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).
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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.
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.