Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity
“Lemuel's Manhood” first appeared in the July/August 2014 issue of Touchstone.
COLUMN: Mortal Remains
by S. M. Hutchens
My brother got the family's handsome genes. Athletic and gentlemanly besides, when he was a young man he was hotly pursued by young women. As a Christian, he knew what was right and wrong in that field, and stuck to his principles, but not, I think, without enduring considerable provocation.
There is one girl in particular I remember standing out among the huntresses. She was very good-looking, and although I can't recall that she was particularly beautiful, she was sexy to an extraordinary degree. Exuding come-hither pheromones that could be detected in the next county, she directed their full force toward my brother, who, for his part, felt them acutely, but equally well detected that the girl had little to offer him besides sex, and in due course rejected the idea of marrying her, which his faith and his honor would have demanded had he taken what she was offering.
For her part, I believe that she—and her mother, who was clearly egging her on—saw more in him than he could see in her. He was not only good-looking, but serious, and from a stable home, having the stuff of a good provider, the provision including a connection with what they would have seen as a locally prominent family. In a recapitulation of an old scenario, the mother pushed the daughter, who was happy to cooperate, toward putting my brother in their control. Had he given in to his natural urges, his life doubtless would have taken a very different course from what it did, and he wouldn't have been able to bear as much good fruit for the Kingdom as he has with the good and truly beautiful wife he eventually married, a wife who, in accord with his best ambitions, supported him as a helpmeet rather than stabling him up as a plow horse and stud.
Causes of Enervation
We have been told that young men today are in large numbers disheartened, depressed, and directionless. One does not need to refer to the studies that point to the increasingly large number of them who, in their thirties and beyond, have not yet successfully launched their own lives and still live in their parents' houses—not to mention those who have turned to gang life, crime, and drugs. One can see this in numerous young men of one's own acquaintance, who seem to lack the drive to make something of themselves.
There are, to be sure a welter of contributory causes, among them the pervasive and unrelenting hostility toward normal maleness of a culturally dominant feminism and its attendant homosexualism, a lack of economic opportunity due to the growth of the government in power, incompetence, and programmatic thwarting of meaningful achievement (i.e., "elitism"), and the temptation to turn inward to the elaborate fantasies provided by the microchip.
I believe there is another reason for this enervation, which is perhaps the strongest and most subtle of them all. The young men are sexually compromised: they have entered into the thralldom of the female world by "giving their strength to women," that is, by incurring the involvements and obligations that women have always, and reasonably, expected of men in return for sex.
Their "having to do" with women is of a different character than that of the celibate or married man. They are obliged to do what the woman wants them to do if they want what she has to give, and the young men have developed a morbid dependence upon sex. They lack the ability to say no to a world in which the power of the woman is at play for the subjugation of the man, just as he plays for hers. This is a world with which Christian marriage is at war because the latter provides a disciplinary framework in which the man's obligation to love his wife as his own flesh appears with the woman's obligation to obey him.
Compromises of Men's Strength
Much—very, very much—has been said in our day about the evils of the woman's subjugation to the man, but this always takes place in the framework of the old battle of the sexes, in which the man, for his part, "gives his strength" to the woman to operate upon him on her terms, to demand that he involve himself in her life in a manner that dissipates energies he would otherwise be able to devote to the greater issues to which men are called by their nature to involve themselves, matters greater than the domestic life in which women achieve their greatest measure of power and influence over the man. It is in domestic life that the natural desires of the woman are centered, and rightly so, for she is made for home and family, and for the support and protection of a husband that make this possible.
But domestic life, and the perversion that operates below it in the sub-nuptial competitions of men and women, compromises the strength of the man. Strength given to responsibilities that come with commitment to the world of women, even when they are the good and blessed responsibilities of husbandhood and fatherhood, means that much less strength committed to the work in and for the world for which men are specially equipped, and for which they must expect to "give up" time with women to devote themselves.
This is something the pagans knew about: Lysistrata's conniving wives put an end to their men's wars by luring them back to bed. Temporary interdiction of congress with women, including wives, has an old history among soldiers and athletes. The advice of King Lemuel's mother is repeated in the admonitions of St. Paul, and is exemplified in the life of the Lord. She is concerned with what must be avoided by kings, by men who must accomplish something.
Her advice on all issues is self-control, and first on her list—a woman's list—of self-control issues is that which has to do with "giving your strength to women," whom she associates with "those who destroy kings." While one cannot help but think of Adam's sin in submitting to the blandishments of his wife, one has little doubt there is a primary reference here to the life of Solomon, who caused Israel to sin at the instigation of his numerous foreign wives, and to the life of David his father, who, in the time of the year when kings go out to war, instead stayed at home and wrecked himself upon another man's wife.
I am not going to say anything here about how the project of the moral improvement of young men is to be accomplished, but only repeat that if a man has any ambition to achieve something in the world, to be effectively a king, he must not give his strength to women, in whatever context he is tempted to do it, and in whatever form the woman may appear. He must not enter their world on their terms, but only on those provided by God for a union in which he loves her while retaining his headship over her, and with it a right measure of his strength. •
S. M. Hutchens is a senior editor of Touchstone.
“Lemuel's Manhood” first appeared in the July/August 2014 issue of Touchstone. If you enjoyed this article, you'll find more of the same in every issue.
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