Getting Slapped in the Wrong Direction

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.

Yes. Apparently.

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.

Book Review: Her Hand in Marriage

her-hands-in-marriage-doug-wilsonThere’s no one like Doug Wilson for catching foxes, lighting firebrands, and burning down egalitarian cornfields. And he always makes it look like fun.

In Her Hand in Marriage, Wilson sets forth a case for courtship that is at once biblical, cogent, and (dare I say it?) entertaining. Yes, entertaining. I do not mean easy or fluffy or flippant – this book is no joke – but as with most of Wilson’s writing, it’s hard not to enjoy yourself, whatever the subject matter may be. He’s just that good.

Modern recreational dating, argues Wilson, “can safely be considered as bankrupt.” It has broken down, proven itself destructive rather than constructive, and highlighted our need for a more biblical way of doing things:

Apart from biblical dating or courting, there are many destructive consequences – emotional, sexual, and spiritual. But if a young man seeks to initiate a relationship, and takes full responsibility for the relationship under the woman’s father, there is scriptural accountability and protection. It is the purpose of this book to define, defend, and describe how biblical dating or courtship works.

And a most excellent defense it is, however short. Wilson covers an astonishingly broad range of topics in only ninety pages. The book is divided into five chapters: the first addresses the authority of parents; the second and third deal with the preparation of sons and daughters; the fourth and fifth deal with the culmination and details of courtship. There’s also an appendix entitled “The Garden”, which beautifully captures the thrust of Wilson’s case in parable form.

Of course (and as my Mom noted in her review), we’re told from the get-go that there must be a distinction between principals and methods:

Because our contemporary practice of recreational dating has failed so miserably, many Christians are hungry for alternative methods. ‘Just tell us what to do!’ In this arena, as elsewhere, the Christian life is approached as though it were a paint-by-numbers kit. But nowhere is this kind of ‘connect the dots’ thinking better calculated to bring disaster than in the realm of courtship. We are men and women with sons and daughters, not social engineers playing with interchangeable, interconnecting tinker toys. This simplistic but destructive mentality is revealed in questions like, ‘How man times must a young man come over before the young girl’s father should allow him to sit next next to her at the dinner table?’ The author of this small book frankly confesses that the answer is none of his business, and that he doesn’t really care. Seek to understand principle, and appropriate methods will follow.

I commend this book to you as a practical, scriptural, and just downright sane handling of a tricky and often misunderstood subject. On a related note, if you can get your hands on a copy of R.F. Capon’s Bed and Board, it’s the perfect companion read.

Flotsam & Jetsam (9/19)

To Curvet and Simper in the Pulpit – “To curvet and simper in the pulpit is a travesty. Emo-preaching is not preaching at all. To spend a bunch of time up there worrying about how unbelievers might be ‘turned off’ if we say this, do that, or intimate the other is to be a faithless herald. And our current system of theological education produces this kind of pretty boy preacher by the metric ton. One of the reasons we don’t preach repentance is that we might have to go first.”

One Small Baby – Bravo, indeed.

Putting Hollywood to Shame – “It certainly says something about the state of Hollywood today that a three minute ad produced at a fraction of the cost of most movies is more moving and poignant than almost anything the big studios have to offer.”

Please Pass This One Around… – You heard the man. Pass it around.

Theological Primer – A short but extremely helpful piece by Kevin DeYoung on the differences between supralapsarianism and infralapsarianism.

Confused? You Ain’t Seen Nuthin’ Yet! – Trueman nails it: “In his poem Marmion, Sir Walter Scott famously commented on lying as follows: ‘Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive.’ It seems that this line was never more apposite than when it comes to the plastic politics of contemporary sexual identity.”

Dear Parents, You Need to Control Your Kids. Sincerely, Non-Parents – Love it.

“Seize the day, whatever’s in it to seize, before something comes along
and seizes you.” – Lloyd Alexander

No More Aspiring, Dingbats

A word from author Chuck Wendig:

No more aspiring, dingbats. Here are the two states in which you may exist: person who writes, or person who does not. If you write: you are a writer. If you do not write: you are not. Aspiring is a meaningless null state that romanticizes Not Writing. It’s as ludicrous as saying, “I aspire to pick up that piece of paper that fell on the floor.” Either pick it up or don’t.

As a former self-described aspirer, this hurts. And when I say it hurts, don’t think pinprick – think hot coffee to the face. It scalds. Truth has a way of doing that.

So I want to pass this on to any readers who may be laboring under the impression that they can’t call themselves writers until they’ve a) published a book or b) won a Pulitzer Prize or c) made the New York Times bestseller list. It’s all rubbish. Now buck up.

Writers write. So do it. Aspiring is for people who want to have written.

To Thank Someone

Atheist Bart Ehrman: “I have no-one to express my sense of gratitude to. This is a deep void inside me, a void of wanting someone to thank…”

G.K. Chesterton: “We thank people for birthday presents of cigars and slippers. Can I thank no one for the birthday present of birth?”

Don’t you ever wonder why
In spite of all that’s wrong here
There’s still so much that goes so right
And beauty abounds?

‘Cause sometimes when you walk outside
The air is full of song here
The thunder rolls and the baby sighs
And the rain comes down

And when you see the spring has come
And it warms you like a mother’s kiss
Don’t you want to thank someone?
Don’t you want to thank someone for this?