April 30, 2007

A Biblical Critique of Debbie Maken's Book "Getting Serious about Getting Married" (part 16)

PART XVI: Conclusion

In the closing comments of Getting Serious about Getting Married, Debbie Maken notes: "If you have read this far, I assume your reaction will either be 'hate it' or 'love it.' No one walks away from my material lukewarm" (p. 189). Mrs. Maken is most certainly correct in that observation. Let me be candid and say that I hate her book. I may sound abrupt in stating that, but I am simply making an honest confession with no personal animosity towards Mrs. Maken herself. What diplomatic or conciliatory response can I give in my review of a work that takes a view of singleness, marriage, and manhood which is both misguided and disturbing? When a bull is turned loose in a china shop, someone is going to call the animal control professionals. I have therefore taken upon myself the burden of providing a much-needed corrective to Mrs. Maken's damaging message.

What's the Deal (Qui Bono)?

In the course of writing my review of Mrs. Maken's book, I came across an article in Christianity Today entitled "What Married Women Want." I found the following statements in the article to be noteworthy:
"My theory is that women are looking for, in general, husbands who provide them with emotional and financial support, and support to make the choices that they think are important for them and for their children. Women who have husbands who are good breadwinners have the freedom to decide what they want to do, whether that's to stay home with their kids, whether that's to work part time, or whether that's to pursue work that might be more meaningful but not particularly remunerative. Having a husband who is a good breadwinner gives a woman more options. It's not necessarily all about traditional roles, per se. It's about having the financial security as a wife and maybe mother to act in ways that you think are best for you and for your family ...

"I think we're going to see a continued growth of more egalitarian marriages in a large subset of the population. But we're going to also continue to see what I call a neo-traditional model of family life. What I mean by neo-traditional is that it's progressive in a sense that men, particularly religious men, are investing more and more—especially in the emotional arena—in their wives and children. But it's traditional in that there's still some kind of effort to, in a sense, mark off who is the primary breadwinner and who is the primary nurturer. That may mean that both the husband and wife are working in the outside labor force, but there's still some effort to give the lead for breadwinning to the husband and the lead for nurturing to the wife. This kind of neo-traditional family model is here to stay. I think that prediction is somewhat at odds with what many of my colleagues in the academy would predict."
(Stan Guthrie [interview with Brad Wilcox], "What Married Women Want," November 13, 2006, Accessed from www.christianitytoday.com)
We see from this article that women want to expand their "options" whereas the only thing that seems to be expanded for men is the expectations placed upon them. This article claims that some women still want to be the "primary nurturer" in the household. What does such a statement mean? Is it referring to domestic chores? Our technologies have made these chores easier, and women still often complain that men don't do their share of the housework. Are these women referring to spending more time with their children? Don't most loving fathers want more time with their children, too? Moreover, can women in one breath bemoan men making more money than them, but in another breath express a preference for a husband who earns the main income for his family? What happens to the paycheck that men bring home anyway? I ask these questions, but as you might guess, they are not addressed by the article.

Debbie Maken's book seems to have something in common with the piece I quoted, namely, a particular viewpoint. I previously noted that in Chapter 12 of Getting Serious about Getting Married, Mrs. Maken draws a comparison between male suitors and prospective employees in a job interview. Such a comparison reveals something, I believe, about Mrs. Maken's mindset and the mindset of many other women. Throughout the book, an emphasis is placed on the idea of men measuring up to the expectations of women. It's nothing new. Whether it be Debbie Maken, the article in Christianity Today, or some other discussion about relationships, our feminized culture at large has the same outlook: The worth of men is reckoned in terms of what they can or cannot do for the "fairer sex."

In contrast, there is a verse in the Bible that I wish to bring to the attention of my readers: "For man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man" (1 Cor. 11:8-9, NKJV). Your eyes may be tempted to skip past some of the elements of that passage, but notice what it says: "nor was man created for the woman." In light of this statement, it seems to me that Mrs. Maken and many others are looking through the wrong end of the telescope. Contrary to the popular notions that many have, men are not put on this earth to fulfill the dreams and aspirations of women. The question is not, as many would have it, what use women have for men. It is very much the opposite.

The sobering truth is that women were created to help men. This is not to say that women are useless apart from men, for I clearly affirm the inherent worth of all women, married or single. It is also not to say that men have a right to ignore the needs and concerns of the women in their lives. It is to say, however, that if a single man does not desire female companionship, then he should not have to apologize for his refusal to marry.

Marriage is Not Necessarily Desirable

I can hear my critics citing verses like "marriage should be honored by all" (Heb. 13:4) and "whoever finds a wife finds a good thing" (Prov. 18:22). They miss the point when they do so. I am not against marriage. Marriage is indeed ordained by God. Having said that, I remind my readers that even though the Bible says some positive things about marriage in principle, it does not guarantee a happy marriage for everyone (Prov. 12:4b; Prov. 25:24). Otherwise, we would not hear of the numerous heartbreaks experienced by godly people who have chosen to marry. If something is neither commanded nor forbidden by God, then the rule of expediency applies. Sometimes marriage is not expedient (1 Cor. 6:12; 1 Cor. 7:28). In other words, it does no good to discourse at length about the nutritional benefits of oranges when the orchards have been sprayed with DDT.

If marriage is a slam-dunk conclusion, then why the strident, overbearing, paternalism that is too often found in the camp of the Marriage Mandate Movement? It smacks of desperation. There is an increasing number of men who are not taking the bait, and the status quo can no longer afford to ignore this fact. For many men, there is nothing compelling about an arrangement that seems to primarily benefit everybody and anybody except the fellow who was goaded into it.

Those pundits who extol marriage over singleness should remember the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: "What you do speaks so loud I cannot hear what you say." When people talk of "settling down," I see stressed-out and harried couples. When people talk of marriage "broadening one's horizons," I see people scaling back their hopes and dreams as the obligations of marriage crowd into their lives. When people talk about "marital bliss," I see couples who appear indifferent to each others company. When people talk about marriage bringing "growth," "selflessness," and "maturity," I see families embroiled in the most petty, puerile, and malicious squabbles. When people talk about a man "needing a helper," I see men who are belittled and taken advantage of by their wives. When people talk about "honoring marriage," and getting serious about "commitment," I see divorces left and right. We cannot pretend that these developments are anomalies. Otherwise, I wouldn't be writing this book and we wouldn't scratching our heads about why younger generations are hesitant to get married.

Is the Young Man Safe?

What does marriage have to offer to men these days? Men are finding many of the expectations placed upon them to be suspect. Trying to pawn off such expectations as "Biblical Manhood" is ludicrous when men can see that the Scriptures have been misused in that respect. If all things were equal, the normal desire that men have for women would be a sufficient reason for matrimony, but all things are not equal. Men live in a world much different from the one in which Adam lived or even the one in which their grandparents lived. The mainstream media can no longer marginalize the voices of men on gender issues. Men have access to other venues of information, and therefore they are beginning to realize that they have more choices in life. Like it or not, family is just one choice among many for men. Men don't have to marry. They don't even have to date. Their happiness and worth does not depend upon women. Consequently, an increasing number of principled men are saying "No" to tying the knot, and some are even engaged in what can be called a "marriage strike" (Wendy McElroy, "The Marriage Strike," August, 12, 2003, Accessed from www.foxnews.com). The steep social costs of pursuing marriage make many men rightfully hesitant. For these men, the promise of intimacy and belonging in a close-knit community is often overshadowed by the ugly specter of possible exploitation.

Even if a man finds a godly woman to marry, he is still vulnerable in a way that single men are not. He is one paycheck away from having his family live in poverty. He lives day to day at the mercy of the the public school teacher, the social worker, the police, the family judge, and the politician, who may or may not have any respect for his position as a husband and/or father. If he decides to form a family, he becomes obliged to outsiders to ensure the survival of his household. He depends on society to act in good faith. The problem is that society does not always do so.

Whenever ordinary people get involved in get-rich-quick schemes or make rash decisions with their money, we rightfully question how responsible they have been in the stewardship of what God has given to them. We apply the sound principle of prudence and erring on the side of caution in so many aspects of life, yet we fling these principles right out the window when we admonish young men to marry. Men are asked to throw caution to the wind (though no one will admit this) and expend an increasing amount of their time, livelihood, and emotional well-being to chase the rabbits of romance for the uncertain promise of love. This is nonsensical. Too many people fail to appreciate that there is a limit to what we can expect of men in terms of sacrifice and risk-taking in order to obtain intimacy and commitment from women. In a society that has become hostile to men, that limit has most certainly been exceeded.

Where I live, many people are familiar with the destructive power of tornadoes. Recently, somebody told me a story of some people that were asked to take shelter inside a building when a tornado warning was issued. Some individuals, however, did not want to stay in the building because they had made previous plans to leave town. The foolishness of these individuals caused me to reflect on the attitude of so many towards marriage these days. Like the careless individuals who thought they could take their chances in bad weather, some would have men take their chances in a climate of misandry.

When Sugar and Spice Isn't That Nice

Men have not been in a habit of asking themselves what they want from a relationship. They have not always been encouraged to articulate their feelings about this matter; instead, they have been mostly trained to put the needs of others before themselves. Whether out of some notion of "chivalry" or a need to address the "past wrongs" of a "patriarchal culture," men have found themselves deferring to women in defining what a male-female relationship should look like. But the noble inclinations of men to be selfless and respectful of women are not always appropriate. Justice, decency, and propriety demand a limit to what women can rightfully ask of men. In fact, Christian men do a disservice to godly women when they declare all women to be worthy of the same treatment. The honor we give to good women has no meaning unless we can boldly expose the deeds of those women who are dishonorable. We need more men like Elijah to stand up against the Jezebels of our day and against the spineless Ahabs that do their bidding (even those in our churches).

Often, people say that men and women alike are at fault for the way they have treated each other. However, for the last three decades or so, we have tended to lay down the law for only one gender. Now, I think it is time for women to undertake the unconformable task of facing up to their own shortcomings and peccadilloes.

Women said men were the oppressors and that men operated from a default position of privilege. In response, men gave women opportunities that for generations many men never had. Men supported initiatives that granted preferential treatment to women, all to "remedy past inequities". Men modified their behaviors. What did women do? They slandered men as lechers, aggressors, stupid brutes, or obsolete beasts of burden. Men were shouted down when they tried to raise their concerns about the charges made against them. In other cases, men were told to "be a man" in order to hush any protestations they might make against the callousness of others. While women gained an increasing amount of influence in society as a whole, they still held on to the perks and privileges of traditional sex roles. They were given options that men were not. In personal relationships, women gained a considerable degree of power. Men silently retreated. Now some have the temerity to demand that men come back to the table even though the others seated there have acted in bad faith.

Can a woman have a realistic attitude about men and relationships when academia, government, popular culture, and religious pundits routinely validate her choices and offer little or no criticism of her behavior toward men? By way of analogy, can a child have a healthy attitude about life when its parents dote on it excessively? To ask these questions is to answer them. Those who constantly defer to contemporary women stand on shaky ground. There is a consequence for the way women treat men. I suppose most men won't tell today's women that they are undesirable. Perhaps men just won't desire women enough to commit their lives to them. Debbie Maken may excoriate men for their withdrawal from society, but as I believe one man said, men get so used to disapproval over time that even approval doesn't matter.

The Loving Thing to Do?

I suspect some will counter that a man should lay aside whatever misgivings he might have about today's women, marriage, or about society's anti-male inclinations. They might say that men should "should just let go of their bitterness and fear" and "act out of love." Indeed, what would be the loving thing to do? Let us turn the question back on those who put it to men. Why don't the pundits become more loving and try to understand the problems men face instead of engaging in the kind of rhetoric that I find in Debbie Maken's book?

As it is, the word "love" may be used indiscriminately by our culture, but the Biblical notion of love does not necessary imply the willingness to marry. Otherwise, shall we accuse women of being "unloving" when they reject the advances of men? What kind of benevolence can men expect from women in this manner? I have read somewhere of a prostitute who feel she serves a good cause by helping lonely, undesirable men who cannot find affection elsewhere. I suspect my audience would reject her mindset, so why assume that men are obligated to offer something similar to women? Biblical love focuses on the physical needs and spiritual needs of people. It is not about saving women from the single life or saving institutions from certain demographic realities.

What about the notion of "tough love"? When a father punishes his child, does it mean that he has stopped being loving? When God repeatedly punished the Israelites for their rebellion, did he act in a way that was contrary to his loving nature? The last time I checked, Eph. 5:11 still said: "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them." Love doesn't mean enabling people in their wicked and destructive proclivities. In Debbie Maken's book, she notes that self-interest is not necessary selfishness. If that is the case, then religious men have a right to put biblical self-interest over enabling the selfishness of others. The loving thing that men can do is expose the misandry that has sadly crept into our churches. The loving thing that men can do is not compromise on their principles, even if it brings hardship on those who have failed to repent.

Who must repent? Besides many women, our churches and society as whole must repent. These agents have the broken the covenants they had with men. For each broken covenant, there is a respective curse. Our churches broke their covenant by failing to be places that encourage and edify men. They failed to be a spiritual family for not only married men, but single men as well. They became respecters of persons with regard to marital status and other matters. They haven't been too concerned about the loneliness and isolation of single men. The singleness of men seems to have now only become a "concern" in how it affects women and the bottom line of church treasuries. Churches have belittled men for the temptations that affect them in particular, but have offered no real solutions to the problems men face in seeking out positive alternatives. Churches most certainly have had little or nothing to say about how women mistreat men. The curse upon these churches is that men have left them in droves. These churches will suffer for lack of male leadership--and may even die.

Our society has broken its covenant with men by failing to protect the institution of marriage; by passing laws that undermine the position of men as husbands and fathers; by reducing men to an expendable commodity for the economic gain of others; and by marginalizing men at every turn in the public and private spheres of life. The curse upon society is that many men no longer obligate themselves to do anything beyond the bare minimum of what is required of them as citizens. They do not form families. They do not pursue excellence in workplaces that don't care about their input or welfare. They do not volunteer in communities that view them as a liability. Society will suffer as a result. Why should men care about a system that doesn't care about them? People who ignore this matter and yet pontificate all day long about men "refusing to take responsibility" are merely rearranging the chairs on the deck of the Titanic.

Some Closing Thoughts For My Critics

It would not surprise me in the least if, after reading what I have written, some accuse me of being unmerciful, unloving, unchristian, bitter, angry, anti-social, misogynistic, or having some emotional hang-ups. These baseless charges have been hurled at many good men that have gone before me. Even if these charges were true, my arguments demand an answer. I could have the most ungodly of motives in writing what I write and still what I say would have to be objectively weighed on the scales of truth. Simply put, cheap personal attacks accomplish nothing.

Debbie Maken and others indicate that the system is broken. True, but if we are going to fix it, then what I am saying needs to be considered. There are essentially two types of eligible men not getting married: those who don't want to marry and those who face obstacles in getting married. For the first group, we must prove that marriage can benefit them if we want to see them wedded. I have already made the case that they don't have a duty to marry, so the proverbial carrot will have to be used instead of the stick. Can we truly say there are benefits for men to marry these days? When some try to point out the benefits for men, they usually window-dress the responsibilities and the hardships of marriage as "opportunities for character building" or some other disingenuous psychobabble. Others, in an attempt to list some palpable benefits, confuse correlation with causality (e.g., they say married men are richer, healthier, and happier than single men without researching why this is the case). We have to do better than this, or at least people need to rethink their approach to marriage so that it truly does having some meaningful to offer to men.

For both groups of unmarried men, we must address the pitfalls and obstacles of getting married in the current cultural climate. If the perils of marriage dwarf the benefits of marriage, then we cannot expect men to embrace the institution. The issues that I touched upon in this review, and of which Debbie Maken and others seem to be so dismissive, are not going away anytime soon. We need to tackle the thorny issues of dwindling economic opportunities for men, the bitter fruit of feminism, women with unrealistic expectations, etc. Thinking men can redeem culture one marriage at a time is like thinking that if we plant enough roses in the desert sand, the soil will eventually become favorable to the flowers.

Women, in particular, have some things they need to do. They need to be more attuned to the challenges men face--and be more supportive of men. They need to stop taking their cues from feminists and even from supposedly "conservative" women who have an entitlement mindset. Women who want to get married should offer men praise (not blame), understanding (not accusations), and genuine interest (not cynical timetables). Women need to put Debbie Maken's book down on the table and instead listen to those good women who have a constructive understanding of how the sexes should relate to each other. Good women need to stand up for the honor of men who stand up for fairness in the face of hateful women and spineless men. We do not need to mention that men have mistreated women. Of course men have their responsibilities; that proverbial horse has been beaten to death. Rather, we need to encourage women to look in the mirror--to turn away from the dark path of gynocentrism and misandry that our worldly culture sets before them. We need to encourage women to turn to a better model of womanhood--not one pushed by sycophantic religious pundits, but one approved by God.

Let me also state that before pundits talk about "getting serious about getting married" they need to get serious about restoring marriage. How can they aim their cross-hairs at single men when there are so many loveless and joyless marriages in our society? Sermons are better lived than told. It's time for the apologists for marriage to stop talking the talk and start walking the walk. Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, in particular, have nothing of which to boast; the younger generations can look at their marriages and see one disaster after another. It's time for those who would lead the way to "put up or shut up."

To a great extent, what I have written is descriptive, not prescriptive. I do not really demand a course of action as much as I lay forth some options on the table with their respective rewards and consequences. Cultural reactionaries can ignore what I have said, circle the wagons, and catechize the "true believers" in their midst, but they will gain no ground with those sitting on the proverbial fence. Will people prayerfully consider what I have written and test my convictions in the light of God's revealed word? Or will people summarily reject my thoughts without a fair hearing? As the Bible says, "He who has ears, let him hear."

April 19, 2007

A Biblical Critique of Debbie Maken's Book "Getting Serious about Getting Married" (part 15)

PART XV: Chapter 14 - "Inspiring Men to Biblical Manhood" (The Final Solution)

In Chapter 14 of Getting Serious about Getting Married, Mrs. Maken proposes some suggestions that supposedly will inspire Christian men to heed the call of marriage. Yet instead of giving one a reason to find hope in a largely anti-male and anti-family society, Chapter 14 sadly mimics Chapter 4 in its harangue against single men. With that in mind, I will now slog through some of Mrs. Maken's shortsighted observations about those of my gender.

Real Leadership or Romance Novel Leadership?

Near the beginning of Chapter 14, Debbie Maken declares, "God made men to be leaders--to pursue marriage and to seek a wife to ease their loneliness" (p. 180). Statements like this one have caused me to reflect on the subtext of this and other calls by religious pundits for men to "lead." What do so many people (especially women) mean by "leadership"? I fear that there is a disconnect between the leadership to which God calls men and the "leadership" that many women want from men. One could say that the former is best termed as "real leadership" and the latter as "romance novel leadership." What separates the two? The first can be seen through the prism of clear scriptural teachings from the New Testament. The second only through a kaleidoscope of misapplied scriptures, cultural biases, gynocentrism, and emotionalism.

So many Christian women are more than eager to compare the husband's role to the role that Christ assumes with regard to the Church. They do so in ways that go well beyond what passages like Eph. 5:25-33 imply and thus well beyond what is appropriate for any human being to expect from another. Since these Christian women profess a typological view of marriage that points to the Christian's relationship to God, it reveals something about their spirituality. Let me suggest that many Christian women want a watered-down form of "leadership" wherein all the privileges accrue to the woman and all the responsibilities accrue to the man. The mindset of these women, in turn, suggests a view of God wherein he is an unassuming deity that dispenses favors and offers protection while asking for little if any sacrifice at all.

With regard to male leadership in the home, I wonder how many contemporary Christian women are willing to accept the idea that in matters of expediency, their judgments are subordinate to a man's? Can one talk of "equal partnership" and men having "leadership" in the same breath? When we look at 1 Tim. 3:4-5, we see that husbands not only lead, they rule their household. If men are supposed rule their household, aren't women supposed to obey (1 Pet. 3:1-6)? A Christian woman is blessed to be married to man who is considerate about her feelings. Yet even in the best circumstances, there will be some disagreements that can only be settled by deferring to one party in a dispute. Will women honor their husbands or maintain a grudge and grow bitter towards them? I have some real concerns about young Christian women raised in the wake of feminism and their ability to truly understand what "biblical leadership" on the part of a husband entails. We are skating on thin ice when we equate "biblical leadership" when how much money a man makes, asking women out on dates, and other cultural norms, while forgetting or downplaying clear Biblical teachings that may in fact be uncomfortable for some women to accept.

Another matter to consider is whether or not Christian women really want to revert back to the notions that previous generations had about male leadership. If so, would they go back to the station appointed to them by cultures of a bygone age? Would they give up their legal and social rights? Would they retreat from the spheres of influence over which men once held exclusive sway? Would they accept the charge that berating male suitors about their singleness is unladylike? Would they accept the legal right of men to chastise insubordinate and wayward women? I suspect most Christian women would take exception to such treatment. Yet do some still demand that we revive the attitude previous generations had towards single men? Sorry, but this inconsistent thinking doesn't wash.

So many Christian women do not want the kind of leadership that gives a man palpable authority and that demands sacrifice and obedience from a woman. What they want is a kind of "leadership" where men are called upon to the do the heavy-lifting of adult responsibilities while women get to play Martha Stewart. This is why men need to be very discerning when women start talking about men needing to "lead." A man has to separate between genuine, godly women who understand what a husband's role is and those women taken captive by self-contradictory, neo-traditionalist ideas of manhood. I say all of this to make this point: Women need to get off the fence and be consistent. If they want men to lead then they must give up some of the advances they have enjoyed as a result of feminism and modernity. Otherwise, they need to realize that responsibilities come with the perks and privileges of contemporary adulthood. This would imply shouldering some of the burdens that men have had to bear for generations. If they refuse to do this, then they judge themselves to be self-serving and not marriage material. It is simple as that.

Let me also note that real male leadership knows when to draw the line in the sand. It means having the courage to say "No" to women if need be. I believe men who balk at Debbie Maken's shaming tactics qualify as "real men" in this regard. Are we to believe that religious men of days gone by would sit passively while women acted like a bunch of scolds, berating men? I don't.

Going to Restaurants and Grilling the Prize Catch

With regard to Debbie Maken's views of male leadership, let us consider how Mrs. Maken and some of her friends have treated men:
"I would often tell men I dated that because they were over thirty and still unmarried, they lacked biblical leadership that requires securing a wife. They should have to explain why they are still single. Here's what's surprising: Asking these kinds of questions and demanding this kind of accountability doesn't make them run. Sure, some of them will. But when a man of thirty-five who hadn't dated for the past ten years asked my thirty-two-year-old friend for a date, she confronted him about it. 'For every guy like you, there has been some woman dying on the vine like me. What excuse do you have for not pursuing a wife sooner?' This man did not run out of the restaurant but actually confessed that indeed he should have sought marriage!

"Single at the age of thirty-four, my friend Anna desperately wanted to be married. Her boss asked if she'd be interested in dating 'a very godly forty-five-year-old' lawyer. Her response? 'If this man is so godly, why isn't he married by now?' She explained that she wasn't about to 'reward a slothful forty-five-year-old man with someone eleven years his junior,' but that she could recommend some woman who was well over forty, had lost the beauty of her youth, and would have trouble conceiving. She explained that this was the kind of candidate for this man since his inaction in finding a wife had caused this outcome for some other woman.

"While her response may seem harsh, it's fair. There was a time, not too long ago, when women refused to go out with a man who had the reputation of being a cad. We need to start thinking in terms of godly accountability, not open-ended mercy."
(p. 185)
Perhaps men will not run out of a restaurant if they are subjected to the kind of inquisition that Debbie Maken extols. I suppose many men are simply conditioned to sit like inanimate chunks of rock, stoically acquiescing to whatever verbal abuse women heap on them. If the genders were reversed and a man was behaving the way Debbie Maken's friends have behaved, he would be probably have a glass of water thrown in his face. A lot of woman simply have no idea how rude and insensitive they can be.

As it is, I am left wondering what Debbie Maken thinks women can achieve by giving men the third-degree. In my estimation, warding off older single men in the way Mrs. Maken proposes amounts to little more than a Pyrrhic victory. Women over the age of thirty can ill afford to harbor suspicious attitudes towards their male contemporaries. What are these women thinking? Do they think that if they eliminate older single men as "cads" there will still be some men left over? Which men? Younger single men ? Wouldn't chasing them be taking husbands away from younger single women? Mrs. Maken's attitude is basically a classic example of what the economist Thomas Sowell would call "stage one thinking," a mindset that fails the acknowledge the consequences of what it proposes.

In addition, noticeably absent from Debbie Maken's equation is any accountability for older single women. Let us rephrase Debbie Maken's words by reversing the genders and circumstances: "I would often tell women I date that because they were over thirty and still unmarried, they lack biblical submissiveness, a quiet spirit, genuine spirituality, and inward beauty that attracts and secures a husband. They should have to explain why they are still single." It sounds harsh, doesn't it? And yet, ironically, it is true about many women in this culture. Do we really believe that pushy, catty, status-seeking, materialist, crypto-feminist women with fading looks, ticking biological clocks, and a bad attitude about men are going to attract suitors left and right just because they get a little religion? Clearly, not all women fit this bill, but too many do. Mrs. Maken, of course, fails to acknowledge this fact. For her to do so would certainly not go over well with her readership of single women who are hopelessly stuck in the mode of faultfinding. Rather, it is easier to conduct a witch hunt against older bachelors, conveniently forgetting the barriers that society and women raise against those men who aspire to marry young.

Shut Up, Buddy, and Sire My Babies

What is ironic about Mrs. Maken's attitude that even though she is fond of demanding accountability from men and limiting the access they have to women, she still says:
"Ultimately there are no sound reasons or legitimate excuses why men--especially Christian men--are not getting married. Whatever the excuse du jour--lousy parents, divorced parents, protracted educational requirements, the high cost of living, fear of failure, misunderstanding the opposite sex--every excuse to put off marriage is a decision to stay single. Without accountability, nothing will change." (p. 181)
Really? This statements is unfortunate. I imagine some women will come away from it, emboldened with the following attitude: "I am not going to worry my pretty little head about the things that menfolk have to go through. They have a job to perform for us ladies and that's that." Yet when a woman shows a cavalier disregard for the problems that men face in this society, it says something about her as a prospective mate. If a woman refuses to show compassion or consideration for men before she marries, how will she act after she is married? Can such a woman truly be a source of emotional support and inspiration? Can she truly be a helpmate? Can she truly say that she knows how to compromise and be submissive when she makes up her mind in advance not to listen to what men are saying? Is stubborn pride a delightful attribute in women, let alone anyone else?

Ironically, with regard to female attributes, Mrs. Maken thinks she has a clue about what kind of women are desirable to men. She states:
"If we want men to reach their full biblical potential, we should strive for the same. I think most men are searching for women who are smart, intelligent, good conversationalists, intriguing, educated, able to speak their minds, and yes, beautiful. Women should aspire to be these things so that men's desire to pursue is kindled." (pp. 187-188)
The catch is that this is Mrs. Maken's understanding of what men look for in a wife. As admirable as the qualities Mrs. Maken mentions are, they are really not the primary attributes for an ideal wife. Many men want women who are feminine, submissive, complementary (spelled with an "e"), and complimentary (spelled with an "i"). They want women who are honest, nurturing, responsible, kind, merciful, patient, encouraging, conciliatory, and agreeable. They want women who are affectionate, playful, and fond of having sex with their husbands. I have said it before, and will say it again: Just because a man is serious about marriage doesn't mean he is serious about marrying a given woman. There are many "beautiful," "educated," women who are able to "speak their minds" and yet are total duds when it comes to the opposite sex. Shaming and blaming men will not get Debbie Maken's fans any closer to wearing bridal gowns if they don't have the qualities men find desirable, as opposed to just having the qualities Mrs. Maken finds desirable.

Wacky Precepts from the Past

In Chapter 14, Mrs. Maken quotes a couple of luminaries from the distant past in support of her tirades against single men. The quotes cited are really quite fanciful, if not downright nasty. For instance, Mrs. Maken notes, "Remember what John Calvin said? The man who chooses to stay single (without a specific call from God) is guilty of 'stealing' a husband from a wife" (p. 181). With all due respect to my readers in the Reformed camp, I don't think the ipse dixits of John Calvin are so sacrosanct that they cannot be scrutinized or even discarded. The notion of a single man "stealing a husband from a wife" is illogical and patently stupid. It is a gross case of begging the question. Which woman did the single man steal from? What right could the woman in question claim to the man in question? If she rejects him, is he still guilty of theft? If he choses to marry someone else, is he still guilty of theft? If there are more women than men, which women were stolen from and which women received ill-gotten gain? Theft implies taking something that was already the property of another person. If a man's life is already the property of a given woman, then why must he seek her out and impress her if he already belongs to her? I'm sorry, but John Calvin's beard must have had a mishap with a kitchen utensil the day he dreamt up his indictment against single men.

Yet as bad as John Calvin's statement is about single men, it is cannot a hold a candle to the following stinker floated by Mrs. Maken:
"Erasmus said it well in his famous essay In Praise of Marriage: '[W]hat is more hateful than a man who, as though born for himself alone, lives for himself, looks out for himself, is sparing or lavish for himself, loves no one and is loved by no one? Indeed, should not such a monster be thought fit to be driven away from the general fellowship of mankind.' In other words, he saw those who willfully choose singleness as useless drones and fruitless burdens on this earth who have no sense of obligation to follow the familial patterns of their parents or to sacrifice for another." (p. 182)
I ask in response "what is more hateful" than for a person to falsely accuse those who choose to be single of being unconcerned about others and to label these single people as being "useless drones" and "fruitless burdens." This kind of talk is reminiscent of the things Nazis used to say about Jews. Jesus Christ said that "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matt. 12:34, NKJV). I do not see anything pure or holy in the statement above above but only carnal disdain for those who dare to live differently. Really, Mrs. Maken doesn't earn any brownie points with me by dredging up the ignorant ideas of misguided religious figures who have long passed away from this earthly life. Some sentiments are best left buried with those who engendered them.

The Final Solution

Overall, if there is any statement in Chapter 14 that reveals Debbie Maken's designs, it is this quote:
"Women, our biggest challenge in holding men accountable and inspiring them to biblical manhood is that they often don't know any better. They don't understand that this issue goes beyond personal choice to being held accountable by God for failing to pursue his will for their lives. We have no choice but to educate men. I think it would certainly be better if it came from ministers, church leaders, parents, or other male friends, but many of them are not particularly aware of the problem either." (p. 182)
I advise Mrs. Maken and any woman that agrees with her to give up the idea of educating us men. Otherwise, they will be defeated. We will drive them back like the Amalekites and Canaanites did the Israelites who rejected God at Kadesh. Why should I believe that God is with Mrs. Maken's female fans on this matter? If anything, the posturing of these women will merely signal to a self-respecting man that these women should be avoided since they are not marriage material. Mrs. Maken says, "There is no shortage of men; one woman's gain is not usually another woman's loss" (p. 183). I think there will indeed be a shortage of men if women insist on treating men in a disrespectful manner. And no, the male collaborators of these women will fare no better if they should choose to go up against their fellow brothers. After all, it's pretty hilarious for a guy to lecture others on manhood when he obviously allows his identity to be defined by women and doesn't do any thinking for himself. Such a man certainly doesn't bring to mind the qualities of self-confidence and intestinal fortitude that one thinks of when considering manhood.

Anyway, the rest of Chapter 14 is essentially a rehash of matters I have already covered in previous installments of my critique: Mrs. Maken's misuse of Biblical characters; her pointless complaints about the private nature of modern marriages; her alarmist notions about the negative economic and social impact of people choosing to be single; her misguided beliefs about the benefits of enlisting courtship agencies and limiting access men have to women; and her dim view towards male-female friendships. In closing, I should point out an unusual statement by Mrs. Maken at the end of Chapter 14. She says, "We must be honest and admit that men don't hold all the blame for the way things are" (p. 188). I am somewhat surprised that Mrs. Maken would say this, and I must give credit to Mrs. Maken for her concession. However, given the overall tenor of her book, it's really too little, too late.