March 24, 2017

Guest Post: Quiet Desperation

'' photo (c) 2008, Kevin N.  Murphy - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/NOTE FROM CM: Here is another email I received in response to the Driscoll post. This one is personal, poignant — a real challenge to the church. Having two sons in their 20’s, I often wonder how to help them deal with the kinds of issues today’s author brings to us.

The author of this post, Donny B, is a minor league baseball and hockey broadcaster who lives in Central California. He reports that, while only in his late 20s, he has been in churches since he was 5 years old, and has seen both the miraculous and the ugly (and most everything in between).

• • •

Quiet Desperation
by Donny B

In recent years, the Irish have finally begun to address one of their country’s lesser yet age-old problems: How do they keep hundreds of young rural farmers from hanging themselves?

It’s a dilemma that stretches back for centuries. Starved of any kind of companionship, surrounded by nothing but sheep and potatoes and the pointlessly green beauty of the rolling Eire countryside, without  a wife or the meaningful prospects of ever finding one because of their perpetual isolation (the farm and its crops can’t be abandoned, and what town girl wants to move to the back country to live with a bucktoothed hick anyway?), many decide that ending things is preferable to living extended, miserable lives of crushing isolation.

By contrast, today’s young, lonely, suburban American men generally don’t commit suicide; they just surf the internet, play video games, and watch movies. You could call them lazy, and some of them are, but that’s often unfair. They’re simply stuck in an early-life dead end and aren’t sure how they’re supposed to get out. Henry David Thoreau’s famous observation that “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation” is usually applied to middle-aged fathers of three who have an insatiable mortgage, a nagging and aging-around-the-edges wife, and a soul-numbing white-collar job. But it could increasingly be applied, with greater accuracy, to those of a younger generation who would kill to have such problems.

So what is the church going to do about their single, insecure, internally desperate twenty-somethings who are now graduating from school only to find an economic climate that makes it incredibly difficult to earn any kind of decent living for many years? The old Christian paradigm of marrying young is increasingly unrealistic for many. And most Christian adults over forty don’t seem to understand this. They attack today’s male semi-youth as being slow, unmotivated, and stereotypically rooted to his parents’ basement. They make condescending, unhelpful statements about “lack of biblical initiative” and “faith in God’s provision.” I wonder, though, how they would have fared if they had come out of college in this environment? I suspect they wouldn’t be quite so glib.

'' photo (c) 2008, Kevin N.  Murphy - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/Unlike non-Christians, single believers can’t cheat (theoretically, at least). They have no sexual outlet. No, it’s not death. Sex isn’t an absolute basic requirement. But it is an undeniable, powerful drive, and a growing number of Christian guys are finding themselves without the ability to support a spouse and family at  the most basic level. Furthermore, they’re facing an uphill battle to attain even those modest means within the foreseeable future. If they were good boys and went to college like everyone told them to, they’re likely loaded down with debt, and that degree is looking like a fairly worthless (and expensive) scrap of paper that doesn’t do much to land them a job. If they didn’t go to school, they’re fighting tooth and nail for the unskilled retail and service gigs that everyone (including the ones with college degrees) are desperately flocking to. It’s an economic catch-22, and it’s creating a whole new generation of financial and relational non-starters.

For some, this will be an excuse to gently push aside biblical restraints on premarital sex as outdated or simply unbearable. Frankly, these will make up the majority (just as, statistically, they already do). For the conscientious minority, however, a different (and, arguably, even more dangerous) problem is on the horizon: they are going to find themselves part of a swelling tsunami of single, sexually frustrated male adults in an institution that has, historically and in contemporary times, had no idea what to do with them.

Add the potentially crushing weight of a lack of institutional understanding and support to the already difficult loneliness and physical frustration of extended Christian singleness, and you have a recipe for volatility. All those pent-up desires and dreams can create a toxic internal stew of anger if they’re allowed to bubble unattended. And, unfortunately, many young Christian men’s emotions will be left to do exactly that. They’ll be told (either through implication or overt command) to just smile and praise God’s perfect timing…in public. Then, they’ll go home to their small, lonely apartment and wonder just how long they’re supposed to keep on smiling and pretending they’re fine. Some will be able to keep up the charade for years. Others won’t.  Eventually, they’ll crack…and the resulting explosion could be devastating, even deadly.

Unfortunately, many church leaders remain blissfully ignorant to this issue. It’s understandable; they always have a thousand other pressing issues that demand their attention, and other constituencies that are much more vocal. But they would do well to see this growing cultural trend and have some honest discussions about how they’re going to support their ominously growing subculture of young (but not for long) singles.

The revolution is coming, whether we want it or not. And lame chastity pledges aren’t going to cut it this time.

Comments

  1. Donny, thanks for sharing this. It gives this pastor a lot to think about.

    I only wish I had some answers for you.

    • I don’t know that this necessarily goes away with marriage. Take that same unhapiness, and add obligations of support and time for kids and wife. If you are single, you can leave unhappy situations without hurting anybody. Quit the despair-inducing job, leave the dreary city for the country, go back to school, take more debt, hang out more in the bar, use your time to take up music or painting, or learn car repair, take some risks.

      I think situations like this is where “sin boldly” becomes good advice. Do what you need to to get into a better situation, and don’t worry about whether it’s the “best” course or God’s plan for you. God’s plan for you is to live in your vocation. That just means live in love according to the roles God has placed you in: citizen, congregant, child, worker, father, husband, etc… http://bookofconcord.org/smallcatechism.php#tableofduties

      There is no “best” course beyond that; you are free as a Christian to ignore society’s expectations.

  2. I’ve heard this concern expressed by other young men. (Or 40-something men like me.) Here’s how I address it.

    First of all, there are more Christian women than men in church. In some cases it’s because a wife goes to church whereas her husband doesn’t. In other cases, the woman is single. But for some reason, men never see them as prospective wives.

    Either they’re divorced, or with children, and the men had their hearts set on marrying a virgin (though they haven’t made much effort as far as their own chastity is concerned). Or they don’t fit the culture’s standards of attractiveness, and the men had their hearts set on marrying supermodels.

    Or the women are too outspoken and independent, and the men want someone subservient. Or, conversely, the women are holding out for some knight in shining armor to rescue them from their messed-up lives, and the men feel inadequate (or the women judge them as such). I ended a relationship some years ago because the woman demanded that I fill a role in her life that I had no business filling–only Christ ought to.

    There’s the expectation, taught in many churches, that the man support a wife and family single-handed. Which is nice if you can pull it off, but this economy means fewer can. Men feel inadequate and resign themselves to being single. Women likewise feel the men are inadequate and do likewise.

    Either way: There aren’t a lack of options. There’s just outrageous standards, and very little grace. Add to this how everyone insists we ought to hold out for God’s best, and how individuals interpret this to mean to hold out for their ideal. And that’s just exacerbating the situation.

    We need to accept one another for who we are, in the place we’re at, and love one another anyway. We need to put aside this idealized mate as the false god it is.

    • I think you are on to something with the suggestion that both sexes may have “outrageous standards” for one another. Not all of us girls can be the hott, holy chick and not all you guys can be the studly tycoon. I am not advocating that we all settle for someone we are not attracted to. But in some instances I have seen relationships not progress to marriage, seemingly because there was a list of deal breakers that wasn’t satisfied. Where is the forgiveness and grace in demanding a perfect partner? Those who are looking to be married must find someone right for them, but it seems so one-sided when a potential suitor is dismissed for being a work in progress.

      • From my nephew’s FB page (he is in the above demographic)……

        “Women ask where all the good men are? We are still right here in the ‘friend’ zone where you left us.”

        • Isaac (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says:

          Yeah, I’ve definitely got that t-shirt many times over. Bloody friend zone.

          One of my single buddies (also in his early 30’s) and I were having lunch last week and talking about the whole thing about these sorts of things. In the course of the conversation the idea was floated that with some of these lists of deal-breakers, it seems that we can be forming a mental idol of what we want in a prospective mate rather than being open to real people, real relationships, and what God might have in store for us.

          I’ve seen the statistic about single women outnumbering single women in most churches. Unfortunately, that ain’t the case at ours (at least when it comes to our age group). We’ve got a whole slew of single guys in their late 20’s to early 30’s, but there’s only one or two gals in that age range. My sister (who lives out of state) says her church is the opposite. I told her we need to set up an exchange program or something!

          • Its kind of lik work – you go where the women are. If the ratio where one lives is not favorable then go somewhere else – especially if one does not have a mortgage or dependants.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          “Women ask where all the good men are? We are still right here in the ‘friend’ zone where you left us.”

          Not just the “friend” zone. The “Brother/Sister in Christ” zone.

          And too many women will ditch a “good man” for the User & Abuser — “He’s so (gasp) EXCITING!”

          • But with a bit of grace, you date the charming “bad boy” sociopath for 10 months your freshman year and get it out of your system. I guess I had to go kiss a toad to appreciate my kind, funny, and smart “good boy” of the last 36 years!

            Once to learn a lesson? OK…after that, you, Miss, are a feckin’ IDIOT! I have no patience with either gender’s single members being hung up on looks (or wallet thickness, for that matter) instead of character

          • MelissatheRagamuffin says:

            Men are just as bad. Usually the meaner a woman is the better the man in her life treats her. It just boggles my brains.

            I used to live upstairs from a bunch of single guys who were sharing an apartment. If there was a nice woman around they didn’t want her – except as a friend. If there was a woman who was a completely and total *itch they were falling all over themselves for her.

            Something has gone seriously wrong in how we mate.

    • Danielle79 says:

      “There’s the expectation, taught in many churches, that the man support a wife and family single-handed. Which is nice if you can pull it off, but this economy means fewer can.”

      This is one element.

      The fact is, certain patriarchal norms that used to work (esp. in blue collar America) are financially more difficult to pull off — frankly, there are many fewer mid-range jobs with benefits. As a result, it is a lot easier to land a very good job or a very poor one. This fact alone places a huge burden on one person. And because so much depends on that one person, innumerable things can go wrong. And it certainly ratchets up the pressure if we define “Christian manhood” by some kind of ability to make enough money all the time and bear up under stress. (Much the same problem happens when women are made solely responsible for all the nurturing and emotional clean-up of the family’s collective problems: you have no permission to fall down on the job.)

      Obviously this varies by circumstance, but … Provided that two people have the desire and opportunity to marry, both might be better off if they tie the knot and tag-teaming these responsibilities (not to mention the rent). Life is still hectic on uncertain, but you are a bit less isolated, and it’s easier to roll with financial punches when both people are working & are sharing food/housing.

      Of course, I understand that this is easy for me to say: I’m totally egalitarian, and it freaks me out either to (1) tell my husband everything is his responsibility or (2) cede responsibility to someone else. So I am not ideologically or emotionally invested in feeling “womanly” or in him feeling “manly” according to complementarian standards. If one of us stays home part-time with the child we are now expecting, it may even be him. (This has to do with his field allowing more work-from-home opportunities.)

      Of course, it does get more expensive with children. That is, I admit, not a small wrinkle. I have recently discovered that the going rate for infant care in our area hovers at about $1400 per month!

    • Most guys (myself and others I’ve talked with) have nowhere near the ludicrously high standards many girls in church have. We’re not looking for supermodels, just nice girls who take good care of themselves (in other words: not fat.) And I think I speak for a lot of guys when I say that “outspoken and independent” is usually code-word for “obnoxious feminist loudmouth” and not a good thing at all. Single mothers and divorcees are an absolute minefield, any guy not immediately running away from them is either a very brave man, or just plain crazy/oblivious.

      That being said, your point about not being able to uphold expectations of the man providing for his family and men and women avoiding marriage because of this is dead on.

      • um, is this satire?

        • So Kyle, would you like to give me the acceptable height/weight ratios you and your guy friends find acceptable, & I’ll circulate these, along obviously, with your earning potential…Same with the limits on independant intelligent thought…

          So where are all the nice girls, if the nice guys are left in the friend zone? Oh maybe they’re in the 15 -20 lbs too heavy for your taste zone…or in the higher 3 figure IQ levels…

          Come on friend, talk to some real women, & see if your stereotypes ( which may be softer, but still there) stand up.

    • “the men had their hearts set on marrying a virgin”

      There are few things as creepy as hearing a man say he’s hoping to marry a virgin. Even when I was a virgin that was one of the fastest way to get crossed off my list of potential partners. So creepy, paternalistic, and controlling.

      • Agreed. It’s one thing if you’re a 16-year-old boy, still dating your 16-year-old sweetheart, both of you saving yourselves for marriage. It’s another thing altogether if you’re a 40-year-old man.

        And hardly Christlike either. The bride of Christ is hardly a virgin; she’s dallied with many, many false gods. Still does. But Jesus has forgiven all that, and is only focused on our future.

      • What you call creepy I would call “normal male behavior.”

        Better to be honest about what you want than to hide it for fear of rejection from the outside.

      • It’s creepy for a man to desire a godly wife who takes her faith seriously to the point of obedience? Wow, I didn’t realize I was such a jerk for holding out for a woman who loved Jesus and valued purity. Because only the naive and over-sheltered do that, right? Real women, the kind with life experience, have more…. experience?

        • Aidan Clevinger says:

          ^That’s not what they’re saying. The point they’re making (I think, I hope they’ll forgive me if I’m wrong) is that if you find a decent, beautiful, godly woman who also happens to have made a mistake, you shouldn’t automatically reject her for it. You yourself have made committed just as many sins – why refuse to love this woman because of something that she’s repented of?

          Also, “not a virgin” does not in any way equal “ungodly” or “faithless”. It means that she’s a sinner. So is everyone else in the world. A desire for sexual purity is one (excellent) thing, but if that desire leads one to self-righteousness and Pharisaism it’s been subverted beyond what it ought to be. We’re under Grace, not Law.

          • I think the following comments reveals you’re giving a little benefit of the doubt. But I would agree with your statements. I’d rather marry a repentant sinner than one who “has no sin to repent of.” I did not mean to equate “having made sexual mistakes” with “unregenerate heathen.” Where mistakes are made, disciples of Jesus have repentance, to the extent that they are aware of their sin. But a person walking in repentance from their youth is capable of avoiding many mistakes. This is a good thing, should be encouraged, and has value. Especially, it has value for someone looking for a life-partner who is 1. Dedicated to being used for God’s purposes, and 2. Actually does walk in obedience to God even when it isn’t easy. Someone with a past can still do this, but that doesn’t render the obedience of someone without a past as worthless to potential spouses.

        • Are you also holding out for a wife who never stole a candy bar when she was 7? It has nothing to do with finding a godly wife, it has to do with wanting control over her behavior before she even met you, or even became a Christian. Virginity is irrelevant.

          • If virginity contributes nothing, then purity is pointless. And it’s not about control, but about about the importance of marital exclusivity. My wife and I both waited, and we are both certainly happy about that. It is by no means irrelevant and meaningless to us, but perhaps it would be to someone who needs to justify themselves. (A better option is letting Jesus justify us in spite of our sins instead of making them irrelevant.) Neither of us control each other’s behavior, past, present, or future, and neither were we looking for a sinless spouse. Regardless of sexual experience, every relationship has emotional, relational, and spiritual obstacles to overcome and baggage to deal with. The fact that ours didn’t include previous sexual partners is something we both find a blessing. Don’t tell me what parts of my relationship are meaningless. My wife gave me something important by waiting, and its not something I forced her to do.

          • See, when I was abstaining from sex it never had anything to do with any future husband, it was always about my own relationship with God. I was never trying to “give” anything to my husband or “save myself.” And it always creeped me out to hear people talk like that.

            I’ve always thought virginity was irrelevant, even when I was a virgin. In Christianity, what you’ve done in the past DOES NOT MATTER, it’s what you’re doing right now that counts. I’m glad you and your wife are happy, but I still think that talking about someone’s “purity” in relation to sex before they knew you is kind of gross and controlling.

          • Christianity does not erase your past, it forgives it. Good for you abstaining for Jesus. I still don’t understand how lifelong marital exclusivity is a not good thing. Is waiting to give yourself exclusively to a future spouse completely different then giving yourself exclusively to a current spouse? I suppose if this is overemphasized to the point of becoming a test of one’s value it can be controlling, but it doesn’t absolutely have to be. What happens in our past does matter because it often affects the present. Sexual history always comes with baggage, we are not un-affected by how we live in that department. But I suppose there are many who take this to an obsessive degree. A person is never less valuable for having made mistakes, but there is also value in having lived wisely.

        • Virginity is a symptom: Could mean a person is pursuing purity for Jesus; could also mean a person is sexually dysfunctional. Its lack is likewise a symptom: Could mean a person is promiscuous; could mean a person was promiscuous in their pre-Christian days (and ought they be judged for that?); could also mean a person who tried to do everything right was, nonetheless, abandoned by an unfaithful partner.

          The problem I encounter is those men who don’t care what the circumstances are. They have an absolute standard, they might even believe it to be God-inspired, and will not budge. There is no room for grace. And when you dare to discuss grace, their first response isn’t, “Well yes.” It’s “Whatever happened to standards?”

  3. WenatcheeTheHatchet says:

    Psychologist Roy Baumeister has spoken on the topic of how unmarried males are valuable to the advancement of society and culture because they are, to be very blunt about it, expendable. He proposed that cultures use women and men in different ways. While people in their 40s or 30s who are already paired off and have somehow managed to keep one job for ten or twelve years (like Driscoll) and capitalized on a housing and job market that no longer exist, the 20 something looks lazy and the 30 something who hasn’t married is even more of a loser.

    The despair that can kick in is, I submit,, at least potentially a result of a single guy realizing that he is, as Baumeister put it, disposable. While this must be acute for guys in their 20s it doesn’t get any easier as guys get older, like their 30s or 40s and beyond. On the other hand, in evangelical settings if a guy has more or less settled on the likelihood that he won’t marry and doesn’t look he will get lumped in a double bind. If he’s desperate for marriage or companionship “You may not have found a spouse yet because you’ve made marriage an idol.” On the other hand, if he doesn’t find the case to get married entirely persuasive and isn’t in a rush to get married then he’s “a boy who can shave” immersed in “adultescence”. In neo-Calvinist circles I’ve read women lament that they have to “wait” to “be pursued” while guys need to “man up”. This does not, to put it mildly, leave single guys from a neo-Calvinist orbit feeling the least bit inspired to “pursue” a wife. Especially in the YRR scene some guys have been so eager to pursue a wife they’ve pursued their way into some restraining orders.

    There are at least two ways guys can respond to the anxiety of loneliness with respect to pairing off. One is to internalize failure. Suicide is unlikely but gaming is an option, or other hobbies. Another path is to externalize failure and in this path, well, misogyny and chauvinism are not hard to spot. But the externalization of the failure can come in other ways, such as a disavowal of marriage in general or Christianity as a whole, followed by an embrace of a political ideology of some kind, whether it’s standard-fare Marxism or prostrating before the altar of Ayn Rand. I’m nearing 40 so I’ve seen how formerly 20-something sexually frustrated guys who used to be evangelical start working out these frustrations. They find an ideology in which their failure to secure a mate can be converted into the moral evils of “breeders” or the abomination of institutional marriage. Either way, what they craved and coveted, that evangelicals told them was “God’s design” for them and something to pursue to prove they loved Jesus, becomes synonymous with evil.

    • You make a good point, WTH. “Disposable” young men used to be a great asset in dangerous societies. They were the ones who killed the lions and braved the blizzards and climbed the biggest trees, highest roofs, etc. Their disposability made them an integral part of their culture, and the rest of society was often grateful to them for the acts of heroism they were free to perform. But now — what is society calling on these men to do? The only lions to kill are in video games. Our society is more likely to be grateful to the elderly accountants than the young heroes. I have a lot of sympathy for young men and the struggle they’re faced with.

      • Damaris,

        Actually in corporate America it is the elderly accountants (anyone who reaches the golden age of 50) that are shuffled off, forced to retire or laid off straight away. The young right now are more like the coddled… but that is only a moment in time because as we are seeing, the winds of change are blowing. Now, not only are the old (men) but the young men as well, lost to oversees labor.

        But there is also another trend, the young are not filling the spots once filled by the young. Volunteer fireman, various clubs and organizations, are not being filled and either voids are left or they are filled by old men.

        My point is that I think some of this thinking in this thread is fantasy, at least in my neck of the woods.

        • Actually, Radagast, over the last decade, both before and after the recession, the number of jobs available to young people has consistently fallen. The only demographic group that has seen growing employment are those over 55 — and that trend did not stop during the recession, although employment for everyone under 55 fell. That number reflects the desperate elderly who work at Walmart to survive, but it’s more than just that. Employers exhibit a startling prejudice against young people, whom they would eventually have to give raises to and promote; they are far more likely to hire a retiree willing to take part-time work and forgo benefits. But employers’ decisions are motivated by fear and prejudice as much as the bottom line. Many jobs now are listed as requiring some years of experience, even though they really don’t. The requirement is designed to discriminate against young people, even those with an advanced degree. And of course they can never get experience if they are never hired.

          I’m sure we all know lazy, gormless young people, but not all are like that. I don’t want to exaggerate, but the way our society thinks of and treats teenagers and young adults in many ways reminds me of the overt, unreflective racism so prevalent until recently.

          • I see… I believe we were talking past each other. Yes, I agree that when it comes to hiring lower and moderate jobs maybe this is the case (retail etc.). But in corporate America I am seeing how those over 50 are gone quickly… they make too much and one can get two fresh faces for the price of an older employee. It’s haapening all around me at the moment, along with many others being replaced by offshoring.

            So in a nutshell I will agree that those older workers who are being displaced are taking the jobs you mention above. So at some point in the next couple of years I will look forward to beating out some new young college grad for a job at Target (and maybe get a chance to work with Jeff). Isn’t life fun?

          • Yes, I hear what you’re saying, Radagast. It isn’t a good time for anyone in the workplace.

      • WenatcheeTheHatchet says:

        I’m somewhere between Damaris and Radagast on this one. I spent nine y ears working in non-profit and it was not, to put it mildly, a sector dominated by young men. If young men have no outlets for a quest for glory this is not necessarily because there are no things for young men to do, it’s just that a lot of opportunities are going out onto well-trodden paths. Volunteerism and the ambitions of young men (some of them must still have them) don’t always mesh. Volunteering at the city symphony and helping librarians there scope out obscure works published by Hungarian composers was awesome but I noticed that I was the only volunteer doing that who wasn’t a library science major.

        Let me reframe things a bit with a story about some ministries. At a certain megachurch I used to be at the sales pitch to get young men to volunteer for security was “protect the women”. The sales pitch for young men to go into childrens’ ministry was “you might meet your wife there.” The sales pitch for young men to choir was … well … hey, if you want to sing motets by Sweelinck and Tallis they’re pretty cool. Nearly all the women in the choir were married, though, so apart from music students and former music students volunteer spirit was much lower.

        It’s not that there are necessarily fewer opportunities for young guys. A lot of those opportunities are just not very sexy. I can’t say as I’ve seen the Lions Club Foundation featuring very many young guys. Philanthropic giving in generation X and Y has not been very good. I know this because my former job was to track donor giving demographics and while I could have said that the reason for this was a lack of money SOMEBODY was helping Peter Jackson’s movies make a billion dollars.

  4. Fact is I used to be in that situation. Seems like all the young ladies these days have become young Jezebels listening to all that women’s lib bull (a lie of the devil). Well some people might settle for a “second-hand bride” (if you know what I mean), and then wait for her to walk away with your life savings as child support for some kid that’s probably not even yours…but not me. No, I ordered me a woman from Vietnam.You can either go there in person and meet them yourself (they line them up for you to look at), or you can just have one delivered, If you want a good Christian then be sure to click on that box on the screen, and they have to be doctor-certified virgins in order to get in the program. (Be sure to pick an agency that screens for hymen restoration surgery, because there’s a lot of fraud out there.) Best part is, Asian women still know their roles and appreciate the feminine graces, and do go around challenging a man’s authority. So now I have a helpmeet around the house while I can focus on my work and Bible ministry, Praise Jesus!

    • This satire is so thick it almost seems real. I’m not sure if I should be offended.

    • Thing is, the obligation goes two ways. While maybe Christian men should be more willing to play the role of Hosea and show Christ-like love to our many modern day Gomers, Christian women should be taught to see being a Gomer as a shameful thing.

      • Yes, what Christian women need is more shame!

      • I know too many women who feel spiritually and emotionally crippled by past sexual sin that they feel they’re unlovable to God and to men. I don’t think the prescription is instilling even more shame in women.

        • My young adult son is dating a lovely (in all ways) young woman right now who is at times, nearly emotionally crippled with guilt over “past sexual sin” (one indiscretion with a former beau). My son, who is a virgin, could not possibly care less but he just can’t seem to make her believe him. He has come to his father and I in desperation, asking for the right words, the right approach to make her really believe him. We have nothing to offer besides the truth, which is “I simply do not care about that. It doesn’t matter to me. You matter to me.”

          I HATE the fact that Christians have made such an idol of purity. My husband and I were both virgins when we married, but 29 years later and being blessed with such a wonderful relationship, I really don’t see the relevance. Big deal. In the sense that it is no bigger of a deal than any other sin, and we sin every single day. Girls, in particular, are subjected to purity pledges, purity pendants, purity pins, purity rings, purity balls, purity weekends. . . it makes me want to vomit. As if a woman’s value is tied almost solely to the state of her hymen. Please.

          I am very saddened that this young woman, who is so lovely and has so much to offer, is ridden with guilt, which I am convinced is not a product of the Holy Spirit’s work in her life, but rather a product of the constant purity mantra, a drum that is beaten incessantly by the purity worshippers in our midst. And apparently to little avail, as evangelical young people are basically as likely to have premarital sex as non-evangelicals. I wish the people who have made such an idol of this issue would get over themselves.

    • Beautiful work Dwight! Loving it 🙂

  5. I wouldn’t mind answers to this myself.

    I’m a divorced man in my mid-40s raising a teenage son. Due to some stupidity on my part (and treachery from a relative of my ex), I ended up losing my house one month before I would have been able to close. I had nowhere to go, and Mom and Dad offered to let me stay with them until I got back on my feet. For many reasons (the economy mostly), that hasn’t happened yet. I wanted to be back on my own within a year. It’s been over three years now and I’m still here. I don’t date because I’m working full-time and taking classes for a bachelor’s in IT, but even if I did had time, who’s going to want an average-looking guy with a teenage son and a low-paying job who lives with his parents? Quiet desperation and I are very well-acquainted.

  6. Donny is on to something huge here, despite KW’s dismissal. Spend some time reading in what’s called the ‘manosphere’ or about the Men’s rRghts Movement (MRM) and you will see the problem is growing exponentially.

    Here is a post from a blog that addresses the issues surrounding marriage in today’s legal climate.

    http://hawaiianlibertarian.blogspot.com/2011/12/blue-collar-blues.html

    Lord have mercy on us.

    • The manosphere is building a poisonous narrative that has nothing to do with Christianity. It is true that the legal system does favor women, and too many women abuse that by seeking to hook up with wealthier husbands, leaving their old husbands to bear the financial risk of paying child support of that new relationship doesn’t work out. But the manosphere is advocating abandoning marriage and playing women, using them like objects. It’s a disgusting world.

      Here is where complementarianism imposes strict obligations on the husband. He is to bear that sacrifice as Christ does for the oft-straying church.

      • “But the manosphere is advocating abandoning marriage and playing women, using them like objects”

        In many quarters of the manosphere this is true, but not in all quarters. However, this is not my point in bringing it up. In a larger context it shows that this problem has been around awhile and is growing, and the excesses in the manosphere highlight the secular reaction to the trend. This reaction is rapidly making inroads into the church.

        Its a bad reaction to a bad situation, and the church has little to say except “Man up and get over it.”

    • Danielle79 says:

      I cannot speak about the tone or culture within the Men’s Rights Movement. I will say that the general point that women are afforded far more legal protections is true. This is necessary IF you are also going to keep a social and political gender system in which women are assigned to particular social roles that (politically and socially) place them at a disadvantage. (A wife who is expected to spend 10 years-her whole marriage outside of the workforce is at permanent financial disadvantage, compared to her husband.)

      If we are going to dismantle this system, then the extra protections that accrue to women should disappear with it. They will no longer be necessary. In the end, equality for women will mean no (or fewer) special protections because women will be able to exercise the same powers as men do. Likewise, men do not get to demand special social or sexual privileges AND “men’s rights” at the same time.

      Our culture will eventually need to decide what it wants.

      • Danielle79 says:

        Perhaps I should add, to what I wrote above, that I think protections should be afforded to the “primary caregiver” within a marriage (when there is one). But that standard should be gender neutral: there are now stay-at-home dads.

      • YES

  7. I notice that no women have replied to this post. I was surprised that this attitude still exists, as in Britain our culture is very different. Few men are holding out for virgin brides. I do feel that some of those posting here are quite afraid of women.

    Scripture tells us ” that all have fallen short of the glory of God..” Those girls who have had sex before marriage, did not do it alone.

    I am 57 and married, but my first husband died in his 30’s.and I was alone for over 10 years. I got very frustrated with people who told me that being single was part of God’s plan. I do not accept that God meant anyone to be alone, hence the creation of Eve. I did eventually find a Christian man who was willing to take me and my children, and in this way serve God. Most men I met were quite happy to have a relationship with out any commitment while they waited for their ideal woman. I hope they found her.
    Friendship and security mean much, deep love which grows within the relationship lasts.

    Get out there ,meet some women with children, talk to them ,God may be able to use you to bring happiness to those who have been through a rough time. You could benefit from the love of children whom you can father and give them a chance in life. It doesn’t stop you adding to the family. Also you can lead your wife deeper into a relationship with God. Pray hard over this and God will guide you, your singleness could be for this reason. I do have a friend who “bought” a wife and they are happy, but I feel uncomfortable. God created both sexes as unique human beings. He asks men to love their wives as much as they love themselves. Wives are not another possession.

    This may annoy some folk, but I hope it causes you to think deeply, look at women differently and realise how you can gain companionship and serve God at the same time.

    • Jenni, you lost me with the “I don’t think God meant for anyone to be single”, which is so clearly NOT what Scripture shows us, especially the Lord’s own words in the Gospels. You are dead wrong on this one.

      The RC Church acknowledges three perfectly valid ways to live~married, in Holy Orders [priest, brother (monk) sister (nun)]; OR as a committed single “in the world”. One is NOT better than the other, any more than vanilla ice cream is better than strawberry or Rocky Road….they are merely different ways of serving the Lord in this life. We go where we are called, and this can change over a lifetime.

      But whatever faith expression you are in, assuming the only valuable way of life is “married” is a slap in the face to the millions who live lives without a spouse. They are complete humans and Christians, not ‘half” or anything.

      Donny, thank you for this post. You speak for many men (AND women) struggling with this changing world.

  8. Donny – my heart goes out to you but what I am going to write will sound pretty heartless – for that I apologise but I suspect you would rather have the truthful response than a pat on the head so I’ll come straight out and admit to feeling irritated by the naive assumption that those of us over 40 haven’t a clue what you are having to deal with. By the time you’re 40 you’ve had to tackle more than you can possibly know. You are also less likely to dole out platitudes – maybe the reason you are so dismissive of older folk is that they are telling you truthful things you don’t want to hear?
    Stop kidding yourself – it is never easy starting out – each generation has its own particular challenges to face. You may think you are lonely with no options but try being trapped in a lonely sexless marriage with small children and no job history – that’s the story for a lot of women who have to make the best of what they have, laying down cherished dreams that will never be realised. You will never be able to guess who they are – they have got so good at hiding it for the sake of everyone else. Truth is – other people’s lives always look so much more attractive than our own and their problems always look so much easier to handle.
    What worries me most though is the overwhelming impression I get from your post
    that you are expecting other people, specifically older Christians in the church, to sort your life out for you. Instead of going to church to get your needs served, try being the one to serve other folk whatever their gender or age regardless what you get from it. Learn to serve. Get to grips with the fact now (you’ll have to do it at some point in your life) that being a disciple of Jesus is not about living the life you want when you want it – your life belongs to God so embrace the life God has given you and learn to be a disciple where you are. You can do all this alongside taking practical steps to get out of your situation – lots of good advice on ways to do this has already been given to you.
    You may declare this to be glib advice but before you completely dismiss it – ask yourself what kind of answer is going to be acceptable to you?

    • Wow, I relly don’t miss running into people like you in church

      • What exactly are you objecting to?

        • Actually Ali I agree with you and don’t see it as a church thing… I see it as a struggling to get on your feet thing without the help of an overly protective support system. I, as a young male with no attachments, and especially a college education, have the world at my feet IF I am willing to risk, to move if I have to, to compromise. I know… because I did it when I was young.

          • I agree with you that it’s not just about church but I think when you put in the ‘church’ factor it can feel even more difficult because you can feel your lack of ‘success’ down to your spiritual poverty eg you haven’t ‘heard’ God correctly so you must have done something wrong. When you know you should be joyful etc but are slowly and quietly dying inside then church can be the least helpful place to go to – unfortunately of course because it should be the place where you are valued simply for being who you are.

        • um, everything except for where you said “my heart goes out to you,” Might have been beter to stop there.

          • That is not an explanation Marie. What exactly do you disagree with?
            Do you think older folk don’t know what the younger generation are going through? Do you think this is a problem unique to the present younger generation? Do you think that other people should sort your issues out for you? Do you think that you shouldn’t make the most of what you already have? Do you think that being a Christian is about getting what you want out of life? Judging from your other posts you appear not to have a Christian faith – forgive me if I have read that wrongly – but even so, what do you expect a Christian to tell you? That God cannot be trusted? That He does not provide?
            So, I ask again, what exactly are you objecting to? What kind of answer would be acceptable to you?

  9. Excellent article. It’s a close-up of depression from one particular and growing source, and can be applied to depression from any source and among any age group.

  10. Wow! Really great.

  11. Elizabeth says:

    What struck me is that the situation is all too real AND that what is described is pretty moderate compared to some of the ‘standards’ being pushed in some areas of Christian culture. Two areas that I read a good bit about within that culture are ‘parenting’ and ‘homeschooling’ and what I see shocks me. The Patriarch Movement makes the situation described here sound very workable. This movement pushed not only single income fathers to provide, but ideally they should be self employed in some business that they can apprentice their children in…. and there should be a lot of children (think of the Duggars as an ultra example – lots of kids and when the property you rent out gets messed up, you take the kids out to help clean it up). This movement values wives that are virginal, submissive and sweet (happy is the only acceptable emotion kind of sweet), who have and care of those babies and stand in adoration of her man. How any young man can face this ideal, I just don’t know (though I guess the sheep and potatoes option might seem appealing to him).

    I’m am at home mom of three who homeschools, but if my dear husband had required a ‘stand back and let you man take care of it all’ woman, we’d not be here today. I’m the daughter of a soldier – when you grow up in a community where the dad often has to be gone for long periods of time, you see strong women all around who model the concept of ‘holding down the fort’. But ‘working’ in the sense of bringing in finances or not, from my perspective, men certainly need to stop looking for maidens to rescue and start looking for someone who can and will fight along side them.

    • “men certainly need to stop looking for maidens to rescue and start looking for someone who can and will fight along side them.”

      Exactly.

    • Danielle79 says:

      Cheers, Elizabeth. I am a product of home schooling, and I agree with your sentiments on gender roles.

      It is too bad that the patriarchal movement is such a strong voice within the homeschool community. If anything, I think home schooling can be an example of being refitting institutions to fit real needs!

  12. Thanks, Donnie B, for the transparency. I can relate. I began visiting a megachurch as a single 30 year old. I was 3 years out of college, and really just beginning to get my feet on the ground career-wise. After a short while there, I began to feel the call into ministry, and was told several times things like, “It’s not good for a pastor to be single. It’s not good for any man to be single”…”You’ll never have any credibility in ministry until you’re married”…and, “I would never want to sit under a single pastor…He could never relate to me and my struggles.”

    The church offered a singles ministry, of which the youngest member was 48 years old, and they spent a good deal of time leaf looking and going to Cracker Barrel. The college/young adult ministry was comprised of folks just out of high school. So I poured myself into serving in youth ministry, and prayed for that wife. I met someone, married in a whirlwind, and was divorced four years later. “Biblically”, the marriage was over after year one. On the Sunday morning that my divorce was announced to the congregation, a parent of a youth approached me and said, “Are you going to continue in ministry now that you’re divorced?”, followed by, “Aren’t you afraid that being divorced as a pastor will hurt your credibility?” I was confiding in a pastor a while later that I thought a certain woman was attractive, and his response was, “You know, I think you need to prepare yourself for the idea that you are going to be alone for the rest of your life. Before I met my wife, I made that decision, and I was very happy.” (He left out the fact that he and his wife married when he was 19 years old).

    Churches have a long way to go in learning to deal with people. And it’s our fault. When the focus is on increasing attendance and giving, buildings, money, music styles, and figuring out how to balance the sentimentality and rigidness of the older elders with the enthusiasm and fluidity of the younger deacons, it’s no wonder that human beings get left out of the equation.

    I can remember as a kid, our pastor and his wife coming over late on Saturday nights to play cards and drink coffee with my parents. My mom, now approaching 80 and homebound, recently had a pastor who was in his 50’s who refused to visit her alone because she is single (a widow). So, he would come with another man. He came twice in 5 years to see her. Her new pastor visits more often, and even offers her communion in the home, and I thank God for it. She feels acknowledged and remembered.

    Maybe that’s the key, to acknowledge people and embrace them where they are; to join them in their pain and suffering, their joys and delights; to do what Jesus did…”The word became flesh and dwelt among us.” I think it was Walt Whitman that once wrote, “I do not ask the wounded man how he feels; I become the wounded man.” I believe that this is our key problem as pastors and church leaders…We do not wish to allow ourselves to be close to the wounded, for fear of their wounds, and fear of being wounded ourselves. Perhaps, too, we fear that some of our own scars might be exposed if we unravel those white robes of perfection we wrap ourselves in.

    • “Before I met my wife, I made that decision, and I was very happy.” (He left out the fact that he and his wife married when he was 19 years old).”

      Ahahahaha! I love it! I swear most of the “advice” on how to be single as a Christian always came from those who married young. I always wanted to say “thanks, I’m sure that would have been helpful were I still 17.”

      • MelissatheRagamuffin says:

        Marie, do you have a blog? I would totally read it. I like your comments. I’m starting to think you’re my sister from another mother or something.

        • Aw thanks! I used to have a blog but I deleted it several years ago. Something about having all your thoughts from when you were younger floating around on the internet started to freak me out 🙂 If I decide to start one again I’ll let you know!

    • Totally agreed – “to acknowledge people and embrace them where they are; to join them in their pain and suffering, their joys and delights; to do what Jesus did…’The word became flesh and dwelt among us.'”

      I should have read your comment before leaving my own because you said it better than I did!

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      “You know, I think you need to prepare yourself for the idea that you are going to be alone for the rest of your life. Before I met my wife, I made that decision, and I was very happy.” (He left out the fact that he and his wife married when he was 19 years old).

      Ever noticed that everyone who says that (and “God Will Provide, Just Wait and Pray”) are already married? And usually married young and have been married for decades?

      • Exactly, HUG. As I stated earlier, we pastors often can’t relate to the trials and triumphs of the people we minister to, because we’ve never been there…and we’re too preoccupied with “ministry”, or at least what we pass off as ministry, to be concerned.

        Here’s a thought to add to the discussion. The target demographic at virtually every evangelical church is young families. Want to increase your attendance? Get young families. Want increased tithes? Young families typically have at least two household members who are bringing in income. Want people who have a circle of influence that will draw more people? Young families have other young families they socialize with, and if you can get one young family, your church will grow exponentially. Want to keep the cobwebs out of your baptistry? Offer programs that present the Gospel to the children in young families. Want folks that will buy into your ideas as a pastor, even if they’re not the best ideas, or if they’re just carbon copies of what’s happening at 2nd Baptist in the next town? Get some young families sold on your vision.

        Nobody targets singles, the elderly, or the poor. Now, they might offer a program or two…but it’s young families we count on when it comes to filling our pews. Our success as pastors is measured by how well we attract young families (hopefully better than the next evangelical church down the street).

        Here’s what I’m getting at…We have to stop measuring success as pastors by numbers. A successful ministry is a ministry that makes a positive impact in the community in which it is placed. I’m not necessarily talking about social justice, either. I’m talking about legitimately caring for people, and caring enough about them to be close to them, and share life with them. That’s the key.

  13. Some of the themes in this article align with Wendell Berry’s incisive work, The Unsettling of America.

    Berry is a Baptist agriculturalist philosopher (if I may coin a title) and sees the breakdown in true agrarian life at the root of many of our country’s problems. Farmer suicide is touched on in his book as just one of the effects of moving to a technologically based, industrial agriculture. Millions of farm workers–mainly men–have been displaced by it and had to move somewhere (usually to the cities) to find work, and the farmers who stayed are increasingly isolated from people and especially from the land itself.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the same malaise among farmers has hit Ireland as well, with the rise of industrial agriculture.

    As to the warning about single male pent up sexual energy, men must learn chastity. This is rooted in a strong Christian faith, and as a Catholic I would say, also benefits greatly from the sacraments. The longer term solution is to restore true agriculture and give men something worthwhile and masculine to do (and to be).

    • This is a topic I’ve wondered on for a bit. My parents live in rural SC and we in the big city of Charleston in a section 9 housing area. On the drive up my husband and I committed on the random, odd, over-the-top violence in the upstate. We don’t have anything like that where we live.

      While there my son and I went rabbit hunting with my father and his friends. We were approached by a guy who had his hand just down the front of his pants obviously clutching a gun. His approach was with a characteristic swagger that was decidedly not “good o’l boy” and his attitude was accusatory and defensive from the start. This wasn’t his land – but his neighbor’s and my father is very distinctive and know to all his neighbors. In short I couldn’t believe he was behaving in such a stupid manner.

      Afterward my son and I talked about it. He wanted to know what the guy had to prove. Why didn’t he get a shot gun and join us? Why threaten a 88 year old man – who looks every year of that? Who is this guy?

      Hmm. Single wide trailer, specializes in unregistered handguns sold under the table (don’t ask how my dad knows), makes little money, no future, no country sense – doesn’t try to plant, hunt, or make moon shine. My father says there are a lot of these guys around the upstate. He doesn’t understand how the boomers didn’t pass on any “common sense” to this generation. However it happened – its leading to a lot of pent up and exposed anger and frustration in his community.

    • YES Devin. As a de facto Kentuckian, I have read Wendell’s work pretty intensely and find him to be one of our most able philosophers. While not Catholic, I have found that Catholic Social Teaching matches with Wendell’s ideas closer than other Church’s theology.

      I also agree with you about chastity being a valuable spiritual discipline. As a Protestant, I say that we have very few tools to work with in that regard, and we desperately need them today. Unfortunately I have found that if you talk about the virtue of celibacy, spiritual disciplines (like fasting), keeping the Church Year, the value of Sacramental Theology and so forth, a lot of people will assume you’re sinking into Popish superstition and leave it at that.

      • Good points Ben. I was a Baptist before becoming Catholic, and one we approached these spiritual disciplines was through a “toolbox” class, which made it clear that these are tools to sharpen us for being more effective in God’s service and dedicated to Him.

        But yeah the push-back is strong, unfortunately. Doesn’t make sense, since, for example, Jesus was celibate and it seems from 1 Cor. 7 that Paul was, too.

        Wendell Berry is awesome: I hope he lives another ten years and keeps writing.

  14. I know I will be accused of being a blasphemer for even suggesting this, but perhaps it would be helpful for Donny to re-examine the tightly held constraints around human sexuality that is so boldly waved as a banner of moral superiority by all things Christian. “We are good Christians, so therefore we don’t have sex until marriage and then, only for the sake of pro-creation.” First of all, we are a bunch of hypocrites for even claiming this as the Christian message when so many of our Christian “leaders” stray so far from this path. Second of all, I can no longer be sure that this is really what God intended, especially when I look at the science and biology of our sexual urges. Riane Eisler, in her book, “Sacred Pleasure” would suggest that these kinds of constraints on human sexuality come out of a “Dominator” model of society, with the sole intention of maintaining power and control over those who are not in power. In the Partnership model of society, which she theorized pre-dates the Dominator model and supports peace and harmony within societies that embrace the Partnership model, sexuality is treated much differently. Sexuality is treated as sacrament – as way that we grow in communion with God and with the Divine that lives in and through us. Sexuality becomes a sacred expression of our relationship with God and our desire to live that love in our intimate human relationships. From this perspective, sexuality is no longer something to be feared, neither is it something to be suppressed or repressed, and it is certainly not something to be judged as “moral” or “amoral”. Instead, the question is, “How does my sexual expression help me to grow in my relationship with God and in harmony with other human beings?” Some important points to ponder.

    • I kind of agree. I would much rather these men just have sex then marry the first girl who says yes and then spend the rest of their lives making each other miserable. Even as an agnostic I still see the value of having some people living lives of celibacy, and even more being celibate for a period of time, but I don’t really think that’s valuable for everyone. Sometimes I hear Christian men like this talk like they’ll die if they don’t marry soon and I just want to tell them to just get laid already. It really will be okay, and you might not be so sex-obsessed in making life-altering decisions. But I understand this won’t be a popular opinion on this site 🙂

      • I so agree. I married really young, both my wife and I were virgins. It was six long, terrible years. We were in no way compatible, but because we were super pressured to wait for sex till marriage we got married very quickly. Mainly, (as we both came to the same conclusion) so we could finally have sex. (There was more to it, but really we ignored a lot of that because we wanted some action). My brother’s marriage is falling apart for similar reasons, (married too quickly, too young).

        I have a girlfriend now. We are sexually active, and to be honest it is really good and I am happier than I have been in a long time. I don’t know but I agree with Marie above dont’ take it too seriously, use protection and just relax.

        • I have never understood why fundementalists treat sex like they do…. People are biological living mammels. By denying them sex, its kind of like denying them air or water. People are sexual by nature, and its good to be sexually active. That statement alone may piss some people off here. But I stop and think of all the people who lectured me and everyone else about “Biblical dating, sex, etc…’ who said one thing and did another. I was very surprised…. So my feeling is that sex is normal and healthy. Practice it, be smart, wear protection, be careful who who date…but there’s nothing wrong with being sexually active.

          • Woo hoo! I can’t wait to tell my children that one, especially my girls…. Eagle if one day your path leads you to have children of your own, your view may be slightly different than the one you hold today. In my radical long haired crazy man days I held that view as well… ; )

        • Topher, it seems to me that essentially what you are saying is: I tried approach A to life, and it didn’t work, therefore it isn’t correct. Now I am doing approach B and it has brought me personal happiness and contentment, so it must therefore be the truth!

          Consider that maybe the definition of sexual “sin” suffers more from over-stigmatization than it does from stringency. And your personal experience is not the ultimate litmus test for truth. My wife and I were also married virgins and it is working out great for us, about 4.5 years in. Your marriage didn’t simply fall apart just because you were too young when you married: I know too many who have made it work. It is certainly tougher, but not impossible. Marrying quickly, though, nearly always causes problems.

          I would just be careful about declaring whatever brings your personal (or instant) satisfaction to be the ultimate ethical norm. That is a pandora’s box, not to mention a trivialization of other virtues such as patience, self control, and self sacrifice.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          “Marriage of Continence” — formal term for a marriage entered into only to legalize the sex and that’s it. You can see how this could unravel real easily, and yet it is often the result of Christianese culture high-pressure. Where the only thing that matters in a marriage (told me in so many words) is Perfectly Parsed Theology. Where “Married” is Christianese for “Getting Laid”. And you’re not allowed to sit at the grownups’ table with the other grownups unless you’re married. Put all these together and you’ll grab for the first opposite-sex single you come across, no matter what.

      • Agreed Marie. As an agnostic I wholeheartedly agree!!! 🙂 Plus I find it amusing how those locked in relationships are calling the shots for those not in relationships. I have been more than amazed to find out (after the fact of course…) as to how many never practiced what they preached during dating, courtship, etc..

    • Elizabeth says:

      Well I’m sure there are plenty of young men who would love for that kind of thought process to work – ‘hey sweetheart, let me help you grow in your relationship with God’ – and all of them better stay far away from my daughters (and my son as well, for that matter!). Yes sex is beautiful and sacred, precisely because it is intimate, not ‘a growth tool’, unless that growth is a baby bump (no that does not mean I think sex is for procreation only, but if it leads there, it is best with parents who love and are committed to each other, not ‘growth partners). The idea of married sex is all about being vulnerable to one another and protecting one another (hence the repusion over Driscoll et al) – the ‘divine’ within me chooses to honor the standard of mutual support and protect God established. Allowing someone to be so physically and emotionally vulnerable with absolutely no committment to protecting them is defling the sacred.

      • Thank you. The reason sex is the realm of the married according to God is that making love usually makes babies, who need a stable and secure two parent home.

        Mostly-reliable contraception is only several decades old, and even the most effective methods can and do fail (as a former Maternity nurse, I have some incredible stories about babies who were determined to enter this world!)

        Like most of His rules, this one is protect humans from pain, not cause it.

        • Actually, contraception, when used properly, is pretty dang effective. And if your reasoning against premarital sex relaly is based on the notion that sex–>babies, then perhaps Christianity’s warnings against it really are outdated.

          It made sense in the past to prohibit extra-marital sex because it protected women (who could not provide for themselves and whose reputations might be destroyed) and children (in a time where there was no legally mandated child support, no government or privately-funded social programs, and few men willing to take care of another man’s child). All of this is largely irrelevant today, particularly in light of the availability of birth control. Most people have learned not to judge a woman’s character by her sexual history.

          If you’re smart about it, having sex isn’t really that risky anymore.

          So if you’re going to make the argument that pre-marital sex isn’t okay for Christians, you need to find another reason. Non-Evangelicals have been much better at articulating other reasons, and they rang true for me when I was still a Christian and not having sex, but I don’t think a reconsideration of some of those explainations would be out of order.

          • No, sex=babies is not my argument. Sex is about more than reproduction, as I said several times. It’s about vulnerability, emotionally and physically. When a person has made themselves vulnerable to the level of intimacy of sex and then find out while they were ‘making love’ the other person was ‘getting some’ and then talked about it to all his guy friends,…… no, not safe or protected or loving or…. not sure how that works in the ‘spiritual growth via sex’ perspective.

            As for the Non-Evangelical agruements against, I presume they follow a similar path of ‘because God said not to’ pattern. If YOU would like to articulate them, please feel free.

            And just an aside, I have a masters degree in anthropology – so I know just a little bit about culture (past and present) and cultural standards / ethos beyond my Protestant doorstep and still say that ‘personal growth through sex’ sounds like a very bad pick up line. As a matter of fact, I wonder how many people who have been sexually abused within a religious setting have heard something along those lines – mixing spiritual and sexual abuse. Seems like David Korresh of the Branch Davidians helped his female follows to grow via this method.

          • “When a person has made themselves vulnerable to the level of intimacy of sex and then find out while they were ‘making love’ the other person was ‘getting some’ and then talked about it to all his guy friends,…… no, not safe or protected or loving”

            I agree completely. This was never what I was advocating. Two people should never have sex under false pretenses. I personally don’t care if two people hook up as long as both are fully aware of what it is and is not and both want it anyway, but even that isn’t what I (or I’m guessing Lauri) was talking about. There is a huge difference between some frat boy saying what a girl wants to hear to get her into bed and a mature, adult couple who communicate well but aren’t sure about marriage yet mutually deciding to incorporate sex into their relationship. I’m sure you can see the difference. You may not think it’s moral, that’s fine, but surely you see that that’s a completely different situation and that sex outside of marriage does not have to be about manipulation or taking advantage of someone…plenty of women want sex too and don’t have to be presssured into anything.

            And no, the non-evangelical argument that I was talking about has nothing to do with “God said not to”, but I really wasn’t trying to insult you (I was actually responding to Pattie, not you) it has more to do sex within marriage being a strong symbol directly tied to the idea of Christ and the Church.

            I think you’re focusing on the idea of sex helping people grow in their relationship with God a little too much. I’m not sure how much Lauri meant for that to be the point (and hey, it might still be an idea worth discussing) but that idea weirds me out a little too. I don’t think (at least I didn’t mean for it to be) that’s the main point of this conversation.

      • Amen Elizabeth!

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        ‘hey sweetheart, let me help you grow in your relationship with God’

        Elizabeth, that is right up there with “Wanna go up to Heaven, because I’m the Rapture Man” and a couple literally unprintable Really Bad Pickup Lines.

        • WenatcheeTheHatchet says:

          Meatwad would say:

          “You sicken me with your lies. You insult what little intelligence I have.” 😉

          They’re printable HUG … just probably not here.

  15. Does anyone sit down with older folks that went through the depression, or with people that have gone through very poor environments?

    Work two jobs, while going to school, with a wife an kids – making too much for welfare. No such thing as a mortgage to fall back on in order to buy a house. Saving pennies for 30 years, until finally they obtain some goal.

    I know of a couple people having done this. I can imagine something of their response to something like this. The nicer response is something along the lines of when you get knocked down you get back up again – plan and persevere.

    • Pain and suffering are in endless supply. It’s not a contest. According to Donny, Christian mores and expectations have placed a new and particular burden on young males, which the rest of the church would do well to understand. “I can top that” should not be your first response.

  16. If you’re going home to a “small, lonely apartment,” then for heaven’s sakes move out of there and find a place you can share with at least 2-3 other Christians close to your age. I’m a single 20-something, but I’ve always lived with housemates – I don’t think I could survive otherwise. Living alone is about the fastest way to spiral down into depression, unless your job involves such constant, positive human interaction that your greatest need outside of work is for solitude. There’s great wisdom in the Orthodox policy that anyone in ministry who is not married must be living in Christian community, and I think it applies to laypeople as well.

    • True. And the rent is cheaper, which also helps to alleviate the economic issues Donny’s getting at. (Although I say this as someone currently living by myself.)

    • Out here in Washington D.C. the rent is through the roof. For a 2 to 3 bedroom apartment you are looking at close to $2,000 to $2,500. People out here either shack up to reduce costs or they get roomates and split the cost.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Just be careful “housemates” don’t degenerate into a Mooch-and-Sucker show.

  17. This was very well written and makes some important points, but I can’t help feeling frustrated with it. This whole thing seems to be based on the assumption that Christian men SHOULD be able to provide for a family before they marry, and that drives me crazy!

    I know there are many women out there who say they’re looking for that in a man, but honestly I think that most of them say that because they’ve been told that’s what they should look for and don’t actually believe they’ll be able to find a Christian man who wants an equal partnership. Believe me, if you as a man actually want an equal partnership and are able to convey that to the women around you, many of them will not think twice about your financial situation.

    I’ll admit that living with your parents throws an extra wrench in the mix…as some who has had to do that during my 20s to make it, I understand that it’s a special kind of hell that makes dating near impossible, but aside from that, Christian men seriously need to get over the idea that their income matters more than their mind, personality, or heart. It doesn’t.

    One of my biggest frustrations in dating when I was still a Christian was that so many of the men I dated seemed to be looking for “A Wife” and in the process would forget that I actually existed, even while sitting in a restaruant with me. It finally got to the point where if I was on a date and the guy started talking about his financial plan, I would just cross him off my list and write him off as someone who wanted a wife and mother, not a partner. I was looking for a partner, not a provider. If these men could have just stepped outside of the church’s prescribed roles for a moment, they might have been able to see that.

    Seriously, read books, learn, discover who you are and what you love, work on your character and personality, and actually get to know the women around you and show them that you care about who you are. You’ll discover that most of us work too, and that we plan to continue working, and that if you combine two meager incomes, you get a slightly larger income, and things will be okay. If you look for an independent woman who wants a partner not a daddy, you really will be fine without your finances in order.

    • Great set of thoughts especially with the emphasis on “complementarism.”

      Until recent times, there was a great deal of work done by wives and part of what was factored into a marriage decisions was the woman’s ability to manage a home and all that went with that. The reality is that kitchen gardens, basic herbal medicines, chickens, cleaning, sewing, and house cleaning and maintenance take tons of time and lots of skills – this is daily. Women were more often than not valued for their skills just as men were. We are dealing with a shift in what our culture values as work and this is a contributing factor to our malaise.

    • Danielle79 says:

      +100

      I commented about this a little bit, above.

      Perhaps I should add the biographical detail that when I met my husband, he worked at a parking garage and lived in his parent’s basement. But this did not especially matter: I knew he had strong interests, I believed he was going to continue with his career training, and we were great together. And I just needed a partner, not breadwinner-professional-perfection. I was, after all, well on my way to becoming this very thing in my own right. I knew we were both reasonably diligent and together would be able at least to survive and do a few worthwhile things.

      I did not need, nor did I want, a man who had already arrived at the price place he wished to be in life, had the world all figured out, and just needed someone to make him happy and rear a few kids. Although I hope that I will accomplish some of those things, too.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      One of my biggest frustrations in dating when I was still a Christian was that so many of the men I dated seemed to be looking for “A Wife” and in the process would forget that I actually existed, even while sitting in a restaruant with me.

      Because of Salvation by Marriage, where you’re not a REAL Christian Man unless you have “A Wife”. Where any man who is still single at the ripe old age of 30 HAS to be a Perv. Where the pressure to marry RIGHT NOW is incredible. Where you get Married for no other reason than to legalize the sex, when the goal is to be A Married Christian and the girl/woman is just the necessary piece of equipment.

      And the women are just as bad. Instead of boy-crazy girls trying to pop their cherry/break their melon, you get marriage-crazy Christian girls throwing a net over the Perfect Christian Husband — usually a Christianese Spiritual Giant so Holy and Spiritual that even Christ himself couldn’t measure up. (You would not believe the non-negotiable “what I’m looking for” requirements on Christian Dating Service profiles.) Going for the M.R.S. degree at Bible College, “Ring by Spring or It’s Too Late”. And where being single at the Ripe Old Age of 25 is the Unpardonable Sin.

      • “And the women are just as bad”

        I don’t know, HUG. I mean I know there are some circles where this is true (particularly Christian colleges) but that hasn’t ever been my experience. I think there are many Christian women in more complementarian circles who (righfully) see marriage as the end of their independence and therefore take much greater care in selecting a partner…someone they’d be willing to “submit” to. It’s a little less scary trying to find someone who will submit to you and rais your kids than it is finding someone you’ll be willing follow in everything…just guessing.

        • MelissatheRagamuffin says:

          +1

          I always said I would not marry unless I was really really really sure I could put up with the other person for the rest of my life. Now, I’m 40 and still single.

          I’ve been seeing a brother from another one of our meetings for awhile now. He was lamenting that we did not meet eachother earlier in life (IE young enough to have kids). I told him honestly that if I had met him in my 20’s that I don’t know that I would have appreciated him the way he deserves to be appreciated. I think that I had to go through certain things including bad and abusive relationships, so that I would know to treasure the good I have with him. I wouldn’t be surprised it it wasn’t the same for him. Sometimes it really is all about timing.

          And oddly enough I have a couple of guy friends who had long since relegated me to the friend zone who seem really upset that I’m suddenly not available.

  18. I don’t necessarily disagree with this assessment. I have to wonder, though, was there ever a time when young people didn’t feel a sense of crisis and lostness to some extent in history? Is it part of our ideal of seeing pastors as fixers or problem solvers that we judge the job a pastor does based on his understanding of the current crisis of the age?

    I guess I’ve come to the conclusion that there are simply limits to what we can solve as humans. The concept guiding the great Enlightenment project is that Reason will lead us to solve all of our issues. I think we’re seeing now that the underlying assumption in this project is false to a large degree. Of course some of the problems relating to sickness and disease and quality of life have been solved, but we still trapped in our human condition. I guess when I see article like this that describe big systemic problems, I wonder what the author is hoping for in the terms of endgame.

  19. Wow…this post with the responses are a fantastic read – so many different viewpoints from so many generations and cultural places to consider!

    I am young (26), and so do not have much experience or wisdom in life. I am recently (less than 2 years) married. I have no idea how the world and family are supposed to work. With those qualifications preceding…I would like to add my voice to the conversation and suggest that an incarnational response is appropriate for someone who is experiencing pain in any of its forms. Is this not Paul’s encouragement in Galatians 6?

    1-3 Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.

    This, as opposed to the evangelical culture which shoots out clean, sanitized lists of the 12 steps to a healthier marriage or how to raise children properly. Or singles ministries where lonely people are quarantined off from the general population. I would suggest that being a friend to someone experiencing pain is better than having all the answers . Just how many answers do we legitimately have anyway?

    Lord have mercy, as the things I am speaking of I do not do myself!

    • Kudos to Matt, you are one of the first in this comment section to address Donny’s church-related question by referencing scripture as well as experience.
      It is interesting in Corinthians that Paul’s response to distressing times is to recommend not changing your marital status, unless you’re really horny. That advice won’t sell many books. One might conclude that Paul has a low view of sexual fulfillment, compared to the emphasis in our culture (including Christian culture). Or, it is possible that our church culture has a low view (compared to Paul’s experience in the early church) of the loving, creative and fulfilling ways we can all live in true community (koinonia).
      At the beginning of the recession, Chuck Bomar at collegeministrythoughts(dot)com encouraged his grad friends to break out of the cycle of passive despair of waiting for a job, and try some creative service in the community. I recommend checking it out.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Or singles ministries where lonely people are quarantined off from the general population.

      Matt, that’s a great way of putting it. If you’re not married, you’re quarantined off in a special area where none of the Real Christians can get your cooties, and you’re only released from quarantine when you marry and finally become a Real Christian, all Focused on Your Family. As one comment on the subject years ago put it:

      Tuesday Night : Alcoholics Ministry
      Wednesday Night: Singles Ministry
      Thursday Night: Homosexuals Ministry

      And this also explains the high divorce rate among Evangelicals. You’ll do anything — including marry the first one that comes along, regardless — to get out of quarantine and be accepted.

      • Maybe evangelicals should listen to Nirvana-come as you are…but wait its not christian. But im sure they have a watered down “EXCEPT CHRISTIAN(TM)” version somewhere :/

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          They probably do. Cheezy “Just like… Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!” knockoffs of just about everything on the other side of the Christianese event horizon are one of my guaranteed rant subjects. You see them for just about EVERYTHING (now including sex toys) and they are almost always cheap cheezy knockoffs of the original.

          Evangelicals have succeeded in sealing themselves off in their own little bubble, coming out only for drive-by prosletyzing sallies or Culture War attacks. Just as you can go from birth to death in parts of Los Angeles without ever needing one word of English, so you can go from Altar Call to Rapture/Homegoing without ever having to actually encounter anything Heathen(TM).

      • Well given fundagelicals track record with AIDS its only appropriate they apply that logic to singles, gays, alcoholics, etc… Why should people be surprised HUG?

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          I like the image used by another commenter in this thread: “Then you get married and are allowed to sit at the grown-up’s table at church.” THAT says it all.

          Also, in my experience marrieds usually don’t associate with singles; my writing partner is a rare exception. When I was in my twenties, one by one all the Cal Poly Gang got married except for me — First Bob & Nancy, then Jim & Cindy, then Paul & Janet… I’d known these guys for the past several years, and noticed from the moment they said “I Do”, suddenly I was on the other side of an invisible barrier, on the outside looking in. Marrieds associate with other marrieds, singles associate with other singles, and that was that.

          • That’s why some Christians do as I do: If a church has a single’s group, especially if when you first visit all anyone ever tells you is that they have a single’s group and you oughta go, RUN. Don’t go to that church. It’s a sign that the church doesn’t know how to deal with Christians unless they fit into neat little boxes, and your box is “single.”

            The last three churches I attended had no singles’ groups, and were fine with that. Occasionally someone would think, “Do we need one?” and since I’m a single guy, they’d pick my brain about it. My response is always, “No; you may mean well but they always turn into meat markets; they give the church an excuse to force ‘losers’ out; it’s time wasted that people could be using to plug into one of our many other groups; and if you started a singles’ group I would never go.” Works well.

          • Some of us married people loathe the segregation of people along marital lines as well and when we object we’re made to feel that we are hankering after the single life so there is something wrong with us. (We still don’t go to them – amazingly we’ve actually managed to stay married really!) The more people who object to these forms of segregation in church communities the better and don’t even get me started on segregation on gender lines. Why Christians feel the need to tidy everyone up into little boxes will forever be beyond me.

  20. Interesting post. Being a single Christian in adulthood when you aren’t called to be single is hard. I’m a divorced mom in my early 40s. I attend a wonderful church but it’s very family oriented. There are perhaps a dozen or so of us single moms and a couple of single men. Most of the people in my church are married and quite a few of them married young or have been married long enough that they have forgotten what it is like to be single. I have been on the receiving end of some really lame advice because of that. My personal favorites were that I must be looking in the wrong places like I was going around overturning rocks desperately looking for any man I could find or the variations of the God will bring the right man to you as if God was a dating service or Cupid.

    On the other hand, as a single woman I have a problem with the “Peter Pan” syndrome that seems to be prevalent with a lot of single men today. I’m not looking for a man to provide for me. I have a decent job that I have had for over a decade. My ex husband is a good father and pays child support and does his share to support the kids. I like my job, I like to work and in the economy today it is a reality that in many marriages both parties need to work outside the home. I’ve pretty much given up on trying to date the last couple of years. Because the vast majority of single men I encountered in their mid 30s to mid 40s either didn’t share my values at all and were just looking for the hookup or they were living at home with their mama with no job. I don’t want a man to support me but I don’t want to support a man either. I have children and I don’t want another one in adult form. If I’m going to marry a man I need to be able to respect him and that’s not going to happen if I feel like he was looking for a sugar mama.

    It is a tough economic climate. I have a job that puts me in contact with people who are out of work on a daily basis. Many of them are diligently looking for work and are unemployed through no fault of their own. On the other hand many of them are not in that category.

    I don’t know what the solution to the problem is but that’s how it looks from my side of the equation.

  21. I can remember feeling much like Donny B. describes about 10 years ago. But now that I’ve passed 40 and I’m still single, I fear that I’ve become so set and comfortable in my singleness that it will take a very unique kind of woman to lure me out of bachelordom. I used to often daydream of having a different life with a wife and kids — but I don’t dream that dream much anymore. And I used to pray and pray and pray that God would send someone across my path. Somewhere along the way, I stopped praying for that.
    Bitter truth be told, I fear I’ve allowed the part of me that loves independence and flees from taking on responsibility regarding other people’s lives – basically, the selfish part of me — to gradually win out over that man who ten years ago would have been willing to sacrifice anything to have his own family.
    But that’s not really true. Even back then, I let some perfectly good opportunities pass me by for selfish, shallow reasons, and now I guess I’m just bitter because the opportunity well has seemingly dried up.
    i haven’t given up hope entirely, but I’ve seen the marriages of so many friends go south over the years that I’m more than half afraid to even hope — afraid I might get what I’ve hoped for all my life and then have it stripped away from me. I fear that would completely destroy me.
    And that makes me think of Christ’s willingness to put it all on the line and allow Himself to be completely destroyed out of love for selfish losers like me — and how it takes that kind of sacrifice, that kind of death to self in order for new life to spring up.
    I believe this — but, right now, I’m stuck. To go on like this for the rest of my life seems unthinkable, but going on this way one day at a time has become entirely too easy and familiar.

  22. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    For the conscientious minority, however, a different (and, arguably, even more dangerous) problem is on the horizon: they are going to find themselves part of a swelling tsunami of single, sexually frustrated male adults in an institution that has, historically and in contemporary times, had no idea what to do with them.

    Historically, when a tribe or country has “a swelling tsunami of single, sexually frustrated male adults”, the usual solution is a War of Conquest. As well as gaining an influx of females by right of conquest, the body count among the young males ease the problem.

  23. The classic response to sexual frustration used to be redirection–to study, to art, to literature, to exercise or hunting or other interests and hobbies. That advice is probably ineffectual to those that burn.

    Another approach is to chuck abstinence out the window (or bend it as far as it will go). That advice is probably not that useful either to those who can’t find a partner or could be harmful to one’s sense of ethics or one winds up just using another for sexual release (or even deceiving the other).

    It can be hard to find a normal person (someone without a huge amount of neuroses or personal baggage) with which to actually fight the struggle for existence as a partner, and frankly, religious institutions may not be the best place to look for one.

    If clinical depression has set in, medicine will be a better option than any other advice.

    Living with parents can be beneficial to both sides. Most of us are fortunate enough to have good relations with our parents. Games, movies, and just plain out sharing and talking are good things to engage in that will leave behind memories after out parents are gone.

    I guess I’d say most of all, the benefit of being young is that one can find a passion. Is it music? Art? Literature? Science? Public libraries are full of books on all those things and more. If you are living in an isolated area, take a look up at the stars on dark nights. Aren’t they amazing?

    Honestly, though, you may not find anyone. People are choosing never to marry in greater numbers. But that doesn’t mean no friendships (why don’t those isolated farmers engage with one another?), especially in a day of facebook and other social media. It doesn’t mean no engagement with the wider world, and if those voices of over 40 Christians (Mohler perhaps) bother you, tune them out. One of the real advantages of Protestantism is there is no Pope. Not one of the talking heads of Evangelicalism has any claim of ownership over anyone or any claim of superiority to you.

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      “Another approach is to chuck abstinence out the window (or bend it as far as it will go). That advice is probably not that useful either to those who can’t find a partner or could be harmful to one’s sense of ethics or one winds up just using another for sexual release (or even deceiving the other).”

      Why are you assuming that a partner is necessary? We are talking, after all, about dealing with sexual frustration.

      • cermak_rd says:

        well sure. there’s always Rosey, but I would have assumed that was part of abstinence, to be honest. Certainly in all my experience, I have never known anyone who actually thought that the practice was against chastity (I know the LDS do and some tradCaths, but none of the people I actually know).

  24. Thank you for this post.
    It’s good to know what is going on.
    I have no solutions. But being aware is much better than being ignorant.

  25. Matt Purdum says:

    A lot of good comments and a lot of prideful comments based on doctrines and ideologies. The churches need to understand what the forces are that are destroying marriage in our culture, and it’s not the gays. It’s consumerism, the Wall Street gangsters, the corporate CEOs, and the war profiteers. They need to be held accountable by a church that confronts the powers and principalities of this world, a church that hungers and thirsts for righteousness. Jobs can be created. Family life can be nurtured. But most American churches are too hypnotized by consumerism and capitalism. They end up defending the very forces that are making marriage and family increasingly impossible for millions in our culture. We also need to jettison bourgeois concepts of marriage and family. Having housemates seems to me essential for young, unmarried men. But that’s only a start. When God’s people meet on Sunday morning, the villains in our culture — mentioned above — should be shaking with fear. Instead, they’re pleased to see prosperity churches and political churches filled, because they know no one will pay attention to the way capitalism is destroying our culture. Blame will be misdirected at gays, immigrants,and other powerless, vulnerable groups. “When you gonna wake up, and strengthen the things that remain?”

    • Matt sorry if I am clued out here, but who said it was the gays?

      I have known some marriage failures amongst close friends and they had nothing to do with sexual orientation, and more to do with people not able to work things out.

      • I think he’s referring to the common argument against civil unions/marriage for homosexuals that runs, “It will weaken heterosexual marriage.”

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        They’re the Other who always get blamed for Destroying Our Christian Marriage. Handy target for Christian Culture Warriors, near or at the top of the hit list.

  26. I don’t know what to say to all this. In some ways I believe evngelicalism has put too many constraints or at least notions to live up to on the average evangelical and they are afraid to step out of the box.

    I find myself agreeing with those posts on here that are seemingly unpopular. From my experience I had to grow up, get away from the drug scene, move to an area where I didn’t have roots, starve for a while because I didn’t make enough, not date any women for almost two and a half years (because of the men to women ratio in the area). In the end I straightened things out, went back to school, worked my @ss off, and eventually met someone when I wasn’t looking. I have much respect for the earlier generation.

    What have I seen lately? For those coming out of school (and I have done hiring/firing) I see an attitude of wanting what their parents (and myself) took years to obtain – NOW. I see an attitude that says “I shouldn’t have to work this hard, pay my dues, etc” or I see those who believe an honest trade is beneath them. I see many who have never experienced failure because mom and dad paid for everything.

    At a child/teenage level I see lots of kids who are not expected to do anything except succeed – no chores, no responsibilities, in environments where they are protected from failure. I see alot of parents and grandparents putting these kids up on pedistals, from kudos to material over-indulgence so that they come to feel entitled to all the earlier genreation has worked for.

    So my feeling is this: for me and my generation we had to break out of the drug culture and the narcissism that went with it. For this generation you have to break away from social media, video games and put yourself out there. The more exposure you have to real people the better the chances of meeting someone. And the other thing that doesn’t make sense – there seems to be a sexual frustration because one is not meeting a woman with all the items checked on the evangelical list, yet there are women out there that you want to go have sex with… am I missing something? It rings of narcissism all over again.

    The other point is that things change. For the first time in 30 years it is hard to find a job, and from the economic outlook it could be this way for a long time. The Church is not going to solve this issue or the issue of being able to marry a virgin. Your faith is going to help you through the rough spots but I will be perfectly blunt and say there will be times when things will get so tough you might even forget about your faith. There’s no magic pill for this except perseverence and there shouldn’t be an expectation that the Chuch solve this issue.

    My two cents…..

    • Yes!
      I’m the mother of a 10 year-old son and a 9 year-old son. This problem starts young with boys, I can tell you. Video games, lack of exercise, lack of motivation. I’m terrified already and my boys aren’t even in their teens.

    • Can we get together with our spouses for dinner some time??? You sort of took the words out of my head.

      I know that old foogies have been ragging on the young since ancient Greece, but there is a lot of truth in your post, Brother R!

      Electronic toys, a condo with granite countertops, dinner out three times a week, the matching furniture from Pottery Barn…these are NOT the basic neccesities of life! We had a sheet thrown over a moving box as a nightstand, used furniture, the standard concrete block and board bookshelves and shag carpet in our newlywed apartment, ate our boxed spaghetti dinner on the floor, and didn’t care. EVERYONE our age was the same (for the record, this was the LAST great recession of the early 80’s) We never thought we would have what our WW II vet parents had saved for over three or four decades.

      IMHO, too many people of ALL ages see the lifestyles of the rich and almost-famous due to the media, and think THEY are the only ones doing without…..which is clearly not the truth. When all your friends have to search the car and sofa for money for a cheap bottle of wine, there is a sense of companionship, and hope for a better tomorrow.

    • cermak_rd says:

      But that’s just ranting about the kids nowdays. I’ll have to say that the ones I know seem to have decent heads on their shoulders and good relationships with their parents. All in all, they seem less bitter and cynical than my generation was (I’m a very early Gen X) at the same point in time. Maybe that’s not a good thing. Maybe starting out bitter and cynical was a useful immunization to the vicissitudes of life.

      This person specifically wasn’t asking religious institutions to fix his problems, he was simply asking the religious institutions to recognize that not everyone fits neatly into the paired off bucket. And perhaps to spend just a little bit of time on how religion can help people deal with their situations. Not fix–help them deal with it. If religion cannot help people deal with the complexity of their lives then what earthly good is it? And if it can’t at least do that, it could perhaps not enjoy shooting the wounded.

      • No, it isn’t just ranting. Or, I should say, if I had time to write more, you might get a better idea of what I’m talking about. There are cultural forces operating today that did not exist when I was young (I’m 48) and they operate on the religious and the non-religious alike. Do you have children?

      • Yes, every generation does it and every generation insists that their ranting isn’t like the previous generation’s because kids these days really are different! No they’re not, you’re just getting older and less willing to put up with it.

        Count me in with those annoyed by the cynicism of Gen X. I’d say this younger generation has demonstrated a greater willingness to grow up and take responsibility, we just don’t have a booming economy.

        • Hmmm. Yes, we stupid older folk have for generations complained about the young. I tried to state some personal fears for my sons, in response to a personal and beautifully revealing post.
          Sorry, Marie, but I see a rather ironic dichotomy between “a greater willingness to take responsibility’ and “we just don’t have a booming economy.’
          Did your friends have older brothers who showed internet porn to their little brothers’ ‘playdate’ (yes, gag) guests? One example among many from ubervigilant parents in all’s-well-with-the-economy Fairfax County Virginia.
          That’s a really low-hanging fruit argument in the ‘parents vs. culture’ war, I grant. But it’s real, and you don’t have any idea what you’ll be up against as a parent.

          • Huh? Well I wasn’t responding to your comment specifically, more to the general notion of how “”in my day, kids were never so…” which yes, every generation says and yes, it does have to do with getting older. It doesn’t mean older people are stupid–many are quite wise–it’s just really easy to forget the problems that existed when you were young. It happens with all of us.

            For one thing, older brothers have always been showing their little brothers’ friends porn, it just didn’t used to be on the internet. Again, this is not new.

            I don’t really think you’re in a position to know what I know about what I’ll be up against as a parent. First of all, I’m 30, so I’m not completely without life experience. And second, while I don’t have children of my own, I have spent years as a nanny, tutor, youth leader, mentor for kids in juvie, done contract work with foster kids, and I have plenty of friends with kids, so yes, I do know what parents are up against, and while the internet is new, most everything else isn’t.

            As for my willingness to take responsibility comment, that was meant as a contrast to Gen X, not to all previous generations, and I stand by that distinction. Do you prefer that we pretend like we aren’t living in a bad economy? That every person who is unemployed or underemployed is directly at fault and therefore irresponsible? Because I find that silly.

          • I suspect that older brothers have been showing their younger brothers and their younger brothers’ friends porno since the first pics were drawn on cave walls. Embarrassing for the parents, but probably not a sign of the end times yet.

    • My guess is that you’re just now experiencing what it’s like to work with those who grew up with money. Those with entitlement issues have always existed, perhaps you just didn’t know them. I recently went back to school and have spent the past two years with 20-22 year old college students and what you describe was not what I experienced at all. Sure, some fit your description, but overall I was impressed with the amount of hard work these young people were willing to put in.

  27. I remember when I lived in Central California after finishing college. I was 23, 24….and worked hard to try and get a job…and all I could get was retail. i had a college degree with nothing to show for it. I worked in multiple retail environments before landing a job at Gottschalks. It was a seasonal job that I hoped would turn into a longer job. I will never forget the day I was let go. It was sudden, I was told I would be paid for that last pay period over in customer service. Since I was let go they told me I needed to be off the property in 2 hours of they would call police. I guess this was the standard procedure… I went home and cried…being let go was so hard. And I was so embarrassed, and the company was just downsizing. Then I cracked into banking before getting into grad school and moving cross country. I fell into my current job though I am miserable as hell. I took it believing this was God’s purpose and will. I’m single, burned out by faith and I don’t see Christianity as an improvement to society. Questions like this remind me of how harmful it can be…

    In the past I’ve heard stories of guys who were rejected by females because “they were not good enough.” One of the contributing factors to one guys divorce was that his ex-wife expected her former husband to be like her father. When many Christian pastors talk about sex in the manner they do (Ed Youngs, Mark Driscolls, etc..) I would suggest it creates despair. When Christianity became a club…and the keys that opened the door to you revolve around marriage, having children, and being successful; you know there are problems. Many people are immediately excluded and Christianity makes many people expendable. If you are single you are disposable. If you are elderly in a culture that worships youth, you are disposable. Some of Christianity’s problems are man made. Driscoll has exacerbated this problem, but I pin this problem in part on the feet of James Dobson and those who transformed Christianity to be about marriage.

    Our culture is changing. Older Americans are holding onto jobs that young people would have gone into. I’ve heard of cases where people are postponing or doing away with retirement. I heard one guy who works for a company back here in DC tell me that PHD’s with advanced degrees are applying to be janitors in the Washington, D.C. area because they can’t get work. I’ve had a couple of friends who work in the government…they entered in their late 20’s and hoped to be full time civil servants. Now the government is cutting back, people are predicting layoffs, and they are realizing that they are vulnerable. How do you pay a mortgage if you are 29 and you are facing layoffs? Some industries are immune from an economic downtown. If you are military you are safe, and in the defense industry you are relatively safe.

    This is part of the reason why Mark Driscoll really pisses me off. Historically men face downsizing and layoffs in economic downturns. Suicide rates increase….I’m not a economist or anthropologist. I have an advanced degree in history and have read about other economic hard times. When these hard times come then you have this clown in Seattle pushing the blame to guys, holding them responsible and screaming at them? WTF?!? What do you do if you are unemployed and have sent out hundreds or resumes only to interview but are told, “sorry the position is full….” Many older people don’t get this and many pastors, especially the celebrity kind don’t get this because they are living in their own bubble. The Mark Driscoll’s of the world need a real job. Expectations need to be set for them like most employees. The need to have a boss to report to…if they did I don’t think we’d hear about half of this ^&%$ from them!!

    • Eagle,

      A couple of things… first, we do get it about the sending out of hundreds of resumes thing… because for us, once you achieve the magic age of 50 they are trying to replace you with new blood. And at 50 you will never find a job in this economy with the same income potential. So we know how you feel (and as I fast approach 50 I am trying to readjust my standard of living including modifying my children’s expectations about college).

      Secondly – I absolutely agree with you on all this evangelical sex in seven days nonsense. First of all every couple has their own frequency that is comfortable for them. To mandate sex every night or your a failure in your marriage concept – well its just unrealistic at best and psychologically damaging for those who struggle in this area at worst. Very irresponsible and let’s face it, its just an attention grabber for the preacher.

      As Pattie stated above in some traditions we have three vocations: married, single and religious. Maybe it should be adopted more widely instead of looking at singleness as a deficiency or something to be rectified.

    • WenatcheeTheHatchet says:

      Uh, not to pushback too much, Eagle, but if you’re in the military and you’re facing multiple deployments you’re not THAT safe. Stop losses have meant that people aren’t physically safe in military jobs and have been stuck in active duty in jobs that under other circumstances would have ended by now. Maybe if you’ve ascended the ranks you’re “safe” but not if you’re in the lower rungs, not by a long shot.

      • WTH…it depends where in the military you work. Infantry, front lines, you bet…. But the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Gaurd are so big that the have different parts that deal with everything. From military HR to admin, to intelligence, to morale-welfare and recreation, to maintenance, to IT, etc.. It also can depend upon whether or not you are enlisted or officer. Out here in DC there’s a heavy military presence with Ft. Belvoir, Andrews Air Force Base, and Ft. Meade. I’ve met and got to know a number of people in the milittary out here just by living life. The ones I know arn’t really concerned about downsizing or being let go. If anything it reminds them why they should avoid the private sector. The stress that people in the military deal with is muhc different. But due to the economy many people are trying to get into the milittary so they can get a paycheck, health care, etc..

        • Yes, the officer/enlisted distinction is key here. The enlisted are screwed, officers will be fine.

        • WenatcheeTheHatchet says:

          Fair enough Eagle, all the folks I know here were enlisted and in Seattle just enlisting inspires some people to view you pre-emptively as a war criminal. When someone I know heard a friend of mine was getting deployed after he and his wife had a baby the someone said, “Good, I hope he gets killed in action because that’s what Republicans like him deserve.” Even as someone who has not been a supporter of Gulf War 2 I found this off-putting.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            When someone I know heard a friend of mine was getting deployed after he and his wife had a baby the someone said, “Good, I hope he gets killed in action because that’s what Republicans like him deserve.”

            Makes you wish for a military coup followed by a blood purge, doesn’t it?

          • hmmm, I hang out in pretty liberal circles in Seattle and I’ve never heard anyone say anything like that. Most liberals I know are livid about the way the enlisted and veterans are treated in this country, from unemployment and homelessness to suicide rates and untreated PTSD, I’ve found Seattle to be pretty concerned about the plight of the enlisted. There are always ignorant people everywhere though.

          • WenatcheeTheHatchet says:

            This guy’s not usual by almost any measure, liberal or conservative. When people make statements of the sort he made, regardless of political leanings, the issue is not of politics but of a capacity for empathy.

          • WTH…I respect those in the military. I admire them, look highly upon them and am grateful for their sacrifices. Many civilians will never fully know what they owe to members of all branches of the military. I’m quite liberal on social issues, and conservative on economic issues. I do believe that the Iraq war was a mistake. But I have no problem with the Afghan war. But the true test of supporting the troops will be years after the last parade is held in Seattle for members who returned to Lewis-McCord who are dealing with employment, mental health issues, etc.. In 20 years when people don’t know what Fallujah, Helmond Province, Kamdahar, The Sunni triangle, etc.. are…will we take care of those battle scared veterans?

            We owe them a lot…we truly do. And I might add we also owe their families who sacrifice and the parents who let them go serve. But I have a high amount of respect for the military.

  28. I have often wondered whether our years of watching TV and then sunsequent teachings we have heard in the church have set us up for failure. Maybe we approach the subject of marriage with a boatload fo idealism.

    Years ago when I was single and unmarried a friend of mine told me that getting married was ‘finding someone who was crazy enough to put up with you.’

    I have known that I am a warped board pulled out of the lumber stack. I was surprised to find out that so is my wife. We have been fortunate that our warps are complimentary, and mostly work together.

    Some people view marriage as a sacrament. I can certainly say God has done a work in my life because of my marriage.

    I married in my late twenties. I do not know the answer to the questions raised by Donny. Maybe part of it is to become more practical, use a dating service or something similar.

    On the question of vocation: not all college degrees are equal. Some are great for personal fulfillment. Others will give you a great career. I have 3 of my children making those decisions now, they are leaning toward engineering and nursing, in the end, we all have bills to pay.

    But Donny, we hear the pain. I see it in my oldest son who is in his 20s and having to decide to pursue a vocation after a few years of low paying jobs in the service industry.

    Thanks for raising your voice. We need to hear it.

  29. Radagast, You have spoken truth well. We are on our own. We can chose to include Jesus in our life, but we still must do our part. Life’s abitch and then you die! That is without Jesus. A church, religeon or denomination is not the same thing. We are all sinners, how can we expect our friends to be different?

  30. If you don’t mind me asking Donny…where in Central California are you from?

  31. I was this guy for a long time, and still am to a degree, despite a recent and joyful marriage, so I will only offer an “amen” to the writer and hold back the resolutions and advice. Donny B said it.

  32. WenatcheeTheHatchet says:

    Reading all this discussion reminds me that isaiah 56 is not a passage where evangelicals in America jump and shout, “That’ll preach!”

  33. Richard Hershberger says:

    This post, and most of the comments, makes the common mistake of equating “Christian” with “Evangelical Protestant”. The church is much broader than Evangelical Protestantism, and many of the hangups discussed here are peculiar to Evangelical Protestantism. I have been in the (non-Evangelical) church my entire life. I married in my late 30s. I never got so much as a whisper of pressure to marry younger on ideological grounds. And support a family on one income? My wife makes more money than I do, and has the good health insurance. Perhaps I should be a househusband.

    • WenatcheeTheHatchet says:

      Agreed. The majority of my Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran and Orthodox friends don’t even end up having this sort of conversation. Sex may be a powerful drive but it is not necessarily so important that if you die a virgin you’re a failure as a human being or have failed to be truly human, even though this view can be common among Christians and non-Christians alike in explicit and implicit ways. A friend of mine who was once evangelical and now an atheist told me he realized that on either side of the divide the scenario of cultural expectation is still the same, if you’re not doing somebody you’re a nobody. Per my reference to isaiah 56 non-evangelicals seem to have retained some understanding that there will be, so to speak, eunuchs in each generation of believers and that there is, in fact, a place for them.

      • Even the most successful christian marraige ends “when death do us part”, leaving the surviving spouse to finish life as a single person again. In heaven, we neither marry nor are given in marriage (which I believe means we will experience a greater intimacy in heaven as the people of God than the limited experience of intimacy between husband and wife).

        So in a sense, singleness is more the norm, and marriage is the mid-life exception.

        • I think there will be sex in heaven. Call me crazy, but I think that in our Resurrected state, we’ll probably still need to reproduce, and our need for companionship will still be the same, so why not?

          Will there be marriage in heaven? No, but since when do only married people have sex?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        A friend of mine who was once evangelical and now an atheist told me he realized that on either side of the divide the scenario of cultural expectation is still the same, if you’re not doing somebody you’re a nobody.

        Main difference is on the Christianese side of the divie there’s always a ring and a wedding involved. But in many ways, “married” is Christianese for “getting laid”, with all the crazy expectations, crazy behavior, and near-identical baggage.

  34. “Think creatively” can sound cliché, so let’s unpack the underlying social and cultural assumptions in Donny’s dilemma. There seems to be a progression where one event becomes the foundation or prerequisite > leading to the next:
    Education>Living Wage Job>Money>Independent Living>Eligibility for Marriage.
    Add a pool of potential eligible life-mates (a whole other discussion on this thread!), and the progression continues:
    Eligibility>Marriage>Sexual Partner>Love and Personal Fulfillment.
    *also*
    Marriage> Sexual Partner>Kids>Proof of Maturity>Eligibility to sit at the “grownup table” in church and society>Significance and Personal Fulfillment
    Notice that in that progression, only one prerequisite (Marriage>Sexual Partner) is directly addressed in scripture. The rest of it is added by our culture, specifically our middle-class American / protestant church culture, as Richard mentions above.
    If you and can creatively think outside this cultural paradigm, all kinds of possibilities open up, including marriage.
    For example, think of how many Christians marriages occur in lower-income cultures, not only in Central California, but worldwide. (Do you know that if you had a half-time, minimum wage summertime job last year, you made more money than 80% of the world’s population? Source: http://www.globalrichlist.com . Clearly, Christians in other cultures are marrying under all kinds of financial circumstances.)

    More importantly, God has a lot to say about love, fulfillment and contentment, and it doesn’t require the prerequisites in this equation. It requires something much different, greater and more profound… including a new definition of what it means to have “abundant life”, for single and married people. In that sense, Donny’s use of “revolution” was appropriate.

    • I tend to agree with you, Steve. Certainly the poor the world over have been marrying (often very young) and getting by for thousands of years.

      But those folks are tough and they know a thing or two about survival. The typical urban or suburban Western 20-something (like myself) has little to no practical survival skills. They don’t know how to live without electricity, grow their own food, keep animals and so forth.

      We are in a spot unique in history. We are at the end of a long economic and technological boom. We’ve experienced the benefits of that boom, which have made us now incapable of handling the down-slope now that the boom is over.

  35. Wow, not sure I want to wade into this particular pool, let me hit this from another angle…

    I have a 24 year old still living at home and I’ve given up on him finding someone and making his own way out into the world. I suspect he’ll be single all his life (but he won’t be living at home much longer if I have my way), when I was his age *he* was already toddling around with a baby brother on the way. Both my boys are good young men, they just lost interest in the church when it became a side show act and we where too slow to get out. Then they lost interest in everything else, but their computers. The hard truth is that they are part of a generation that have very few options left, the work market has all but dried up, a social life is playing online games, chatting and other forms of social networking that have very little do with real human interaction. School tuition is skyrocketing, so even doing night school is almost impossible.

    Some of this is our fault, some of it is theirs, and some of it is society. But once you get here, getting out seems impossible.

    We are not alone as a parents in this, literally everyone we know who has kids at this young adult stage are facing the same situation. Some get out through military service, others get lucky and catch a break. If I could find a way to motivate my own boys, it would go a long long way to helping them help themselves. But that’s not a simple task, and they have become so jaded by the nonsense that we call church that they simply want nothing to do with anything that even remotely looks like a youth ministry. And our conversion to the RCC really caused some tense situations for a while, all we can do is live by example and pray for them.

    We thought we failed as parents for a long long time, until we started talking to other parents in the same boat. Some of this is the waste-product of our digital age, and some of it’s just generational. Danny is right about a coming change, so many of these young people have no where to turn.

    And as a parent, Danny’s letter pierces my heart…

    I can only pray that God will intervene before things get any worse, I just hope that the church wakes up and realizes what’s going on before it’s too late. Because I believe that to change something like this, it has to start in the home and in our Faith communities.

    -Paul-

    • Thank you for better expressing my thoughts. I’m not a “Humble Sinner” Who Will Pray for Your Family. I’m a real sinner, such that I often wonder whether my prayers do anyone any good, but I’ll pray for your family anyway.

  36. Hi all,

    I appreciate all of your comments. I’m glad I’ve apparently touched a nerve…it was one of the things I hoped this post would accomplish (in a constructive way).

    I was going to respond to a few individual comments that were more critical, but figured I should give a more general response in one place:

    1. It seems like many are taking this as a specific, whoa-is-me lament of my own lot in life, and that’s a bit of a misunderstanding (which is probably my fault). I’m really speaking for people my age rather than just myself. Personally, I have a job that I do love (albeit one that doesn’t pay much right now), and while my job requires a ton of travel and long hours and therefore does result in some lonely days, I’m quite optimistic about my own long-term future. But I know and have known many people (especially guys) my age who are stuck in dead ends and receive little or no empathy or mentorship from people within the church.

    2. A couple commenters pointed out that when I say “Christianity,” I’m really talking specifically about American Evangelical Christianity. They’re absolutely right; that’s my background, and I didn’t mean to generalize in that respect. It’s interesting to hear their perspectives from other denominations.

    3. I certainly don’t “expect the church to fix it,” nor do I expect “older people to sort out your life for you,” and I never said so. I’m saying that they would do well to recognize this as a growing issue within society and their individual churches. I’m not sure many of them do.

    4. Neither did I say that all earlier generations had it easier. I have a history degree myself, and I’m quite aware of the Great Depression, the 70s Recession, and how relatively good we have it these days (especially compared to those who lived through constant Black Plague epidemics in the Middle Ages, for example).

    But I also notice that we humans have a tendency to look down on younger generations and snort at whatever they’re seemingly whining about (I personally find myself doing this to high schoolers now)…but often, if we take the time to remember what it was like for us at that age, we recall that those were indeed difficult periods (even if the problems we faced then seem trivial now). I wish some older Christians would stop doing the same thing and start remembering how tough it really was for them when they were trying to start their lives. Then, I hope that they’ll find opportunities to offer practical, empathetic mentorship (and I would empathize the “empathy” part…I think many Christians are good at talking but not so good at listening).

    And I do wish that churches did more to encourage this inter-generational dialogue. It’s a two-way street, of course; many young men don’t seek these kinds of relationships out, and they’re just as much to blame for that. Perhaps I should have said all this in the article, but it’s a conclusion I only really arrived at today after reading through many of these comments.

    5. I understand older Christians’ dismay at the lifestyle and mindset of younger people these days. But I’ve read old newspaper and magazine articles where their parents were despairing over their addiction to the television, and then read articles where their parents’ parents’ clucked at how the radio was poisoning the minds of the youth…et cetera. There was probably some truth to all of it, just as there’s truth to many of the concerns now…but it doesn’t solve the problem, and it doesn’t help the individuals in question.

    In short, I’m hardly expecting older Christians and pastors to sort everything out for the younger generation. But the hyper-individual culture of modern American (evangelical) Christianity seems to have produced an attitude of mild-to-severe condescension and placid dismissal towards those who haven’t yet ticked all the apparent boxes of “Biblical manhood,” and I argue that this is not only unhelpful, but extremely damaging in the long term. I hope that things like this will begin the dialogue and correct the balance a bit.

    • History!!! HISTORY!!! 😯 I love it!!

      Donny, I would be happy to recommend a slew of great history books for you. I have a Masters in History and I do read a lot. One of the books I have lined up is David Kennedy’s “Freedom From Fear”

      I hear what you are saying, but from what I saw as an evangelical a good chunk of this won’t happen. Inter-generational dialogue won’t happen. Not in a culture that worships youth and views the elderly as disposable. I hear what you are saying…my 100 year old grandmother could tell me stories and talk to things that most people simple could not. It was unique and I don’t know many people who could offer that advice.

      I also hear you on the empthy part. I grew so sick or people saying, “suck it up…be a man.” I remember my former fundagelical missionary team leader from McLean Bible who aksed me if I suffered like Paul suffered. I had to restrain myself from decking him. But many evangelicals have no concept of empathy. That’s because they have so married the prosperity gospel to their theology….that it is inseparable. If you don’t fit in…in short one is screwed.

      But I hope that you don’t feel my comments as being critical. I can empathize…I had more dead end jobs in my life, and I fell into my current one and am still frustarted. But with little options for me its’ either…work in a job I’m miserable in or lose health coverage, default on a mortgage, etc… It’s hard to drag myself out of bed in the morning but I’ve done it for 5 years now…. Plus there is weekends!!! 🙂

      • Well, well, so there’s at least two other historians in the room, besides myself.

        How many more are there? Come clean folks! I know it’s a sad, sad addiction. But you are not alone. We are here to help.

        (You may also need help if you own more than 500 books, half of which are nonfiction volumes relating a time period dating before the last 25 years.)

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Danielle, one way to tell a fannish household (as in F&SF/gamer/whatever) is that it will be overflowing with books — all bookshelves packed, books in boxes, books on the tables, books under the bed. I regularly donate my excess to the local public library and I’m still overflowing.

          Contrast this with my parents in retirement, where the only printed matter I saw on visits was one or two supermarket tabloids.

          • What is this overflowing books you talk about? I’m sure I have no idea *shoves toppling stack back into alignment*

            >.>

            <.<

        • This is why I got a tablet and now do 80% of my reading electronically. Less satisfying than turning pages (at first) but far more practical!

        • Former history teacher here. Although the bulk of my books are electronic, so it’s easier to hide the 500+ history books.

          • History graduate here complete with groaning bookshelves.

          • I just moved to a new house, and the boxes of books were by far the biggest hassle. It definitely made me resolve to use my Kindle more.

        • Late to the thread here, but I’ve been teaching history for the last five years.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Well, well, so there’s at least two other historians in the room, besides myself.

          Make that three, though my historical knowledge can be very hit-or-miss.

        • I’ve never understood the Kindle. I mean I stare at my computer screen all day in my cube, I can’t stand the thought of staring at one on a Kindle. My fear is that I’ll become like Milton…. I have an Android and its both convenient and frustrating. But when it comes to history I love modern European, African, and American. The opening of the American west (trans-Mississippi) really floats my boat and railroad history as well. In between the theology books I consume I read a lot of history. I’ve recently finished “102 Minutes” which is about September 11 from the perspective of those inside the World Trade Center. It was a good but dark book. I have Burton K Wheeler’s autobiography to read. Man and I have so much book…stuff about FDR, Nixon, Cold War, Impeachment of Andrew Jackson, etc…

          • cermak_rd says:

            About the Kindle, I don’t have one but I use a 7″ android tablet. 7″ is small enough to be comfortable in my hands while large enough to give me enough text per screen. Back in the day I had a Rocket eReader (maybe 2003?) which I loved until the company went bankrupt. It was around the same size. I don’t really notice I’m not reading pages anymore, except that it has nice benefits like being able to read in the dark. Aldiko (one of my reader apps) even has a night/day setting. If I set it to night, it gives me white text on a black background. I simply like the idea of not having to figure out how to lovingly discard books. Also now that my library rents ebooks, it’s nicer than having to go to the library (though not so immediate it usually takes 6 months or longer to get to the head of the queue for popular or new books. Since I’m usually reading other stuff anyway it’s OK.)

            I’ve been getting into science lately. String theory, genetics, biology, ethology, particle physics, so much to understand out there. And I’ve been even fusing in an interest in history as well. Since I recently read an excellent defense of “On the Origin of the Species”, I’ve been reading it and collecting the names of other naturalists of the era so I can try to find out if they wrote anything.

          • WenatcheeTheHatchet says:

            I don’t have to wonder whether a book will still be usable after an EMP, personally.

      • I am a family historian which sprang out of my interest in history. I have lots of history books and I see its importance.
        Even with my love for the humanities, I knew I had bills to pay so ended up in computer sceince and that pays the bills.

        But in some ways my heart is in the stacks at the Public Record Office in the UK, researching English emigration policies from 1820-1850!

    • Hey Donny,

      Thanks for responding. As one of the older guys here (though not as old as Jeff and Chaplain Mike) I can tend to put all youth in one bucket – but that too has not been my experience. I find I can bridge the gap between youth and older folk, of all places, at the gym, but only because I still have a decent bench. My rant above sometimes has more to do with my recent episodes at work or parenting or coaching than what you had written so feel honored that you were the one to break the dam and get the words.

      We are all watching big changes in our culture. When I was young I thought things would always stay the same, and then long hair and faded jean jackets went out of style (except for some of us more stubborn souls – it took my wife to conveniently lose my jacket).

      Like someone said above, in my faith tradition, the vocation of being single is not frowned upon as in evangelicalism, so in a way I cannot really know the effect of your situation is having on the imprinting done to you.

      Peace….

    • Sorry if I have sounded a little harsh earlier on – I stand by what I said but I could have been more tactful. My particular rant at the moment is the way in which the church pretty much ignores old folk and celebrates when anyone under 45 turns up on a Sunday morning, putting most of its resources into young people and children’s programmes. I know there are exceptions but that’s the general attitude I’ve observed.
      Yet older folk have a wealth of experience that I, at the ripe age of 43, am learning so much from I am embarrassed by my former dismissal of them. Most of them are also single, having lost their spouses and their homes facing very contracted lives. At at time when I am looking for a job, their understanding empathy is sometimes all that keeps me going. Blessings.

      • Wise of you to learn from the vast wealth of experience of the older generation! Not everyone wants to learn. As someone who has worked with seniors in a long-term-care centre and independent housing for over 25 years (Manager of Volunteers, Manager of 2 buildings and Home Care and now Pastoral Care Assistant), I have learned a lot. More recently my husband and I (72 and 67) have joined them, choosing to sell our property and moving into a manor of this Christian organization, where we still wanted to serve the much older seniors in various ways. Within one month of moving in, we both received diagnoses which will now necessitate that we receive home care ourselves. How is that for God’s timing! I work in pastoral care and we have wonderful programs for our seniors, Bible Studies, Hymn Sings, Worship Services and so on. We have visiting community clergy and we are a church family. One of my dreams was always that a smaller church family would see it as their calling to minister with all their generations to our oldest generation – adopt us as it were! We have a few hundred seniors on our campus and that would be a fabulous mix. We don’t fit into the big churches! But – it may well remain a dream!

        May God give you the wisdom to land the job where HE needs you most!

        • Ooh – that sounds an amazing set up and wonderful timing for your husband and you. You say you’re a church family – does that mean you have your own church on campus as well?
          Thank you for your encouragement – I am praying I will go where God wants to place me rather than my preferred option.

      • Hi Ali,

        No offense taken. Actually, it sounds like we fundamentally agree. There needs to be more more openness between the generations, and more learning from each of them. In some cases and with some people, this will always be a pipe dream, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive for it whenever possible.

  37. Being a 26 year old single Christian male I thought I would share some of my thoughts on this topic.

    I can’t relate to the sexual frustration thing very much at all; it’s just something that I haven’t experienced. I’ve always been kind of a loner though since I haven’t really found anyone that really pulled me in and made me interested in actually developing a friendship (or romantic relationship).

    However, I do feel as though I am inadequate when it comes to the mate department though. Mainly this is due to me still living at home at 26. However, I am only living at home out of necessity because it has very hard for me to find work with the economy being the way it is. I am by no means lazy or irresponsible or immature or anything like that. But I feel as though there’s this cultural expectation that someone be moved out by the time they are my age, and if they’re not then there is something wrong with them.

    I think my biggest frustration personally with this whole topic is women themselves. I have no idea what they want and I’m pretty sure they don’t even know what they want (this is all personal experience by the way, not generalizing here). Basically they just seem real flaky and not worth the effort that they are purported to be. Now with my personality I think I will be fine without a wife, though I may certainly experience some lonely nights I will be okay overall. I know though that the majority of people do not share my personality though.

    I have two standards when it comes to a woman: she must love Jesus more than anything else, and be pleasing to my eyes (not to be read as supermodel quality, but as pleasant to look at). That’s it. The latter is very easy to fill and I can’t think of any woman I know personally that does not meet that requirement. The prior though seems like the more difficult one to fill.

    What helped me a lot with the singleness issue when I was in my early twenties was focusing on Jesus and following where He led me to go; realizing that there is much more to like than marrying and having kids. The problem I think is that my age group has such a small view of life and what God wants from them and what God can do through them. Realizing that God wanted so much more from me than to just simply marry and have kids (not that these things are bad, they aren’t) was the biggest thing that helped me. It was hard to accept and took some time for me to truly believe this, but I eventually I did and it has made a tremendous improvement in my life.

    • You know what we women want, Tom? We want nice Christian men to ask us out, to treat us politely and have good conversations with us instead of lumping us all together as a bunch of “flaky” women, to be interested in sustaining a relationship with us. That’s what we want. Is that too much to ask?

      Apparently it is, because we sit at home and wait. And wait. And wait.

      • I don’t think just waiting is going to do you much good, Gina.
        In the shark pool of American dating, guys who really fit the bill as “nice Christian men” are probably going to be shell-shocked, wounded, and running pretty low on confidence. It’s most likely the arrogant jerks who are going to be coming up to you confidently and asking you out.
        My advice is if you spot someone you believe is a nice Christian man, then start dropping some serious hints, try to be consistent in the signals you send, and give him some time to gather his nerve.

        • I agree. And I can assure you that once you are married the chances are that it will be you having to initiate all subsequent romancing within the marriage – unless you have married a very unusual man – so you might as well start taking the initiative now.
          Btw that’s not meant as a criticism guys – just what I have observed and I’m OK with it now I’ve stopped taking it personally!
          (Humanslug – how can I possibly call you that? You sound like a really switched on, nice, honest guy.)

          • The name helps keep me humble.
            But thanks, Ali. I’m not one to turn down a compliment when it comes my way — though I have to admit it’s a lot easier to be honest in the anonymous realm of blogdom.

        • I’ve tried that, humanslug. Believe me. I’ve tried so hard.

          • humanslug says:

            I feel your pain, Gina, believe me.
            And, by the way, you probably shouldn’t take it too seriously when you get advice from a guy who’s never been in a romantic relationship that lasted longer than a year and hasn’t even been on a date in nearly a decade.
            I’m just hoping that someday before I get really old and die, some nice Christian woman will start dropping me hints and sending me signals — so I don’t have to fly blind into another closed door.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        You know what we women want, Tom?

        Judging from the years I flushed $$$ down the crapper at various Christian Dating Services, here’s what:

        1) A Perfect Uber-Uber-Spiritual Uber-Christian Husband to join you 24/7/365 Bible Study & Witnessing, so Perfect even Christ Himself couldn’t measure up to your non-negotiable expectations. (This is culled from all those “What I’m Looking For” on all those Christian Dating Service profiles.)

        2) An ATM to support you while you spend 24/7/365 in church with your REAL husband, Jesus. (In my church we have Cloistered Nuns who spend all their time in prayer and contemplation; you’d be a lot more honest if you entered a convent instead of a dating service.)

    • Tom – if there was a ‘like’ tag I’d have used it for your comment.

    • WOW. Stuff does not change and I am not unusual.

      In my early 20s all I wanted was to serve God. I was in a missions outfit and my team leader needed to tell me I should take women out. Its not that I did not like women, I just had other interests.

      By the time I hit 25 I started to get interested but was not Mr Outgoing. All I wanted was a lady who loved God and with whom I could have companionship, yes physical attraction is important, but was not high on the list.
      Seemed like a lot of what I ran into was mostly superficiality, but maybe that was mostly me wanting to get beyond the niceties too quickly. I would be too impatient to go out with someone 4 times and never get deeper.

      And it was very hard because there were other guys out there that could seem to chat the women up even though I sort of wondered what they were up to (motives). Eventually I got really discouraged and remember sitting in a park one late night with another Christian guy in the same boat in our mutual misery. And we were not rejects or pot-heads or anything like that. Today he is a research scientist and I manage data for a billion dollar corporation.
      But I felt like the ladies of our day did not make it easy for shy men.

      • BTW, what I mean by deeper is getting beyond superficial small talk into how you are doing in life and likes and dislikes.

        • Out of interest – did your friend and you eventually find the women you were looking for?

          • I was not even looking and ran into a lady at a church meeting I was invited to by a guy I met in a small town where I worked one summer.
            Her and I talked a bit, and then went out for coffee a while later and discovered we could relate on a lot of issues. We got married a year later. 6 months after we married the guy who invited me married her sister!
            That was 27 years ago. And she is still crazy enough to live with me and is a tremendous companion. And my now ‘brother in law’ is still with her sister. He jokes that he invited me so he could get the older sister married off!

            My scientist buddy met a lady about 10 years later and eventually got married. He was a good catch for her. Funny, there were two very fine women I introduced him to, one who said he was too short (when I reminded her of that years later I think she realised how shallow it was!), the other who was either too scared of men or wanted to hold out for the ‘ideal’, I am not sure.

            It was not easy for us. Christian ladies, there are also some men out there who are shy that you might be overlooking. And they may be unable to read if you have any interest…

  38. You know, all this talk about 20 and 30 year olds living in their parent’s basements got me thinking.

    What did they do during other times of financial turmoil, like the great depression? Extended families lived together.

    Young married couples even lived with the bride or groom’s parents.

    I guess I’m changing my thinking about young men living with their parents. If the job situation is that, then living with parents, married or single, needs to stop being such a horrible stigma. We need to change our thinking to accommodate the times.

    I know, not pertinent to the over all conversation. But something to think about.

    • cermak_rd says:

      I’m just wondering why living in the basement is so much worse than living in the parents’ attic or guest room.

      As I said earlier, folks who are going through this would be wise to use this time to really engage with their parents. It’s extremely likely that you will outlive your parents and wouldn’t it be great to have fond memories of this time you spent with them?

      Also, many parents like having their children stay with them. It’s another pair of hands to mend a window, or do the grocery shopping, maybe another paycheck (if the person is underemployed say) to help out on some bills. Even just having another body around the house may be welcome to someone who can’t get out all that much or someone who has a health problem.

    • Yes indeed. We have a stigma attached to poverty, and it’s time to leave it behind before it crushes us all one at a time. I’ve heard that the only reason married couples even sleep in the same bed is because they consolidated durring the Great Depression to save money/space etc… If that has so drastically and permanently altered the modern lifestyle, living with the folks is NOTHING to be ashamed of. Provided you’re not high 24/7 and playing video games.

  39. Donny, did you see the Oct. issue of nymag(dot)com article, “The Kids Are(sort of) Alright”?

  40. No advice, just a poem.

    Gerard Manley Hopkins

    50. ‘Thou art indeed just, Lord, if I contend’

    Jeremiah 12: 1 Justus quidem tu es, Domine, si disputem tecum: verumtamen justa loquar ad te: Quare via impiorum prosperatur? &c.

    THOU art indeed just, Lord, if I contend
    With thee; but, sir, so what I plead is just.
    Why do sinners’ ways prosper? and why must
    Disappointment all I endeavour end?

    Wert thou my enemy, O thou my friend,
    How wouldst thou worse, I wonder, than thou dost
    Defeat, thwart me? Oh, the sots and thralls of lust
    Do in spare hours more thrive than I that spend,
    Sir, life upon thy cause. See, banks and brakes
    Now leavèd how thick! lacèd they are again
    With fretty chervil, look, and fresh wind shakes
    Them; birds build—but not I build; no, but strain,
    Time’s eunuch, and not breed one work that wakes.
    Mine, O thou lord of life, send my roots rain.

  41. Late to this post, but it describes much of my frustration. I am a 30-something male who has not married and who has no expectation of marriage in the near future. The reasons for that are numerous and varied. I attend an Acts 29 church where there are many young adults. In the past five years, I have been to nine weddings. That’s more weddings than I had ever been to in my life up to that point.

    While I see many people complaining about how the church treats the issues of singleness and marriage, I don’t think the “secular world” is any better. Look at the constant pressure to “get laid” during high school and college. Look at movies like “The Forty Year Old Virgin” – a seemingly content man is treated as a project by his coworkers once they find out he has never experienced sex. (I could not finish that movie.)

    Maybe if so many stopped thinking about sex, period, everyone would be better off. Youth leaders and pastors wouldn’t feel the pressure to keep the young people in line, and could focus on developing them into full human beings in a variety of areas. And the secular world could stop feeling so insecure about anyone who isn’t humping somebody on a regular basis.

    • Good point. A friend of mine tried to convinced me that overactive sexual drive is genetic and hereditary. So then, since those genes are most likely to be passed on (wink wink), then this is therefore the most sex obsessed generation in history, and it’s only getting worse!

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Look at the constant pressure to “get laid” during high school and college.

      Which gets translated behind the Christianese event horizon as constant pressure to “get married” SO you can “get laid” legally.

      Look at movies like “The Forty Year Old Virgin” – a seemingly content man is treated as a project by his coworkers once they find out he has never experienced sex. (I could not finish that movie.)

      You might have been surprised if you had finished it. As I understand it, the 40-year-old virgin of the title (though a bit eccentric) is shown to have his head on a lot straighter than his sexually-active coworkers — all of whom are messed up from the side effects of their trendoid sexual activity.

      • As I remember the movie, your analysis is correct. Also, surprisingly, the man ends up being painted as the winner in the end because he has a healthy, functional relationship, and not a looser because he can’t score. I think that was how it ended. I think I remember being surprised: It wasn’t a sex flick, it was kind of a cute story.

  42. “many church leaders remain blissfully ignorant to this issue.” That pretty much sums up the state of american evangelicalism on many issues….

  43. When I was at the gym last night something popped in my noodle that I was chewing on. We’ve discussed the quiet desperation faced by younger people over work and singleness; and that coming point where they “snap”. Now can one imagine the frustration and angst that exists by someone being gay and being in the evangelical system?

    I actually thought of my former small group leader from my Christian days. He was talented, and well versed about scripture. But…he also struggled with homosexuality. He tried to change his orientation through reparative therapy. He finally accepted it, embraced it, and went from that mindset of leading Bible studies to protesting California’s Prop 8. I often wondered….if the system is hard for single guys and those who are young…can one imagine the total despair it must create in those who deal with homosexuality. Did this same system that we are discussing drive my former small group leader and help make him accept being gay?

    If so then the spiritual toxicity of fundagelicalism tarnishes many people and the wreckage it leaves behind will be vast…

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I don’t think it’s being gay, I don’t think it’s being single; it’s being DIFFERENT.

      “Beware Thou of the Mutant”

  44. On another note – I’d recommend pursuing an engineering degree to anyone out of work. I’ve been in the field for 4 and a half years and my company weathered the tough economy (though things did get lean) with very few layoffs. The flipside is that the number of people entering the field is not enough to replace those that are retiring. In short, we need entry level engineers, now.

    In any case, I currently have to get my own coffee, so I would love a new entry level 🙂

    • My son is wanting to start a degree next year. The Uni here offers civil, electrical and mechanical.

      • I do Civil Engineering…water planning and studies specifically. It’s a good gig, and I can’t see a time when we won’t need water, humans being what they are… Salaries increase for mechanical and increase even more for electrical, though. But there are jobs in all three fields right now. He should go talk to an advisor at his school of choice, and even better, try to get information from someone working in the type of engineering he’s interested in.

    • Matt, have you SEEN the math skills that exist in most of our 20-30 year olds?? I teach practical nursing, and every year only about 10% of our applicants can do basic math!

      The “hard science” professions seem to weather all storms better than others, simply because obtaining the appropriate education takes hard work and dedicated studies. No offense, but there is a huge chasm between an engineering or medical degree and one in art history or English lit.

      • To be fair, English lit majors could say similar things about those in the hard sciences. It’s just that instead of bemoaning the lack of math skills you’d hear rants over the terrible writing and lack of critical thinking skills 🙂 Many professions require quite a bit of hard work and difficult education and rarely do people develop a broad set of skills that enables them to be good at both kinds.

  45. I will walk out of any church where the pastor says young men shouldn’t even think about getting married until they earn at least $75,000 a year, because that’s allegedly the amount of money you need to have a stay at home helpmeat and kids. So far, I’m at two churches locally. I won’t be going back.

    • Wow…I’d leave, too. My darling spouse was making almost $12K a year when we married in the late seventies!

    • Uh, wow. Just wow. I’m 49 and have yet to make that kind of money. Happily married for 24 years now. So nice to hear that apparently I went about it all wrong……

      This is what happens when the expectations of the “Christian” subculture no longer have any basis in scripture. You were wise to seek the exits. I would have been running for them.

    • WenatcheeTheHatchet says:

      StuartB that idea and phrasing sounds weirdly familiar but I don’t want to say where I heard it.

      Was “helpmeat” a deliberate pun because I confess to finding a great deal of sardonic humor in it.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      And if you make over $75k/year like me, there are other fears.

      I live in a joint property state with no-fault divorce. Once I say “I Do”, she’s entitled to half my assets plus half my income whether she stays married to me or not. So why would she?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I will walk out of any church where the pastor says young men shouldn’t even think about getting married until they earn at least $75,000 a year…

      Even in a high-paid technical profession, I did not reach that level of $$$ until I hit 50. According to this, I should not have thought of marriage until at least 50. And who wants to marry an old geezer if she had a choice? (Hmmmm… That explains the appeal of Shari’a…) Up until around 1900, it was not unusual to have a wife visibly younger than her husband, but not today.