It has been interesting to see the turmoil occasioned in what remains of the once-vibrant Christian blogosphere by self-proclaimed “post-evangelical” Internet Monk Mike Spencer a couple of weeks ago (ancient history in the BS) when he proclaimed the inevitability of the Coming Evangelical Collapse in a three-shot salvo over the bow of the Good Ship Evangel. The first post alone garnered 192 responses.
Now, I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t resent the fact that an identical prophecy on my own blog went completely unremarked upon. But, Michael has been blogging far longer than I have, and he irritates more people in a week that I will probably ever be able to do in a lifetime. He is too Librul/Catlick for half of his readership and too Fundy/iggerant for the other half, which if you know anything about Chesterton, means that he’s right where he needs to be.
He offers a lot of reasons for the impending implosion in Evangelical belief, most of which are The Usual Suspects; the Babylonian Captivity of the Evangelical Church in RonnieReaganLand, Disney-fication, theological superficiality, but I loved his final conclusion.
Evangelicalism is going to run out of money. In these straightened times, nobody is going to throw good money into a dying enterprise.
Now, that’s good as far as it goes, but a week after finishing his tirade and disturbing the peace of just about every practicing Christian on the Internet, he featured an interview with a former Evangelical journalist who, in my opinion, nailed it down.
It’s sex, pure and simple.
The disconnect between Evangelical (and Catholic, and Orthodox) teachings on sex and the sexual behavior of young people in Evangelical (and Catholic, and Orthodox) churches has become so wide and so unbridgeable that it has come to the place where young people are going to have to choose between the Church and the possibility of ever having sex. Not surprisingly, the majority of them are going to be opting for sex.
Now, follow me here, as I outline the change in the sexual constitution of American society as it has changed over the last fifty years. There are three versions of the sexual constitution I would like to investigate – The Old Double Standard, the Interim Compromise, and the New Double Standard.
The Traditional Double Standard was very much in place during my adolescence, despite the swingin’ sixties rhetoric that innundated the movies and television at that time. It was still very much the job of a man to compromise a woman’s virtue as it was the job of women to preserve it. Most of the weddings announced in my little Midwestern town, a bastion of Christendom in probably the most Protestant area of the country, were the result of an impending unexpected arrival, and nobody was surprised. At the time the unspoken rule for women was, if you let him sleep with you, he better at least be on the road to matrimony. For men the unspoken rule was, if you get her pregnant, you do the right thing and marry her.
What was revolutionary about the Sexual Revolution was not that it gave men permission to be promiscuous. Men always had permission from the larger society to be promiscuous. Giving permission to be promiscuous to women, which is what was truly revolutionary about the Sexual Revolution, had some unintended consequences.
If you give a man permission to sleep around, he wants to sleep with every woman he meets. If you give a woman permission to sleep around, she wants to sleep with the same man all the other women want. Some men unashamedly begin to gather harems. For the less shameless, serial monogamy becomes the order of the day, and no one considered it unusual for one man to commandeer the reproductive capacity of more than one woman.
So, the Sexual Revolution actually resulted in less sex, and less quality sex, for the poor chump at the bottom of the Darwinian pecking order than the old Double Standard. At least under the old constitution, everyone roughly paired off at their own level. Now, the idea was that the poor, boring stable guy had to wait until his future wife was through making the rounds before settling into domesticity.
The Interim Compromise, which was in place from about the mid seventies until just recently, meant that young people were to “get promiscuity out of their system” in their twenties and thirties, then marry. You see it all the time in dating columns; young men complaining that women their age are only attracted to “edgy, exciting men”, overlooking the traditional sober and sensible (read: boring) potential mate. Young women, on the other hand, complain constantly that it is nearly impossible to keep their man from cheating, that other women are “hitting on him constantly”. The conventional wisdom given to the young men that the steady, boring guy should wait until the girl “comes to her senses” and learns to appreciate his sterling qualities over the more exciting, superficial guys she is attracted to now while she is “young”.
The trouble is, it usually the case that the superficial, exciting guys get tired of the now-not-so- young woman before she has any epiphanies about the desirability of boring, everyday, faithful men. So she grabs herself a pack-animal while she still can. I wonder how much of evangelical church membership is comprised of these “born-again” ex-virgins and their to-some-degree reluctant mates.
But the Interim Compromise is breaking down. As internet porn and the glorification of slut-culture lock young women into an “arms race” for the gutter in an attempt to snare the flagging attention of the most desirable young men, other young men are walking away from the prospect of marriage and family altogether.
I read an eloquent explanation of this on the Internet on a website that appears to have disappeared. You can read it here. Just page through the remarks until you find the excerpt from “Hook-Up Culture: Why There Is No Longer Someone For Everyone“.
The new Double Standard exalts female promiscuity, even outright whorishness, as “being in charge of her sexuality” , while excoriating men who do the same as being “Peter Pans” who are “afraid of commitment”. Add to this a hostile political atmosphere where women have every advantage in an increasingly aggressive “divorce industry”, and it becomes apparent why men are becoming more and more reluctant to step up to the plate.
I’m not going to buy into the old Evangelical mantra; “That’s the way the worldlings act. They don’t know any better.” I would be more likely to believe if there was a nickel’s worth of difference between the behavior of unchurched kids and the kids in Evangelical (or Catholic, or Orthodox) churches.
At this point in the game, voluntary chastity , especially for young women, seems more and more likely to become permanent celibacy, and that’s why the churches are going to empty like a high school keg party when the state police show up.
I’m sorry, this post kind of got away from me. My prescription for fixing this is surprisingly not the resurrection of female chastity but of male virtue, (from the Latin vir, viris – maeaning a male; same root as virile) but that for another time.