Dipping into the man-o-sphere, of both secular and religious varieties, they argue that there is an evidential propensity for even the “New Calvinists” (Driscoll, Mohler, Kevin DeYoung) to place unbalanced blame for the current state of gender relations and of marriage and ‘extended male adolescence’ upon the [young] males themselves.Men, already suffering under a legal regime that is deliberately tilted against them, and recent an economic downturn that initially hit them more, will only respond with contempt toward the Gospel and Full Counsel of God because of these obtuse pontifications without empathetic understanding. Perhaps with tinge of self-pity, it will feel like obtuse preachers blaming the ‘victim’.
The man-o-sphere is inclined to blame this male shaming on the effeminization of the Evangelical Church. This must seem terribly ironic to “New Calvinists”. Certainly, Mark Driscoll deems himself, the epitome of rugged American manliness. And “New Calvinists” have received more than a fair shake of castigation, often vitriolic, from feminists and Evangelical egalitarians, who exalt the things of WOMAN above the things of God. Stung by prior misstatements, some of these theologians have deliberately bent over backwards to appear fair-minded; thereby kowtowing to modern cultural sensitivities at the expense of spiritual fidelity.
However, the critique that such man-up rants emanate from compromises to endemic and insidious feminism is unfounded. They derive from a different source. They reflect symptomatic excesses and perversities of a conservative ‘patriarchal’ mindset, unjustified by Scriptures; of ‘males as leader, female as flotsam’ attitude. ‘If only the man knew how to wind the woman doll up properly, she would obey his every whim.’
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One artifact of this mindset, emblematic more of conservatism than of Christianity, is provided by Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. His web site gloats that Mohler has been declared the “reigning intellectual of the evangelical movement in the U.S.”1 from a flattering Time Magazine attribution from 20032. In a rehashed blog entry from May 2012, (original June 2005), concerning pornography, Mohler restates.
One further qualification must be added to this picture. Pornography is mainly, though not exclusively, a male phenomenon. That is to say, the users and consumers of pornography are overwhelmingly male–boys and men. In the name of women’s liberation, some pornography directed towards a female market has emerged in recent years. Nevertheless, this is decidedly a “niche” market in the larger pornographic economy. The fact remains that many men pay a great deal of money and spend a great deal of time looking at and looking for pornographic images in order to arouse themselves sexually.3
The problem with the assertion that users and consumers of pornography are overwhelmingly male–boys and men, is that it so overstates the case, that it becomes factually untrue and dishonest. Even in 2005/6, when Mohler’s article was first published, it was reported that 28%-33% of web site visitors4 were women. Hardly overwhelming ratios! And while it is true that the visual forms of erotica stimulants that Mohler emphasizes will be predominantly geared toward the male, it betrays an ignorance of the concept of pornography or of the differing gender manifestations of pornography.
In any sociological study concerning sexual behaviours, women will universally understate their sexual proclivities. Incontrovertible proof of this assertion is seen in those common sex surveys which ask people how many different opposite sex partners they have had. Males will usually ‘estimate’ at ratios minimally 50% or higher than females. However, the objective logic should mean that for every different opposite sex partner that a male has had, there should be a corresponding different opposite sex partner for the female. In nations with relative equal populations of males to females as in the West, ratios ought to rarely exceed 1.1 to 1 or a 10% difference. Subjective reporting, highly divergent from the objective logic, demonstrates a female inhibition that under-reports their real behaviours and male pride or need to prove virility in over-reporting. Therefore, even the statistics concerning pornography use should be viewed with skepticism.
Women favour chat lines by a ratio of 2 to 1. Females will be prone to visit the erotica story boards. Furthermore, especially in the 40-50 age bracket, women are heavy online and print purchasers of sexually explicit romantic novels and fan fiction.
However, the prejudices of Albert Mohler and company are not inclined to perceive such forms of erotica as pornography. Apparently, groping oneself when it is related to emotionally attentive imaginary lovers ethically differs from rubbing oneself when it is related to aesthetically pleasing ones.
Nevertheless, the generic (Free Dictionary) definition (primary) of pornography is as follows:
Sexually explicit pictures, writing, or other material whose primary purpose is to cause sexual arousal.
It is understandable why self-interested feminists and women would differentiate the ethical caliber of erotic stimulants,between those conducive to male minds from those conducive to female minds. But the reigning intellectual of the evangelical movement?
What is involved in a typical erotic romantic fiction? The female protagonist seeks to take a very successful, ‘Master of the Universe’, ‘wild at heart’ stallion of a man and subdue him by her charms into servicing her and her offspring’s needs alone in future. Having, at best, become the very toy poodle that presently lies beside this middle-aged woman who largely reads this mommy porn; there cannot be any real future sequel concerning this emasculated male protagonist. Similar to the dynamics in male porn; the male protagonist has been reduced to an emotional and erotic vibrator to be disposed of in future because of boredom with this now domesticated animal.
But while “New Calvinists” will write “a frank discussion on pornography & masturbation” for men and waylay into their male congregations; they treat women’s porn as high art! Is there any wonder with such hypocrisy, inconsistency, ignorance or stupidity that there is a dearth of young males in the pews?
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In Mohler’s second blog installment on the theme of pornography, it is not factual integrity or ignorance that cries out, but violations against the very spirit of foundational theological truths that Mohler often asserts.
Consider the fact that a woman has every right to expect that her husband will earn access to the marriage bed. As the Apostle Paul states, the husband and wife no longer own their own bodies, but each now belongs to the other. At the same time, Paul instructed men to love their wives even as Christ has loved the church. Even as wives are commanded to submit to the authority of their husbands, the husband is called to a far higher standard of Christ-like love and devotion toward the wife.
Therefore, when I say that a husband must regularly “earn” privileged access to the marital bed, I mean that a husband owes his wife the confidence, affection, and emotional support that would lead her to freely give herself to her husband in the act of sex.
Put most bluntly, I believe that God means for a man to be civilized, directed, and stimulated toward marital faithfulness by the fact that his wife will freely give herself to him sexually only when he presents himself as worthy of her attention and desire.
Perhaps specificity will help to illustrate this point. I am confident that God’s glory is seen in the fact that a married man, faithful to his wife, who loves her genuinely, will wake up in the morning driven by ambition and passion in order to make his wife proud, confident, and assured in her devotion to her husband. A husband who looks forward to sex with his wife will aim his life toward those things that will bring rightful pride to her heart, will direct himself to her with love as the foundation of their relationship, and will present himself to her as a man in whom she can take both pride and satisfaction. 5
Disregard the gender issues for a moment. Mohler’s account of marital relations violates the ethos and ethic of Reformation thought on so many substantive grounds! It is a case of a seminarian, who knows his doctrine well; but cannot apply the ramifications of said doctrines to practical living.
One of primary psychological/spiritual benefits of the doctrine of Justification by Faith is that a sinful person has rational grounds to escape from the legitimate anxieties that ensue when a person’s standing with another, in this with God, is based on performance.One’s salvific privilege is no longer dependent on his performance. It is the primary element of Christian freedom. (“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”6)
Catholic Carmelite Brother Lawrence (“Practicing the Presence of God”) has been held up as a marvel of Christian virtue by some Evangelicals. However, the writings about and the writings by this Brother Lawrence betray, that like pre-converted Martin Luther, he exhibited great anxiety about never doing sufficiently to obtain salvation. Indeed, the very idea of ‘performing good works out of love’ for the purposes of acquiring salvation contradicts the very idea of ‘performing good works out of love’ and undermines the motivational virtue and value of such good works.
Dr. Mohler professes to a justification “In Christ Alone”. At least, the Baptistic tradition, to which he belongs, does. And Scriptures abounds with this ethos, that like God in Christ, a Christian’s conduct and attitude towards others is not conditional upon the treatment, he receives from others. This is good ol’ Sermon on the Mount stuff; (let alone all the other New Testament admonitions to the same effect).
You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.7
So where does this reigning intellectual of the evangelical movement get off suggesting that while a wife ought to be able to fully enjoy the unconditional love of the husband, the husband must regularly serve his time in conjugal purgatory in order to “earn” privileged access to the marital bed? This earn your way to conjugal paradise for husbands, smells more of that conservative American capitalist mentality that insists that a man must prove himself before contemplating marital privileges.Mohler’s formulation of conjugal love is ethical heresy from the standpoint of New Testament Scriptures.
How is the Christian wife in this scenario being any different from a pagan wife; rewarding those who reward you? How is she being perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect? How is the husband being won over (not only to conversion, but to sanctification) “without words by the behavior of their wives”8, when an essential and integral element of marriage that is sex, which is meant to solidify the psychic union between spouses, becomes a Pavlovian or Behaviourist device for husbandly sanctification, as defined by the subjective whimsy of his wife; all with the sanctimonious approval of a ‘pseudo-Romanist theology.
No wonder the SBC is losing its people. If this perspective on conjugal relations by this champion of the SBC is reflective of their general spiritual, theological and ethical sentiments, the Southern Baptists have lost the Gospel and spiritual vitality. There is no grace in Graceland.
Conditional love eventually fails in social dynamics. It is a formula for each party doing less and less for the other over time as they perceive that the other party is not pulling their full weight. Thereby, Mohler’s formulation is destructive to marriage. And in advocating the proffering up of sexual favours in return for the provision of material and emotional goods and services, it solicits the scorn of martial skeptics; turning marriage into a legalized and glorified form of prostitution.
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It is a curiosity that a mature Christian leader’s understanding of human nature should presume that a wife will always and automatically freely give herself to [the husband] sexually after he presents himself as worthy of her attention and desire. Only one in ten of the lepers healed returned to acknowledge and thank Christ for healing him? How certain is this surrender, if we leave the criteria of worthiness to the fleeting and variable subjectivist whims of another person?
Woman, being equal members of fallen and depraved humanity, are no less capable of taking without giving; of searching high and low for rational excuses to deny and divorce their spouses even when they are aware of the husband’s virtue and fidelity; of misconstruing in their voracious greed, selfishness and bitterness (whether justified or not), the virtue of another for vice; of being banshees and shrews and abusers and murderesses.
“New Calvinism” repudiates the ultimate utility (and ethics) of human efforts to wind up and manipulate others to freely give of themselves to Christ; against Charles Finney’s revivalist tactics or Madison Avenue’s manipulations? And yet “New Calvinist” Mohler suggests here that such tactics will prove ultimately useful and ethical in the marriage bed.
And what does Mohler imply about womanhood? That they are wind up toys, requiring the right algorithms to program them into Stepford whores? Without a true free will to proffer spontaneous and enthusiastic desire and delight in physical Eros; though a husband might initially think otherwise, would not a sensitive and sanctified husband become bored with such a calculable sexual entity over time?
Regardless of the paeans that Dr. Mohler may proffer up to husbands being the Head of the house; if respect for the office of the husband and the delights of the wife are conditional upon his obeisance to her subjective standards of conduct and attitude, does not the husband effectively become a figurehead Queen, a constitutional monarch who might proffer advice but is obligated to pass the wife’s legislative agenda? Mohler’s counsel is as subversive to marital and familial social order as the feminists.
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I used to buy my wife some large flowers, (their names I forget), from some octogenarian woman’s rural kiosk on the way home from my contract jobs in Toronto. And scrupulous as I am, I would sweat about the ethics of my motivations for buying them (think T.S. Eliot’s “Murder in the Cathedral”). For, although I was aware that the one gift would lend to amorous feelings in the spouse, to purchase such flowers for that purpose would diminish the good and virtue of the gift.
My unbelieving wife (CINO) dismissed such concerns. My believing sister understood. For, although, no doubt, one gift influences the other, flowers ought to be a good in and of themselves. And conjugal relations ought to be a good in and of themselves. To use flowers to get the other, or vice versa, makes the motive for either act, manipulative extortion.
That a husband ought to give the wife emotional security, affection and support and all the other elements of a proper lover is a good in itself. For, the woman (and man) to freely give of her body and sexuality is a good in itself (and strangely, in this Mohlerian universe, it doesn’t seem to occur that a significant number of women can be just as ‘craving’ of their men). To tie one to the other stinks of the mercenary transactionalism that is prevalent in a liberal capitalist mentality. It certainly is not Christianity. It violates the so-called “marriage debt” of 1 Corinthians 7.
Dr. Mohler proffers mild evidence of that pathological super-spirituality of traditional Romanism. He denigrates physical Eros as something less than and other than spirituality (“celebrating the sensual at the expense of the spiritual”9) rather than conjugal Eros as a vehicle through which spirituality and the Christian ethos is to be exhibited. His advice about conjugal sexuality will invariably spill over into other areas of one’s thinking. In this, Mohler advocates attitudes that are inconsistent with the natural ramifications of Biblical and Reformation thought. His counsel is destructive to marriage and it advocates sex as a manipulative tool in the wife’s arsenal to usurp the Divinely ordained authority of the husband.
Part Two is forthcoming, which discusses the relationship between these man-up shaming rants and the historical conservative “patriarchal” attitudes that underlay them.
1. Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., “About”, AlbertMohler.com, accessed http://www.albertmohler.com/about/ on June 1, 2013.
2. Broward Liston, “Interview: Missionary Work in Iraq”, Time Magazine, Tuesday, Apr. 15, 2003, accessed http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,443800,00.html#ixzz2Ux0KNNia on June 1, 2013.
3. Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. ”The Seduction of Pornography and the Integrity of Christian Marriage, Part One”, AlbertMohler.com, accessed http://www.albertmohler.com/2012/05/29/the-seduction-of-pornography-and-the-integrity-of-christian-marriage-part-one-2/ on June 1, 2013.
4. Family Safe Media, Pornography Statistics, accessed http://www.familysafemedia.com/pornography_statistics.html on June 1, 2013. Citing statistics confirmed elsewhere.
5. Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. ”The Seduction of Pornography and the Integrity of Christian Marriage, Part Two”, AlbertMohler.com, accessed http://www.albertmohler.com/2012/05/29/the-seduction-of-pornography-and-the-integrity-of-christian-marriage-part-two-2/ on June 1, 2013.
6. Galatians 5:1
7. Matthew 5:43-48
8. 1 Peter 3:1
9. Mohler, ”The Seduction of Pornography and the Integrity of Christian Marriage, Part One”.