suggested in his monologue, conservatives need to think more seriously about the role that contemporary capitalism, public policy, and culture have played in eroding the strength and stability of working-class family life. Americans share a collective responsibility for solving some of our most pressing social problems—and elites need to come to acknowledge their personal responsibility for bridging the class divide that has emerged on so many fronts.

This is significant because Wilcox is one of the elites shaping national policy on marriage.  In the past he has been (mostly) reliable in blaming men and arguing that what we need is not to discard the new legal and social model of marriage that works only for the elites, but for the working class to become elite so the new model will work for them too.  For Wilcox to end up even halfheartedly on the wrong side of the wedge Carlson is driving between conservative elites is very dangerous for the status quo.

This may seem like a tempest in a teapot, and it is certainly possible that it will blow over before it becomes too powerful to disperse.  So far the discussion is only whether elite economic policy and cultural mores are driving the destruction of the american family.  So far, no one is openly questioning the wisdom of the legal mechanisms we’ve put in place to actually destroy families, or the legal incentives we’ve put in place to encourage women to destroy (or never form) their own families.  We replaced marriage with a new central family model, the child support model, without discussing the wisdom of this change, or even acknowledging that we did so.  So far no one, not even Carlson and Wilcox, has had the poor taste to bring this up.  But this is the real danger of the discussion.  If we are allowed to discuss the responsibility our elites have in destroying the family, and are allowed to proceed with the assumption that public policy should encourage stable marriages, sooner or later we will get around to the eight hundred pound gorilla in the room.  Our elites need to shut this conversation down, and they need to shut it down fast.  So far they haven’t been able to do so.

On a related note, large corporations are trying to silence Carlson by boycotting his program.  As Vox Day notes, we should respond to this by boycotting the corporations who are trying to punish Carlson.

*Correction:  the original version of this post incorrectly named David French as the author of the David Bahnsen article Tucker Carlson Is on the Wrong Side of the Crisis of Responsibility.

See Also:

Posted in Denial, Fatherhood, Jim Geraghty, National Review, The Atlantic, Traditional Conservatives, Tucker Carlson, Turning a blind eye, Vox Day, W. Bradford Wilcox, Weak men screwing feminism up | 210 Comments

“Quality Time”

The Other McCain writes about the history of the term quality time in Living Well Is the Best Revenge:

The cliché of “quality time” was invented by Baby Boomer yuppies in the 1980s to rationalize the way their lifestyles deprived their children of so many traditional childhood experiences. Whereas most Baby Boomers grew up in traditional families — perhaps our parents were not as perfect as Ward and June Cleaver, but we still had the basic security of a stable home life — many of the Boomers sadly failed their children in this regard. If you’ve read Barbara Dafoe Whitehead’s book The Divorce Culture, you understand how the cliché of “quality time” insinuated itself into the vocabulary of parenting. The working mother might not be able to give her children the kind of daily supervision and care she’d like to give them, but she could take them on a three-day vacation to Disney World and say they’d had quality time together. The divorced father might only see his kids one weekend a month, but he could take them out jet-skiing at the lake and tell himself that this quality time made up for the absence enforced by the custody settlement.

Rationalizations are a psychological defense mechanism — the ego defending itself against negative feedback — and everybody has to do whatever it takes to stay sane in difficult circumstances. Even if we have been able to avoid the worst impacts of cultural decadence in our own lives, most of us have friends and relatives who’ve been directly affected by the unraveling of our social social fabric. Divorce, suicide, drug addiction, criminal violence — the kind of stuff Tucker Carlson was talking about Wednesday night — are both cause and effect of the downward spiral that has been destroying American culture for the past 50 years.

I didn’t notice the link back here until I caught up on his posts yesterday, so that was a pleasant surprise.  I would argue however that the term wasn’t generally a rationalization by the fathers who were kicked out of their homes, but was instead a rationalization by the people who assisted with or advocated kicking fathers out of the home.

Posted in Child Custody, Denial, Divorce, Rationalization Hamster, Robert Stacy McCain, Tucker Carlson | 50 Comments

Unless the men are *Christian*.

Pastor Michael Foster tweets:

This is a partial picture.  We might call this plan Beta, where plan Alpha is to exhibit dark triad traits.  Plan Beta is the Christian path to attracting a wife, but there are two huge challenges facing a Christian man trying to follow this path.

The first challenge is that Christian women are being taught they are a prize to be won, and they are the pearl of great price.  This leads many Christian women to delay marriage while giving them an immense sense of entitlement that makes them more attracted to men who follow plan Alpha.  This is a relatively new phenomenon.  Not long ago a woman who became eligible to join AARP without marrying would be seen as having failed at finding a husband.  She would be a cautionary tale.  Now a never married woman in her 50s is seen as a wise role model young Christian women should follow:

In this Spirit Connection podcast episode, my special guest is a good friend of mine—Wendy Griffith. She is a co-host of The 700 Club, an anchor/senior reporter for the Christian Broadcasting Network and co-anchors Christian World News on TBN. She’s traveled internationally, reporting on revival and has a powerful gift of the word of knowledge for healing. Wendy authored You Are A Prize To Be Won! Don’t Settle for Less Than God’s Best…

“You know I am 53 and I’ve been single all my life and never married … and you said, ‘you’re going to need strength to wait.’ Honestly that was not the word I wanted to hear.”

“God is going to give you the desires of your heart. Don’t settle. It’s so easy to settle during the waiting … God promises His best to His children. He’s not capable of giving us anything but His best.”

But as big as this challenge is, there is an even bigger challenge for Christian men following plan Beta.  The bigger problem is not with young Christian women, but with older Christian men.  The bigger problem is that Christian men don’t respect respectable men, especially the married fathers they go to church with.  This is readily visible in Christian movies, as well as on Father’s Day.  While there is plenty of detail in the previous two links, you can see this just as well by comparing two pictures.  Here is how modern Christians view badboy biker tattoo artists (plan Alpha).   Here is how modern Christians view married Christian fathers (plan Beta).  Anyone who tells you modern Christians think the plan Beta man is the sexier option is fooling themselves.  For context and to see both images at once, see this post by Larry Kummer at Fabius Maximus.

Obviously none of this changes the fact that the moral path for a Christian man is plan Beta.  However, that path is much harder than it should be due to the modern Christian fear of telling women no and our contempt for respectable men.  This is cruel to both young men and young women, as well as the children who grow up in the anti family modern Christian culture.

Edit:  Pastor Foster posted a follow up tweet including the comment he left below.

See Also:  

Posted in Aging Feminists, Disrespecting Respectability, Game, Pastor Michael Foster, Turning a blind eye, Wendy Griffith | 137 Comments