Tag Archives: Chivalry

The surprising pro-masculinity message in the “Far From the Madding Crowd” film

Man helping a woman with proper handgun marksmanship
Man helping a woman with proper handgun marksmanship

So, I have about a half-dozen older and/or experienced Christian women who advise me and assist me in various ways. The wisest and most experienced is calm and thoughtful Dina. She has a very stressful job dealing with demanding women, and what she admires most in men is “masculinity”, which she defines as a man’s ability to tell a woman what is right and wrong, what God expects from her, what she should be doing with her life, and guiding her and providing for her through the steps to get there.

What makes Dina angry is when a man makes a fool of himself for youth and beauty, abdicating his role as moral and spiritual leader because of attraction / lust. According to Dina, men who have self-control think about what a woman should do that is morally right, with the goal of her producing a return for God. Men who are swayed by youth and beauty are willing to give up that leadership role in exchange for attention and/or sex.

So, with that said, Dina asked me to watch a recently-made movie called “Far From the Madding Crowd“, based on a novel by Thomas Hardy. I immediately said “no” because I know about Thomas Hardy from Tess of the D’Urbervilles, where he presents Tess as the helpless victim of Providence. I really hate that view of women, where they can do reckless, selfish things and then blame everyone but themselves for the destructive consequences of their own free-will decisions. But Dina said “wasn’t I right about the debate between David Robertson and Matt Dillahunty?” I said yes, and watched the movie. And of course, she was right, as she almost always is. This movie is a punch in the face to the radical feminism that seems to have infected so many young women, even in the church.

Here is a review of the movie by Rebekah, posted at her blog. Unfotunately, the post has been deleted, but here is an excerpt.

Rebekah writes:

What does this 19th century tale offer to modern audiences?  This latest rendering emphasizes something actually surprising and unexpected given that it is made in our age of radical feminism.  It is Gabriel Oak’s character that shines the most, not the proto-feminist Bathsheba.  […]In Bathsheba and Gabriel we see how men and women support one another in such a way as to ensure a flourishing in any role that fate might thrust on them.

[…]The relationship between Gabriel and Bathsheba, though unequal in earthly terms of authority and wealth, is one of mutual dependence.  We see Oak taking on a role of both counselor and conscience with Bathsheba – roles that in her striving towards independence she struggles to admit her need for.  She is not unlike the modern feminist in this regard, nor is she unlike all of us in our relationship with the Lord.  Her struggle is best seen in the various times she repels Gabriel only to find herself in desperate situations in which only he can help.  The filmmakers’ clever use of a recurring theme of Bathsheba galloping after Gabriel on a horse when he is needed is particularly moving (and surprising) here.  In the end, the film resists the urge to pander to our more extreme modern views on what women require to thrive.

Gabriel Oak also seems to be an embodiment of the biblical virtue of selflessness.  We see in his actions towards Bathsheba the Philippians admonition to refrain from “being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity,” but rather “in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself.” Indeed, vanity itself can be seen as a fateful character flaw of every major character apart from Gabriel.  He alone is able to move past rejection and carry on.  In fact, he is required to go so far as to be under the authority of the very woman who rejected his offer of marriage and, despite his continuing affections for her, witness her being courted and then married by another far less worthy man, Frank Troy.  No other major character is able to accomplish this challenge to their pride.  Though Bathsheba does eventually overcome the rejection of her husband, she only does so after tremendous tragedy and with the selfless and steady support of Gabriel.

Gabriel respects her independence, but, like a good shepherd, stays close by to protect and guide her.  Though he cannot protect her from her free-will choices, he does warn her.  He then remains faithful to her in the midst of the trouble she brings upon herself.  In this, he is not unlike our God, for he allows her to stray, all the while letting her know of a better course when asked.  And, she does ask.

In an important scene at a party, where Bathsheba must decide whether or not to marry a particularly obsessive suitor, when she asks, “Tell me what to do, Gabriel,” he simply tells her to “Do what is right.”  Is that not like our Lord?  Gentle shepherd, indeed, for our wild, independent hearts.  In this, I see Gabriel as most suitable for the role as the husband written of in the epistle to the Ephesians.  He loves Bathsheba “just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her…”

Men and women both struggle with self-centeredness, but men usually work themselves out of it by studying hard things in school, and doing hard work that pays. Men have a natural desire to provide for others, and it is actually a duty laid out for them in the Bible. As a result of studying and working at things they don’t like, men typically are better at resisting their feelings and desires. In fact, if you ever want to make a woman less self-centered and emotional, leading her to study STEM and work a demanding job is a good plan. Dina has multiple STEM degrees, and a very difficult, challenging work history.

I would be suspicious of men who don’t prioritize providing, (as in 1 Tim 5:8), because working and saving gives a man practical experience at self-denial. When a man gets accustomed to working to share with others, it helps helps him to lead a woman to do the same: deny her feelings and desires, and make prudent decisions that will allow her to love and serve others – including God – in a sustainable way. Over the long-term, this practice of effective, self-sacrificial love will be worth more to the woman than the short-term pursuit of fun and thrills. To provide for a woman means to look into her future, and make a decision today to set aside something that will help her to deal with what the future has in store for her.

Dina’s advice to young women

I asked Dina to take a look at the draft of this post before I hit “Schedule” and Dina said:

What I would advise to all young women is not to expect a Gabriel Oak to be waiting for you at the end of your reckless years of hooking up, partying and wasting your youth on fun and men who have no desire to lead you to God or guide you to goodness. Don’t expect the hot stud that your friends approve of to turn into someone with the character of Oak with the magic powers of your premarital sex life. Find a man who doesn’t give in to your every whim, because if he does, you will only resent him for it, and blame him, for being what you thought you wanted him to be.  Find a man who leads, one who demonstrates self control, self denial, who can provide and protect. And most importantly, respect him for doing it.

Emphasis mine.

Sound advice from the Dina, young ladies. By the way, Dina’s favorite drama is the BBC production of “North and South” from 2004. I also give it a 10/10.

Is it the man’s responsibility to pursue the woman, or the other way around?

Telling a woman how to make wise decisions protects her
Telling a woman how to make wise decisions protects her

If you ask this question theoretically, most people will probably say that it’s the man’s responsibility, especially in the church. Is this because women don’t like the idea of having to plan out and achieve something? Maybe. But what is interesting is that the man-pursues view is very popular in the church, even though it’s not very common in the Bible. Dalrock posted something about this.

He writes:

One comment I see from fathers with surprising regularity is that their unmarried daughter is in a great position to find a husband because she’s not remotely interested in the kind of men who express interest in her.

I… think this is tied into the erroneous idea that the Bible teaches that men should pursue and women should judge the performance. But it isn’t the Bible that teaches this ethic, it is the religion of Courtly Love that teaches this. Think of the only two women to have books of the Bible named after them. Both Ruth and Esther pursued their eventual husbands. Ruth’s pursuit of Boaz resulted in her being the grandmother of King David, which meant that Christ would come from her line. Esther’s pursuit of Ahasuerus allowed her to save the Jews.

Cane Caldo was actually the first to write about this on his blog:

According to traditionalists (and others): Men are supposed to chase, and women are supposed to be caught. Or they might say: Men are to initiate, and women are to respond.

[…]If you fancy yourself a traditionalist… [s]earch your Bible for a story about a man who woos a woman directly.

So, just consider that for a minute. Ruth is probably the best example of a woman who just makes decisions to get on with life, and happens across a wealthy single man. Then she consults with Naomi and takes action to pursue that man. It works out for her. Where in the Bible does the man pursue the woman?

Derek Ramsey was able to come up with two examples, and he commented on Dalrock’s blog:

You can find examples of all cases in the Bible: fully arranged marriages (for Isaac), where the man pursued the woman (Jacob; Hosea), where the woman pursued the man (Ruth; Esther), and where both pursued each other or it wasn’t clearly stated one way or the other (Samson; Solomon). I would argue that pursuit (by either sex) is neither condemned nor encouraged. Each situation is different and there is no rule one way or the other.

I think that Derek wins the argument, here. But I still think that practically speaking, in such a time (of feminism) as this, it’s much much wiser for women to take action to “pursue” men she is interested in. That doesn’t mean asking men out, though.

thedeti explains in a comment:

A man setting his sights on one or two or three women and then pursuing them really hard trying to get on their radar isn’t the best way to find a woman who’s interested in him and who is the best match.

Instead, he should be his best version of himself, and then see which women are tossing subtle signs of interest at him. Which women just kind of show up where he is, which ones make a point to say hi to him, which ones reach out to him, which ones contact him, which ones strike up conversations with him. And then from THOSE women he should select a few he is interested in and then pursue them.

That certainly isn’t what most Christians are teaching their children. I certainly wasn’t taught this.

And a bit later, thedeti says:

In the current #MeToo climate, false rape allegations, and sexual harassment’s current definition as “any conduct or words uttered by any man anywhere that any woman within sight or earshot didn’t like”, this model can be downright dangerous for men.

A man can no longer just pick a few girls he’s interested in and pursue them. If he selects some girls who dont’ like him, he’s in for a world of hurt by trying to “perform” for them. If he selects one who kind of likes him, but he makes even one wrong move or says one remotely mildly offensive thing, he’s done. Not only will she know about it, all her friends will know too.

When a woman is very interested and shows it, she’ll be much more forgiving of his expected missteps. That gives him room to run, and gives a budding relationship the space it needs to germinate and grow.

Deti advises women to just show up in places where men they are interested in are, and not actively discourage them. Maybe ask him questions about what he is doing as a Christian, and ask for his advice about something he knows about, etc. And deti warns women to consider that in a culture where false accusations and frivolous no-fault divorces are everywhere, men with good educations, degrees and finances will be very careful about pursuing women.

My thoughts

I was speaking to someone who thinks that she wants to be pursued by a man. I suggested that she read the book of Ruth to counter her view. The first and most important piece of advice I gave her was to “cross the room” for any man she is interested in. Stand up, walk directly at him, and speak right in his face. Maintain eye contact and speak directly to him about things he is interested in. On another day, I told her that the most important thing you can ask a man about is his vision to serve God.

As women age and lose their beauty, the only thing that remains is the man’s passion – his plan – and the place of the woman within it. Men stay in love with women who have invested in the plan they made to serve God. Naturally, it’s POINTLESS to choose any man unless he has a plan to serve God effectively that he has demonstrated his willingness to sacrifice for. In my case, writing this blog is a sacrifice, and giving money to Christian apologists and pro-life debaters is a sacrifice. A woman should be skeptical about anything a man says – look at what he has already done for his vision, and whether he is actually practical and determined enough to achieve anything. That’s where you’ll find your place. And that’s what you need to investigate in a husband candidate. Standing back and remaining passive, waiting to be pursued, is just going to attract a lot of non-Christian men who are pursuing you for sex. If the man is pursuing you, and he hasn’t told you his vision (why he needs you as his wife anyway), then he wants sex.

The pursuit of women by non-Christian alpha male bad boys seems to be welcomed, surprisingly, by a lot of passive Christian women who kind of lie back and expect to just acquiesce to experiences that feel good. Women today don’t like to think about marriage in a structured way. And they especially don’t want to be asked by men about past decisions, demonstrated abilities, future wife responsibilities and obligations, etc. (How dare men evaluate them for a marriage plan!) They don’t want marriage, defined as self-sacrificial commitment. They want marriage as constant tingles, supplied by an alpha male bad boy who exists solely to generate feelings of happiness in them, and feelings of envy in their girlfriends. Think about marriage as a plan? That’s boring. Let’s get drunk and hook up with an alpha male bad boy, and see if he calls back after the abortion.

Alpha male bad boys feel good (for a while) and this is how women get trapped into relationships with men who have no reason to commit to them. A much better strategy is to stop being attracted to alpha male bad boys, and deliberately engage in conversations with marriage-ready men. As my friend Lindsay says, you need to learn to become attracted to men who have a vision that will survive the loss of your youth and beauty.

In my own case, I’ll be able to retire at 50 with a net worth well north of 7 figures. Because of this, it would be stupid for me to waste my time pursuing Christian women whose criteria for men has nothing to do with the marriage enterprise, and is INDISTINGUISHABLE from the criteria used by non-Christian women. The ONLY thing that would catch my eye at this point is a woman who is equal to me (chaste, no tattoos, STEM degree(s), debt-free, married parents, house or savings, into apologetics, conservative politics, and between the ages of 23-28). And that’s a minimum. And she can forget about being pursued by me. She’ll have to approach me, and question me about what my plan is, and where she would fit into it.

I’ve often been told by wise female Christian advisors that I need to do a better job of showing off my situation to women. But if I spent the money on sparkly things and fun, I wouldn’t be financially secure, would I? It’s up to women to stop being so shallow and emotional. They need to look beyond appearances and fun. They need to have a marriage focus, and they need to choose men, show up and start investigating and investing. I simply don’t have the time to flail around in a feminist culture where women, including Christian women, are woefully unqualified for the marriage enterprise. It’s not my job, after having made thousands of good decisions, to risk my fortune by pursuing women who have made thousands of bad decisions (promiscuity, debt, useless degrees, etc). The entitled attitudes of women today, including Christian women, is nothing short of astonishing to men like me who have spent a lifetime being careful about being chaste, sober, practical, frugal and effective.

Alistair Begg has a great sermon series on Ruth that emphasizes Ruth’s agency, and her willingness to make decisions that were practical without any sort of being led by feelings or being nudged by God. Christian women, if you want to get married, then get to work on finding a man and making it easy for him to choose you.

How to avoid being the victim of toxic masculinity

Telling a woman how to make wise decisions protects her
Telling a woman how to make wise decisions protects her

I see that Gillette has come out with a male-bashing ad that blames all men for the sins of a few very bad men. I thought it might be a good idea for me to write something to women to help them to avoid being the victim of toxic masculinity. My post will have two parts: 1) choosing good men and 2) policies that produce good men.

Preparing to evaluate a man

If you don’t want toxic masculinity, then you have to choose a man who is not toxic. Men must be evaluated, and the toxic ones must be rejected – even if they are attractive and produce feelings of desire and excitement. How do you learn how to evaluate men? Well, you have to know how to talk to them about the things that are relevant to their roles as husbands and fathers. It’s not enough to ask a man “how did your day go?” Shallow questions don’t protect you from toxic masculinity. You need to ask questions that actually surface the true character of the man, and whether he has done anything verifiable to prepare himself to lead a family. The only way to evaluate HIM is to have prepared YOURSELF in advance. You prepare yourself by reading serious papers and books about men and marriage and parenting. Only then will you be able to judge how much he knows, and how good he is at doing what a man does in a committed relationship. It’s just like a job interview.

For example, men should be pro-life, because they should care about protecting the weak from the strong. If you – as a woman – do not understand how to make a case for the right to life of unborn children YOURSELF, then how will you be able to evaluate men to determine whether THEY take seriously the obligation to protect the weak from the strong?  If you don’t know anything about pro-life legislation and Supreme Court cases, then how will you evaluate a man’s knowledge of those areas? You have to do YOUR homework first, so that you are able to evaluate the character of a man.

Which policies create men who are toxic?

Fatherlessness creates toxic masculinity.

If a man is growing up without a father, then he will never see a man treating a woman well, even after she has lost her youth and beauty. The first thing that children notice about their fathers is that he lives at home. But they also know that he gets up early each day to go to work for the family. And they know that if there is anything scary, like a spider or a noise, then father is the one who protects the mother. Father is the one who teaches a child that authority (and punishment) is not done out of anger, but out of love. Father is the one who sets moral boundaries, lives out moral rules, and reads the Bible to the children. Fathers demonstrate how to control superior strength, because can never act towards his wife in a way that could destroy the marriage.

Boys learn the complexity of women by watching their fathers interact with their mothers. Growing up with a father and a mother is the complete opposite of pornography. In porn, boys see only the woman’s outward appearance with no context of a commitment, and no long-term plan where husband and wife are partners. Porn reduces her to an object designed only to please his needs. Marriage shows cooperation between man and woman in order to make the relationship stable and productive. Boys in father-present homes have a much broader and deeper database of interactions to draw on when dealing with women. In particular, boys learn what skills and abilities a man demonstrates to a woman in order to signal to her that he is interested in marrying her.

So, if you oppose toxic masculinity, then you have to be against fatherlessness. You have to be for marriage as the best place for children to grow up. And to be for marriage, is to be against every policy that threatens marriage. You must be against no-fault divorce. Against single-mother welfare. Against the Sexual Revolution. Against recreational premarital sex. Against delaying marriage for fun and careers. And against feminism – which teaches women that evaluating a man for traditional marriage roles is “sexist”.

People on the secular left complain the most about toxic masculinity but they are the ones doing the most to promote policies that create it. Secular leftists can’t tear down the theism that rationally grounds morality, and then complain when institutions like marriage – which are built on objective moral values and duties – are destroyed. It doesn’t matter if a secular leftist wishes for toxic masculinity to disappear. If they say nothing about women choosing hot bad boys for relationships, then they are in favor of toxic masculinity. If they say nothing about the destruction of marriage and fatherless children, then they are in favor of toxic masculinity. You can’t kill the engine that produces good men, and then complain that the bad men who are left don’t treat you well.

Conclusion

To review: to avoid toxic masculinity, you should 1) prepare yourself (by studying) so you can evaluate men for their ability to perform distinct male marriage roles, and 2) promote policies in which boys are raised in homes with a father loving their mother in a lifelong commitment. If you deny either of these things, then you’re not opposed to toxic masculinity at all. You might say you don’t like it, but you’re not doing anything to avoid choosing it, and you’re not doing anything to produce young men who avoid it.

I think that women today are complaining about “toxic masculinity” precisely because they feel entitled to choose men based on outward appearance, give them recreational premarital sex, and then expect that those men will treat them with respect and care. It doesn’t work that way. Hot bad boys don’t respond to recreational premarital sex by transforming themselves into faithful husbands with impeccable moral character. If you want good character, then evaluate men to find it and then choose it. Period.