A pastor friend recently described a large evangelical church in downtown London with over 1,000 single males between the age of 20 and 35. Although they work responsibly, their relationship with the opposite sex is ambivalent at best. Few are seeking mates. The same phenomenon repeats itself regularly in many North American churches. This is a dramatic change from expectations as recently as 25 years ago.
Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys, by Kay Hymowitz describes and chronicles this modern phenomenon in secular society. For anyone desiring to understand sex, marriage, and dating patterns in North America I strongly reccomend. The author carefully chronicles the rise of what she calls the “child-man,” i.e. men between the age of 20 and 35 locked in cycles of perpetual adolescence. Hymowitz is not only a good sociologist, but she also writes well, a rare combination.
Why the child-man? Why are young single men giving themselves to potty humor, video games, beer drinking, hooking up, and disrespect for the fairer sex? What happened to marriage and the pursuit of adult male responsibility?
In the seventies George Gilder (See Men and Marriage) accurately predicted that to the degree women, motivated by the feminist movement, usurped the traditional male roles in marriage (i.e. leadership, protection, and provision) that men would abandon those institutions and turn to worthless, or worse, aggresively harmful, pursuits. Although Hymowitz doesn’t reference Gilder, her book records the fulfilment of his prophecy .
As Gilder predicted, men are abandoning marriage. In the seventies the median young adult male was married by age 22. Today the median is 28 and rising. This means half of men marry after age 28. And, the more education a person has the later the marriage. A college degree bumps it to age 30, and a post graduate degree even later. This is a problem because women are most fertile in their mid twenties. By age 35, when many today are beginning their familes, the biological clock is ticking down. By age 40 one in five women are infertile. This means that the fertility rate of those deferring marriage is also dropping rapidly. In this demographic it is currently 1.7 children per female. The fertility rate must be 2.2 to maintain a level population. This means those without college are reproducing, but those with higher IQs are not. This does not bode well for the long term health of our culture. In addition, it is a grave threat to our entitlement programs like social security, medi-care, etc.
The solution? Manning Up. Hymowitz suggests that early marriage civilizes men and channels their energies into productive applications. She is right. This is the solution, but cultural expectations of delayed marriage are so deeply rooted in the millenial generation that nothing short of the gospel will solve this problem.
As Christians we cannot change culture, but we can ensure that the church maintains it prophetic posture. We are the people who cherish male and female, with their God-stamped distinctives, as a reflection of the glory of God. We cherish sexual purity. We love marriage, and we see children as God’s glorious blessing. However, many join our congregations “stained” by the worldly values recoded by Hymowitz. It is our job to help them. It is our duty to encourage marriage, fidelity, fertility, and chastity. God help us to be the counter culture that pleases him.