After Masc #21, which was about singleness, a pastor wrote to me asking how the church should respond to the “demographic crisis” it faces, namely the significant imbalance of female to male attendees in church. That makes it impossible for all Christian women to find Christian husbands and in this person’s view incentivizes some poor male behaviors such as an unwillingness to commit.
This is a fair question. At the macro level, the demographic crisis is real. It’s a problem. The most critical component of any solution is getting more men into church. That’s one of the things I would like to help accomplish with this newsletter. As I detailed in Masc #3, the church has long been actively hostile to men, so it’s no surprise men are staying away. The church is also giving men false information about relationships.
Given the primal nature of our relations with the opposite sex, once Christian men discover that they’ve been fed falsehoods on this topic – which given the ever-increasing number of places you can find basic truth on the subject, including even Jordan Peterson, will happen for a significant number of people at some point – this will severely discredit the faith for them.
At the micro-level, my focus in Masc #21 was on big city churches. In those churches, there are vast numbers of singles, few of which appear to be aggressively seeking marriage. In other environments, such as some smaller city or suburban churches, the demographic problem can rear its head. There are places where the majority of people in the church are married, and the singles can feel left out in the cold. Some of these singles, men and women, are less attractive, are socially awkward, etc. which adds complications.
So in some places, I do think there is a legitimate demographic problem. So what do you do about it?
At the church level, we have to bring in more men. At the individual level, we have to recognize the odds and act accordingly. I’ve told guys that they need to be aware that every year that goes by the supply of high-quality marriage prospects goes down. I do think men need to step up and pursue marriage and commit and think they should give serious thought to doing it sooner rather than later.
For women, it’s even worse. It’s a game of musical chairs where several folks may not get a seat. The stone-cold reality is that this environment is a big incentive to move fast to secure your place.
The problem is that the contemporary life scripts being sold by society explicitly discourage acting fast, and downplay the consequences of failing to land the plane to marriage and children. These scripts tell young women to pursue education, career, romantic excitement/sex, and personal cultivation first (e.g., traveling the world), then find a nice guy to settle down with later.
I’ll mention again this passage from Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s New York Times #1 best selling book Lean In: “When looking for a life partner, my advice to women is date [translation: have sex with] all of them: the bad boys, the cool boys, the commitment-phobic boys, the crazy boys. But do not marry them. The things that make the bad boys sexy do not make them good husbands. When it comes time to settle down, find someone who wants an equal partner.” In other words, spend time playing the field, then after having your fun, look for a real marriage candidate.
You see this all over the place. Twitter user @c_szydlowski, who labels herself a “feminist antichrist” and whose home page banner consist of the word “Vagina” in a huge font, tweeted, “LADIES IMAGINE THIS: you stop idealizing marriage and start acting like a 23-year-old with her whole life ahead of her. You get an education, you travel the world, and you stop assuming your life starts and ends with a husband.” This tweet got 63,000 retweets and 192,000 likes.
Additionally, there’s a constant stream of material trying to convince women (and men too) that it will be a-ok if they end up not having kids. Again on Twitter, @emtreas had to this to say: “Ladies, imagine this. It’s 15 years from now, and you have no kids. You’re the cool wine aunt that occasionally comes back to the country for a brief visit before leaving for another long, exotic vacation. You have no commitments, and a suspicious amount of money.” – 68,000 retweets, 235,000 likes. This is the cultural script that’s being sold to women today.
Think that’s just a tweet and so not important? How about a 2013 Time cover:
Or this Washington Post article:
Frantic and apologizing, overwhelmed between staff meetings and gymnastics, shamed for bottle-feeding, booted for breast- feeding, passed over for promotions, denied on the day-care list — isn’t this what you’ve always dreamed of? No thanks, they’re saying, to today’s lovely vision of motherhood. And in huge numbers
Here’s the answer: choices. For the first time in human history, women truly have them. A lot of women don’t feel pressured to have kids they don’t want…But can we please stop — in research schematics and at the Thanksgiving table — wondering about women’s wombs? They made a choice, thank you.
Some people who follow these scripts often don’t discover the reality until it’s too late. It reminds me of Proverbs 7 about the man seeking the adulteress that says he was “a young man lacking sense” who “hastens to the snare” because “he does not know it will cost him his life.” Only in this case, it applies to women as well.
Back to our church demographics question. I wonder how many of these singles have been aggressively looking for marriage since say college? Some probably had, but from what I see around me plenty didn’t and instead were following this cultural life script.
The Washington Post writer gets it correct in this respect: people make choices.
This is a free country and people can do anything they want. I fully support the right of both women and men in contemporary America to make their own. But are they making informed choices? Are church leaders handing out real-talk on life, marriage, and kids, or just a baptized version of the secular life script? Are pastors and those in spiritual leadership warning the people under their care about the possible future consequences of these scripts? When people do follow those scripts and the bad consequences come, are they willing to deliver bitter truths to people who don’t want to hear them, or will they instead only call on others to change to mitigate those consequences?
This is what I’m talking about with the elite and having the courage, to tell the truth.
It doesn’t take any courage to beat up men and tell them they should be pursuing the single women in their church for marriage or that they should man up and commit. It doesn’t take very much courage to write an op-ed saying that the church needs to change to better accommodate the growing number of singles.
But start delivering tough messages to women and you might end up with a big problem on your hands. But we have to have the courage to take that risk so that people have the information they need to make the best decision for themselves in light of the full truth and knowledge of the range of possible outcomes.
Again, I thought this was an excellent and very fair question the pastor sent so thanks to him for doing so. In short, yes there are demographic challenges but that’s not the end of the story.