June 29, 2007

Cinderella Theology (via Michael Lawrence)

I do not have anything personal against the Boundless.org writer Michael Lawrence, but I wonder how he can constantly come up with the most ridiculous and far-flung assertions about what God wants from men. This is the same guy that asserts that Adam took initiative and defined the relationship with Eve by stating his intentions (uh ... yeah ... whatever). Michael's new hobby is assert that Christian men need to redefine what they find physically attractive in women according to God's standards (see part 1 and part 2 of his latest diatribe). My thoughts on this ...

1. Michael quotes from the feminist Naomi Wolfe to make his case that men's ideas of beauty are culturally determined. Noami Wolfe, like many feminists, is going to downplay any biological or innate distinctions between men and women. Before Michael lectures men about accepting worldly ideas on beauty, maybe he should chastise himself for taking a page on gender relations from a woman who adheres to an extremely worldly and diabolical philosophy that is anti-male. And maybe Christian men need to be asking themselves just why religious pundits are cozying up to the feminists in the first place. Whose side are these religious pundits really on?

2. Arguing that beauty is "culturally-determined" is also unscientific. While we disagree with some researchers' speculations about evolution, what they have to say about innate responses among the sexes cannot be so easily dismissed. Religious pundits are hypocritical when they claim God hardwires men and women to be different in the matter of sex roles and yet ignore that same hardwiring when they want to go on an crusade against male sexuality. And no, don't blame it on "the Fall." That's too easy an explanation, a case of Argumentum ad Ignorantiam that crops up too many times in theological discussions. If we want to blame men's weight preferences in women on our "sinful nature," do we get to do the same with womens' height preferences in men?

3. Michael has a difficult time separating physical beauty from spiritual beauty. Here's a real zinger from him:
I also think that the standard of God's beauty should affect your sense of physical attraction as well. Have you ever witnessed a beautiful girl (by the world's standards) get drunk or commit a lewd act? It's not pretty. On the other hand, Peter speaks of the unfading visible beauty of women whose character is gentle and quiet (1 Peter 3:3-5). Paul speaks of Christ making his bride, the church, visibly beautiful as he makes her holy (Ephesians 5:25-27). Do you have eyes to see the physical beauty that God is creating in the Christian women around you as He conforms them to the image of Christ? Rather than fixating on finding a replica of some plastic image you've seen in a movie or magazine, open your eyes to the beautiful images of God all around you. [emphasis mine]
Note Michael's question: "Do you have eyes to see the physical beauty that God is creating in the Christian women around you as He conforms them to the image of Christ?" Hmmm. Let me get this straight: God is creating physical beauty in Christian women??? I must have missed something here because the Bible tells us the "outward man is decaying" (2 Cor. 4:16)--but Michael now wants us to believe that godliness is doing something for Christian women in the physical sense that the Atkin's diet could never do. Maybe Micheal needs look up the word physical.

4. Maybe Michael thinks that religiosity has the same affect on a man as drinking too many beers: it makes the homely girls look more attractive. But religiosity don't lessen sexual inhibitions the way alcohol does; if anything, it does the opposite. I suspect that if the church makes Christian men guilty about looking at extremely attractive women, less attractive women will most certainly be put in the "spiritual sisters in Christ"/platonic-church-buddies category.

5. Did Michael ever think about Isaiah 53:2? It tells us that Jesus Christ was not a handsome man. None of this politically correct "beauty in the eye beholder" nonsense. It admits that in his earthly form, he didn't measure up in the looks category. I suppose many Israelite women would have turned him down for a date. But that's okay. Our Saviour didn't come on this earth to please women, but to do his Father's will. I say this to make this point: If the Bible admits that Jesus the man was unattractive in spite of his spiritual perfection, then there is no reason to expect Christian men to lie to themselves about Christian women. Many religious women are physically unattractive--and will remain so no matter how charitable assessment we would like to make of their persons.

6. Did Michael ever consider the Song of Songs? I don't see much talk there about the woman's ability to memorize scriptures or how great she is with small children. The terms of attractiveness are measured in body parts. Michael wants us to conform to the Bible's standard of physical attractiveness, and yet when we look at the closest thing to such an idea, it contrasts with Michael's politically correct criteria of every Christian lady being a princess.

7. Michael, like so many others, needs to distinguish between sexual response and sexual desire. I have written about this before. A man can have a sexual response: Eyes immediately notice a young woman. But that is not desire. My eyes may initially be drawn to a lush chocolate cake in a store window, but it doesn't mean I am going to stare all day long at it or buy it. Now sexual response doesn't need desire, but sexual desire needs sexual response. You can't expect someone to go crazy over a piece of cold liver with the same enthusiasm as a piece of chocolate cake. Likewise, we cannot condemn a man for being shallow simply because he doesn't find Christian single women attractive (just as we cannot condemn a man for desiring another man's wife simply because he noticed her beauty). Also, even with married men, they may love and desire their wives, but time takes it toll on their libido (lower levels of testosterone, health issues, etc.). In short, Christianity makes men holy, not visually impaired.

8. Michael is begging the question by portraying cultural standards of beauty as being sinful. I don't see many white Evangelicals insisting on more interracial marriages. Maybe there are some. That is fine, but I suspect most people are going to allow cultural conditioning to shape their choice of mates regardless of the politically correct bombast coming from the church pulpits. Yes, men need to give the main emphasis to spiritual qualities and personality in a prospective mate. Yes, they need to look at the total person and not just automatically assume they are entitled to a blond bombshell. However, when the choice is between two women of comparable spirituality, we can easily guess who is going to get asked out--the prettier one. And if a woman is homely looking, she may not be asked out at all.

9. Single men owe women nothing in terms of finding them attractive. As I recently stated at the Boundless Line blog:
A leftist social-gospel would push for an equality of material goods. The social gospel of the Marriage Mandate Movement is that men are supposed to find all spiritual woman equally attractive in terms of looks. Nonsense. Looks or money--some people have it and some people don't. You are no more entitled to the attention of the opposite sex than you are in having the same income as rich people. Marriage, like the suburban lifestyle, is not necessary to live a joyful Christian life. Period.
I'll go one further and say this: As a man, I am not entitled to a supermodel wife, but I am not entitled to an average looking or ugly looking wife, either. I am not entitled to women at all. I am not entitled to the wealth or health that I have either. I am entitled to go to hell, but God in his mercy sent his only Son to save me. I think the same rule applies to what women think they are entitled to.

10. There is too much writing about the shallowness of men, even to the point of attacking male sexuality, while ignoring the shallowness of women. People need to take note of this last point. Christian men are waking up to the gynocentrist (woman-centered) messages coming from our so-called "conservative" "Christian" leaders about marriage, family, relationships, and sex. For too long, the spin doctors have been playing to the distaff pew-warmers and tickling their ears with the message they want to hear, and not with the truth. Specifically, Michael Lawrence and others in the Marriage Mandate Movement are pushing a "Cinderella Theology." Christian women are led to believe that despite their personal choices, flaws, shortcomings, sins, etc., they are entitled to be treated like an Esther, Rachel, or Rebekah and the men are obligated to pursue them and jump through hoops for them. Needless to say, it's time for men to stand up against this nonsense.

9 Comments:

Blogger PuritanCalvinist said...

Anakin,

I have just finished a review of Debbie Maken's treatement of the reformers and John Calvin. I would be interested in your opinion on it if you have the time. It is on my blog at:

http://puritancalvinist.blogspot.com/2007/06/was-calvin-marriage-mandator-this.html

God Bless,
PuritanCalvinist

6/29/07, 1:08 PM  
Blogger PuritanCalvinist said...

Also, if anyone else would like to comment, I am open to other comments about it as well.

God Bless,
PuritanCalvinist

6/29/07, 1:09 PM  
Anonymous someone said...

Anakin,

There's some decent material in this post but I am also bothered by some of the things you've said here. I'll respond according to number.


1.)"Before Michael lectures men about accepting worldly ideas on beauty, maybe he should chastise himself for taking a page on gender relations from a woman who adheres to an extremely worldly and diabolical philosophy that is anti-male."

This strikes me as an example of poisoning the well. It feels like you're trying to dismiss Wolfe's observations based on the fact that she is a feminist rather than really respond to them based on their merits. Just because we may disagree with a lot of what feminists have to say, doesn't mean that they have nothing to say that is true or worth hearing. In point number 2 you imply, in principal, that this is the case when you suggest that it is possible to agree with some parts of what science says while rejecting others. Yet if the same principal were applied to science that you've applied to feminism here we should have to call it diabolical and worldly as well. What would be more useful would be developing a consistent hermenuetic for distinguishing what we agree with from what we don't.

2.) I think you should tread very carefully here. While it is most likely true that some aspects of what we find attractive are purely physical, I think it is undeniable that much of what we consider attractive is culturally determined. This is especially the case in a day and age in which we are constantly fed media images of physically flawless women (in both pornography and mainstream media). I have seen and continue to see Christian men get caught up into this hypersexualized view of women, in which the primary fucntion of women seems to be to fulfill men's sexual fantasies. Women who don't fit the bill in terms of looks are essentially reduced to nonpersons by this view. It doesn't seem to me that this is the way that the church of Jesus Christ should fucntion.

Also, I question the credibility of the book you link to. I have spent too much of my life combatting the pervasive scientism that seems to extend into every corner of our culture to simply accept that books like this are just delivering objective scientific facts. It is not as simple as saying that one rejects the evolutionary claims of such books but accepts the other parts as scientific, especially given the fact that the entire purpose of books like this is to argue that every important aspect of human life and behavior can be explained in materialistic, evolutionary terms. You must establish why you accept the book's conclusions about beauty without accepting the claims about its evolutionary origins.

I am really uncomfortable with this whole "biology is destiny" attitude. We have the Spirit of God in us and through Him we do not have to be determined by our desires and urges. These things can be submitted to Christ to be formed and transformed. Ironically, this "biology as destiny" view is the same mindset that Maken holds when she talks as if it simply isn't possible to resist or control our sex drive. In a sense, the whole gospel exists as a radical challenge to allowing "the way things naturally are" to be the shaping factor of our lives and faith. Or, stated more bluntly: It isn't natural for people to rise from the dead.

3.) I think you're being somewhat unfair to Michael here, maybe even creating a straw man version of what he actually means. While God is clearly not giving facelifts to Christian women, there is a connection between spiritual and physical beauty. If we reject the silly view that God is literally changing the physical substance of Christian women in some way and understand instead that the way we live and people we are becoming do tend to manifest in our countenance and to affect our outward selves, then it is totally plausible to think there is a connection between spirit and flesh. Haven't you ever met someone that at first you didn't think was particularly attractive but later, after you got to know them, you came to realized that you did find them attractive? Or vice versa? I know it has happened to me in both directions. Human beings are a psychosomatic unity. Spirit and flesh cannot so easily be separated.

Also, I'm not sure I totally agree with your handling of 2 Cor 4:16. In fact, it smacks to me a bit of the same way that Maken and Co, use scripture without regard for context. Yes, the outward self is perishing, but again, that does not mean that the changes wrought in a persons life by the fruit of the spirit can not manifest themselves outwardly in a noticable way.

6.) Yes, the Song of Songs does celebrate physical beauty, but it does so within the context of an already established relationship. That is to say, that while the lover clearly finds the beloved physically beautiful, the perception of beauty is subjective not objective. The Song of Songs illustrates for us what any two lovers would feel towards one another rather or not they meet some critierion of "objective" beauty. I may think another man's wife or girlfriend completely unattractive, but of course it will be different for him. I think the Songs of songs can be read in this way without losing any of its impact. Otherwise, it ends up being just a book for the beautiful people.

I'm sorry this post is so long and is so critical. I'm not trying to be mean or contrary here, but these are genuine concerns I have as I read this post. I do agree with your point 9, that none of us is entitled to the affections or romantic attentions of another.

6/29/07, 3:00 PM  
Blogger Anakin Niceguy said...

Hey Someone,

I appreciate your feedback and constructive criticism. I believe you raise some questions that are worth consideration. Here are my thoughts according to the numbers:

(1)


This strikes me as an example of poisoning the well. It feels like you're trying to dismiss Wolfe's observations based on the fact that she is a feminist rather than really respond to them based on their merits.


True, my comments could seem like "poisoning the well" but what I am aiming at is the underlying philosophy of the feminist camp that (a) women are the perennial victims of men (b) the behavior of the sexes is rooted in social conditioning as opposed to innate differences and (c) male sexuality is exploitive of women. I don't oppose these views because feminists take them. It's the other way around. I oppose the feminists because they take these views. It just happens that feminists spearheaded this nonsense--the attacks against fathers, against boys, against nuclear families, against housewives--all feed from the myths above. You can't make a well to spring fresh water and salt water at the same time.

(2)

I don't understand why the bar of credibility is placed higher for scholarly research than it is for a feminist's opinions (Noami Wolfe, etc.). When you say that our views of beauty are culturally determined, do you have any body of research that challenges the body of research that I reference?

It seems to me that problem is not men finding pornographic models beautiful (after all, God made the bodies of the pornographic models, too). The problem is men acting on their impulses and gratifying their lusts. The problem is not men finding certain women more beautiful than others, but men attaching too much significance to that beauty.

As for the book, it happens to be authored by a psychologist at Harvard Medical School. It doesn't strike me as some hack spouting tabloid opinions. Why do I reject the evolutionary claims? One good reason is because they cannot be falsified (no one went back in a time machine and made observations about dinosaurs) but that doesn't mean I can just throw out the empirical data that IS presented on human behavior (and which disproves the purely-cultural model of understanding beauty).

I understand your concerns about scientism, but the science of innate differences I cite doesn't contradict the Bible. It just contradicts the assertion of Noami Wolfe and Michael Lawrence.

(3)



While God is clearly not giving facelifts to Christian women, there is a connection between spiritual and physical beauty. If we reject the silly view that God is literally changing the physical substance of Christian women in some way and understand instead that the way we live and people we are becoming do tend to manifest in our countenance and to affect our outward selves, then it is totally plausible to think there is a connection between spirit and flesh. Haven't you ever met someone that at first you didn't think was particularly attractive but later, after you got to know them, you came to realized that you did find them attractive? Or vice versa? I know it has happened to me in both directions. Human beings are a psychosomatic unity. Spirit and flesh cannot so easily be separated.



Which women benefit from this? Do older women benefit? Do you see many 25 year old men dating 65 old women? If anything, men should be more attracted to older women than women their own age because spiritual maturity is usually found in older people.

Yes, is it true that our overall attraction to a mate is shaped by many psychological factors. But Michael Lawrence is demanding that men be physically attracted on the basis of that which is not physical. It's an absurdity--and that's why I quoted 2 Cor. 4:16. Ask yourself this question: If your loving spouse lost some weight and fixed themselves up--would that same person be more attractive to you (or would what they did make absolutely no difference whatsoever)? It's the same person, same personality, etc. but now you must choose on the basis of physical looks.

On this matter, I think women are peculiar. They want men to see them on an equal plane with Playboy bunnies--but if a man's wife loses weight and wears a flattering dress and he says, "I don't care either way" she throws a lamp at him. Is the male standards of beauty really the problem or is it that women want to define beauty according to whatever boosts their self-esteem at a given moment?

(6)

You say the perception of beauty is subjective. You are right and that is why I take issue with Michael Lawrence and others dictating what men should find attractive. We can't hop from subjectivity and talk about objective "biblical standards" for what men should find beautiful, and then hop back to subjectivity when the Biblical data doesn't support the thesis.

I made some other points that tie into what you addressed. Namely, (1) the Bible clearly says Jesus was unattractive and doesn't flatter him in that regard the way we are demanding men do to women (2) sexual response is not the same as sexual desire (that is why biology, though acknowledged is not destiny and why I reiterate that the problem is not men finding women beautiful, but men placing too much importance on that beauty).

Anyway, thanks for the feedback. :-)

6/29/07, 6:02 PM  
Anonymous someone said...

Anakin,

Thanks for the response. Still not sure I totally agree, but I'm going to have to leave it at that as I am getting ready to leave for vacation for over a week and will not have good internet access where I am going.

Peace.

6/29/07, 8:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

~ "From acne to birth defects, we wear our imperfections as thorns, for we know the world sees them and takes note." ~



Anakin, I have to agree on pretty much what you have conceptualized here.

In no way am I discounting the relevance and importance of what is inside of a person, but when it comes to the subject of physical appearance, have you ever taken note that it is mainly the average "joe or jane" who romanticizes with the idea of how important beauty is on the inside? Have you ever wondered why that is? Yet, offer them an extreme makeover free (or for hardly any money) and see what happens. After all, it is not handsome young men or beautiful women alone who are forking countless dollars over to the cosmetic surgeons.

Let's face it, the biblical narrative of Moses made comment of the contrasting differences between Rachel and Leah. And no matter how spiritually uplifting and strong of faith Leah was, no man was ever mentioned as desperately begging for her hand. Period.

Yeah, yeah, we all have heard the cliché that "beauty is subjective" and in the "eye of the beholder" yadda, yadda, yadda; but, generally speaking, I think our subjective bias blinds us from an objective analysis; therefore we give a dishonest appraisal of the environment around ourselves, and consequently, I might add, downplay, redefine, or exaggerate reality into a distortion of an image we would like everyone else to have. Not so strangely, this is the road where Michael Lawrence (and many others like him) tread every day.

I tire of those who make foolish attempts to manipulate my selective preferences by imposing or suggesting that I should settle for whatever pyrite they consider as gold.

MYOB
~ The Protracted Singleness Fan Club

6/29/07, 11:34 PM  
Blogger PuritanCalvinist said...

My position is somewhere in the middle.

While I view physical attractiveness as important, what I look for is a girl with the whole package. While looks are important, I think it would be good to take a girl who is not as pretty as another, but that has a better spiritual life, and is more like me in several areas.

In other words, when chosing a spouse, one must ask which girl has the best package as far as everything put together.

Thus, I think it solves both Anakin's problem of recognizing that men do want the better looking girls, as well as solving Michael Lawrence's concern about the fact that we do not take spiritual beauty into account.

So, in other words, when choosing a spouse, we must look at the entire package a woman brings foward, and decide which is the best package that will help our marriage be glorifying to God.

So, I don't totally disagree with Mr. Lawrence, I just think he is drawing the wrong conclusion. I think that the appropriate conclusion needs to be that, as with anything else, women are going to be able to bring certain things to the table in a marital relationship. We have to decide which package is going to be best.

God Bless,
PuritanCalvinist

6/30/07, 9:26 AM  
Blogger PuritanCalvinist said...

BTW, thanks for your comments, Anakin. I will probably put a blog post up later with your comments recommending the post (and also fix the spelling mistakes). I hope to get that post to as many people as are exposed to the writings of Debbie Maken to show that her use of the reformers is simply way off base.

God Bless,
PuritanCalvinist

6/30/07, 9:29 AM  
Anonymous Spiritual Pretty Girl said...

I fear this debate suffers from a blindness toward both Mr. Lawrence's intended audience and the situation to which he hopes to provide a solution.

1.) His audience is that group of overly picky (and may I add overly whiny) Christian singles--both men and women--that complain about the dearth of dateable Christians while turning down potential romantic partners based on lists of "ideal" physical qualities.
Thus, you gentlemen--ostensibly very satisfied in your single and celibate state--are not the audience. You have every right to respond to the argumentative moves and Biblical exegesis, but keep in mind that there does exist a sizeable population of Christian singles who do ask "What am I doing wrong?" or as Shmuley Boteach seeks to answer, "Why Can't I Fall in Love?" Theirs is a question which begs a solution and a situation to which their own natural attractions have only led to frustration.

2.) Therefore, the rhetorical situation for these folks is much different than that of the satisfied celibate. They desire love, commitment, eventual marriage, all of which elude hem year after year (and may I say that I hear from more "average-looking" young men in this position than women). The men and women around them in the pews, both Homely Harries and Plain Patties, are unlikely to receive extreme makeovers any time soon. Lawrence is addressing his articles to this situation: these are the people around you. These are the marriage choices. One hundred years ago, before billboard advertisements and internet porn, Plain Patty looked pretty good (Ugly Eunice lived one town over). The plethora of images of the extremely beautiful has--for many young people--only led to over-pickiness and then loneliness, unfillfulment, and a habit of whining, which is a real turn-off.

Lawrence's argument seeks to push the reader to make a choice: give more people a shot and allow attraction to grow on deeper levels than a pheromone reaction. Now, yes, rhetorically he may have done better to concede that there exist objective standards of beauty. But I don't believe that rhetorical misstep is any reason to eviscerate his position--which seems only to want to help the rest of us from having to listen to these single friends of ours whine over why they can't "find someone" when we know perfectly well that they turn down men, or ignore available women, almost every week.

For a classic film representation of Lawrence's argument, may I recommend the film "Marty?"

7/1/07, 3:50 PM  

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