The Mandatory Marriage Movement: A Plea for Humility

Over the past several weeks, I have been appauled at the attitude of many of the women associated with the mandatory marriage movement. Not only that, it seems like sin breeds sin, and the men have responded in a very nasty fashion. I am really concerned about all of this, and I am concerned that, ultimately, the one who is going to get hurt is the woman. It is with this in mind that I write this post.

To what am I referring. Well, I am referring to an article that really started this whole thing by Suzanne Hadley called Not Your Buddy. The whole premise of the article is that there is a possibility of the blurring of the line between a friendship and a relationship, and that one needs to be careful that there is no crossing of the line. For example, she argues that there is, in men who blur this line, a desire to have the benefits of the relationship without commitment.

What I have been appauled at is, first of all, the lack of critical thinking that has been put into this kind of article, but also the utterly arrogant and nasty responses of women, and the likeminded responses of men. Not only that, the drum keeps on being beat ad infinitum ad nauseum. In the last few weeks, I have heard this on the Focus on the Family radio program from Candice Watters, The Boundless Show, and a Boundless article that just came out today.

What is interesting is that I must not be the only one who is noticing it, since Motte Brown posted this at the end of the blog post for the podcast:

Note: And please guys, if you’re thinking about writing to complain that we’re bashing men again, don’t. These are the Inbox questions we get. If you have some questions of your own about the mysteries of the fairer sex, we’ll be happy to answer those as well.

Now, I first have to ask: Are we seriously supposed to believe that these are the only Inbox questions they get? For as big as Focus on the Family is, and as much marketing power as these guys have to get their messages out there, I find it *extremely* hard to believe that this is all they get. Not only that, but why focus on this stuff in the Focus on the Family broadcast, the podcast, and the first article this week?

Not only that, but why focus on this with an uncritical and sometimes downright arrogant attitude? There are several comments that I think need to be made before we can even discuss legitimate circumstances in which this does happen.

First of all, one must ask, given the fact that women tend to think about things through their emotions much more than men, how do we know that all of these instances are legitimate instances of this? Imagine a general friendship that the woman secretly wants to be more than what it is. However, the man will not commit. She complains that they spend way to much time together, and yet, one of her friends tells her that the only time they really talk is after church service, and even then she is preventing him from leaving to attend to his errands, and her friend can tell that he is getting annoyed. She says she is tired of them sharing each others’ deep, dark secrets with him, but the reality is that she is the only one sharing these secrets. In essence, what this turns into is an instance of the “Buddy Syndrome” that is illegitimate, because the woman is interpreting her experiences with this guy through the lens of her desire to be in a relationship with him. How do we know that is not going on?

Now, not only that, we also have to beware of the fact that we live in a culture that is very anti-male. I have talked to lawyers who are getting tired of all of the sexual harrassment and stalking cases that are just getting out of control. I remember a lawyer telling me about a woman who was cheating on her husband, and her husband caught her. However, she ended up kicking him out of the house, and didn’t even give him time to get his clothes. After a while, when he started getting a little ripe, and needed a shower, he called her to ask if he could set up a time to pick up his clothes. Because of that call, he was slapped with a telecommunications harassment charge, and was issued a restraining order.

This that this is the only story? Think again. Phyllis Schlafly tells a story about a twelve year old who was suspended for sexual harassment when he stuck his tongue out at a girl who had just refused to be his girlfriend. One lawyer told me that they hand out these restraining orders like candy. Of course, what do you expect when you define morality on the basis of how the person feels rather than on what the person did? Feelings are subjective, and it will create a mess.

Now, do you expect that a man is going to be very open about his feelings for a girl when he has been through something like that? I rather doubt it. Also, consider the fact that it may not even be related to this kind of abuse. Maybe someone hurt him really bad, or abused him in some other way. All of these things play into this issue, and to just say that this is an example of the “Buddy Syndrome” without asking a few more questions is simply being uncritical. The next question that one must ask is who will ever admit to being treated in this fashion? I think a lot of the answers that are given by men that women think reflect a lack of commitment may be simply ways of getting out of a situation where they have to tell someone about some abuse in their past.

Now, let us suppose that it is not a matter of abuse, nor is it a matter of the woman’s misinterpretation. Let us now suppose that we have a legitimate case of a man who will not commit. Candice offers this advice:

For your part, I think the best thing you can do is back away from him. It won’t be easy because you do like him so much and do wish it were more than “just friends.” But he is defrauding* you; taking advantage of your time, friendship and affections without giving any commitment. He is not protecting your heart. He is acting irresponsibly toward you, even if he doesn’t recognize that he is. (In his defense, it’s possible he’s naive to the pain he’s causing you and the inappropriateness of his behavior. Though that’s no reason to let him continue.)

If you spend less time with him, he’ll either miss you and realize he does want to make your relationship official. Or he will move on to another woman (and likely treat her the same way). As painful as that second scenario would be, it will be even more painful if you delay it (and invest even more of yourself in him between now and then). As happy as that first scenario would be (and it would be happy if it works out that way), it’s unlikely to happen if you don’t cut him off from so much access to you. Either way there is no benefit to delay (you’ve already shown you’re unhappy with the way things are).

Now, I want to compare what Candice says to what Jesus says we are to do when we are wronged by a brother:

Matthew 18:15-20 “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 “But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. 17 “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 “Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. 19 “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. 20 “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”

Notice how Candice’s solution simply avoids everything that Jesus says here. The first step is for this girl to go up to this guy and simply say, “You know, I am concerned about the fact that the amount of time that we are spending together is making it look like we are an item when we are not. I really like you, and I do want to marry you, but if we are not going to be in a relationship, I think that we need to set boundaries so that we do not end up looking like we are.” She can then explain to him that she does want to get married, and that she is afraid of the consequences of this continuing.

If that doesn’t work, then Jesus says you are to take someone else along [another girl, perhaps, who has noticed the same things she has noticed].

If he still will not listen to them, then they need to take it to the church. Both of them need to go to an elder, and tell them that there is a problem here. If he does not listen to them, then, and only then does Jesus say women are to do what Candice is suggesting.

I want you to notice the difference between the emphasis of Jesus and the emphasis of Candice Watters. Candice accuses this man of “defrauding” her, and basically keeping other guys from seeing that she is available. The whole center of Candice’s concern is this woman getting married. We see, again this idolatry coming through in what Candice says and writes.

Now, I want you to notice the emphasis on what Jesus says. Does Jesus want to take away the good, Godly desires that a woman may have? No. However, Jesus recognizes that the goal here is restoration. You see, Candice even mentions that this guy may do this again if given another chance. However, if you, instead, take Jesus’ advice, you will have won your brother.

I also want to notice Jesus’ usage of the term “brother.” This puts the person who has been wronged on an equal level with the person who has wronged them. What I have been amazed at is the arrogance of the way in which Candice Watters and others have handled this situation. For example, take a look at the downright snotty remark Candice makes towards this man:

Thanks for writing! I agree with you that your male friend (and future pastor) is indeed sending mixed signals. Though I disagree that he is “very godly”– at least when it comes to how he relates to women. This is sadly too common these days, in part because men aren’t expected to get married anytime soon and also because women let them get away with it.

Actually, the reason why men do this [in legitimate cases, that is] is because of sin, and not because of some unbiblical expectation that needs to be put in place for men to marry. Again, I have to ask if Candice has thought this position through. Does she really want someone like this to get married, and then have this kind of a relationship with a woman other than his wife? No, that will not solve this problem. Also, I want to notice this whole notion of “women let them get away with it.” I, again, want to ask if that is Jesus’ attitude? Jesus does not tell the person that they must accept that what the other person did is right, but he does tell them that there must approach the other person on equal footing, with the intent of restoring their brother. However, the arrogance only gets worse:

He is acting irresponsibly toward you, even if he doesn’t recognize that he is. (In his defense, it’s possible he’s naive to the pain he’s causing you and the inappropriateness of his behavior. Though that’s no reason to let him continue.)

Yes, let us just throw out all other explainations, and just assume that he is just naive. Again, compare Candice’s attitude with the attitude of Jesus. Her attitude is, “He is just foolishly naive; that’s no reason to not let him get you, though.” Again, I have to ask what will happen next time Candice is in a situation in which she has hurt someone, and does not realize it. Would she appriciate someone calling her naive to the pain she is causing someone else, and have someone tell this person, “But that’s no reason to let her continue.”

However, it gets worse. Consider this quote:

Now to him. If he really does want to be a pastor someday, his behavior will have to change or he’s headed for trouble. What a man like him needs most–in addition to a rock solid commitment to Christ and Christ’s transformative power at work in his sinful heart–is godly, wise and practical mentors who can help him see his need to change the way he relates to women. Then he’ll be ready to find and take a wife. And that’s also something a man like him probably needs to succeed in his life work and calling. (See especially God’s solution to Adam’s aloneness in Genesis 2, as well as Paul’s conversations with Timothy about the centrality of family to making healthy church leaders.)

His behavior is really frustrating (and despicable) wherever it occurs. But especially so in men who are already claiming pastor status. The standard of conduct for them is, and ought to be, higher (James 3:1-3).

The question for you is, will you hold him to it?

Now, I have been over Genesis 2:18 ad infinitum ad nauseum. The best I have gotten in response to my exegesis of that passage is name calling from Albert Mohler calling it “warped,” and leaping out of the text to 1 Corinthians 7, and not engaging in any exegesis there either. I will not repeat what I have said there. However, Candice says this man needs mentors. No, what he needs is someone to lovingly rebuke him in an attempt, not to tear him down, but to restore him, if, indeed, this is the problem. The fact that Candice tells this woman to leave this up to a mentor is in direct violation of what this text in Matthew 18 says. The difference in the attitude between Candice Watters and Jesus Christ is instructive.

As I alluded to earlier, I can see how Candice’s views of marriage being as necessary to an individual as food play into this. If you are being starved to death, then the most important thing is going to be to get your food, and you can act as arrogant and as snotty as you want to anyone who stands in your way, expecially people who have wronged you.

That being said, I have also been alarmed at the superiority complex that women have developed ever since this movement came out. Honestly, I do not blame the women for this. I blame teachers like Debbie Maken who gave a blank check to women to shame single men simply because they did not give them what they want, namely, marriage. The importance of that term “brother” in Matthew 18 is that we need to not treat each other arrogantly when we rebuke one another. We need to recognize that we too are sinners. Hence, we approach rebuking a brother as if we are a beggar who has found food, and wants to show another beggar where he can find food. The point should always be restoration, not “Don’t let him do that to you.” Neither women nor men are spiritually superior. Neither women nor men are more intellegent than the other. If you are a woman, and you think you are more intelligent then men, rest assured that one day you will meet a guy who will be able to refute everything you say, and dominate you intellectually. If you think you are spiritually superior to men, then be prepared to one day meet a man who seems to be always right. I am saying all of these things because, no matter how good you are, there is always someone better.

That is why God requires us to act in humility when we rebuke, even when we are in the right. I am afraid that, if this does not stop, eventually, a woman who behaves in the manner Candice suggests towards someone who has wronged them will one day have that behavior returned. Of course, in both instances, it is wrong, but there are many people who will seek vengance, and the weaker vessel, as the apostle Peter calls her, will get hurt worse than the man. Sin breeds sin; arrogance breeds arrogance.

My plea here is for both sides of this debate to humble themselves before one another and be Biblical in the way we handle those who have wronged us. First of all, we might want to go to scripture, and find out if it is actually sin before we go saying things like, “Delay of marriage is a sin.” However, even when we do find out that something is sin, we need to recognize that we are sinners too, and we need to recognize that God has called us, because of this, to act humbly, yet uncompromisingly in such a situation. We need to be aware that one day we may wrong that same person who has wronged us, and thus, we need to treat him in the same way that we would want to be treated if we were in his shoes. I think that, if we remember these Biblical principles, this firestorm will calm down.


4 Responses to “The Mandatory Marriage Movement: A Plea for Humility”

  1. Dani Says:

    Really well thought out and considered post Adam.

    The thing I found when I listened to the podcast and read the article is that Candace (and was it Lisa on the podcast??) make a whole lot of assertions but don’t explain how they arrived at them The implication is that they are drawing upon biblical principles, but a lot of the time the assertions seem to be either reliant upon sociological convention or (as you have pointed out from Mt 18) principles which may sound biblical but are in fact not.

    So for example one of the things that bothered me about the podcast was these kind of absolute declarations:

    CANDACE: “When someone asks you out and it is a man he is in the position of buying the tickets or paying for the meal. That is just basic stuff”

    CANDACE: “If you can’t afford to pick up the tab don’t ask [her out]”.

    LISA: “You want to get married so learn how to pay for someone’s tea”.

    Now, I’m all for chivalry and gentlemanly behaviour, but their assertions pretty much equate paying for the tab with a matter of godliness or ungodliness. Now WHERE does that come from in Scripture? WHY is it ‘basic stuff’? The closest I suspect they can get is 1 Tim 5:8 which, when read properly and in context is clearly NOT about paying for a girl’s cup of coffee. But to the uncritical listener what they are being told is that it is downright unbiblical and ungodly for a guy not to pick up the tab (which then became repeatedly synonymous with ‘defrauding’)

    As for this quote from the article:

    “Then he’ll be ready to find and take a wife. And that’s also something a man like him probably needs to succeed in his life work and calling. (See especially God’s solution to Adam’s aloneness in Genesis 2, as well as Paul’s conversations with Timothy about the centrality of family to making healthy church leaders.)”


    It’s like Paul never wrote 1 Corinthians 7 (I’m beginning to wonder whether that chapter was cut from Scripture when I wasn’t looking) and is yet another example of a flawed assertion masquerading itself as a biblical exhortation.

  2. ladyelaine80 Says:

    ADAM, THANK YOU FOR THIS!!!! This is why I check out your blog often….you and others see right past the smokescreen of “culture” and really get to the heart of the matter. Candice assumes that the letter writer is dead on in her estimations and perceptions of the potential pastor. I could be wrong, but I personally think something else is going on here. I think that the LW is a young lady who wants to get married(has a VERY strong desire) and therefore can easily fall into the trap of friendship myopia—where she is so utterly focused on being in a relationship that she romanticizes every platonic relationship of the opposite sex that comes her, overanalyzing every little thing.

    I truly believe that the heart of the marriage mandate movement is due to a desire of women to be married to the point that it consumes them,and they want Biblical justification to pursue that desire at any and all costs without having to make any changes in their minds and hearts, especially when it comes to relationships.

    What scares me more is that there is more concern about marriage rates than concern about the gospel being preached and rightly divided, or even the state of discipleship/community in the American church. What’s even scarier is that some thing that by simply telling guys to “man up” while neglecting to authentic community, discipleship, and pragmatic mentoring for men.

    The truth is this: No one wants to risk being vulnerable about their feelings and desires, for fear of being rejected or being embarassed, and many people want the benefits of marriage without doing any of the work, sacrifice, or being aware that it wasn’t desired with our sole satisfaction in mind.

  3. Christina (the one in green) Says:

    I read the girl’s question…

    I didn’t read Candice’s response.

    From reading the girl’s question and from being in similar situations, the guy really was not being wise in his dealings with the girl.

    It is possible the girl was letting rumors guide her judgement when writing the note (the little bit about the rumors that he was planning on asking out another girl).

    What I gleaned from “Not your buddy” and the question this girl asked and my own experiences with the more masculine sex is that people on both sides have a very difficult time with emotional boundaries. We develop relationships that are more intimate or assumed than what has been defined.

    Seriously, when the girl was told he wasn’t interested in dating atm, she should have put more boundaries in place, not gotten closer to him – but he, at the same time, after knowing she liked him and he wasn’t willing to reciprocate should not have fed his ego by asking how long she’s liked him or strung her along by telling her she’s a beautiful and talented girl. I can hear the refrain in this girl’s head upon hearing those words – he’s not interested right now, but he says i’m beautiful and talented and we just finished talking about what he wants in a girl and he knows what I want in a guy so maybe if i keep myself emotionally available and at hand, when he’s ready to date, it’ll be me.

    Trust me, I’ve been there saying those same words. When he’s finally convinced that she will never date him, he’ll come back to me! So for now, I’ll stay emotionally available and at hand so if things don’t work out with her, I’ll be right here… right here… waiting… waiting…

    Took a year and a half for him to start dating the other girl – but during that time, the occassional look…the occassional gesture…the occassional compliment – all it needed to keep my heart on the line. And in that year and a half, a guy who really wanted me was sitting and waiting for me to be available. I had a happy ending relatively quickly. Not every girl (or guy on the sidelines waiting) is going to have it so lucky.

    Yeah, I played stupid – and so did this girl. But that boy is playing stupid, too. And he is being irresponsible with his affections for someone who will need to be above reproach when he begins to pastor his own church. (Something Paul said about leaders of the church needing to manage their own household before managing God’s)

    So yeah, I agree with you that both sides are going to get hurt from not knowing how to relate to eachother.

    I also don’t see much wrong with Suzanne and Candice cautioning on maintaining emotional boundaries – even if I’m not certain they should be so…extreme.

    P.S. I’m sorry I didn’t completely read your entire piece…I usually read the first couple paragraphs and then the last couple to see your premise and then your conclusion – such exhaustive exegesis bores me and I usually feel I missed the forest for the trees after reading it…

    P.S.S. I kinda see where Candice and Suzanne are going with this as “bearing false witness”. When a guy (or girl) intentionally or unintentionally leads on someone through words or deeds that gives them some feeling of hope when there really isn’t any is what I consider the true meaning of that commandment – its not though shalt not lie, but thou shalt not bear false witness.

    I was guilty of this when after breaking up with my first boyfriend due to religious differences I kept telling him that there was still hope. I really did think that but it hinged on him changing his outlook on his faith. And I still cared about him and didn’t really want it to be over… But I should never have encouraged his continued love for me and it was egotistical of me to keep him hanging like that.

    (I apologize – I really am not a biblical scholar…but God has called us all to be High Priests. I feel I have a decent understanding of the scriptures without having to rely on hebrew verb forms and greek usage. I tend to compare to other parts of scripture and parts that contradict become rubix cube puzzles in my head as I try to make them fit together within my own way of thinking – it usually results in a totally different view of both passages I found not making sense… I’m not like you, but I find my approach can be just as valid as yours…)

  4. Angela J Says:

    Calling ambiguity defrauding is a big leap and requires us to judge another person’s heart.
    As a wise fellow singleton friend of mine once said, “Unless he explicity says we’re dating, we’re just friends”. What happens is, (and MEN do this as well!!) the person who wants the relationship to be romantic allows their wishful thinking to run away with them. They CHOOSE to interpret time, kind or encouraging words as meaning more than they do.
    Once they start discussing their interpretations with others who also want them to ‘find someone’ then their well-meaning but misguided friends are looking through the same glasses and adding fuel to the fire.
    They ignore anything that contradicts what they want and convince themselves their desires are the truth. Then when no clear romantic overtures are forthcoming, they and their friends blame the object of their affection who probably has no clue what is happening.

    Admittedly men are less likely to make their assumptions a group activity but they make other mistakes. Almost every single woman I know has had at least one man who wouldn’t take no for an answer so the friendship had to end.
    I’ve had more than one male friend who still chose to take normal friend activity to mean that I wanted something more EVEN after I had spelled it out more than once!
    So please do not try the gender labels. Men are just as likely to ‘misread’ as women. The problem is believing that marriage is the solution. If people were less desperate to get married and in such a hurry they could relax and enjoy the friendships they had for what they were- Mary and Martha enjoyed their friendship with Jesus and there is no record of them needing to clarify even though Jesus was very loving toward them.
    Friendship is a wonderful thing, not something to be frowned on.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: