Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Mike Licona explains the As, Bs, Cs, Ds and Es of New Testament reliability

Mike Licona is one of my favorite Christian apologists, and here is an excellent lecture to show you why.

In the lecture, he explains why the four biographies in the New Testament should be accepted as historically accurate: (55 minutes)

Summary:

  • What a Baltimore Ravens helmet teaches us about the importance of truth
  • What happens to Christians when they go off to university?
  • The 2007 study on attitudes of American professors to evangelical Christians
  • Authors: Who wrote the gospels?
  • Bias: Did the bias of the authors cause them to distort history?
  • Contradictions: What about the different descriptions of events in the gospels?
  • Dating: When were the gospels written?
  • Eyewitnesses: Do the gospel accounts go back to eyewitness testimony?

This is basic training for Christians. They ought to show this lecture whenever new people show up, because pastors should not quote the Bible until everyone listening has this information straight.

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New study: cohabitation more likely to dissolve, less likely to lead to marriage

All I have on this is the abstract, but if someone can send me the study, I’d love to see the results section.

Abstract:

Cohabitation is now the modal first union for young adults, and most marriages are preceded by cohabitation even as fewer cohabitations transition to marriage. These contrasting trends may be due to compositional shifts among cohabiting unions, which are increasingly heterogeneous in terms of cohabitation order, engagement, and the presence of children, as well as across socioeconomic and demographic characteristics. The author constructs 5-year cohabitation cohorts for 18- to 34-year-olds from the 2002 and 2006–2010 cycles of the National Survey of Family Growth (n = 17,890 premarital cohabitations) to examine the outcomes of cohabitations over time. Compared to earlier cohabitations, those formed after 1995 were more likely to dissolve, and those formed after 2000 were less likely to transition to marriage even after accounting for the compositional shifts among individuals in cohabiting unions. Higher instability and decreased chances of marriage occurred among both engaged and non-engaged individuals, suggesting society-wide changes in cohabitation over time.

Evidence Unseen has collected some of the other studies together.

Excerpt

Hall and Zhao (from the University of Western Ontario) studied 8,177 individuals who were ever-married. They write, “Premarital cohabitors in Canada have over twice the risk of divorce in any year of marriage when compared with noncohabitors.”[13]

Manning (et al.) writes, “Over 50% of cohabiting unions in the US, whether or not they are eventually legalized by marriage, end by separation within five years compared to roughly 20% for marriages.”[14]

Daniel Lichter and Zhenchao Qian (from Cornell University and The Ohio State University) write, “If serial cohabitors married, divorce rates were very high—more than twice as high as for women who cohabited only with their eventual husbands.”[15]

And finally, there’s this study from Life Site News.

Excerpt:

Couples who reserve sex for marriage enjoy greater stability and communication in their relationships, say researchers at Brigham Young University.

A new study from the Mormon college found that those couples who waited until marriage rated their relationship stability 22 percent higher than those who started having sex in the early part of their relationship. The relationship satisfaction was 20 percent higher for those who waited, the sexual quality of the relationship was 5 percent better, and communication was 12 percent better.

The study, published in the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Family Psychology, involved 2,035 married individuals who participated in a popular online marital assessment called “RELATE.” From the assessment’s database, researchers selected a sample designed to match the demographics of the married American population. The extensive questionnaire included the question “When did you become sexual in this relationship?”

Couples that became sexually involved later in their relationship – but prior to marriage – reported benefits that were about half as strong as those who waited for marriage.

[...]Sociologist Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas at Austin, who was not involved in the study, responded to its findings, saying that “couples who hit the honeymoon too early – that is, prioritize sex promptly at the outset of a relationship – often find their relationships underdeveloped when it comes to the qualities that make relationships stable and spouses reliable and trustworthy.” Regnerus is the author of Premarital Sex in America, a book forthcoming from Oxford University Press.

Because religious belief often plays a role for couples who choose to wait, Busby and his co-authors controlled for the influence of religious involvement in their analysis.

“Regardless of religiosity, waiting helps the relationship form better communication processes, and these help improve long-term stability and relationship satisfaction,” Busby said.

Young men and women growing up really need to be informed by their parents what they are going to want to be doing long term, and what they should be doing today to accomplish those goals. Young people benefit greatly from the guidance of older and wiser people, but in defining goals and defining the steps to reach those goals. To be a convincing parent, you have to be convinced yourself. And to be convinced yourself, you need to be seen as having knowledge, not just opinions, but knowledge. Having the right peer-reviewed papers at hand will help you to be a better parent.

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Should Christians “guard their hearts” in relationships? What does that even mean?

Here are my two disagreements with Jonathan’s post on courting that appeared on this blog yesterday.

He writes this:

If you have followed the above procedure and have gotten as far as the relationship stage, I would suggest that there should be an increasingly greater level of commitment as the relationship continues to progress. In my case, I would not terminate a relationship without a very good reason once I have agreed to commit myself to the relationship. Do not take this commitment lightly.

It is important, however, that both parties take care to guard their (and each other’s) hearts, especially during the early days of the relationship, in case the relationship for whatever reason does not work out. This practice ensures that you will both be able to give your heart more completely to your future spouse. If you end up not being the husband of a girl whom you have dated, you want to be able to look that girl’s future husband in the eye and tell him with a clear conscience that you took good care to guard her heart for him.

I would suggest limiting physical contact to holding hands and the occasional hug during the early days of the relationship. Kissing should be reserved for significantly downstream in the relationship, until you have been together for a considerable period of time.

You should also avoid, whenever possible, being left alone together for long periods of time – where temptation may strike you and cause you to fall into sin. Meet together in public places or involve family and friends.

I disagree that the correct interpretation of “guard your heart” (from Proverbs 4:23) means “don’t love someone to the best of your ability until you are sure you won’t get hurt”. The correct thing to do is to love God with everything you have, and then to let that flow to others – especially others you have chosen to court because you see glimpses of who God wants them to be and you want to invest in them to get them there.

Here’s an article from Relevant that makes the point:

Quote:

When it comes to our relationships, I think we’re missing something. Jesus summarizes our highest command as: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31).

[...]According to Mark 12:30, Jesus wants us to be all in. And when we love Him with our all, it will help shape our perspective of earthly relationships, romantic and otherwise. When we are totally firm and secure in God’s love for us, we will be less worried about “guarding our hearts” from pain and heartbreak as we relate to others.

Jesus is the greatest example of this. He loved His Father so much He was not afraid of getting hurt by loving others. On the contrary, He died for relationships. Jesus sacrificed everything for love. He did this to restore not only our relationship with Him but our relationships with each other. His body was broken for us—not just His heart. Clearly, Jesus wasn’t afraid of a broken heart, mind or body. What would happen if we had the same perspective?

Relationships are risky business, and there’s no guarantee you won’t end up with a broken heart. But because of Christ’s love, the fear of a broken heart no longer has to be the motivating factor. 1 John 4:18 says: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” We can fulfill the greatest commandment because of God’s perfect example in the flesh.

Christ’s mission was to leave Paradise and sacrifice Himself on the altar of love. Even when it appears Jesus struggles with going through with this plan, He prays: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:42). His whole life was dedicated to making us whole; He loved us with His mind, body, heart and strength so that we might also be able to love wholly.

And here’s another support from Mars Hill Church:

Quote:

The first error we can make is to guard our hearts in such a way that there is no possible way we can get hurt. We keep relationships shallow, people at arm’s length, and anyone from getting to know us at the heart level. The Bible is the most honest book ever written—it makes no claim that if we “guard our heart” we will avoid pain and heartache in this life (1 Peter 1:6–7). It is simply not God’s will for us to be isolated, walled off, and invulnerable.

I have heard the “guard your heart” barrier invoked by Christian women who urge me to read the Bible more and be more spiritual, and it makes me suspect that their sexual history is coming into play – they’ve made poor decisions with non-Christian men and now they are misusing the Bible to refuse good things to good men because of their past experience with bad men. When a woman is on a marriage track with a man, she needs to love him like she’s never been hurt.

I do not think that it is fair for bad men to be trusted MORE than good men. Women need to learn to 1) make better decisions when they choose a man (don’t choose an immoral and irreligious man in order to avoid moral/spiritual judgment and/or abandonment), and 2) to love good men as if they have never been hurt, lest those good men get sick and tired of being distrusted and pushed outside barriers, and move on to someone else.

Men like to be trusted. Men like vulnerability. Men like authenticity. Men like engagement. If we are constantly rebuffed even though we are chaste, we do move on to someone who is more lovable. I don’t think that an unchaste man deserves to have access to trust, vulnerability, authenticity and engagement – but a chaste man does. That’s what he is offering, too.

As long as the couple avoids sexual physical contact, then any break up is going to be far less painful than it would be if there were a physical (especially sexual) component. To love someone well, to build them up, to let them go do amazing things for the Lord – this does not hurt. I am still friends with women I’ve courted who hurt me, but it doesn’t last more than a month or two. Then you’re friends again and the friendship lasts.

My second disagreement with Jonathan is about kissing. For me kissing on the cheek or hand is OK, but kissing on the lips should be reserved for the day of engagement. If the man is on his knees with a ring, and she accepts, he should kiss her on the lips to seal the promise. After that, kissing on the lips is fine with me. But not before.

Filed under: Mentoring, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Courtship advice for Christians from an influential young Christian apologist

Painting: "Courtship", by Edmund Blair Leighton (1888)

“Courtship”, by Edmund Blair Leighton (1888)

The influential young Christian apologist Jonathan McLatchie has written an article on courtship for Christians, and I have posted it below. I have two disagreements, which I will post in the comments below.

A Christian Man’s Philosophy of God-Honoring Courtship

Wintery Knight asked me to contribute a guest post expressing my views on God-honoring courtship and relationship philosophy. I should state upfront that I have only ever been in one relationship, and thus I cannot claim to have a lot of experience. I have, however, given these matters significant thought as I determine in my own head the sort of woman I am looking for and what a God-honoring relationship should look like. I thought that these ideas may be of value to others, and so I am articulating them here.

What Sort Of Woman Should You Be Looking For?

When searching for a potential spouse, it is important to prioritize the traits that you desire your wife to possess: What characteristics are essential and non-negotiable, and which are not? The most important trait is that the woman be a Christian. Marrying a non-Christian is a recipe for disaster, and sooner or later there is bound to be a resultant train crash. As the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 6:14, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” Your life in Christ ought to form such a core component of your identity that it infiltrates the way you live your life at every level – your conversations, the decisions that you make, the people that you hang out with, the activities that you participate in. To not be able to share such a core part of who you are with your spouse is asking for trouble. A non-believing spouse is, moreover, unlikely to have the same values and standards as you do when it comes to maintaining one’s chastity before marriage. Marriage to a non-believer is also likely to lead to conflict further down the road when you are making decisions about how to raise your kids and what values to instil in them. If you marry someone who shares your faith and values, you could be saving yourself a lot of heartache later down the road.

Although sharing your Christian faith is a non-negotiable, it is not enough. Look not simply for a woman who is merely a “Sunday morning Christian”, but one who has demonstrated spiritual maturity and depth. As 1 Peter 3:3-4 says to women,

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”

It is one thing for a woman to say that she is a Christian – anybody can do that. But how does it play out in her life in the real world? How does her faith influence the decisions that she makes? Does she live her life in such a way that reflects her Christianity without her having to mention her faith? Is she perpetually going to the Word of God for sustenance? Does she have a proper understanding of basic theological concepts such as the Trinity? What does her prayer life look like? Seek out a woman who is so deeply immersed in Christ that you have to first seek Him in order to find her.

Ask the girl what she feels God’s calling is for her life. Are you in a position to help her grow more to be like Christ and fulfil God’s will for her life? Are you sufficiently mature spiritually that you are able to teach her and lead her spiritually? Are there areas in which you can learn from her? An answer in the affirmative to these questions suggests that she may be someone you could pursue a relationship with.

Integrity is another essential. You want to know that your wife is trustworthy and that you can count on her to be faithful. Ask people who know her well to give you a character assessment of her.

It is important that a girl whom you are seeking to pursue a relationship with value purity and chastity. You don’t want to be in a relationship with a girl who is going to tempt you to compromise on your Christian principles. You also want your wife to be able to give her heart completely to you. If, however, she has already been sexually active outside of wedlock, she has created a strong emotional bond to someone else, and might find it difficult to give all of her heart entirely to her husband. That all said, past mistakes do happen, and I think there is a place for forgiveness – if the girl is sincerely repentant and acknowledges her past sin.

You should also be cautious of women who have been in many past relationships. If a girl has been in several previous relationships, it is not necessarily a make-or-break factor, but you should nonetheless ask them to provide the reasons of why these relationships did not work out. You don’t want to pursue someone who is a relationship hopper, since that raises questions about their ability to remain faithful and committed to you. Related to this, you should also be wary of women who are emotional pendulums when it comes to their commitment to the relationship. If, having entered a relationship, you are unable to predict a girl’s feelings about you from one day to the next, that is a serious red flag.

A girl’s family should also be an important factor in determining marital compatibility. Remember that you are marrying her family as well. You don’t want to marry into a mean family who don’t appreciate the investment you are putting into their daughter’s or sister’s life.

Finally, a further important characteristic in a godly wife is that she be able to look up to and respect you, and be willing to submit to your leading. You don’t want to be in a relationship with a girl who is going to be trying to seize the reins of the relationship. The responsibility for leading relationships falls on the shoulders of the man, not of the woman. Here are a few Bible verses that instruct a woman to submit to her husband:

Ephesians 5:22-24: “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.”

Colossians 3:18: “Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.”

1 Peter 3:1-2: “Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.”

If your wife is going to respect you and submit to your leading, be sure that you are a man who is worthy of respect and submission. Be a man who is saturated with Scripture and dedicated to the things of God. Only then will you be able to lead a woman spiritually.

Beginning the Relationship

A relationship consists of several phases, which culminate in the final stage: marriage. The first stage is friendship. I am extremely unlikely to pursue someone for a relationship unless we have been friends for a reasonable period of time first – at least a few weeks or so, depending on how much time you are spending with them. During this time, observe them and evaluate their character, personality, and doctrinal compatibility. Take your time with this. Don’t blindly rush into a relationship with someone without taking the time to carefully evaluate them first. That way, you avoid playing with peoples’ hearts and prevent inevitable hurt as a consequence. Before letting the girl know that you are interested, weigh up the pros and cons; and determine (from your limited interaction) whether there are any significant concerns or obvious reasons why the relationship could fail. If you don’t feel that you could see yourself marrying the girl, do not enter a relationship with them.

There is a limit to how much information you can gather by this means, however, and there will come a time when it becomes necessary to move to phase 2. At this stage, you should let the girl know that you are interested in her. Ideally, you should be prepared to articulate the reasons you have for being interested in her – this shows that your motivation for pursuing her is not simply a desire to be in any generic relationship, but that you have already put significant thought into why this girl in particular is a worthy contender. If she rejects you, respect that and move on. If she expresses an interest, tell her that you would like to spend a few weeks getting to know her better in view of determining whether the relationship should proceed beyond friendship. This allows you to both gauge each other’s suitability without the emotional connection that comes along with being in a relationship (again, minimizing the risk of hurting her). It also allows you to evaluate her at a deeper level than you could in the previous phase. During this stage of the relationship, you should ask each other about your theological views, your past relationships, past sins that need to be confessed, what you both wish to get out of a relationship, how you would like to raise children (e.g. public vs. private vs. home schooling), and so on. Be completely transparent and honest with each other. Be sure that you have all your bases covered, and that there are going to be no unpleasant surprises later down the road after you have already developed an emotional connection.

It is very important that during this time there is a centrality of prayer about the future direction of the relationship. Seek the Lord’s will diligently. Deciding about relationships takes a lot of wisdom, and God has promised us in Scripture that “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5).

After a few weeks, discuss with your prospective girlfriend what the way forward should be for your relationship and whether there is a mutual desire to proceed and what you feel God is calling you to.

Guarding Your Hearts and Upholding Chastity

If you have followed the above procedure and have gotten as far as the relationship stage, I would suggest that there should be an increasingly greater level of commitment as the relationship continues to progress. In my case, I would not terminate a relationship without a very good reason once I have agreed to commit myself to the relationship. Do not take this commitment lightly.

It is important, however, that both parties take care to guard their (and each other’s) hearts, especially during the early days of the relationship, in case the relationship for whatever reason does not work out. This practice ensures that you will both be able to give your heart more completely to your future spouse. If you end up not being the husband of a girl whom you have dated, you want to be able to look that girl’s future husband in the eye and tell him with a clear conscience that you took good care to guard her heart for him.

I would suggest limiting physical contact to holding hands and the occasional hug during the early days of the relationship. Kissing should be reserved for significantly downstream in the relationship, until you have been together for a considerable period of time.

You should also avoid, whenever possible, being left alone together for long periods of time – where temptation may strike you and cause you to fall into sin. Meet together in public places or involve family and friends.

Making Christ the Cornerstone of Your Relationship

There is no other cornerstone for a God-honoring relationship besides that of Christ. Meditation upon Scripture and time spent together in prayer should form the bedrock of any relationship. I suggest working through a book of the Bible together, expositing the Scriptures verse by verse. This will inevitably lead to mutual edification and also offers some accountability for regular study of Scripture. I would also recommend working together through some classic Christian writings such as those of the puritans. There is a goldmine of nuggets to be found among such literature.

Conclusion

I trust that some will find the above perspectives of value as they look for a spouse and develop relationships which eventually will lead into marriage. These are only a few short thoughts, and there is much more that could be written on this subject. There will of course be other considerations that are specific to the interests and personality of the individual. For example, I very much enjoy intellectual conversation topics, particularly those relating to science, theology and apologetics. And so I look for someone who is similarly interested in discussing those areas and who can relate to me at an intellectual level.

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Surprise! In this post, I actually agree that men should “man up” – in one respect

I hope I don’t get my Christian manosphere credentials revoked, and I’m going to try very hard to explain why I am linking to this post by Matt Walsh below, in a disclaimers section.

But first, this:

It went from courting, to dating, to hanging out. Sometimes even hanging out reeks of too much commitment, in which case ‘talking’ can be used. And if talking sounds too serious, maybe we’ll start hearing ‘vicinitizing.’ That’s a word I just made up, and it means that you and your female friend are often in the same vicinity, but it doesn’t get all intense by insinuating that you’re actually in that general location together on purpose.

When did men become so afraid to make a commitment, to take the lead, to say what they want, to make long term plans, to set goals, to pursue, to talk about the future?

We are devolving into primates, losing the ability to even discuss our own behavior using words and sentences. The average single American man is now relegated to grunts and shrugs and ‘whatevers’ and ‘you knows’ when pressed to have a conversation about his dating habits. Or his vicinity habits. Or his whatever habits, because whatever, you know?

‘Hanging out’ is how we describe what we do with our buddies. Is that what you want? Do you want that beautiful woman to be your buddy? Or would you ideally prefer it if you could distinguish between your relationship with her and your relationship with your friend Steve?

And this, I really love this:

Then, one day, I met Alissa. She was looking for a grown man, and I was sick of playing games. We were both exhausted. So do you know what we did very early in our relationship?

We defined our terms.

We made our goals clear.

We were open with each other.

We spoke about the future.

We used words like ‘marriage.’

We were clear and convicted and purpose driven. I had ambitions for our relationship. Ambitions. I, like, had an idea about what I was doing and why I was doing it. Can you believe it? I was in it for a reason. I wanted it to become something.

See, I’d been floating like aimless debris through an ocean of cloudy intentions and half-heartedness, until I grew up and realized that romance isn’t a game, and most women aren’t frivolous bimbos. They want men who know what they want and aren’t afraid to verbalize it. And if they don’t want that, then they aren’t worth your energy. Get out now. If she still wants to pretend she’s in tenth grade, let her live that fantasy with someone else.

With Alissa, things were pretty clear from the get-go. We had a relationship. A real, live relationship. A few months into it, I proposed. Some people wait longer, which is fine. We’re all on our own schedule. But I promise you, despite popular sentiments, it doesn’t take a decade and a half to figure things out.

And finally this – I could not agree more, (but see my disclaimer below):

No matter what anyone does, or says, or thinks; no matter what we tell ourselves; no matter what society insists, romantic relationships are always serious business. Call it what you want — hanging out, talking, dating — there’s a woman’s heart involved in it. That means you have a responsibility, alright? You have a duty as a human being, as an adult, as a man.

She’s making herself vulnerable to you. You need to honor that, protect it. And if you aren’t looking for anything but cheap sex and another trophy of sexual conquest to hang on the wall in your studio apartment, then you need to protect her from yourself, because you’ll be bringing nothing but disappointment and chaos into her life.

Listen, there’s a lot of joy and love you’re missing out on when you spend years tumbling like a ball of weeds from one opaque hang out session to another. I know this from experience.

If you’re hanging out with a woman and you feel like you might be into her,tell her. Call her on the phone. Take her out on a date. Say the words: “I’d like to take you out.” No ambiguity. Plan the date yourself. Women want you to be decisive. Lose the whole “so waddaya wanna do tonight?” schtick. Take charge. Pick her up at 7. Pay for the meal. Have a conversation with her. Go mini golfing or something. Go somewhere. Open the door for her. Put your phone away. Open up to her. Share your ideas, your dreams, your fears. Get to know her. Pursue her. Pursue her. Invest yourself in the process, as scary and unsure as it may seem. Take a risk, gentlemen. Go out on a limb for once. Be purposeful. Be desirable. Be a man.

You wouldn’t go into a job interview and tell the interviewer that you aren’t sure if you want the job, and you don’t want to even talk about the job because it freaks you out and gives you a tummy ache, would you? So don’t do that to the women you’re dating, or hanging out with, or talking to, or whatever.

In the old days, they called it courting. It was a lot like dating, but with more of a point and less confusion. Maybe we should get back to that strategy.

Just this week, I was shown an e-mail from a man who has been very serious about a woman who has just swept him off his feet. He really likes her and has been very clear about his feelings for her. His long term goal for his relationship with her is marriage, and she knows that. He has been encouraging her to grow her skills and to pursue her dreams. BUT this is what she wrote to him in the e-mail I saw “Do not talk about marriage, or love. This makes me uncomfortable.” This is after 3 months! THREE MONTHS!

I was talking about marriage with one girl I was interested in on the FIRST meeting. And in the second meeting, she brought up John Piper’s questions for couples considering marriage – it didn’t bother me one bit. I was happy to have something serious to talk about with her. Just to check this out, I asked two of my co-workers what they thought. The first moved in with his girlfriend after a month, and married her within a year – they’ve now been married 19 years. The second was picking out engagement rings after a month of meeting his wife, was engaged 9 months later, and he’s been married to her for 29 years.

I agree with Matt that IF men are interested in a woman, THEN they should state their goals and talk about the future with her. But if the woman is very spontaneous, emotional, fun-loving, etc. and only wants to talk about surfing, skydiving, etc., then a man can’t be blamed for not bringing up marriage in that case.

Disclaimer

I want to be clear that this admonition to man up does not take away from anything that I’ve said about marriage being very, very dangerous for men. The fact of the matter is that marriage does not mean what it used to mean before feminism. To just give one quick example, no-fault divorce and anti-male divorce courts make marriage a really risky decision for a man. 70% of divorces are initiated by women, and they get full custody 90% of the time – with the child support and alimony. So I think that as long as we are talking about women who are politically conservative, into apologetics, frugal, chaste and a graduate of a STEM degree program, then men should be clear and direct and make the woman feel desired and safe. Otherwise… just stay clear of them.

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