I write this post knowing that it will be dismissed by many as “a knee-jerk reaction” from “some youngster” who simply could not stomach “the facts.” I am young, it is true, but both of my knees are currently very still, and the words below are the product of several days’ reflection and long talks with family and dear friends. If it is dismissed, so be it. But I do take encouragement from the fact that I’m not alone with these concerns; others, including men and women older and wiser than myself, have expressed the same.
Earlier this week, Pastor Ben Merkle published a piece on “why, all things being equal, it is stupid for young men to get into a romantic relationship in the first two years of college.” I can appreciate the basic idea – if you’re going to plow, plow; if you’re going to marry her, marry her. Romance is not for men with waffle-batter constitutions.
What I do not particularly appreciate is how Merkle goes about making his point. Frankly, I found his tone to be condescending and rude, not to mention overly hyperbolic. Nobody likes being around an engaged couple? Really? Or how about this:
When you are eighteen, your standard for what constitutes a fine catch still consists primarily of someone who is impressed with the fact that you have a driver’s license.
Tell me that’s a joke. As one fellow observed, if that’s how our Christian boys and girls are being raised, so that’s all they see at age 18, the cause is lost already. Major damage has been done, and short of a miracle, two more years in college ain’t gonna fix it.
Merkle goes to great length in describing the ridiculousness of spending four years “with a moonface.” But instead of encouraging the moonface in question to step up and get his affairs in order and just marry the girl, he shoots down the relationship altogether. It feels less like a kick in the pants and more like a punch in the face. Commenter Tim’s objection is right on the money: “You know well enough that the maturing process occurs more in the context of service than in the context of academia, and there is no better training ground for that than marriage itself. If you want the young fellow’s feet on the ground during college, then by all means discourage him from courting through his whole college career, sure. If by that you mean: Get the courtship over with, get on with marriage.”
Why play the waiting game? Immaturity among boys my age is a real problem. But why are you telling us to back off and go back to playing Wii? How is that constructive? Does not this sort of advice perpetuate the very immaturity we’re trying to battle?
A good friend put it this way:
If I understand [Merkle] correctly, in our world of painfully immature boys, instead of encouraging them to step up to the plate and be real men and live in the real world, raising a family in a honorable and godly manner, they should: Remain in their boyish, financially unviable Wii world, not daring to risk looking stupid or sappy to all their ‘friends’, while they remain in their college world bubble, surrounded by and tempted by attractive girls and other immature young men, and, supposedly, this is going to enable them to grow into maturity, so they will be ready for marriage at some future date. Then, and only then, will they be ready to engage in their “ridiculous, juvenile, unbearably cutesy and generally tedious” behavior.
Now, I’m all for slapping young men upside the head. I’ve needed it more times than I care to admit. But if you’re going to slap a guy upside the head, at least slap him in the right direction. The video game room is not the right direction.
There. I said it.