Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Woman who claims to be a Christian denounces premarital chastity

Here’s the plan for this post. We’re going to take a look at a post by a woman who claims to be a Christian. In that post, she offers some reasons why premarital chastity is wrong. Then we’ll take a look at what the Bible says. Then we’ll take a look at what the research says. Then I explain what this trend among Christian women means for marriage-minded men.

First here is the post by “Joy”. Her reasons for disagreeing with premarital chastity are as follows:

  1. Chastity makes women who have had premarital sex feel ashamed
  2. It does no harm for a woman to have premarital sex before marriage
  3. God made people with a sexual drive, so God thinks that premarital sex is OK
  4. Most people are already having sex, so God thinks that premarital sex is OK
  5. Practicing sex with men you don’t intend to marry makes you better at marital sex

In another post, she is more clear about her views: (these are her actual words)

  • Choosing to not to abstain from sexual intercourse before marriage is not shameful.
  • Your decision to abstain or not to abstain does not necessarily have any connection to the health of your future marriage.
  • Your decision to abstain or not to abstain does not necessarily have any connection to the health of your future sex life.

Now first off, she has no Biblical evidence for any of these assertions in the original post I linked to. She also has no evidence from outside the Bible for any of her assertions. Assertion #3 in the list of 5 above seems to me to justify adultery as easily as it justifies premarital sex. Now, you might expect a person who claims to be a Christian to look first to the Bible to see what is right and wrong, then to look to evidence to strengthen the argument when discussing it with others inside and outside the church. For Joy, feelings and peer-pressure are enough to make anything morally OK. Now let’s take a quick look at what the Bible says about chastity and premarital sex:

1 Cor. 7:8-9

8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to stay single as I am.

9 But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

The idea of “burning” here has to do with sexual desire. Here Paul tells all unmarried people that if they cannot control their sexual desires, they need to get married. Why? Because Paul assumes that one cannot fulfill this sexual desire outside of the marital bed. While Paul would love for them to remain single (1 Cor. 7:7), he believes that sex outside of marriage is a destructive sin and cannot be used as a gratifying release of our sexual passions.

Now what evidence outside the Bible is there to support that? Here’s some:

Now back to Joy, What I have found when dealing with women like Joy in the church is that the Bible has no authority over them. Not even the words of Jesus have authority to lead them. And obviously they are not impressed with evidence from science, history, etc. Their sole reason for acting the way they do is their own feelings. Whatever they do that seems right to them cannot be questioned or judged. If things don’t “work out”, then they are a helpless victim. God’s will for them is that they do whatever they feel like in order to be happy.

It’s very very important for men who are seeking marriage to understand that the typical woman they meet in the church does not understand that Christianity imposes any obligations on them. They don’t look at the Bible for moral guidance, but for comfort. And they don’t study outside the Bible to become persuaded (and persuasive) about what the Bible teaches. Their view of Christianity is that they are good where they are, and that there is nothing that they should be studying or planning for in order to achieve goals, like evangelism or marriage. Everything has to be easy and feel good.

Fortunately, there is a way to detect the women who are serious about Christianity, and it can be done by simply asking them questions to see if they have moved beyond the feelings/selfishness model of Christianity to the truth/ responsibility model of Christianity. All you have to do is ask them questions to see how much effort they’ve put into confirming what the Bible teaches by reading outside the Bible. Christians read the Bible to know what’s true, and they read outside the Bible to convince themselves to act on what they know is true, and to show to others what’s true in a persuasive way. But reading outside the Bible is at war with the feelings /victim/ don’t-judge-me view of Christianity pushed by people like Joy. That is because the more you read, the less room there is for doing what you feel like. When you study, what you learn constrains your actions.

I think men should avoid women who respond to the claims of Scripture and the evidence from research by sticking their fingers in their ears and saying “don’t judge me! don’t shame me!”. You can’t make a marriage with someone who is dismissive of moral obligations, and who acknowledges no higher authority than her own feelings and the approval of her secular, progressive peers. The Bible forbids “unequal yoking”, which is the marriage of a Christian to a non-Christian.

More about Joy and the women of A Deeper Story

A little more digging reveals that they are pro-gay marriage and claim that it is compatible with Christianity:

http://deeperstory.com/a-deeper-story-responds-to-doma-and-prop-8/

Joy Bennett – The Supreme Court’s ruling today to overturn DOMA is the right decision, and one that I welcome. It refers the definition of marriage and recognition of same-sex marriage back to states. It surprises me to hear conservatives, who ardently support states’ rights, bemoaning this ruling as “sin winning.” It is my personal position that any couple wishing to vow fidelity and faithfulness to one another ought to be encouraged in that endeavor. And any couple willing to make that kind of commitment and form a family ought to receive the civil and legal rights that naturally follow the formation of a family. I see the legal recognition of a marriage as a completely separate issue from the theological discussion of homosexuality. The Supreme Court did not change anything about so-called traditional marriage. The Supreme Court did not require churches or religious bodies to recognize same-sex marriage. It made a civil ruling. The theological question of whether homosexuality is a sin is completely separate from its legality, and it would behoove today’s American Christians to remember that fact.

The Sarah Bessey she links to is also in favor of same-sex marriage:
http://deeperstory.com/same-sex-marriage/

They are pro-premarital sex and claim that it is compatible with Christianity (in the post I linked to).

The two articles she linked to bashing the “purity culture” (chastity) contain no Bible verses, and no studies. No truth at all, really. Note that bashing chastity is compatible with their feminist egalitarian convictions.

One of the authors she linked to (Sarah Bessey) has a book that is endorsed by Rachel Held Evans and Brian MacLaren. That’s where these guys are coming from ideologically. They are bashing Biblical morality and judging anyone who dares to say that anything is morally wrong. They feel that that people should never be made to feel bad by what the Bible says. (And what studies confirm).

So these people are not Christian in any meaningful way, but more like Trojan horses, manufacturing “diversity” of opinions where there is none, IF you take the Bible seriously as a rule on moral issues. If you’re a man looking to marry, you need to be able to detect women like this – don’t just assume they are good Christian women because they go to church. Ask questions.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Should you marry someone who promises you that “there will be no divorce”?

I was having a chat with a friend of mine who just got out of a serious relationship and I was trying to pick his brain to find out everything about the woman he was intending to marry so I could see why things went wrong. He told me that she had told him over and over that “there would be no divorce” and that he found that very convincing, despite very obvious warning signs in the area of respect (which I wrote about yesterday).

Well. I was very surprised to hear this, and so I asked him whether he thought it was enough that this woman told him that “three will be no divorce”. He said yes. This woman had experienced the divorce of her own parents and she was resolved (by act of will) never to let that happen to her. He found that acceptable, but I didn’t because I know the numbers on this, and I know that children of divorced parents are more likely to divorce themselves. So the pain of divorce is no deterrent here.

So should we believe that people can avoid a divorce just by saying they will? I told him no. And for an example, I offered a thought experiment. I said to imagine two runners on a track who are charged with completing 10 laps. One runner is a Navy SEAL like Mike Murphy, who has been trained to run miles and miles carrying a 60 pound load. In the mountains. The other is a 300-lb couch potato whose idea of exercise is reaching for the TV remote control. Suppose I ask both runners: do you intend to finish the 10 laps? Should I believe them if they both say yes?

Look, marriage is like building a house. People can say whatever they want about their prospects for success, but the will doesn’t decide here. You have to certain skills, you have to have a certain amount of money, you have to have a plan, you have to be able to read blueprints, you have to be able to hire specialists, you understand the differences between materials, etc. When you think about it, no long-term enterprise can be accomplished by act of will. Piano recitals, math exams, investing for retirement… nothing can be done by sheer act of will.

Now with that being said, let’s take a look at an example.

An example

I found this article in the Wall Street Journal way back in 2011, but it fits my conversation with my friend.

The author, Susan Gregory Thomas, lists some of the mistakes she made that led her to get a divorce in her first marriage.

This is the first thing I saw that caught my eye:

“Whatever happens, we’re never going to get divorced.” Over the course of 16 years, I said that often to my husband, especially after our children were born.

So she is trying to express an intention here, repeatedly, to her husband. I think the point here is that she did have good intentions but as we shall see that was not enough to prevent the divorce. That’s a warning to others that good intentions are not enough.

Here is the second thing:

I believed that I had married my best friend as fervently as I believed that I’d never get divorced. No marital scenario, I told myself, could become so bleak or hopeless as to compel me to embed my children in the torture of a split family. And I wasn’t the only one with strong personal reasons to make this commitment.

I noticed that a lot of people seem to think that being compatible is very important to marriage. But I don’t think that it is the most important thing. For example, you would not expect two cocaine addicts or two gambling addicts, etc. to have a stable marriage. I think marriage is more like a job interview where there are specific things that each person has to be able to do in order to make it work. So again, she’s giving a warning to others that compatibility is not a guarantee of marriage success.

And there’s more:

My husband and I were as obvious as points on a graph in a Generation X marriage study. We were together for nearly eight years before we got married, and even though statistics show that divorce rates are 48% higher for those who have lived together previously, we paid no heed.

We also paid no heed to his Catholic parents, who comprised one of the rare reassuringly unified couples I’d ever met, when they warned us that we should wait until we were married to live together. As they put it, being pals and roommates is different from being husband and wife. How bizarrely old-fashioned and sexist! We didn’t need anything so naïve or retro as “marriage.” Please. We were best friends.

Sociologists, anthropologists and other cultural observers tell us that members of Generation X are more emotionally invested in our spouses than previous generations were. We are best friends; our marriages are genuine partnerships. Many studies have found that Generation X family men help around the house a good deal more than their forefathers. We depend on each other and work together.

So here I am seeing that she rejected sex roles, parental advice, or the moral guidelines of Christianity. Again, she is discussing some of the factors that I at least think contribute to divorce. I think that she is right to highlight the fact that she was wrong to disregard the statistics on cohabitation.

So here are some of the mistakes:

  • reject advice from parents
  • avoid chastity
  • cohabitate for EIGHT YEARS
  • embrace feminism, reject complementarian sex roles
  • thinking that good intentions would overcome every challenge

So, what does the research show works to have a stable marriage?

  • chastity
  • rejection of feminism
  • regular church attendance
  • parental involvement in the courting
  • parents of both spouses married
  • no previous divorces

Guess what? You can’t break all the rules and still succeed by sheer force of will.  If you break all the rules like that woman in the story, you can’t have a working marriage. Not without repudiating everything you believed, and taking steps to undo all the damage from everything you’ve done. You can’t keep all the bad beliefs and bad habits you’ve built up and marry them to a marriage that will stand the test of time.

A good marriage is an enterprise, and it requires that your character be changed to fit the requirements. There is no way to short-circuit the preparation / selection processes by act of will. And just because your friends are getting married, that’s no reason for you to rush into it unprepared. The best way to prepare for marriage is pick people of the opposite sex and practice marriage behaviors (e.g. – listening, helping) with them – even with people you don’t intend to marry. Take an interest in their lives and practice denying yourself to help them with their problems. That’s better than making idle promises you’re not able to keep. And this works the same for men and for women. Both people need to get this right.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ross Douthat: challenges facing the modern family, and some pro-family policy ideas

This is from the Family Studies blog. It’s an interview with moderately conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat.

I just want to highlight the problem and a couple of his solutions. If you find it interesting, read the whole thing.

First, the problem:

IFS:  Why should we be so concerned about the state of the American family today?  Of all of the family issues on the nation’s agenda—marriage, divorce, cohabitation, single parenthood, the fatherhood crisis, or something else—which one has you most concerned?

Douthat:  We should be concerned because the family is the taproot of identity and community, the pre-political unit on which politics depend, the place where all the ladders of psychology and personality start. And right now, a familial experience (growing up in an intimate relationship with both your natural parents) that used to be average, boring, typical is increasingly a luxury good, an aspiration that’s rising out of reach for people whose talents and resources are limited or modest.

But in thinking about why this is happening, and what’s going wrong, I wouldn’t single out just  one issue, because they’re all too deeply intertwined. The biggest problem the American family faces right now is a problem of compounding: The way that many of the trends you cite have, since the 1960s but in certain ways especially in the last generation, effectively all been pushing in the same direction, with each problem making other problems worse. There’s a perverse cycle, in other words, that’s hard for people to escape: A higher divorce rate creates a cultural context in which young people don’t see lifelong monogamy as a plausible goal and don’t want to take the chance of being hurt in the way that one or both of their parents were . . . which, in turn, prompts them to delay marriage and cohabit for an extended period instead, to effectively test their partner . . . which makes it more likely that they’ll have a child during such a “test” period, without a marital bond with the other parent . . . which raises the odds, whether they marry or not, that the relationship will dissolve, creating more instability in the life of their child or children . . . who in turn will grow up with an even-more pessimistic view of marriage and family life than their own divorce-shy parents did. All of these effects are then amplified by the “social contagion” aspect of family breakdown, in which just having peers or neighbors whose marriages are failing or who have had kids out of wedlock creates a context in which that seems like the norm, and a stable or flourishing family life like an exceptional, nearly-unattainable ideal.

The first three solutions I think of when I read this are: 1) eliminate single mother welfare, 2) get the normalization of premarital sex out of the schools, and 3) repeal no-fault divorce. The trouble is that feminists oppose all three of these policies. They want money to be transferred from traditional families where one man works to single mother households. They want women to get away from “sexist” notions like chastity, courtship and chivalry. They want women to be able to get out of her obligations to her husband and children if she feels “unhappy”. So unless we roll back radical feminism, none of those ideas are going to happen.

But does Douthat have any other policy ideas?

This one for no-fault divorce:

IFS:  With one recent study indicating that divorce has actually been on the rise over the last generation or so, what do you make of the recent efforts of some states to tighten up their no-fault divorce laws?  Is there a way for the state to encourage couples to think twice about ending their marriages without returning to an era where spouses and their children could be stuck in violent relationships?

Douthat:  I’m basically supportive of the mix of proposals in (IFS Senior Fellow!) Brad Wilcox’s 2009 essay on divorce for National Affairs—waiting periods and counseling for divorcing couples (especially couples with children), preferential treatment in court for spouses who are being divorced against their will (in the absence of evidence of abuse)—and I know that some of those ideas have been taken up by the Coalition for Divorce Reform, which is trying to push state-level changes. My sense is that this kind of incremental tightening of divorce law is a better bet than the “covenant marriage” approach that some social conservatives pressed in the 1990s, where couples would be given the option of entering into a marriage without a no-fault escape hatch. The evidence we have from the three states that adopted the convenant option suggests that almost nobody actually opted into it, and I think it’s safe to assume that the people who did choose it were at pretty low risks for divorce already. Better, I think, to push for legal changes—however modest—that might apply across the board, and thus shape incentives for the marginal, most-at-risk couples.

And this one for welfare:

IFS:  If you could magically pass a set of policies aimed at strengthening marriage and families, what would those policies be? (Set aside, for now, budget constraints and the chances of getting the proposals through Congress.)

Douthat:  My economic program would expand on some of the ideas being kicked around already. There would be an even larger child tax credit than the one Republicans like Mike Lee and Marco Rubio have endorsed, and the existing earned-income tax credit would be expanded and converted to a direct wage subsidy. I would impose—I’m the enlightened despot here, right, so federalism no longer applies?—various regulatory reforms on states and municipalities aimed at eliminating a lot of zoning and licensing rules that impose particularly steep costs on working class families. I’d cut and cap tax subsidies that disproportionately benefit upper middle class rentiers. I’d pursue some version of the Paul Ryan vision for welfare reform, with much more state-based experimentation in the provision of non-cash benefits. More broadly, I’d combine relatively loose monetary policy with relatively tight immigration rules, seeking a lower unemployment rate and higher wages at the bottom rungs of the economic ladder. And then I’d spend less on prisons and put more money into hiring and training (but not heavily-arming!) cops, and I’d put UCLA’s Mark Kleiman in charge of reviewing sentencing policies at both the state and federal level, with an eye toward achieving significant reductions in incarceration rates wherever possible.

So maybe my ideas are not realistic, because I am too conservative, but I’d certainly like his to be enacted if mine can’t be. How about you? Do you have any ideas to save marriage? We can’t keep going life this – eventually we are going to run out of money for the social programs that prop up the people who bought into the sexual revolution. The spending on social programs for broken homes has got to stop somehow, one way or the other.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , ,

Being a member of a large family is associated with marital stability

An article from the Sacramento Bee explains why some marriages last longer than others.

Excerpt:

A key reason, said University of Virginia sociologist Brad Wilcox, is that a greater proportion of older adults come from large families, born into an era when big families were the norm in American life – and research shows that having lots of siblings correlates with a lower statistical likelihood of divorce.

“In terms of some social outcomes, kids from large families are more likely to flourish,” said Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project. “They’re less likely to get divorced. It might be the experience early in life of learning to share so much and live with the exceptional stress of having all those different personalities to deal with.”

Ohio State University research suggests that only children are the least likely to marry and most at risk of divorcing, while people with four to seven siblings have markedly lower rates of divorce.

Maybe people from big families grow up knowing that they’re not going to win every battle. Maybe they understand from birth that they’re not alone in life. Or maybe they learn early on to play well with others.

“All those life experiences may have prepared them better for marriage,” Wilcox said.

These long unions stand out in the shifting landscape of marriage. While 78 percent of American adults were married in 1950, according to census data, only about half are married today, and they’re waiting longer to do so. The age of first marriage for men has risen to almost 30, compared to 23 in 1960. Fewer people marry each year, and confidence in marriage is at such a low point that a recent Pew Research Center survey showed that 40 percent of unmarried Americans think the concept of marriage is outdated.

Even for older Californians, the chances of staying married are decreasing. The number of adults ages 60 and older who are divorced has risen steadily in Sacramento County and across the state during the last decade, census figures show. About 19.2 percent of Sacramento County residents past 60 are currently divorced, compared to 14.1 percent in 2005. Statewide, about 15.2 percent of residents 60 and older are divorced, compared to 13.1 percent nine years ago.

Todd Migliaccio, a California State University, Sacramento, sociology professor, has researched marriages that have lasted 30 years or longer to figure out what keeps couples together. The traditional reasons for marriage – financial support, child-rearing, family stability and longstanding gender roles – aren’t necessarily factors that speak to 21st-century couples. So what makes marriage last?

Friendship, his research shows: Marriages that endure no matter what tend to involve couples who genuinely like each other and enjoy each other’s company.

“We’re seeing more and more couples that have lasted where friendship is one of the big factors,” he said. “And if they’re from a close family, that provides a huge social network that contributes to marital longevity.

“Couples have more to draw on and more commitment to the greater good of the family.”

And what about couples who attend church regularly? Does that help?

Yes:

“The important thing is that people are integrating into a religious community as a couple,” said the National Marriage Project’s Wilcox. “People who regularly attend religious services together are more likely to stay together.

“But people who don’t go to church together are more likely to get divorced than the average American.”

So, if you want to help your own children have a better chance at making their marriages work, have more kids, not less.

Filed under: News, , , , , ,

New study: amicable divorce just as damaging for children as hostile divorce

The UK Daily Mail reports on a new study on the effects of divorce.

Excerpt:

Divorcing parents who try to maintain an amicable relationship for the sake of their children are doing nothing to help them, a major study suggests.

The impact of the split on youngsters is the same whether or not the mother and father keep cordial links, it found.

[...]The new study, the first in 20 years to examine how the behaviour of separated parents affects their children, was carried out by US academics.

It covered 270 parents who were divorced or separated between 1998 and 2004 in an unnamed US state that compels divorcees to take part in an education programme on ‘co-operative co-parenting’.

Of these, 31 per cent considered their relationship with their ex-spouse as ‘co-operative and involved’; 45 per cent were ‘moderately engaged’ with their divorced partner, with some conflict between them; and 24 per cent said their co-operation was ‘infrequent but conflictual’.

They were asked to say how their break-up had affected the youngest child in their family. The average age of children involved was eight years.

The study, published in the academic journal Family Relations, said that children of divorced parents are more likely than others to suffer ‘external’ symptoms such as behaviour problems or drug abuse, more likely to have ‘internal’ difficulties like anxiety or depression, and more likely to do badly at school.

But the researchers, headed by Dr Jonathon Beckmeyer of Indiana University, found that these children’s problems were no worse if their parents continued to row and bicker with each other after the divorce.

The study said ‘despite the expectation that children fare better’ if their divorced parents develop a co-operative relationship, the behaviour of children as assessed by their parents ‘did not significantly differ’ between the friendly and the fighting groups of divorcees.

So the take-home lesson is this: there is no such thing as a divorce that doesn’t hurt the children. If you’re thinking of divorce and you have children, just don’t do it. And if you are thinking of marriage, then be careful who you marry. Don’t cloud the judgment with premarital sex before you get to know the person and get the commitment.

Filed under: News, , , , ,

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