The Agony & Hope Of Christian Courtship
Last week I posted about Australian Catholic writer Anna Hitchings’s much-discussed-in-Oz column about how hard it is to find committed Christian men to date. Today, after hearing from all kinds of people, she publishes a somewhat different version of it in The Australian. It’s behind a subscriber paywall, but maybe some of you Aussie readers can see the whole thing. Excerpts:
I can talk to any young woman in my social circle and they will all say the same thing: there just aren’t any men.
What we mean by this is there is a frightening scarcity of men aged 25 to 35 who are churchgoing, single and worldly wise. Most men I meet have two out of three of these qualities, with the last often lacking. If they’re single churchgoers, they’re often in want of basic social awareness (a big turn-off for most women); if they’re more socially adjusted, they’re generally not single or not religious. Even if they’re not religious, most young Australian men hold views and values that are utterly opposed to our own. As a Christian, trying to find a normal Aussie bloke who is willing to enter a chaste relationship can feel like looking for gold dust.
Some have taken issue with my assessment of the situation, but this is the view held by virtually every female friend I have — not to mentions dozens more, male and female, who reached out to me after my article was published. What we’re asking for really boils down to two things: shared values and mutual attraction.
Yet this reality — what was once the social norm — is becoming less and less common.
When I posted earlier on her initial column (which appeared in the Catholic press), some of you readers questioned what she meant by “worldly-wise”. So I asked her. All she was saying is that she’s looking for a male partner who is both serious about his faith, but also socially normal. I think she makes that pretty clear above. More from her Australian column:
Yet for someone like me — a 32-year-old single Catholic — the situation looks bleak indeed.
This is not just the case for women of faith, either. A young agnostic mum told me the issues I raised “transcend faith altogether and speak to a wider problem of good-valued men largely disappearing from society”.
I’m not denying there are good single guys out there. Of course there are. Several of my closest friends have been fortunate enough to meet and marry some wonderful, intelligent, principled men — but many more haven’t been so lucky. I meet them constantly at parties and social events — beautiful, smart, single women who just want to find a good man to love and honour. Yet this pool of women seems to keep getting bigger while the number of marriageable men is swiftly dropping.
In the early 1960s, 87 per cent of Australian men identified as Christian. That figure now has dropped to 49 per cent, with regular churchgoers in even further decline. Just 14 per cent of all Christians in Australia attend church weekly. In Sydney churches, women outnumber men nearly two to one, according to the latest National Church Life Survey data, with the average parishioner in her 50s.
Across the globe, men increasingly are less likely than women to believe in God, pray daily or count religion as an important part of their lives. This should come as no real surprise; the writing has been on the wall for some time.
Anna sees radical feminism’s demonization of traditional masculinity, and the decline of families with fathers in the home, as two sources of dysfunction and despair. Guess who she sees as a sign of hope:
So many men seemingly do not understand what it is to be a man any more, which I believe is why figures such as Jordan Peterson have soared in popularity during the past few years.
Peterson is challenging the narrative of toxic masculinity, so-called rape culture and the notion that the patriarchy is responsible for all the world’s ills.
More important, he is actively promoting qualities that are sorely lacking in our society, such as personal responsibility, honesty and integrity.
I’m deeply grateful for the influence people such as Peterson are having on so many men, young and old. We should be doing all we can to help steer men in the right direction and find truth and meaning in their lives. Men who are guided by good principles, who have purpose and direction in life, are not only deeply attractive to women, they are also invaluable assets to society.
Read it all, if you have access.
Anna was overwhelmed by the reaction to her first column, which really hit a nerve. She’s starting a blog as a place of discussion and story-sharing about courtship among other single Christians, both male and female. The blog’s theme comes from this quote by Capt. Wentworth in Jane Austen’s Persuasion: “You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope.” She’s given me permission to share her e-mail address with single Christian readers interested in sharing their thoughts, experiences, agonies, and hopes: anna – at – agonyandhope — dot — com.
UPDATE: Look, I am certainly willing to publish critical comments, but I am not going to publish personal attacks on Anna Hitchings, and unkind assumptions about her character. What she’s writing about is a real problem, and not just a problem for women in the church. If you have something substantive to say in response, even critical, then by all means say it. But don’t take out your own personal resentments on this writer. It takes courage to put yourself out there like she has done, and I’m not willing to allow people hiding behind pseudonyms to take nasty shots at her on my blog.
I am sympathetic to her plight because I struggled in the same way when I was in my twenties, practicing my religion, and unhappily single. One of the least helpful things anybody said was, “You’re too picky.” As unhappy as I was as a single, it was better to be lonely as a single than lonely in a marriage with someone I couldn’t see spending the rest of my life with. There are all kinds of reasons why it’s so difficult for faithful Christian men and women to meet each other these days. I see in the comments that some men are bitterly resentful of Anna Hitchings for her views. I am reminded of some things I’ve heard from older male Christian academics, about how strikingly immature the men in their classes are, compared to the women. This is a new thing, they say. Something has changed among males in our culture. I don’t have a lot of interaction with young singles, so I don’t know firsthand if this is true. But I trust my male academic friends, all conservatives, who are seeing this year in and year out. They are concerned.
UPDATE.2: This is a helpful and insightful comment, from reader Steven:
As a 27-year-old Christian dude, I would 100% marry a 32-year-old Christian woman. The only problem I foresee is how soon we’d want to have kids, since I’d possibly want to wait two years or so.
In any event, it’s really disappointing to see people’s comments toward her, specifically her criteria and preferences for a spouse. They’re not unrealistic and I sure has heck wouldn’t date someone who’s socially awkward. I definitely see and recognize the hardships Christian women because there are a lack of men, even in my own congregation.
However, my male friends and I have a similar problem with dating but in a different way. Too many of the single Christian women in our church and lives are so independent that dating them is like convincing them you’re needed in the relationship. And if you have a complimentary view of relationships, a traditional Christian view, then it’s even harder. So many women in Los Angeles, where I live, are unwilling or repulsed by the idea of a man leading in the home. Not a totalitarian leadership, but someone stewarding the family with mature and Christ-focused headship. A woman asked my friend, an awesome, 40-year-old man of God who wants kids and a wife, if he believed in egalitarianism vs complementarianism, and when he said the latter, she wished him a happy life. That’s the culture now and that mentality has seeped into the church. So it’s no wonder why women in my congregation complain the men aren’t asking them out — we’re not interested in having to argue our worth and leadership in a relationship.
It sucks for both men and women, and I wish there was a place where like-minded Christian singles could meet and interact because churches seem less and less like that place.