A Few Thoughts on Bodily Presence

One of the big difficulties when it comes to disagreements between Lutherans and Reformed is that we don’t always agree on what our disagreements are. Take the presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. This is a generalization, but the view I hear most often from the Reformed perspective is that the Lutheran and Reformed views are actually pretty similar. We all agree that Christ is present in the Supper, we just disagree on how he is present–the mode in which Christ is there. Lutherans say he is present bodily, Reformed say he is not, but they do affirm that he is present spiritually (though exactly what “spiritually” means seems to differ fairly significantly from one person to the next.)

Lutherans, in contrast, tend to see that same gulf as being much wider–that these two views aren’t really that similar at all. That’s why we give our own doctrine a title that no doubt seems rather pretentious to other traditions: the Real Presence. Even the very name implies that in the Lutheran view, the Reformed don’t really think Christ is present in the Supper–that mere spiritual presence is some kind of fake presence.

In a way, this divergence shouldn’t be particularly surprising. Calvin tended to be a particularly abstract thinker, whereas Luther was generally more concrete–and the traditions they left behind seem to follow the same pattern much of the time. Neither one of those ways of thinking is necessarily better than the other (I tend more towards abstraction myself,) but they each have different strengths and weaknesses in different circumstances.

In the case of the Supper, the Reformed view (again, this is a generalization, but it is what I hear most often) begins with the abstract concept of “presence.” From there, it tries to determine the most sensible way of understanding that abstract concept. It considers the finite nature of bodies, the infinite nature of God, and so forth before concluding that a spiritual mode of presence is just more sensible than a bodily mode given the abstract concepts involved. So when they come to Jesus’ words, “This is my body,” they conclude that he’s speaking figuratively. And when Lutherans maintain a belief in bodily presence, its seen as a less sensible view, but it nevertheless fits within most of the same abstract structures.

Lutherans, however, don’t start with presence in any abstract sense. Rather, when we use the word presence, it’s usually just short-hand for Jesus’ words, “This is my body.” Those words were the famous beginning and ending of Luther’s conversation with Zwingli on the subject. Before any abstractions are brought to the table at all, everything begins with those simple words of Christ: “This is my body.” Anything else we offer is merely an attempt to describe that. So when Lutherans hear the Reformed say “Christ is present, but he’s not bodily present” what we hear is essentially, “This is my body, but it’s not bodily my body.” That, of course, is nonsense–if its not bodily his body, it’s not his body–which is why we affirm our doctrine using the term “Real” Presence in implied contrast to unreal presences.

So is it all just a matter of miscommunication? Am I suggesting some postmodern “it depends on your point-of-view” solution? Not at all. As a matter of fact, it all goes back to what I said about abstract & concrete thinking each having different strengths in different circumstances.

When you’re confronted with the mysteries of God–subjects in which the infinite encounters the finite in ways that you already know are beyond human comprehension–the last thing you want to do is let your philosophy dictate what Scripture is and is not allowed to say. When, for example, Scripture tells us that 1) Jesus Christ is God and 2) Jesus Christ is man, we don’t start figuring out what those statements “really” mean by forcing them into our own metaphysical standards of what’s possible or sensible when it comes to God becoming incarnate. We don’t try to make him some kind of part god/part human hybrid (Eutychianism). We don’t try to make him two distinct beings–one god and one man–each occupying the same space (Nestorianism). We simply accept that he is God in every sense of the word and that he is also man in every sense of the word. How does that work? We don’t really know. We can describe it–as we do in the creeds–but not really define it in terms of our own categories. And if we feel like speculating about the metaphysical mechanics, we always need to do so in a way that respects both of the two concrete realities we are presented with: Christ’s full divinity and Christ’s full humanity.

We should be taking the same approach to the Supper. The very word “sacrament” means mystery. When Christ tells us that this bread is his body, given for us for the forgiveness of sins, what business do we have trying to define the mechanics of that reality–especially determining what is and is not possible for God? The Lutheran view is a simple and concrete approach that’s analogous to the orthodox position on the two natures of Christ. Scripture tells us that it’s bread and wine. Scripture tells us that it’s Christ’s body and blood. Ergo, it is really and truly both. We have no need to try to define these two realities in terms of Aristotelian metaphysics the way Rome did–much less demand adherence to such a system. And if that leaves us unable to answer the question of “how can this be?” beyond pointing to the power of God’s promises, so be it. We don’t really need to answer it. But even in the midst of that ignorance, we nevertheless know that theologians err when they try to interpret those two realities in a way that effectively denies either truth, and we’re quite right to defend those truths against error.

Posted in Lutheranism, Musings, Theology | Leave a comment

Cultivating Chastity – Part 7

Last time we talked about the law written on our hearts–the moral knowledge that we all possess simply by virtue of having a normal human mind. But if, on some level, we all know that sex belongs with marriage, how to we get to the kind of licentiousness we see today? In this episode, we will explore some of the popular distortions of natural law–and why they seem compelling to us.

Previous Installments:
1) Introduction: https://youtu.be/IPr0LyLKSVk
2) The Church’s Failure: https://youtu.be/s_ImO_Ip7eo
3) Stop Teaching Celibacy: https://youtu.be/1aGzk0d4zPA
4) The Virtue of Chastity: https://youtu.be/hNCtZxA496Y
5) Chastity in the Bible: https://youtu.be/pCJ5eTHtkbg
6) Chastity in Natural Law: https://youtu.be/snhqfQcJq6Q

Chapter 11 of As Though It Were Actually True: Christian Apologetics Primer – https://www.amazon.com/Though-Were-Actually-True-Apologetics-ebook/dp/B01G4KWQJW/

You can find more of my material at…
The 96th Thesis: http://matthewcochran.net/blog/
The Federalist: http://thefederalist.com/author/matthewcochran/
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Though-Were-Actually-True-Apologetics-ebook/dp/B01G4KWQJW/

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The Dark Side of Equal Opportunity

I’m not the first software developer in my family–both of my parents worked in technology as well. But even they weren’t the first. My mother, who programmed back in the days of punch cards and vacuum tubes, followed in the footsteps of my great aunt. Unlike today, the wage gap was actually real back then. My great aunt was quite literally paid less than her colleagues specifically because she was a woman. For one thing, she was in a brand new field holding the same position without any pertinent differences in experience or hours worked, but still earned substantially lower wages. For another, people were quite open about that rationale because it was the norm at the time.

Even I would agree that this was unfair. But was it also unjust?  In other words, was this a matter of pure bigotry or some other form of moral wrongdoing on the part of society? Or was it, instead, simply an unfortunate circumstance borne from generally reasonable actions? Those are two very different indictments. Life is frequently observed to be unfair, and justice does not always compel us to fix such things. In those kinds of situations, we often find that the “solutions” are merely trade-offs—exchanging one form of unfairness for another.

So which was it? Unfair or unjust? Our feminist culture discourages us from reflecting on questions like that—preferring that we reflexively label people misogynists and call it a day. But that is not how we roll here at The 96th Thesis. So to answer the question, we need to actually consider & understand why she was paid less.

I can’t speak to the attitudes of the people involved—whether or not her bosses were women-hating jerks smoking cigars who constantly made off-color jokes in the back rooms of their boy’s clubs. I know what TV and movies would have me believe, but that’s not exactly a reliable source. What I can point out, however, is a big cultural difference that transcends personal attitudes: Women were paid less at the time because it was expected that most of them would eventually go on to have families and either reduce or eliminate their hours working.

Why should that make a difference? Because in the past, equitable pay for careers was more complex than simply comparing an hour of productivity to an hour of wages. More companies considered their employees to be long-term investments. Even as workers carried out their tasks, they were gaining experience and skills that would make them more effective workers for that company in the future. Employees weren’t simply being paid based on what they produced now, but also based on educated guesses about what they would mean to the company in the long run. Because women’s futures with the company were much less certain, they were much riskier investments, and that higher risk was reflected in lower wages.

There’s no question that those expectations limited prospects for career-minded women. Swimming against the current is always harder than going along with it. Social expectations like that often create prejudices that take a lot of work to overcome—when they even can be overcome, which is not always the case. In that sense, these practices were by no means fair to women.

At the same time, it wasn’t exactly fair to ask companies to ignore social expectations either—to simply assume that most women would be around in the long-run the same way that most men would be. Even today, men still tend to work longer hours than women for a variety of reasons.  Forcing them to ignore that difference wasn’t correcting an injustice.

So if we consider the matter soberly without broadly applying our own prejudices about the personalities involved, the situation was unfair, but not necessarily unjust in a broad sense. There were no doubt plenty of horror stories in which real injustice happened, but also plenty more people who were simply doing their best with the situation they were given.

And, of course, the people of the time chose to try and solve the unfairness. They established laws that required equal pay and forbade various forms discrimination based on sex. Today, achieving equal pay for equal work is probably seen as one of the most benign and positive changes that feminism ever delivered. Even most people who reject feminism in general have little issue with that particular aspect of the movement.

But as with many solutions to unfair situations, they were merely trade-offs accompanied by unintended consequences which have caused a great deal of harm. What’s more, we’ve largely failed to consider those consequences because in a feminist culture, doing so is a great way to draw unfair accusations of misogyny and sexism. But that is exactly how we roll here at The 96th Thesis, so let’s take a look anyway.

What is the primary unintended consequence of reducing employers’ ability to weigh the risk of hiring a worker by making sex-based wage discrimination illegal? It’s a commensurate reduction in their investment in that worker. Ignoring sex in hiring decisions reduces the future-orientation of said decisions. The result is that companies are more and more likely to treat their employees as replaceable parts rather than investments. Today, so many years later, we’ve reached the point where workers are usually referred to as “human resources.” They’re selected by whether their current skills and qualifications fit the need of the moment, and at many companies, little thought given to who they are or where they came from because they’re probably just going to be replaced in a few years anyway. We can argue over whether that trade-off is worth it, but honesty requires us to recognize it as a trade-off.

There’s also the matter of wage depression to consider. The fundamental basis of economics is the law of supply and demand. When the supply of goods and services grows relative to their demand, the price drops. When demand for goods and services grows relative to their supply, the price rises. Well, labor is a service—it’s something we pay for—and is just as subject to that law as anything else. When women entered the workforce en masse, they substantially increased the supply of labor. Roughly speaking, women’s participation in the workforce went from 1/3 to 2/3, which, because they’re half the population, means a roughly 25% increase in the supply of labor. However, they made little change to the demand for labor because 100% percent of women were already consumers.

Because of this, the price of labor—wages—were substantially depressed. Whereas single-income households were normal in the past, today, many families today struggle to get by without two incomes. So while it is much easier for a woman to pursue a high-earning career today than it was 60 years ago, it is also much harder for a woman to be a stay-at-home mom or homemaker. Once again, you could argue whether that trade-off is worth it, but it is undeniably a trade-off that elevates career-minded women at the unfair expense of women who aspire to motherhood—a higher calling than career for most people.

And the trade-offs don’t stop there. Broadly speaking, women’s investment in the work force results in lower investment in the family—fewer children who spend less time with mom. This lack of investment has lead us to a birth rate well below replacement levels and a dying civilization as its fruit. But there’s a more personal trade-off as well. My great aunt never had children of her own; she devoted herself to career instead. In contrast, my mom quit her career as a programmer to have kids—a choice I will literally be eternally grateful for because without it, I would not even exist. My own kids will be eternally grateful to her as well, as will theirs, and so-on down the line. How many more software engineers would have been in my family if more of those genes had been passed on? How many more people would be eternally grateful to their mothers and grandmothers if they had chosen to become mothers in the first place?

So not only was equal pay a trade-off rather than an advancement, I cannot help but conclude that it was by no means worth the cost. The effect of legally forcing this change wasn’t to correct unjust practices by employers, but rather to force a change in expectations for women by elevating career at the expense of family.  To our sorrow, it seems that civilization depends much more on the latter than on the former.

There’s no question that feminism has been a debacle. It is the bloodiest movement from a century filled with bloody movements. Nonetheless, many conservatives try to wash that blood off its hands for the sake of its benefits without ever truly counting the costs. Not only do these benefits fail to justify their cost in lives and broken homes that accompanied them, even some of the most beloved cannot justify their own direct costs.

Posted in Family, Feminism | 2 Comments

Cultivating Chastity – Part 6

Luther once observed that without the natural law, “one would have to teach and practice the law for a long time before it became the concern of conscience. The heart must also find and feel the law in itself.”

This remains the case when it comes to sexual morality. Though Scripture is quite clear about God’s standards, those standards appear alien to a culture as lawless as ours. But are we really as “lawless” as we seem, or do we actually surround ourselves with absentminded laws and moral attitudes about sex? If we look critically at the poorly conceived rules and standards of our own culture, we might just find that God’s own standards less alien than we first thought.

Previous Installments:
1) Introduction: https://youtu.be/IPr0LyLKSVk
2) The Church’s Failure: https://youtu.be/s_ImO_Ip7eo
3) Stop Teaching Celibacy: https://youtu.be/1aGzk0d4zPA
4) The Virtue of Chastity: https://youtu.be/hNCtZxA496Y
5) Chastity in the Bible: https://youtu.be/pCJ5eTHtkbg

There’s No Such Thing as a Slut: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/05/theres-no-such-thing-as-a-slut/371773/

Yes, Virginia, There is Such Thing as a Slut: http://matthewcochran.net/blog/?p=617
Chapter 11 of As Though It Were Actually True: Christian Apologetics Primer – https://www.amazon.com/Though-Were-Actually-True-Apologetics-ebook/dp/B01G4KWQJW/
Stop Shaming Men for Valuing Virginity: http://matthewcochran.net/blog/?p=1071
The Cultivation of Shame: https://thefederalist.com/2014/04/03/the-cultivation-of-shame/

You can find more of my material at…
The 96th Thesis: http://matthewcochran.net/blog/
The Federalist: http://thefederalist.com/author/matthewcochran/
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Though-Were-Actually-True-Apologetics-ebook/dp/B01G4KWQJW/

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Answering Objections About Marriage as Higher Calling

I forgot to post it on the blog, but I had a new piece up on The Federalist last week.  It’s a critique of an article by Kylee Zempel in which she argues that Christians today are idolizing marriage.  My response was essentially that marriage really is the higher calling for those who aren’t called to celibacy (i.e. the vast majority of the human race), and we ought to treat it that way.  But it’s only natural that my own critique attracted criticisms of its own.  Here are some answers to the most common objections:

People shouldn’t marry because some marriages turn out badly! Especially for [men | women]!

Sure, but a well-lived life is one that takes risks on behalf of goodness, truth, and beauty. It’s the nature of risk that it sometimes turns out badly. When you lie alone on your death-bed, you’re not going to find much satisfaction in the mere fact that you never got hurt.

This is not intended to trivialize the pain of those who have actually suffered through horrible spouses. It is, rather, intended to point out that as dark as our suffering sometimes is, God’s goodness always shines brighter—we should always hope in the latter rather than despair in the former.

Be fruitful and multiply” only made sense when there were only two people. Now that there are so many people in the world, we can feel free to disregard it. After all, humanity isn’t going to go extinct.

My favorite thing about this argument is that it was made almost 500 years ago at the Diet of Augsburg—back when there were only half a billion people on the planet. The Roman delegation argued that the earth was already too full, so God’s command doesn’t apply anymore. The additional 7 billion people put this foolishness in perspective.

My second favorite thing about this argument is that one of these guys talked about how China was forced to implement its one-child policy as evidence for his contention. It would, of course, be more accurate to say that they are now forced to abandon it due to the easily predictable consequences of said policy.

But ultimately, it’s wrong because its presumptuous. It suggests without any evidence that the only reason God told us to be fruitful and multiply is merely so that we won’t go extinct. And against that pile of absolutely nothing we have to weigh the fact that God designed us for sexual reproduction in the first place, that He gave us a sex drive that still persists when there are a lot of people, that there are additional New Testament commands to marry after the threat of extinction had passed, that Scripture treats children as categorical blessings, and so on, and so on. Gee, I wonder which way the scales will tilt…

If you want to marry; fine. If you don’t want to marry; fine. But keep your nose out of everyone else’s business because marriage isn’t the be all and end all of human existence.

At the end of the day, I believe this represented most of the criticism—which is pretty sad.

This attitude is as normal in our society as it is incompatible with Christianity. After all, where does it put the entire locus for the decision of whether or not a person should marry? It begins and ends with personal wants. Do what you want, and don’t complicate the matter further by considering compelling arguments.

But “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law” is the ethic of literal Satanists like Aleister Crowley, not of Christianity. For Christians, personal wants are considered when we make decisions, but they’re a much lower priority than things like God’s explicit commands, biblical wisdom, godly discernment, love for neighbors, etc.

And as a consequence of this, when we speak of reasons to marry or not, we speak of objective reasons that inevitably inform the decisions of other Christians—or of anyone whose concerns extend further than their own personal wants. To those who follow the Satanic ethic, this seems like butting into someone else’s business. After all, one person’s subjective wants truly have no jurisdiction over another person’s subjective wants. But Christians shouldn’t allow Satan to set the guidelines for our speech, and so we speak of more than mere desire.

Like it or not, there are always going to be women called to celibacy in the Church, and you need to give us the recognition we deserve!

First, I’ll note that this doesn’t affect my argument. It’s a true observation (one that I also made), but does not change the fact that these callings are the exceptions rather than the norm.

That said, let’s also look at the substance of this complaint. Does the Church need to make more of an effort to recognize single women? Well, it depends on exactly what you have in mind for “recognition” because we can understand that in two different ways.

The first way of understanding recognition is as accolade—as in, “Look upon all the mighty works that single Christian women have done! Do you not owe us your praises for these things? Stop pretending that creating and loving new human beings is somehow more important than my career and give me my due!”

I’ll be frank: this is precisely the sense of vainglory I get out of most of these calls. There was even a strong element of this in Zempel’s original piece. After all, it starts off with her description of how wonderfully and thoroughly she studied transgenderism before expressing her irritation that someone who appreciated those studies and took the time to say so also suggested that motherhood was a still mightier work. Likewise, she goes on to talk about how the wisdom of her own pursuits is better and more universal than pursuing marriage and family. There’s a powerful attitude among many single Christian women that they are the unsung heroes of the Church and that voices need to start being raised—stat.

There’s no need for me to address demands for this kind of recognition because Jesus has already done so, and I have nothing to add to His words:

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

It’s just one more reminder that the concerns of feminism are not the same as the concerns of God.

But can one put a better construction on some of these calls? I do think it’s possible to understand “recognition” in terms of “office” rather than “accolade.” In other words, recognizing single Christian women can mean widely embracing celibacy as an uncommon but legitimate social role to be filled—one permanent enough that there’s no perceived need for anyone to change out of that role. And to be fair, Zempel had notes of this understanding in her piece as well (specifically the irritation that anyone would express hope for her aspirations to change.)

Well, if this kind of recognition can be fulfilled simply by acknowledgment of celibacy, many people already do this—including myself in that very piece. But if it needs more than that, Christians have traditionally done this through monasticism—in which Christians would take vows of celibacy and permanently join a like-minded community that is recognized by everyone as being set apart from the norm. After all, I suspect very few people ask nuns whether or not they have a boyfriend yet.

The thing is, the protestant churches have largely abandoned this concept—and for good reason. It always came with a unhealthy does of elitism—the belief that monks and nuns were on a higher spiritual plane than the “mundane” Christians who were actually fulfilling God’s commands. They generally involved ungodly vows and the elevation of man-made traditions above the Word of God. And more to the current point, the record will show that a great many monks and nuns did not actually have the gift of celibacy at all—sexual licentiousness wasn’t exactly uncommon in many historical organizations. It’s not that monasticism never offered anything positive, it’s rather that the practical negatives proved too problematic for too many.

The Roman and Eastern churches still maintain monastic traditions, of course. Once could look to those as examples. I can’t say much about them because I’m not familiar with contemporary norms in those traditions. All I can say is that the error of spiritual elitism is, unfortunately, still part of Rome’s theology.  And if all the scandals surrounding Rome’s priesthood are any indication, I suspect the not-actually-having-the-gift-of-celibacy issue is probably still around to some extent as well. I know even less about the Eastern traditions.

Ultimately, the call to “recognize” celibate women as holding a kind of special office is going to be a call to reestablish something akin to monasticism. I say this for a few practical reasons. First, it has to be something that is sufficiently organized, visible, and set apart to provide adequate recognition for those who belong to it. Second, it has to have something akin to vows to provide sufficient permanence—otherwise, it just changes the irritating questions of hopeful parents and friends to “hey, when are you going to finally leave the organization and find a boyfriend?” You might be able to trade cloisters and convents for more civic vocations, but many of the key elements are still going to have to be there for it to be functional.

Can this be done without falling into those same historical problems? (Or at least mitigate the problems adequately–it’s not exactly fair to expect perfection in any earthly institution.) The historical endurance of those problems makes me dubious of that. So does the scale of our society’s sexual licentiousness. So does the pervasiveness of single women’s demands for the vainglorious version of “recognition.”

In light of these considerations, maybe the better questions to ask the celibate are these: 1) Are the occasional recommendations to marriage that you receive really so hurtful that it’s worth courting these sins? 2) If the recommendations really are that hurtful, is it possible that you’re a little more insecure about your own calling than you’d like to admit?

Posted in Chastity, Culture, Ethics, Family, Feminism, Musings | Leave a comment

Cultivating Chastity – Part 5

If we’re going to cultivate the virtue of chastity–if we want to be disposed towards right behavior and against wrong behavior on the subject of sexuality–then we need to consider what right and wrong mean. As Christians, our first step in that consideration is to review the Biblical teachings. Join us as we survey some of the key points of what the Bible does–and doesn’t–teach about sexual morality.

Previous Installments:
1) Introduction: https://youtu.be/IPr0LyLKSVk
2) The Church’s Failure: https://youtu.be/s_ImO_Ip7eo
3) Stop Teaching Celibacy: https://youtu.be/1aGzk0d4zPA
4) The Virtue of Chastity: https://youtu.be/hNCtZxA496Y

More than a Duty; Not Less: http://matthewcochran.net/blog/?p=943
The Golden Rule Means Having Kids: https://thefederalist.com/2019/04/30/youre-not-following-golden-rule-youre-not-children/


On the Unattractiveness of Christian Men

The Chi Files had a great podcast the other day on the perennial complaint that Christian women aren’t marrying so often because there are just no good marriageable men in the church these days. (Check it out here;  it’s well worth your time.) They approach the issue by asking the same question I always ask when software I maintain suddenly stops working: “What changed?” The more complex the system, the less you’ll be able to simply follow cause and effect from beginning to end and find the problem. So knowing what changed can give you a great starting point for analysis.  I once had to debug a problem that occurred inside a top-secret environment for which I had no clearance. I could not see their computers, test with their data, or even direct a user while troubleshooting–all I had to go on was a very generic description during a phone call that the user had to make from outside the environment. But I was nevertheless able to fix it once I learned that they had recently changed the drivers on their printers.

So what changed in the Christian marriage market? It’s a fascinating discussion, but they conclude that the biggest change is that Christian men are generally less attractive to Christian women then they were in the past. They examine a variety of the social factors which contributed to this change before concluding that the only way out of this is for Christian men to make themselves more attractive–and recommend learning Game as a way to do this (The followup podcast in which they unpack what exactly that means is also well worth listening to.)

I think that’s an excellent short term solution. While one could certainly contend that the situation is unfair (and people certainly do a lot of that these days), complaining about the unfairness of life doesn’t really get you anywhere.  Learning about Game is advice that I would pass on to an unmarried Christian young man because it’s something that can help him right now. A person needs to adapt themselves to the world in which they live rather than pinning their hopes on someone changing the world for them first.

At the same time, it got me thinking about longer-term solutions to the issue. After all, becoming more attractive has more limited potential for men in general than it does for one hypothetical man. Consider, for example, the recent OK Cupid data which showed that the women on their site found a mathematically impossible 80% of men to be below average in attractiveness. It’s not unreasonable for an individual man to try to aim for that top 20%, but, by definition, most men cannot find themselves there.

Regardless of how seriously you take that specific data, female attraction remains inextricably tied to social status. It’s not the whole of it–abs are abs whether or not they’re on a nerd–but it’s always a part of it. Sexually barbaric women tend towards hypergamy–their preferred form of promiscuity is to always seek out and trade up to higher-status men because that status is what they find most attractive. But status is relative, so by definition, most men cannot actually be high-status.

But this isn’t necessarily an intractable problem because sexual attraction is more plastic than we might think. We often treat it as indelible (i.e. “you can’t help who you love!”) but in the long-term it really isn’t. We can actually be civilized in our sexuality.

Admittedly, some parts of attraction never really change. Men will always be attracted to physical signs of health/fertility in women. Women will always be attracted to signs of provider status and social esteem in men. But within these elements, culture nevertheless plays a huge role. Even what’s considered a healthy/attractive weight fluctuates with food availability and other cultural factors.  I remember doing crunches in the gym at seminary when a student from Africa asked his friend why I was doing it.  Someone explained to him that it was for getting a flatter stomach.  He was shocked because where he was from, having a modest gut was actually a status symbol.  So if culture plays a role in how we perceive the body, how much more, then, does it play a role in the ways we perceive things like provision and social status?

But although attraction is more plastic than we think, it also changes more slowly than we’d like. So the question is whether we can change things in the long-run. Or, in other words, is there anything Christians can do to adjust the ways that things like provider status and social esteem are perceived by Christian women in general? I think there are; here are a few suggestions that could have modest but positive effects:

1) Be honest about the terrible effects of single motherhood on children and society.

These effects are clear and well-documented (you can find a good summary from Stephen Molyneux here), so I’m not going to go into the details right now. But suffice to say, kids genuinely need their dads. Sure, they can survive without them, but losing a parent should be seen as more akin to losing an arm or a leg–a grievous injury that a person can live with and work around, but never fully recover from.

There’s a flip-side to the way Christians laud single moms.  It necessarily  skews our perception of fathers towards mere labor-saving device for mothers. In other words, the perception is that parenting is harder for single moms the way its harder to do your dishes by hand than it is to use a dishwashers. The truth, however, is that children need their fathers on a far more fundamental level than they need an extra pair of hands in the household or an extra deposit in the bank account. Recognizing that truth adds an explicit element of provision to our perception of men in general.

And yes, I know… we don’t want to discourage single moms, and if we’re too harsh towards them, they’ll be more tempted to murder their babies instead of raising them. We don’t want that, and we do need to be cautious. But at the same time, we can’t let the feelings of single moms hold our families hostage in this manner. So tell the truth with gentleness and respect, but never lie. If the person you’re speaking to comes away thinking that you’ve said single moms are perfectly adequate in every way, then you’ve probably lied.

2) Start showing respect to men–particularly to good fathers–in the Church.

Christians have a really big problem with treating men with contempt. It’s fundamentally because we’re embarrassed by the anti-feminist elements of Scripture and consequently scared of being called misogynists by the world. So we try to overcompensate by regularly taking pot-shots at men. Worse, we refuse to preach the parts of the law which condemn what has become everyday behavior from women. So when women destabilize their families by usurping the father’s authority or obliterate their families by divorcing faithful husbands, we go out of our way to find ways of blaming men for these sins.

How do you think this plays into the way men’s social status is perceived by women? When we regularly paint normal Christian men as contemptible in our churches, should we be surprised that normal Christian women don’t find normal Christian men attractive?

We should change course on this simply because its the right thing to do. But if Christian men begin to hold one another in esteem and deliberately recognize earned respect, it’s going to have a positive effect on the way their status is perceived by women.

3) Make marriage an expectation for your daughters 

(For your sons too, but that’s less directly applicable to this subject.)  Again, this is the Biblical prescription for most people. Some are called to celibacy, but most to marriage, and so we ought to treat the pursuit of marriage as something highly valuable and teach our children the same. But this comes with a blessed side-effect in that when women are deliberately pursuing marriage because they’ve learned to desire it, they’re more likely to see the qualities that make good husbands and fathers as something desirable. On the other hand, when the attitude is that marriage will simply happen to them when the vaguely right time intersects with peak romantic feelings while they deal with more important matters… well, that’s when they wait around for a tall, cut prince riding up on a white motorcycle to sweep them off their feet. If marriage is just a superficial accessory to “real” life, then its only natural to select one superficially and lazily.

4) Learn to regulate and limit media consumption and teach our children to do the same.

In many ways, television, movies, and the like are perceived by the mind as a kind of surrogate experience. We may know that its all fiction, but at the same time, it’s what we’ve seen happen. It has a kind of normalizing affect on our perception by telling us what to expect from people and situations–especially when we don’t have real experiences to fill in the blanks. Naturally, this has a huge influence on the way our sense of attraction develops. C.S. Lewis wrote about this in The Screwtape Letters:

It is the business of these great masters to produce in every age a general misdirection of what may be called sexual ‘taste.’ This they do by working through the small circle of popular artists, dressmakers, actresses and advertisers who determine the fashionable type. The aim is to guide each sex away from those members of the other with whom spiritually helpful, happy, and fertile marriages are most likely.

In an age of mass-media, it’s all but impossible to cut yourself off from that small circle that determines fashion. Nevertheless, you can limit their access to your mind by being judicious about the media you consume. You can also balance it out by consuming media from different times and places which directed attraction along different trajectories. Read old books. Watch old movies. Spend more time unplugged. The more we do this, the more we find that our sense of attraction becomes considerably less skewed than the surrounding culture’s.

There are probably a million more small changes like this which could likewise have a small positive effect, but I’ll stop here.  To be sure, young men cannot simply wait around for changes like this to happen. These are long-term changes, and they’ll miss their chance at marriage by waiting on them. If there’s even going to be a long-term, it will be because Christian men rose to the current challenge and overcame it to have families of their own. Nevertheless, it makes sense to consider sowing seeds now for what we’ll need to harvest later. As the saying goes, civilization depends on men planting trees in whose shade they’ll never live to sit. If female attraction changed in a way that makes Christian men less desirable, then it can also change in ways that make them more desirable. We just need to be as diligent about building a healthy culture as our forbears were about tearing one down.

Posted in Chastity, Culture, Family | 2 Comments

Cultivating Chastity – Part 4

Now that we’ve covered many of the errors and mistakes that Christians have made, we’re going to start looking at our positive case: How should Christians teach and inculcate Biblical sexual morality in our congregations, our families, and our communities? It would help if we can begin thinking in terms of virtue.

Previous Installments:
1) Introduction: https://youtu.be/IPr0LyLKSVk
2) The Church’s Failure: https://youtu.be/s_ImO_Ip7eo
3) Stop Teaching Celibacy: https://youtu.be/1aGzk0d4zPA

You can find more of my material at…
The 96th Thesis: http://matthewcochran.net/blog/
The Federalist: http://thefederalist.com/author/matthewcochran/
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Though-Were-Actually-True-Apologetics-ebook/dp/B01G4KWQJW/


Cultural Doggie Bag: Wheel of Time Casting

The Wheel of Time spins. Casting announcements come and go. What is, what was, and what will be may yet fall under intersectionality.
-Unknown blogger, the Sixth Age.

I was a huge fan of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time in my youth. While I see more of the series’ warts now that I’m older and wiser, I still enjoy it, and it retains a special place for me as the first fantasy series I was deeply into. I had read Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia before I ever cracked open The Eye of the World, but I didn’t read them at the right age to become part of a fandom in the same way. In contrast, I was given the first Wheel of Time book right at the beginning of adolescence and at the dawning of internet availability–both of which really transform one’s reading experience.

Even back in the day, I remember anticipating potential adaptations for television that never panned out, so it caught my attention when Amazon recently committed to creating a Wheel of Time series. Such adaptations, of course, can be a spectacular success, an atrocious failure, or anything in-between. But cautious optimism is my default setting on such things until I start seeing warning signs, so I waited for more information to come to light.

The first thing I read about the series strongly indicated that instead of Rand Al’Thor, the narrative would be centered on Moiraine–the Aes Sedai (sorceress) who comes to fetch the prophesied hero from his sleepy village so that he can go save the world. My initial reaction was that it could be genuinely interesting if well done. Especially early on, Wheel of Time uses all the standard fantasy tropes, so seeing the hero’s journey from the perspective of the mysterious wizard who calls the young lad to adventure could be a reasonable way of mixing it up a little. My second reaction was to worry that because it’s a change from a male character to a female character, it might instead simply be Social Justice Warriors at work.

Now that the casting of the main characters has been announced, the race-swapping of 50% of the cast makes a pretty compelling case for my second reaction.

I have to admit, my perspective of these kinds of changes has changed recently–and not because of Wheel of Time. In the past, I never really gave it much thought when characters’ races were swapped in the transition to film or television. Whichever way the races changed, I shrugged it off just as I did the people who whined about it. That is, after all what everybody was “supposed” to do (back in that brief era where colorblindness was taught as a virtue, but before it became racist.) But then… I couldn’t help but notice that while the uproars over “whitewashing” continued to grow, those very same complainers were busily accomplishing it’s inverse–let’s call it “blackfacing”–at an ever-faster clip. Hypocrisy, of course, is much more negative than mere whining, but the whole situation is actually worse than that.

Hypocrisy requires principles, and as I’ve written before, the SJW left has abandoned principle in favor of narrative–stories about good guys and bad guys in which “good” and “bad” are determined by the relative intersectionality ratings of the opposing sides rather than by any objective standard. When SJW’s encounter whitewashing, they see it as an outright attack on an entire race (or gender, sexual orientation, etc) and every individual that group encompasses. They see such casting as the bad guys projecting power against the good guys in order to diminish them as a people. So what, then, does that tell you about how they view their own attempts at blackfacing? Yeah… still as an attack against an entire group and everyone it encompasses. Except they judge that as a good deed when they do it because the targets–whites, in this case–are the bad guys. To put it extremely mildly, that seems like the kind of socio-political dynamic that any member of a “bad guy” group should stand up and take notice of, whether the particular action bothers him or not.

But beyond all that, there’s the simple fact that SJW’s are utterly corrosive to art. As I’ve written before, SJW’s cannot really create; they can only consume what others have created in order to be emotionally evocative for a brief time. It’ll be no different with the Wheel of Time than with anything else. And you can already see it even in the casting choices themselves.

One of the greatest strengths of the series was the world-building and the complexity of the interwoven fates of the various characters through the history that lead up to them. That was ultimately the series’ weakness as well, as Jordan began losing the plot and character-arcs among the minutia of the complicated world. But for those of us who enjoyed The Wheel of Time, the world-building was almost certainly a key part of that enjoyment.

And the world Jordan created was already racially diverse. As I recall, the Tairens, Altarans, and Domani were various shades of brown. The Sea Folk and Sharans were very dark-skinned, as were many who were included under the Seanchan empire. But the original set of central characters weren’t part of those races, so the SJW’s still had to “fix” it. And how did they do that? By taking an isolated, backwater village–a village with exactly one outlander from which barely any of its residents had ever ridden more than a couple days on horseback–and… they made it as racially diverse as New York City. The same collection of families from a homogeneous culture have been marrying each other for hundreds of years, and they’re somehow racially diverse. If they had made all the native Emond’s Fielders a single non-white race, it might have made a superficial kind of sense, but for some reason, Mat Cauthon is still white.

“It’s just a minor detail! Who cares?” Well, that’s precisely my point. They don’t care; the interconnectedness of minor details is irrelevant to them in the face of their political agenda. And so you end up with a scenario which makes no sense from a world-building perspective. Unlike Jordan, the SJW’s never gave a second thought to whether they were portraying a world that could actually exist given the specific combination of fantastical and realistic elements that undergird it. All they care about is whether any of it can be consumed in order to fuel their ideological war. To them, the Wheel of Time project isn’t an adaptation–it’s just another pile of coal to shovel into their furnace.

And so for now, I’ll just sit back and await the announcements that Min will be trans and Saidin a metaphor for toxic masculinity.

Posted in Culture, Politics | Leave a comment

Cultivating Chastity – Part 3

Why have churches in America been teaching celibacy instead of chastity? Why are we so focused on abstinence from sex rather than entering into godly marriages? It’s not because of anything the Bible teaches, but because of everything our culture teaches. There are many reasons Scripture warns us against worldliness–substituting cultural values for Godly values. The broken dreams of would-be husbands and wives are most certainly among those reasons.

Previous Installments:
Introduction – https://youtu.be/IPr0LyLKSVk
Part 2 – The Church’s Failure

What Losing My Virginity Taught Me About Faith: https://thefrisky.com/girl-talk-what-losing-my-virginity-taught-me-about-faith/

Evangelical Abstinence Culture is a Bust, but the Answer isn’t a Sexual Free-For-All: https://thefederalist.com/2018/12/07/yes-evangelical-abstinence-culture-bust-answer-isnt-sexual-free/

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