Recently, a good friend of mine posted on his Facebook page a World Magazine article by Thomas Hardesty discussing a problem young Christian women seem to be facing. This article came as no surprise to me, as Kevin DeYoung wrote a blog post that discusses a very similar point just under a year and a half ago. Both discuss young, gospel-centered women who seem to have trouble finding marriageable Christian men. As a young Christian man about to leave college single, this subject naturally interests me a great deal. In this article, I’ll be exploring the logic used in both DeYoung and Hardesty, as well as examining the statistic cited by Hardesty. In part two, I’ll examine the biblical merits to their arguments and offer a fuller view of this issue.
From the outset, let me say I have a problem with these articles and this line of thinking. Nothing against DeYoung or Hardesty, but with all the great Christian guys I know studying at RTS campuses who are single, I simply have to diverge with most of the ideas presented in both. Hardesty and DeYoung disregard reason in arriving at their conclusions, using fallacious argumentation, and assumptions found outside of the Biblical witness (which will be explored in part two). Hardesty even uses a statistic that cannot be construed in the way he does. Quite frankly, they only give one side; they only paint half a picture.
Hardesty says, “Behind the jokes and smiles lies a serious, and sad, situation too many Christian women find themselves in today. They must either lower their standards for a mate so they can settle down now or hold to their faith as they pine for what is becoming an endangered species: Christian men worth waiting for.” Is it a serious situation that women must lower their standards or wait for a so-called endangered species? Absolutely. But is that actually the case? I’m not convinced.
Hardesty’s article is, as a good friend of mine said, an article with no foundation. The only people spoken to and quoted in the article are married men or single women. Essentially, the logic is that some single women say young men are immature, therefore they are. I’m honestly stunned that Hardesty didn’t ask a single Christian man his opinion—and for that matter, neither did DeYoung. Do young Christian men not get a say in the matter, even though it’s about them?
Hardesty mentions that women may be a part of the problem by wanting a career first, then a housewife position later: “Some of the blame for delaying marriage falls on women, with many wanting to spend time working and living a life of independence before settling down—choices the secular culture encourages.” This is true; some women want their cake and to eat it, too. But then Hardesty closes the paragraph with, “But Christian women who do want to marry young say men stuck in perpetual adolescence are a bigger part of the problem.” This is hardly anything other than a straw man and argumentum ad populum. Simply because most Christian women say that men are a bigger part of the problem does not logically imply or require that young men are a bigger part of the problem. Further, isn’t this to be expected? Of course women want to say men are the bigger part of the problem—just like young men want to say young women are the bigger part of the problem.
DeYoung makes a claim with a similar conclusion when he says, “This path of prolonged singleness is a two way street. But I think the problem largely resides with men. Or at least as a guy I can identify the problems of men more quickly.” DeYoung, interestingly, uses the opposite line of thinking of “well, if it happened with me, then it happened with other men.” This isn’t a very good line of thinking, and without any hard evidence, without allowing young Christian men to have a say, DeYoung’s claim that the large portion of the blame resides with men isn’t helpful for a meaningful conversation.
Young Christian men aren’t consulted. The hasty generalization fallacy says that a generalization taken from too small a sample is fallacious, and is certainly applicable here. It seems as though logic is abandoned in this discussion, which decisively eliminates many young men’s interest in it. As soon as we abandon logic and any meaningful sense, many young conservative Christian men are inclined to chuckle and walk away—but I suppose because they aren’t being consulted in the first place, this isn’t a large problem.
Perhaps the largest problem is the words “immature” and “adolescent” are being widely applied to most young Christian men. Not only is this approach unedifying (which will be addressed more fully in part two), there is also the lack of a coherent definition of what these are, much less what they look like. These are negative terms being tossed about with no clear consensus as to what they mean in context, but are used to paint with a broad brush across American Christianity. A clear definition of terms is most certainly needed for an edifying, constructive, and biblical discussion to take place.
The only evidence used in either article is Hardesty’s statistic, which is the average marrying age of women. He says, “In 1991, the average marrying age for women was 24. Today, it’s 26.5…Christian women who do want to marry young say men stuck in perpetual adolescence are a bigger part of the problem.” Interestingly, the rate of increase for women from 1991 to 2011 is identical to the rate for men in the same time period. Men married at 26.3 in 1991, which increased by 2.4 years to 28.7 in 2011. That comes out to a 2.4 year shift for men, and a 2.4 year shift for women (going by the Census Bureau’s 24.1 in 1991). According to the numbers, both males and females are waiting longer to get married—and numbers can’t tell if it’s because of maturity or not. If the problem were simply that men are more immature today, we would expect to see the men’s rate substantively higher than women’s. The rates are, in fact, exactly the same.
Ultimately, if any definitive statement is going to be made, especially concerning others, it needs to be reasonable, at least. I’m willing to jump on the bandwagon, harping on young Christian men for the reasons DeYoung and Hardesty present, but I’m going to need a more sensible discussion—that is, an actual discussion with both parties involved, with good reason and evidence—and I think other young Christian men want that too.