Dalrock blogged a splendid post about people who claim that there is a shortage of “good men”. He says that if there really were a shortage of good men, then people who want women to actually get married would be telling women not to delay marriage, but to instead get serious about marrying early, when their ability to attract a man is at its peak.
We can see the same pattern in Dr. John Piper’s recent post Why Are Women More Eager Missionaries?* Piper explains that missionary work has become a pink ghetto:
…the actual situation among most evangelical faith missions is that between 80–85% of all single missionaries are women. It is a rare thing, like two out of every ten, for a single man to make missions his life’s vocation, which results in the overall statistics being that one-third of those in evangelical world missions are married men, one-third are married women, and 80 percent of the last third are single women. Which means that something just less than two-thirds of the total missionary force are women.
Piper’s main concern with the post however is not that there aren’t enough single men doing missionary work, but that women who choose this field aren’t marrying as they would like. Piper complains that the problem for husband hunting missionary women is really an exacerbated version of the same problem all Christian women have, and that is an overall lack of marriageable Christian men…
I’ll save you the quotation of Piper, but his reason why missionary women struggle to find husbands is – SHOCK! – that Christian men refuse to man up. I.e – Piper believes that there are not enough marriage-ready, marriage-minded men.
But if Piper actually believed… that there was a severe shortage of husband material men, he would focus his attention on helping the women reading navigate this incredibly difficult situation. Overseas mission work may feel empowering for young women, but (according to Piper) single women going into the mission field are greatly handicapping their prospects in an already bleak field. His advice to young women would be to choose which was truly more important to them, being a missionary or finding a husband.
If Piper really believed that there were a shortage of marriage-minded, marriage-capable Christian men, then Piper would be counseling women who genuinely want to marry to make marriage a priority when they are younger, prettier and more fertile. Some women say that they want to get married “some day”, but the truth is that they want fun and thrills until they get tired of it, and they just expect a suitable man to show up right when they need one – even if the things a man wants in a woman are all gone.
So who is to blame if missionary women can’t find husbands?
Piper even tells a story which would be a perfect way to teach this lesson. He describes a single woman named Gladys Aylward who went to a place where she found no marriageable men, and then blamed single men for not following her and proposing marriage:
“Miss Aylward talked to the Lord about her singleness. She was a no-nonsense woman in very direct and straightforward ways and she asked God to call a man from England, send him straight out to China, straight to where she was, and have him propose to me.” I can’t forget the next line. Elisabeth Elliot said, “With a look of even deeper intensity, she shook her little bony finger in my face and said, ‘Elisabeth, I believe God answers prayer. And he called him.’” And here there was a brief pause of intense whisper. She said, “‘He called him, and he never came.’”
Now, that experience, I would guess, is not unique to Gladys Aylward.
If Piper really believed that Christian husbands were scarce, he would be sharing this anecdote to warn young women of the foolishness of moving away from the pool of men they hope to choose a husband from and then expecting God to send the man of their choosing across the world to propose. If we were in a culture of scarcity of good men, this would be the obvious lesson from this story. But we live in an age with unshakable confidence that good men are not only available all around us, but will always be abundant. If Piper believed that the husband Miss Aylward was praying for was surrounded by real life English women eager to win him as a husband, this story wouldn’t be complaining about why he didn’t drop everything, fly to China, and propose to a woman he had never met. If Piper believed that the man was sought after as a husband in England, he would be pointing out the foolishness of Miss Aylward flying off to China and then wondering why a man she had never met didn’t show up to propose once she decided she wanted to marry.
Now to be fair, in Miss Aylward’s case, she almost certainly did a lot more good as a missionary than she would have achieved with a marriage. She was not pursuing fun and thrills, she really was making a difference. Still, it was neither rational nor prudent to think that the odds of meeting a Christian man were very good in China. She either needed to accept that being a missionary in a secular country meant not marrying, or she needed to focus on marriage first when she was attractive to men as a life partner. (Many women are propositioned for sex as they age, but few of them are asked to marry) As homeschooling mom “That Mom” points out on her blog, having an influence through marriage and parenting is not compatible with the irresponsible thrill-seeking hedonism championed by impractical pastors like Francis Chan.
But some missionaries really are delaying marriage for frivolous reasons. The 33-year-old missionary woman I know keeps telling all her advisers that she wants to get married “some day”. Her last two boyfriends were both penniless students in their late 20s, who had never worked a full-time job in their entire lives. She feels that there is no need to prepare herself for the roles of wife and mother, either. Her negative $20,000 net worth? No problem. The 5-year gap in her resume? No problem. Her chorus of advisers tell her that God will give her a husband right on cue. A husband who won’t insist that a wife have chastity, sobriety, self-control, financial responsibility, beauty or fertility.
What men want in a wife and mother apparently has no importance whatsoever to women today. And women have no appreciation of how investing in a husband early causes him to be loyal to her when she is older. Women think that a husband will show up when she is ready, and be loyal to her even though she was absent during the hardships of the first decade of his career. Fun and thrills in your 20s are more important than helping a man through the difficult battles of his early career. Just show up when you are 35 -unchaste, wrinkly and infertile – and reap the rewards of his unassisted earning and saving.
Why do men like John Piper mislead women about the feasibility of their emotion-driven plans? Answer: because they fear women’s reactions to disagreement. Men are easier to criticize than women, because men are trained to take it, and not to show their emotions. Practically speaking, whenever a woman anoints her emotions as God speaking to her, her plan almost never works out. But it takes courage to tell a woman to make plans with her mind, instead of with her feelings.
I expect women today to disrespect male advisers, even those with proven ability, because we live in an age of radical feminism where even Christian women who deny feminism act as if they were radical feminists. But it’s not just men who are disrespected. Many women don’t even respect older women with proven ability (See Titus 2:3-5). They just block experts out and find advisers with no proven ability, but who agree with them.