To do a good job in raising their sons, modern fathers have to dig deeper into the nature of fatherhood, deeper than fathers ever had to in all of human history because of the Marxist feminist assault on “patriarchy”,amplified by technological shocks (the pill, internet pornography, etc.). Because the enemy dug deep so as to understand how to deconstruct society and family(see Shulamith Firestone’s seminal influence on 1970’s feminism: The Dialectic of Sex), men today have to dig deeper still. This may well turn out to be a great blessing because here after, men can pass this deeper knowledge on to their sons and in the process become better men themselves while forming their boys to be even better. While the father will make the boy, the boy will also make the father. As Seneca said: “While we teach, we learn.” Understanding fatherhood better, men will live it better.
What ironic justice if “man, fully alive” develops as an unintended consequence of feminism.
During the different stages of his son’s growth into
manhood, the father will touch on fives themes repeatedly, going deeper each
time, as he judges what his son needs to know and what he is ready to absorb:
About the physical and
biological facts of sexuality (male and female) that his son will need to know
during the next phase he is entering. It is best the son get this information
from his father first — not on the playground from other boys nor on the
screen from strangers.
About the differences
between men and women. This is remote preparation for understanding and
accepting the very different modes of seeing and experiencing things that are
the ways of his mother, sisters and future wife.
About how to choose a
good wife. Prudently prepared and
lightly delivered, these nuggets of wisdom will affect his choice of a good
About the inner moral
struggle that all boys and men have to engage in, deep in their own hearts, on
their way to manhood. This is a key point of identity between a father and son:
unique male way of battling to live well. This aspect is the core of a father’s
formation of his son.
Sadly, about the
dangers of abuse and pornography, which will have to be introduced early in a
boy’s formation because of their pervasiveness.
First Phase: Early Childhood
Well begun is half done.
The relational foundation of a boy’s sexuality is his
earliest relationship with his father. If this is warm, affectionate and
enjoyable the journey is off to a great start.
The demand on the father is one of time and possibly of temperament. Giving
his time to his son is his greatest gift, always. The more and the earlier the better. As the child reacts with joy and laughter the
father is naturally encouraged and rewarded.
The embrace and horseplay that father and child engage in develops his
son’s trust and confidence.
The task is friendship, the method is play: Anything and all
that the son enjoys with his father. It can be tiddlywinks or football, drawing
or singing, reading or baseball, fishing or hiking. Whatever brings joy to the
Also, this early stage is the time that deep friendship is
most easily formed. It will yield fruit
in mid-childhood and adolescence when that friendship will be tested by the
strains of that phase.
With such a friendship in place the later phases will be
handled with much great ease.
The total population of North, Central, and South America is less than a billion. Europe’s population is much less. Africa’s population is about one billion.
In the last 100 years the world has eliminated one billion childrenthrough abortion. In other words, whole continents. World War II was a walk in the park compared to this. The US alone has aborted 58 million infants (the total population of the US as it came into the twentieth century, and almost the same as the total populations killed in World War II, the bloodiest war in human history. The “body-count” in the Holocaust pales in comparison to this, US-only “body count”. Clearly, we “do sex” wrong. Humankind has never, ever, “done it” so wrong.
In the US, for children who survive pregnancy and make it to birth, most of their parents cannot stand each other enough to live their lives together and raise their children to adulthood. Slavery has returned to the US—in the form of sex trafficking. Pornography addiction (to some degree or other) is almost universal among young men. Cohabitation is the majority’s choice despite the widespread knowledge of its bad effects. STDs are “through the roof” and are now mega epidemics — having been epidemic for decades. Motherhood is frowned upon in the academic world and most business put up with mothers only because they are forced to if they want female workers. The list could go on and on— and that is without going near what is being taught and not taught in churches— of all denominations!
As a society we have really lost our way. Leaders in all institutions have lost their way or their courage. There are some who know how to “do it” but most don’t, or are afraid, and public schools and academia are not only totally lost, they lead down the wrong and debilitating path — even in the face of overwhelming data. Proof? Just look around you.
Where do we start to rebuild?
This rebuilding starts with men — with fathers in particular.
The fundamental correction involves all fathers taking back from everyone else the sexual education of their sons. Mothers need to do the same for their daughters. However, the sine qua non is that fathers become the sexual tutors of their sons, because, given the nature of males, men have much greater and difficult task to achiever bringing their sexual impulses under total control.
The program is simple: Every father worthy of the title, wants his son to end up happily married to the girl of his dreams and wants to show him the way to pull that off. This is what fathers do: make men out of their boys.
Now that presents a difficulty because most fathers, today, have not achieved that status or have lost it: they aresingle or married to some other woman. Thus, they are quite handicapped in giving what they do not have. However, let us leave that major difficulty to the side for the time being and focus instead on what has to be achieved: Lifelong marriage of a boy to the girl of his dreams.
As a nation— as a culture— we either go for this or we break apart into factions, because sex — at every level of social organization, from the couple to the polis— either powerfully binds us together or powerfully splits us apart. Those who do not go for the gold of lifelong marriage, ultimately, are prepared that our nation be split into pieces. Too strong a claim? What happens to families after divorce? Multiply that by millions and then by two or three generations and then you have a nation and culture falling apart. The choice is not just and individual choice it is a political one (in the pure sense of the polis).
Feminists and lots of other women are clear on what they don’t want men to do sexually, and they are right! But they are NOT clear on what they want men to DO. And without a clear destination anyone is lost. So, feminists, though correct in their attacks on predation, are totally wrong on the nature of sex. There is only one destination that makes sense of sex: Sex is meant for marriage and procreation— procreation within marriage— both entwined. There are lots of secondary derivative purposes and benefits but these two, procreation within marriage, are non-negotiables if we are to avoid social chaos, and if justice is to be done to every child, and if we are to be a people who want justice for every child.
Maybe the biggest natural barrier to achieving this justice is a universal fact about being male: for every man a huge portion of females are physically attractive to him— and will remain so throughout his life, no matter his marital status. Men see, and immediately register, the beauty and attractiveness of every female before they know anything else about her. And if a man permits himself to pursue that attraction to its logical end (intercourse) he can be in big trouble for the rest of his life, and worse still, he will have caused chaos in the lives of the woman, her extended family, his own extended family, and in particular, and most disastrously, will have severely damaged the children that result from that intercourse (either eliminating them in abortion or leaving them with split parents for the rest of their lives – and the grandchildren’s lives.
The only way that sexual attraction can be properly handled is by channeling it towards one person only — the future bride. Finding her is a long and delicate process for which a good father is the best guide, by far.
The journey to the bride starts in childhood. It used to start in adolescence for most of human history but now, with pornography being universally and aggressively obtrusive, it starts for boys around age seven or eight, because with his first exposure to it he is beginning to go down the right path or the wrong path.
(By the way – I am all for the death penalty for pornographers. The human suffering unleashed by pornography is so large it is beyond comprehension.)
Back to the task: fathers now have to begin tutoring early if they are not to be too late. By age 7 or 8 it is already urgent and assumes a good level of affection between father and son for this next phase to be successful.
The good father lets his boy know (despite his son not yet being interested in girls) that he wants him to end up as a great young man with a beautiful young wife who will be his companion and best friend for life. Even the father who has failed to achieve this for himself can lay this out for his son.
Gradually – and differently for each son – he leads him to understand the fundamental complementarity between male and female; that this complementarity between his mother and father brought him into existence and an even greater complementarity and unity between them is needed to raise him to be a great young man. The father reminds his son that he exists because he, his father, used his sexuality to bring him into existence! (This is a most powerful lesson each modern boy needs to hear from the lips of his father. Without this exchange a father is neglecting the growth of his son). He lets his son know that his father, and he alone, is the one to guide his son in teaching about sexuality and that his son should take it from no one else unless his father says it is OK. He even goes so far as to teach his son how to demand this as his (the son’s) right in the classroom and any other place. He teaches his boy how to be a modern warrior — and gentleman — in these sexually hostile times.
The father paints, repeatedly, the goal of the great woman to be won over – by his son being a great man. He teaches him that in this domain “like attracts like!” He cannot have a great woman without being a great man. It is impossible. (At the same time the boy’s mother is teaching the same lesson to his sister).
The father teaches his son that along the way there are many traps and snares for every man; that there always has been and always will be. The first snare that modern boys confront is pornography — new, modern and powerful in its intrusiveness and alluringness (that is what makes it a snare). The father tells his son (at the appropriate time) how he combats his own temptations to look at pornography. He does it in a way that invites the son to lean on his father for help whenever that struggle is present – and it will be. The father promises to protect him within the home and at school but tells him he has to learn how to protect himself when his father is not around. And he reminds him constantly that all this is for the sake of that wonderful girl he is going to win some day. The purer his heart the stronger it will be and the more easily she will sense it and be attracted by it. And he in turn will be able to recognize a woman with a similarly pure heart – ready to give it to the right man but only to the right man and only to one man!
Anybody with an ounce of sense will agree with the above. Anyone who does not is an enemy of children. Harsh? Yes — but true and fundamental to a just and peaceful society.
In all my years working with couples and families, with data and research, with evaluating programs and trying to figure out how best to help couples and families, I have concluded that nothing is more fundamental in the cycle of life and of nations than that the father be the one to induct a boy into sexuality. No one else. All else is fraud — dressed up no doubt, but fraud.
Given this, I think it is time for another Revolutionary War. This war is not fought with guns (though, if it is not won there will be a war with guns). It is the revolution by which fathers take back from everyone else, no matter who they are (teachers or clergy), the sexual education and formation of their boys.
We all love appropriate battle cries, such as New Hampshire’s “Liver Free or Die”. The one every father needs close to his heart (and on his lips when need be) is “Keep your hands off my son’s sex!”
If we get enough fathers taking “sex ed” (it really is sexual malformation) back out of the schools (public and private, denominational or secular) we can change America. If we don’t we lose it.
Too simple? No, no matter the difficulty of doing it. I see nothing more foundational than this in the cycle of human existence, handed on from one generation to the next.
(By the way, this is the ultimate reform the Catholic Church needs to rectify its own house on sexual ethics for all vocations—for marriage, priesthood, religious celibacy or single lay life. It was the “program” proposed in plenty of time by Pope Pius XII back in the 1950’s. It is a pity of historical proportions that Catholic bishops and religious teaching orders did not take that to heart.)
May fathers take back the formation of their sons’ sexuality from everyone else! It belongs to no one else. If anyone wants to do any “sex ed” let them help fathers and mothers do it — and most of them will need help to do this well. But any other forms of sex ed is only adding to the problem. Proof? Just look around you.
It is already very late. It is time to start this New Revolution.
Three phases are foundational to a sense of well-being throughout life: The child’s early experience of his mother, the teenager’s decision about sex and God, and the newly wedded couples agreement on suffering. The first and last involve the two most important persons in his life. The middle- the teenager’s decision -is personal, private and alone, or alone before God. All three phases shape life way into the future by shaping the individual’s capacity for the wellbeing of spouse, children, friends, family, and colleagues at work.
The child who experiences the constant attention and affection of a self-giving mother during the earliest phase of life, is blessed beyond measure. That mother is giving him a great introduction to “reality as a pleasant place to be.” Life is good, life is warm, life is full. Well taken care of, that baby is ready to take life on! Depending on the mother’s capacity, both from within herself and from the environment around her (her own early experience of her own mother, her husband, her home, her support from family and friends), she fills her child’s emotional heart- his relational “cup”- full, half-full or quarter full. Less than full means the child will have a corresponding limp in human relationships for the rest of its life– without realizing it.
In a recent conversation with friends who live in Spain we mulled the mother-child dilemma in that country where almost all married women are expected to return to work four months after the birth of the child. Many fear that moment because of the pain of leaving their child so soon. By any research calculus, four months with mother is way too little as a norm. Spain is undermining the relational capacity of its children and guaranteeing fragile marriages and difficult parenting twenty-five to thirty years from now.
It cannot but be that most Spanish children will limp relationally to some extent, but it will be hard to spot because most other Spaniards will have been similarly affected. For almost all Spanish couples — even the middle class and higher — a culture of shame exists for husbands if their wives do not work. (The poor and the working class can’t afford the luxury of such shame.) Caring full-time for children at home has become rather socially unacceptable. In Spain, the marketplace is more honored than the child. The market now significantly shapes Spanish children’s relational capacities.
The next period to shape life takes place in the inner sanctum of each teenager’s heart. Between the age of fourteen to sixteen most teenagers decide very privately which path they will walk on matters sexual – ‘adventurous’ exploration of sexual relationships, or chaste abstinence until marriage. The other decision, rather interlaced with the first, is whether they will walk with God or without Him. Should they take the both paths the wrong way, they set themselves up for much unhappiness, broken relationships, even broken marriages, thus visiting suffering on their future children and grandchildren. Some learn their mistake before they go too far down the road. Others find chaste abstinence is possible, especially with friends who walk the same path and who go to God frequently in worship. Oh this “it takes a village” helps a lot. Though chastity leads to significant prosperity and happiness in marriage and family for decades to come, most teenagers are not aware of this, nor that, though they are free to choose, they are not free to choose the consequences, that the consequences are hardwired within them.
The third period bridges the year before and after marriage. The most basic wisdom young couples need concerns suffering. Their orientation to it shapes their future. Those who expect life together to involve some suffering and are prepared to back each other up (“for better or for worse”) will survive and thrive. Those who premise marriage only on “happy ever after” (our modernist norm) are in for a quick disillusionment, one that ends many marriages. The best definition I have come across of a great marriage is “a couple with the capacity to solve an emotionally dividing problem”. Stated differently: a couple who can confront the suffering that life throws at them and figure out how to move towards a solution they agree on.
Though all the social science dots are not yet fully connected across the three periods, enough of them are to link the first period to this last. A husband and wife whose mothers “filled their cup” in infancy are much better formed to be great problem solvers together.
Which brings me back to poor Spain! It takes the national wisdom of a child-friendly culture to deal well with family, love, suffering and children. St John of the Cross, who helped reform religious and institutional life in Spain in the late 1500’s and whose writings are explored by believers of all faiths, is one of the great teachers of the connection between love and suffering. Spanish life could do with a re-infusion of his insights. Then the rest of the world would learn from Spain, for many Western nations, and many good couples, struggle, during the first phase of the child’s existence, to solve the dilemma of mother, child and marketplace.
Liberal propagandists claim that traditional marriage, sexual fidelity, and family values are antiquated ideas; however, a rising generation of activists is quickly debunking this myth. In “Challenge and Hope for a New Generation,” the fifth segment of the Humanum Series launched at the International Colloquium on the Complementarity of Man and Woman, a group of young adults assess the state of marriage worldwide. It is true that marriage is in crisis, but it is false that there is a lack of desire for marriage. Young people thirst for marriage—they long for its stability, its loyalty, and its love. According to Malcolm Rivers, a 27-year old teacher in D.C., the problem is that “we are deeply and woefully underprepared for marriage.”
Malcom is right on target. Radical feminists have inculcated licentious mores in “sexual health” classes, and taught that casual hookups are a natural way to fulfill sexual desires. This idea, that the sexual act is nothing but a means to fulfilling an individual’s pleasures, has altered the dynamic between a romantic couple. Although once a single unit in which each complemented the other in order to elevate the whole, now a couple is nothing but two individuals using each other to extract physical pleasure. This dooms relationships to failure. “Permanence requires me to do things for other people. I can’t have a permanent relationship with somebody if I’m only worried about myself” Malcom said. Nobody wants to enter into a permanent relationship knowing that the other person is only in it to gratify his/ her own needs.
Young marriage supporters from Mexico to France to Lebanon agree. Alix Rokvam, a founder of Les Veilleure in France, stated, “We all had sex education in school, but we never had romantic education, which encompasses all aspects of sexuality, not just the technique.” A group of young ladies in Lebanon reminisced on the days when “People used to support each other more.” Worldwide, young people are yearning for relationships built on complementary teamwork rather than competition. The problem is that few know how to achieve this dream.
In his Tuesday presentation, Rev. Dr. Rick Warren offered some practical advice on how we can prepare more people for stable marriages: celebrate healthy marriages. We must offer an appealing alternative to the hookup culture by giving people the confidence that their marriage can last, and we must show that the sexual act should be rooted in a selfless love between husband and wife. This advice is scientifically supported. For example, MARRI research shows that children who grow up in intact, married families are more likely to have a positive outlook on marriage and maintain more stable marriages than their counterparts. Adolescents with married parents are less likely to engage in risky sexual behavior, have sex out of wedlock, or have an abortion. In essence, healthy marriages promote more healthy marriages.
Once selfless marriages gain standing, more and more young people will naturally flock to uphold this institution and its values. “Everyone should know that there are young people concerned about taking back our values,” Lily Alvarez Rabadan of Mexico City stated. “Young people are thirsty for love, and so, we have to talk about it, we have to shout about it.”
The “2014 State of Dating in America” study, conducted by ChristianMingle and JDate, examines the dating behavior of Christian young adults. The study’s most ominous finding is the rapidly growing Christian acceptance of sex outside of marriage. When asked if they would have sex before marriage, 63% of Christian young adults answered yes, and only 13% said no. When asked how far into the relationship it was acceptable for the couple to move in together, 27% said after six months of dating, 30% said after a year of dating, and only 13% said it was only acceptable after marriage.
This data does not describe the US population at large—this is the state of things within Christendom (or at least the Christendom according to Christian Mingle and JDate). With thoughts like this harbored in Christian minds throughout our land, it makes sense that marriage is falling apart in our country, divorce rates are remarkably high, and the definition of sexuality is in perpetual flux. Such research should shock and disturb Christians—the church, after all, ought to be the solution, not the problem. Our biblical roadmap shows us the way to joyously hold out the single answer to how things work. Shouts of solutions, remedies and programs reverberate through our social conversation, but evidence of their success is grim. As Christians leave the voice of true reason (divine design), they will enter the age of parenting in the midst of moral and ideological chaos. What follows is that our next generation of children will be raised outside God’s paradigm—they will be the first generation, in theory, to have no background of stability. The current generation is rebelling against a standard they despise—the next generation won’t be rebels so much as followers of the new social norm.
How can we Christians who hope for cultural redemption fight chaotic societal trends when 63% of our own are captivated by the same trends? Christian leaders are frustrated, saddened, even angered, by the socio-sexual battle cries thundering against any righteous standard they uphold. The homosexual marriage movement is gaining ground, more children are born out of wedlock, and cohabitation is increasing — all working to undermine the bedrock of society, the family. We as Christians expect the unbelieving world to choose its own paths, to stray from God’s design. Throughout the ages, in varied cultural contexts, societies have turned towards sexual disobedience (among other kinds)—and, one by one, have fallen from splendor. We also know that God’s call to His own people is to turn from sexual immorality, to be set apart, and, most shiver-inducing of all: Be holy, for I am Holy. We adhere to His design for the sexual out of obedience to the Creator of sexuality. We adhere because…it works. Simply put, His design makes sense. He created sexuality, and therefore His way works.
And yet even self-proclaimed followers of God are so blind in the sexual arena. Society’s proposed sexual system only leads to chaos—first within family relationships, leading to breakdowns in the other key institutions. In what other context does society so energetically encourage actions that blatantly do not work? The family (and how sexuality is conducted within this framework) is the root of a functioning society, the stream feeding the tree that grows the branches of government, of economy, of education, etc. The United States will struggle to maintain any coherent identity or global presence if we continue on this road. The people of God have always been the symbol of hope. In theory, we know what it is that works. This is where we mourn the most tragic part of our national story—Christians are following the tide. Those entrusted with the beautiful knowledge of how to grow a thriving society are putting such wisdom aside and stepping into chaos with the rest.
Many think that people leave the Faith and then become sexually promiscuous. But as the State of Dating in America study showed, this is simply not the case. An increasing many are maintaining their Christian title while adopting the cultural standards of their choice. We should not simply force our adolescents to sit in church pews. We must teach children of relational beauty, young people of sexual wholeness. We must reach out to the young Christian adults facing a sexually chaotic culture, come beside them, and help them discover true sexual order. We must seek to restore faithful zeal, but also to restore sexual clarity and obedience. We must, with care, ask sexuality and religion to lead each other hand-in-hand away from the pit that consumes them. Only then, when our own Christian culture has changed and sex is honored among us, can we have a hope at all of changing the secular culture and thus offering our nation a happy end.
Patton argues that colleges harbor a great number of smart men, one only grows older after college, and it is generally a virtue for women to marry young. McGuire disagrees with Patton and uses data collected by The National Marriage Project’s “Knot Yet” Report to prove her point that women should wait until their late 20s and early 30s to get married, because the lower the age at marriage, the higher the risk of divorce.
The research does indeed show that women who get married before the age of 20 face a proposed divorce rate of 52 percent. It drops to 34 percent for women who get married between the ages of 20-23, and even lower to 14 percent for women ages 24-26. Women who get married between the ages of 27-29 have a 20 percent chance of divorce and women who are 30 years or older only have an 8 percent chance of divorce. Just looking at these percentages, one would agree that women should wait until they are approaching 30 to find a life partner.
However when one looks at the level of happiness within marriage another dimension comes forth:
The risk of divorce and the risk of unhappiness may not follow the same trajectory, according to the Knot Yet Report. Of women who marry before the age of 20, only 31 percent say they are very happily married. Forty-six percent of women married between the ages of 20-23 report that they are very happily married, and 49 percent of women married between the ages of 27-29 report the same. Forty-two percent of women who marry at 30 or older report being very happily married. But, remarkably, a significantly higher 66 percent of women who marry between the ages of 24-26 report that they are very happily married. No other age group even breaks 50 percent in the very happily married category.
So how are we to make sense of this data?
Looking at the divorce risk alone gives us the benefit of objective concrete reality. Happiness on the other hand is a subjective and fluid measure.
The benefit of younger marriage is that the couple can mold their characters together rather than individually, while they are still young and flexible. If they work at it, their virtues develop alongside each other and they learn to be more harmonious as they face the formative twenties with each other.
Many questions are left unasked in the Knot Yet report:
How chaste are they (a virtue with a big impact on marital stability); what are their intentions on children (are they family focused or self-focused as they go into marriage)? What is their education attainment and GPA? Hard work is a good indication of responsibility and dedication — qualities needed for a successful marriage.
Developing norms for marriage in our new mobile age is a much needed discourse and both McGuire and Patton contribute to the discussion. The data give us clues to behavior and behavior gives us clues to habits and virtue, but the data is still a fair distance removed from this last point: character. When a young man of great character marries a young woman of great character and they are both working on developing the necessary virtues (good habits) to make the other happy and to make family life better, then the chance of divorce is rather remote. Add in frequent prayer and worship (not addressed by the Knot Yet report) and divorce almost disappears. Add virginity at marriage and you have a totally different ball game. Add natural family planning rather than contraception and the game shifts even more. When were these the norms? What was marital stability like then? For those who choose to build a strong future (as opposed to pining for a distant past) the norms are the same.
Those who marry young will indeed face many hardships as the pieces of their lives continue to come together during their twenties, so the divorce risk makes sense. However, our goal is to encourage intact and happy-healthy marriage in our nation. Perhaps the answer is therefore to encourage young marriage…if four things are present:
1)Both man and woman are educated. Research shows the lower divorce risk for couples who have gone through the stabilizing and enriching experience of higher education (college degree). 2)Both man and woman have the virtue of chastity. Couples who are concerned with chastity—before and during marriage—tend to be dedicated to relational health, intactness, and service. 3)Both are people of regular prayer and worship. 4)The couple talks through, and agrees on, the functions of the five big tasks (institutions)—family, church, school, marketplace, and government. Marriage and parenting will be intertwined with these institutions, and conflict regarding them can quickly destabilize a marriage. 5)The man and woman come from healthy families. Such couples have working models for dealing with hardship and living for a greater good than self. If they don’t have such backgrounds, they must discuss the potential baggage and bad habits (of thought or feeling) that may encumber them.
If these five factors are in place, I suggest a couple should by all means marry young. Life is full of adversity—it is simply about which adversities to take on. The “adversity” of starting young is a natural good. If you have all these things going for you, then “Go for it”. Guys: she may be gone with someone else if you wait. Ladies: the same for you too. If a businessman comes across a really great deal does he wait? The great deal here is character. Does he have it? Does she?