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Taking a break from the news in Afghanistan, I have noted with dismay the news that Marks & Spencer will no longer be stocking men’s suits.

The famous British department store chain is now selling elastated trousers but said that it still has suits to buy online for those who cannot find them in their local store. What man would want to do that?

On August 29, the Times reported (emphases mine):

M&S said it still had a large collection of suits available online and either delivered or collected from 700 locations. Almost all of its clothing stores still sell shirts and ties.

That’s good to know (sarc off).

Customers returning to normality after coronavirus restrictions do not care much for M&S’s new normal:

One customer, Steve Jackson, who appeared to have moved back from abroad, wrote on Twitter: “The local Marks & Spencer no longer sells suits. How long was I away?!”

Another customer, Lisa Shaw, was disappointed after visiting a branch in Bristol, saying: “We went to Marks & Spencer today to buy my husband a suit. They have no suits! Smart trousers but no jackets.”

Katie Saint tweeted: “We’ve been to several of your shops around Leeds and Bradford and none seem to stock many/any of your range of suits.”

How unfortunate.

The American habit of casual dress for the office has taken root in the UK over the past 20+ years. What used to be ‘dress down Friday’ here has become a daily norm. Working from home over the past year and a half has put a nail in the coffin of sartorial elegance.

A Kantar study showed that suit sales have slumped:

British shoppers bought two million men’s suits in the year up to last month, compared with 4.3 million five years ago and five million a decade ago, according to new research from the analysts Kantar.

Women’s wear is moving in the same direction:

Sales of women’s suits have fallen less sharply from 600,000 a year in 2017 to 500,000 today. M&S said that in the year to April, sales of formal wear were down by 15 per cent online and 72 per cent in stores compared with a year earlier. During the same period, sales of casualwear were up 61 per cent online.

If it were just M&S dropping suits, that would be fine. However, men’s clothiers were suffering even before lockdown:

The suit chain TM Lewin shut all 66 of its UK shops last year, while Moss Bros reported pre-tax losses of £7.4 million for the year to January 2020 and was delisted from the London Stock Exchange last year after a drawn-out takeover process.

Any man wanting an M&S suit and cannot find one in his local shop will have to go online where he can receive a consultation, says Wes Taylor, director of M&S menswear:

we still want to be the go-to for a great suit whatever the occasion. Lots of men want help buying a suit from an expert so during the pandemic we also launched online video consultations.

How sad that a male rite of passage has died out. M&S first produced suits in 1939, initially out of woolen flannel.

Harry Mount, a journalist and author, feels at home in a suit. He wrote about M&S’s decision for the Daily Mail and noted that fewer than half of the company’s stores now stock them:

it emerged this weekend only 110 of its 254 clothing stores still stock suits — that’s well under half of them.

Very much an Englishman, Mount regrets the demise of the suit:

Workers returning to the office are opting for what the fashion world has recently termed the ‘broken suit’ — in old parlance a jacket and trousers.

GQ magazine recently ran an article about the ‘broken suit’ talking about combinations which suggest effort and care, as well as a touch of ‘studied carelessness’.

Sounds very like smart-casual to me. And just as confusing. Care and carelessness at the same time? Smart and casual?

In 2019, Goldman Sachs, the huge American bank, announced a move to a ‘flexible dress code’; JP Morgan, another American bank, now asks its workers to wear ‘business-casual’ — another indefinable mystery for the petrified man dressing in the morning.

These banks, I suppose, are emulating the scruffy dress code of the big tech companies, exemplified by Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook chief who’s almost permanently in a T-shirt or hoodie and jeans, and the late Steve Jobs, the Apple supremo, clad in black turtleneck and jeans.

Zuckerberg says he wears his grey T-shirt every day because he believes that thinking about clothes is ‘silly’ and ‘frivolous’.

But, surely, he’s the silly one. The great joy about the suit is that men don’t have to think.

It removes the question of what you should wear each day — apart from your choice of shirt — and equips you with the most stylish outfit known to man.

Mount gives us a history of the modern suit:

Here was not just affordable tailoring for the masses, but history made cloth.

The M&S suit is a descendant of the 18th-century British riding coat, which mutated into the morning coat (similar to what you might wear at a wedding) in the 19th century.

In around 1900, that long coat morphed into the Deeside coat, which was still pretty long — it had four buttons down the front.

The British dropped the fourth button just before World War I, and the modern suit was born. The Americans copied us after World War I, going for three buttons. Then, after World War II, the Americans introduced the two-button suit.

For a century, then, from World War I until now, the British suit has ruled the world.

True, there have been changes over the years. Suit trousers and lapels became very thin during the Mod years in the 1960s.

They became regrettably flared and wide in the 1970s. Suits turned boxy and shaped in the 1980s before reverting to their classic form in the 1990s, where they have hovered ever since.

Materials changed, too. M&S branched out of that original 1939 flannel suit into tweed, wool, linen and — God forbid — polyester.

But, still, at heart, the suit’s DNA stayed essentially the same: matching trousers and jacket with lapel, cuffs, a breast pocket and two side pockets.

British rock ‘n’ roll stars popularised the suit for new generations of young men. The Beatles wore them in their early years, as did the Rolling Stones. Throughout his life, their drummer, the late Charlie Watts, bought bespoke suits in Savile Row, at Huntsman:

Watts’s suits remained timelessly cool.

At one time, Bryan Ferry was the face of M&S suits. And who can forget David Bowie in his?

Mount tells us that the word for suit in Japanese is the pronunciation of Savile Row: ‘Saburo’.

He says:

British suits are literally synonymous with formal wear across the globe. How sad, then, that we are now waving goodbye to one of our greatest inventions.

I couldn’t agree more.

Will the great British suit ever make a comeback? Only if our rock ‘n’ rollers start wearing them again.

Yesterday was Father’s Day. I hope that all dads reading had a good day with their children, communicating in some sort of significant way, either in person or by phone.

As ours is a childless household, I was interested to follow coverage of the day on GB News.

Alastair Stewart

Alastair Stewart got a pleasant surprise on his afternoon show, as his daughter, a headmistress, rang in with her good wishes and thanks on behalf of herself and her siblings as well as Mrs Stewart:

Stewart said that he has good relationships with all of his children, but that he and they relate to each other in a very individualised way, making fatherhood that much more special.

He said that he was taken aback that his daughter rang in to the show, at the suggestion of the production team. He wiped away a little tear after the call ended.

Neil Oliver

Archaeologist and television presenter Neil Oliver, also a member of the GB News team, appeared in the studio on Stewart’s show and the one that followed, where Father’s Day was the main topic.

Riding lessons for a young daughter

Oliver told Stewart that some children have an instinctive attraction to loving certain animals. He told Stewart how his daughter wanted riding lessons because she loved horses. Oliver and his wife thought the girl was too young. One day when the three of them were out, the girl saw horses in a field and spontaneously ran towards them. Oliver and his wife were worried for her safety, but the horses lowered their heads as she approached so that she could hug them. Riding lessons followed shortly afterwards.

His daughter will be entering Edinburgh University this autumn.

The awe of holding a newborn

On the show that followed Alastair Stewart’s, Oliver said that holding his children as newborns was one of the most awe-inspiring experiences he could have. He said that holding his tiny babies turned him to jelly. He said that he felt as if his ribcage were floating around in his body, it was such a tremendous experience.

Celebrating together

As Oliver was in London in the studio and his children at home in Scotland, he told them they could celebrate Father’s Day together once he returned to Stirling.

He said that he enjoys all the days that most of us regard as greeting card holidays, saying that any day that brings families closer together is worth celebrating.

Proudest accomplishments

Oliver said that his proudest accomplishments in life are being a husband and a father.

He said he knew from a young age that he wanted a wife and children. They make his life complete.

—————————–

I did search on Twitter to see if GB News had posted any of these clips. Alas, no.

Furthermore, Neil Oliver no longer has a Twitter feed.

He deleted his Twitter account in 2016, after harassment from people who want Scottish independence. The Express carried the story in August that year (emphases mine):

The archaeologist, writer and broadcaster, who presents BBC’s Coast, said he was forced off social media by the so-called cybernats, disappointing his 40,000 followers.

Mr Oliver says he became a target for abuse and received scores of hate-filled messages after deciding to speak out in favour of the Union

The Renfrewshire-born broadcaster said: “A great chunk of the response was not just negative but very personal and filled with bile and vicious loathing.

“People made it clear they wished the worst for me. They wished that I would develop cancer and said I deserved to be burnt as a traitor. It was one or two positive comments accompanied by hundreds of hate-fuelled messages” …

I realised that by having a Twitter identity I had opened a door into my personal life in which strangers could pass at will. The minute I deactivated my account I felt like I had brought my head out of deep water and could breathe easily. It was an almost instantaneous fix.”

Mr Oliver said that he was now worried about his three young children being targeted.

In an earlier article from January 2016, Oliver revealed his favourite personal photo to The Express, one of him and his wife as students at Glasgow University.

He told the reporter:

This is a picture of me and my wife Trudi at Glasgow University. l graduated with an MA in archaeology in 1988, and this was at Trudi’s graduation in 1990. We were together for a long time, then broke up in our twenties.

It was nothing particularly dramatic, but we were apart for eight years and met again by chance in 2002 after I bumped into her brother. It was as if we’d never been apart and we’ve been together ever since.

Our daughter Evie and sons Archie and Teddy were all present when we married in Solsgirth, Kinross-shire, on October 10, 2009, exactly 23 years after we first met.

We’re very similar people from similar backgrounds. We each had a happy and normal working-class childhood. Trudi grew up in Falkirk mostly, and I was raised in Ayr and Dumfries where my family still live. After several years working as an archaeologist, then I became a newspaper journalist – like Trudi.

Oliver is known for his shoulder-length hair, which he has had since he was 15.

He doesn’t dare get it cut:

I’ve basically had the same haircut since I was 15. When I was at university, quite a lot of men were scruffy with long hair, and I fell into that and fossilised. But Trudi was taken with my long hair. She is my number one fan and likes the way I look.

We’d end up in the divorce courts if I got my hair cut short now! But I’ve always had people telling me I should get it cut. A TV reviewer from The Guardian recently wrote that whenever I appear on screen she wants to scream, “Get your hair cut, laddie!” Any review I get for a TV show always starts with something like “the Scottish archaeologist with the long flowing locks…”

He missed his family when he was away filming his series:

I miss Trudi and the children when I’m away from our home in Stirling. My job is not onerous in any way, and I enjoy it thoroughly, but being away is the hardest part by far. I’ve missed a lot of birthdays, school concerts… just family time. I try and minimise how long I’m away. When I’m home I do the school run and I go in from time to time to talk about history.

Although I’m away for long chunks of time, the kids have always had their mum with them 24/7. She has the toughest gig, operating as a single mum for half the year. But, when I am home, it’s often for periods of about two months.

He wrote books when at home:

I spent five months of the last year writing my first novel Master Of Shadows in the spare bedroom at home. I had previously had eight non-fiction works published, but I was more nervous about the reaction to this.

Now Neil Oliver has a weekly show on GB News. He told Alastair Stewart that this was a career move he had not anticipated but feels that now is the time, because he has much to say about British society today.

He added that doing a show live is much different from doing a television series, where something can be redone, if necessary. He said he is always nervous before filming. He and Stewart agreed that any presenter who isn’t nervous beforehand should probably stop broadcasting.

In closing, it was fascinating to hear Oliver’s thoughts on fatherhood, especially as his children are teenagers now.

And who doesn’t like a good love story?

On June 24, 2020, John MacArthur posted a sermon, ‘Act Like Men’, with the key phrase from the Bible, ‘be strong and courageous’:

It is one hour and six minutes long and, as you would expect, every minute is well spent watching and listening.

Without saying it explicitly, MacArthur disparages the welfare state which has caused millions of men to relinquish their family responsibilities.

Those of us who have had responsible fathers will greatly appreciate what the founder of Grace To You and Master’s Seminary has to say to men in the modern world.

In order to place this into context, you might wish to read my post from June 29, ‘John MacArthur videos about the protests’, which offers excellent advice about what to do in our journey as Christians.

Excerpts from the ‘Act Like Men’ transcript follow, emphases mine.

MacArthur begins by saying that, in the wake of the protests across the United States and the rest of Western world, he called a meeting of men from his congregation and Master’s Seminary — particularly men of colour — to enlighten him further. He asked them to give him five working points for a Christian agenda moving forward:

These are young Black men that gave up a chunk of their time to sit with me and talk through some of these issues. Thanks to Carl Hargrove for kind of leading that discussion which was powerfully fruitful for me

So I said to these men after about two hours plus of talking together, and it was a very gracious and loving communication. I said, “So give me five things that we need to do as believers in Jesus Christ to reach across racial lines and bring the gospel to these people and have it received.” So I said, “You get five shots, and I’ll have this as the introduction to my sermon.” So here we go. This is what they said to me.

Number One: “Tell people that racism is a sin.” Racism is a sin, isn’t it. Any kind of hate is a sin, and racism is an utterly irrational hate. Racism is what causes genocide, what caused the Holocaust, what causes ethnic battles all across the planet as long as there’s been human history. But then men in their natural state hate God, and the Bible says they hate each other. The first crime was a murder based upon anger, based upon hate, when Cain killed his brother.

Any kind of hate is a sin. Any kind of racial hate is an irrational expanded form of hate coming from any human heart; it is reflective of the fallenness of that heart. And we also know in our society that there are some people who have received more of that than others. We need to make it very clear that to hate anyone on any basis or any group of people is a sin against God of monumental proportions.

Secondly: “We need to show compassion, compassion to those who’ve experienced this.” And lots of people have. We need to open our hearts and weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn. Jesus looked at the multitudes and had compassion. Even when He went to the grave of Lazarus, He wept; and He knew He was going to raise him from the dead, and He still wept. That’s the heart of Jesus.

Life is hard, and it has been especially hard for some groups of people; and that certainly speaks to the issue of the history of Black people in America. For those of us who know and love the Lord Jesus Christ, they don’t want to hear the statistics, but they would love to know you have compassion for them.

Thirdly, we talked about the fact that, “We need to listen.” And that’s pretty much a basic principle, isn’t it: slow to speak and quick to hear. We may have all the theological answers, we may have all the statistical answers, but can we keep our mouths closed long enough to hear the heart of someone else? Engaging someone with the gospel is so much more effective if that comes in the context of having heard their heart.

Number Four they said: “Use these days as an opportunity to show the love of Christ.” This was really rich advice for me. Say racism is a sin, and it is. Any kind of hate coming from anybody in any direction and you can see that it is tearing this culture to shreds.

Show compassion, listen, and use these opportunities as an occasion to show love. That’s four; got one more. And the final one was this: “The only thing that’s going to break the cycle of our problems in this country is godly fathers. Help us develop godly fathers.” Now you might say that was a providence of God that it happened the week of Father’s Day. Sure set me up for this morning because I want to talk about fathers.

Here are the current American statistics on fatherhood. These involve the main demographics, by the way. The statistics are probably similar, proportionally, throughout the Western world. Please read these and note them well:

Here’s the current reality. Twenty-five million children in our country live without a biological father – one out of three. Grades 1 to 12, forty percent of children live without a biological father in the home. Over fifty percent currently of children are born outside marriage. Eighty-five percent of prisoners grew up in a fatherless home. Eighty-five percent of children with behavioral disorders came from fatherless homes. Ninety percent of youth who run away and become homeless come from fatherless homes. Children from fatherless homes are three hundred percent more likely to deal drugs and carry weapons.

This is a holocaust. And it’s not limited to any group of ethnic people, it is a national holocaust. The statistics I gave you are across the board for our country. Just that one statistic, eighty-five percent of prisoners grew up in a fatherless home, is a terrifying reality.

I used to hear when I was a kid that if you had a good mother you could have any ol’ schtick for a dad. That’s not true. I used to hear when I was a kid preachers say, “You men, it’s important how you live, you Christian men, because your children will get their view of God from you.” That’s ridiculous. They don’t get their view of God from me, they get their view of God from the Bible. That’s an insult to God. What they do get from me is their view of a man. Children will get their view of a man and what a man is from the father.

There, I must disagree, at least in part. I have posted a few entries on fathers and clergy who have not fulfilled their respective responsibilities, either in the family or in the Church:

Here’s what happens when Dad doesn’t attend church

Consistent churchgoing habits important for children

The Methodist Church advocates man-centredness — survey (2010)

Which is more deplorable, the gun culture or the fatherless culture?

What kind of father doesn’t protect his family? (concerns bishops)

But I digress.

Back to John MacArthur:

Sexual immorality, relentless assault of feminism, overexposure to perversion, complete collapse of homes has just produced generations of bad fathers. And the reality is nothing is more devastating to a society than that, nothing. And on the other hand, the only hope for stability and the only hope for sanity, the only hope for peace in a society is masculine, virtuous men.

Some will find that hard to absorb. However, think of the rise of the welfare state over the past half-century. That might begin to put this into context. A virtuous life is not about absentee fathers or Big Government acting as a husband or father. If you sire a child, you need to be there as part of a family unit.

Even if one disagrees with that, it is hard to disagree that, during the past 50 years or so, the further we slip into moral laxity, the more we see evil. In fact, we’re seeing unimaginable evil. We thought we would be nice and allow people to do what they please. Now we see the results of that ill-advised experiment:

Evil abounds absolutely everywhere. How men respond to its presence determines the survival and well-being of a society. Let me say that again: “Evil abounds everywhere. How men respond to its presence determines the survival and well-being of that society.” One psychologist said, “Masculinity is taking responsibility to reduce evil and produce good.”

No culture will ever rise above the character of its men: fathers. The feminist lie has been that patriarchy is bad. It is tyrannical. It is toxic. It needs to be destroyed. And they’ve been doing it for decades. To destroy masculinity, to destroy strong male leadership and character leads to the current disaster: irresponsible men running loose in the streets terrorizing a society. Weak men have given us this legacy. Weak men produce the death of society. And men are in a crisis today, they are being continually told to try to get in touch with their feminine side, so they have become defensive about their masculinity.

Women rise higher and higher and higher and more frequently into positions of leadership, as men feel overwhelmed and overpowered and unable to fight against the trend. Oh, there are lots of men at the gym, pretty buff, have some muscles, but they’re doing virtually nothing to stop the tide of evil in the world. And by the way, in case women haven’t begun to realize it: weak, immoral men abuse women, and they produce more weak, immoral sons. No, children don’t get their view of God from their father, but they do get their view of what a man is. And we are in some serious trouble because the current crop of men are infecting the children.

There are two views in the Bible on generational sin. If one repents of a generational sin, one has wiped his slate clean. See Ezekiel 18:19-20:

19 “Yet you ask, ‘Why does the son not share the guilt of his father?’ Since the son has done what is just and right and has been careful to keep all my decrees, he will surely live. 20 The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him.

Yet, where there is no repentance from generation to generation, the sin endures as a punishable act:

Listen to the Word of God, Exodus chapter 20 and verse 5: I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me.” Listen to Exodus 34:7, “God will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation.” God says it again in Deuteronomy 5:9 and 10, “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”

Repeatedly, God says corrupt fathers create in society a legacy of corruption that is generational. He’s not saying that a son would be punished for a father’s sin; clearly that is not the case. Deuteronomy 24:16 says, “Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone will be put to death for his own sin.” We’re not talking about an individual suffering punishment for another person’s sin. What we are saying is fathers – plural – who are corrupt leave a legacy that will not be overturned in three or four generations. And if the next generation is corrupt, it pushes that out another three or four, and the next generation another three or four, and it becomes an impossible cycle.

In the words of the prophet Zechariah as he begins his prophecy, “In the eighth month of the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to Zechariah the prophet, son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo saying, ‘The Lord was very angry with your fathers. Therefore say to them, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Return to Me,’ declares the Lord of hosts, ‘that I may return to you,’ says the Lord of hosts. “Do not be like your fathers.”’” Something has to break the cycle.

This is what happens without repentance:

Clearly, a generation dominated by sinful fathers will bear the crushing consequence of their sinful progenitors. Their children will suffer. Their grandchildren will suffer. Their great-grandchildren will suffer. No generation exists in isolation or as an island. A wicked society defined as wicked by the behavior of the men won’t be rooted out for multiple generations. So it isn’t that people get their view of God from a father, but they do get their view of what a father is, and if it’s the wrong view, it’s just purposely repeated again and again and again.

So, as Christians, what do we do? First, we need to acknowledge that we are all prone to sin. When we give in to sin, we give in to all sorts of carnality. On the other hand, when we are alive in Christ, God’s infinite grace enables us to resist temptation through faith and the gifts of the Holy Spirit:

The default position of every man is corruption, right? It’s the most natural thing they do is sin. The most accessible affect of that sin is on the women in their lives, and then on the children in their lives, and then it extends to everybody else.

The problem is, “There’s none righteous, no, not one. They’re all evil,” as we read in Romans 3. They don’t seek after God. They hate God, they hate others, and they’re influencing their children while they’re harming their wives. I understand why there’s a women’s movement. And even though it’s wrong and totally devastates a society, pushes women into places they were never intended to be and men out of the places they were intended to be, I understand it because of the corruption of men.

So where do we begin? We have to begin as believers who have new natures, right? We are new creations in Christ, we have the Holy Spirit, and we start by breaking the cycle. It’s not going to be broken, it’s still around, right? What you’re seeing today in the chaos of this culture, what you see in the weakness and foolishness of people in high places, what you see is just the reality that corrupt fathers destroy society.

MacArthur then begins discussing one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit: fortitude. As we are in the season of Pentecost — please do ignore the term ‘Ordinary Time’ — it is important that we take some lessons from the weeks from Pentecost until the end of the Church year, just before December.

Fortitude is no casual word. It is not restricted to men alone, however, it is in scarce supply these days among some of today’s men, enough to make a difference in Western society:

Fortitude. What is fortitude? It’s a great word. Firmness, strength of soul that faces danger with courage and bears loss and pain without complaint. Fortitude: “Firmness and strength of soul that faces danger with courage and bears loss and pain without complaint.” That’s not a theological definition, that’s just a definition of the word.

When you say a man has fortitude, you’re talking about someone who doesn’t compromise even when there’s danger, even when that danger escalates to fear and pain. Fortitude is a combination of conviction, courage, and endurance – conviction, courage, and endurance. It is the willingness – it is not just the willingness, I would say it’s even the desire to risk, to literally create challenges if they’re not already there, to attack difficulty, to challenge difficulty head on, to bear suffering with courage. This is what makes a man a man, and this is the kind of man in whom a woman finds her security, finds her protection; and in that kind of relationship, the woman’s femininity flourishes.

Men are those who should be the protectors, the purifiers, who secure their wives, who secure their children, who accomplish all that needs to be done to reduce evil in a society and produce good; and yet this society for years and decades has had men busy producing evil, and diminishing good. True manliness is bound up in the word “courage.” That is the virtue that marks a real man. Truth, conviction, courage.

Turn to 1 Corinthians chapter 16, 1 Corinthians chapter 16. At the end of this wonderful letter, near the end, is tucked a very important verse, actually two verses: verses 13 and 14. Listen to what the apostle Paul says: “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” “Be on the alert,” – danger is everywhere – “stand firm in the faith,” – don’t waiver in your belief and convictions – “act like men,” – What does that mean? Fortitude, uncompromising courage – “be strong.” The New King James actually says, “Be brave, be strong.” “Act like men” essentially means to conduct one’s self in a courageous way, to conduct one’s self in a courageous way.

Courage is the stock-in-trade of a man: courage in the face of danger, courage in the face of temptation, courage in the face of loss, courage in the face of suffering. This strength of verse 13, essentially four statements saying, one way or another, “Be strong.” Is then balanced in verse 14 by, “Let all that you do be done in love.” And how important is it to add that. There’s nothing more manly than a man with consummate conviction, courage, and endurance, who is marked by love. That’s a man – not weak, not vacillating, not fearful; and loving.

Real men face life with this kind of fortitude. They’re watchful of the dangers around them. They’re alert. They’re protectors of their wives and children, and of their friends and all the people over whom they have influence. They have convictions about what is true. They have courage to live out those convictions and the strength to be unwavering when those convictions will cost them everything. Your convictions, they’re only real convictions if they hold up under the most intense pressure.

MacArthur then goes into the many Bible verses with the words ‘be strong and courageous’:

In Deuteronomy 31, Moses is passing the mantle on to Joshua, and in verse 6, Deuteronomy 31, he says this: “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them,” – meaning your enemies – “for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” “Then Moses called to Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, ‘Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land which the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall give it to them as an inheritance. The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you nor forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” That’s the greatest transitional leadership speech ever.

Look at … 2 Samuel chapter 10 and verse 12. This is Joab to the Israelites who were facing opposition, strong opposition, tremendously strong opposition. Back in verse 6, it lays out the forces that were coming against them. But in verse 12, Joab says to the Israelites, “Be strong, and let us show ourselves courageous for the sake of our people and for the cities of our God; and may the Lord do what is good in His sight.”

First Kings chapter 2. In 1 Kings chapter 2, David addresses Solomon his son. “David’s time to die drew near. He charged Solomon his son, saying, ‘I’m going the way of all the earth. Be strong, therefore, show yourself a man. Keep the charge of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is written in the Law of Moses, that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn, so that the Lord may carry out His promise which He spoke.’” Moses to Joshua, Joab to the Israelites, David to Solomon.

For another view of David’s speech to his son Solomon, look at 1 Chronicles chapter 22. I’m showing you these because I want you to see how common this is. First Chronicles 22, David calls for his son to build the house of God, and we can pick it up in verse 11: “Now, my son, the Lord be with you that you may be successful, and build the house of the Lord your God just as He has spoken concerning you. Only the Lord give you discretion and understanding, and give you charge over Israel, so that you may keep the law of the Lord your God. Then you will prosper, if you’re careful to observe the statues and ordinances which the Lord commanded Moses concerning Israel. Be strong and courageous, do not fear nor be dismayed.” All of these declarations assume that your devotion to God is going to be tested, and you’re going to have to be strong. It’s going to be tested, no way around it.

David says again, 1 Chronicles 28:20, to his son Solomon, he gives this speech another time: “Be strong and courageous, and act; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you nor forsake you until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished.” Just a couple more.

Toward the end of 2 Chronicles, Hezekiah is speaking to men in positions of leadership. Hezekiah, chapter 32 of 2 Chronicles, the first verse: “After these acts of faithfulness Sennacherib king of Assyria came, invaded Judah, besieged the fortified cities, and thought to break into them for himself. Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib had come invading Judah and he intended to make war on Jerusalem; he decided with his officers and warriors to cut off the supply of water from the springs” – this was a siege – “which were outside the city, and they helped him. So many people assembled and stopped up all the springs and streams which flowed through the region, saying, ‘Why should the kings of Assyria come and find abundant water?’ And he took courage and rebuilt all the wall that had been broken down and erected towers on it, built another outside wall, strengthened the Millo in the city of David, made weapons and shields in great number, appointed military officers over the people and gathered them in the square of the city gate, and spoke encouragingly to them, and this is what he said: ‘Be strong and courageous, do not fear or be dismayed because the king of Assyria nor because of all the horde that is with him; for the one with us is greater than the one with him. With him is only an arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles.’” That’s a great pep talk, isn’t it, for an army. Psalm 27:14 says, “Be strong and let your heart take courage.”

Men don’t give in to fear. Men don’t give in to pressure. Men don’t give in to intimidation, and they don’t give in to temptation. They don’t seek the easy way. They will take the pain, they will invite the risk, they will confront the challenge, and they will not bow to the pressure to compromise the commandments of God. Strength of a man is that he lives on principle, that he lives on conviction, that he has the courage of those convictions, stands strong against everything that comes at those convictions, bravely faces the challenges in a fortified way. Manly fortitude means contending with difficulty, facing every enemy, meeting the enemy head on, bearing the pain, maintaining self-discipline, upholding truth, pressing on to the goal. That’s what defines a man.

MacArthur cites more examples. God spoke the same words to Joshua in the presence of Moses:

I want to show you another passage back in Joshua, right at the beginning of Joshua. Moses gives this speech again as he passes the baton, as it were, to Joshua. He says to him in chapter 1 of Joshua, verse 5, “No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you.” This is God now speaking, God is the one speaking. “Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you.”

So here it comes not from Moses to Joshua, but from God to Joshua in the presence of Moses. And here’s what God says to Joshua, verse 6: “Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.”

And here comes the key to that. How do you live like that? How do you live with that strength and courage? How do you live without ever compromising? Verse 8: “This book of the law” – the Word of God – “shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” It’s an incredible speech from God.

“Be strong” – verse 5 – “because God will be with you,” – “because you’re fulfilling a divine cause, a promise from God.” Verses 7 and 8, “The only way you can do this is to submit to the Word of God so that it constantly is in your mind and you live out its truths.” You will be able to be obedient if you’re saturated by the Word of God empowered by the Spirit of God.

Can you see why this speech is repeated so many, many times? This is the mark of a man. It takes a father like that to raise a son like that. Spiritual men are courageous, strong, principled, uncompromising, and bold. This is God’s role for men to play in a society, but it is also God’s role for the men to play who are the leaders of His people Israel. And this is God’s standard for the men who lead His church.

This is what we should expect from our clergy:

When we come into the New Testament and we are introduced to the kind of men that the Lord commands to lead His church. This is how He describes them in 1 Timothy 3: “This man must be above reproach, a one-woman man, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (if a man doesn’t know how to manage his own children, how will he take care of the church of God?), and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” High standards for a pastor, an elder.

To Titus, Paul says similarly, “Appoint elders. If a man is above reproach, one-woman man, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion; for the overseer” – or the shepherd, pastor, bishop – “must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he’ll be able to exhort in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict.” This is the kind of men who lead the church.

Why is the standard so high for the leaders of the church? Because the leaders of the church have the responsibility to set the pattern for what manliness looks like in a godly environment. It’s not that they alone should be like this, it is that they should be like this so the others can see what a man should be. It isn’t that the Lord wants to pick up all the pastors and elders and take them to another level of spirituality which no one could attain, it is rather that this is what God expects from every man. But it’s got to be modeled. Men like that and men, as Ephesians 5 said, who love their wives like Christ loved the church, and who are protectors of their wives and who literally are the saviors of their wives, are the kind of men who become a haven for the wife, who make her feel secure and protected, nourished, cherished. And when children grow up in a home where the man secures the woman and the children, there’s peace.

So, how have we gone so far astray?

This culture has turned on God, eliminated His Word. The bible and the gospel is an enemy.

One wonders what John MacArthur thinks of President Trump. To my knowledge, he has not been invited to the White House. I wish that President Trump would invite him. That would make for an interesting transcript.

But I digress. MacArthur says:

The leaders of this nation have no interest in God or in His Word, and they are basically running this country right into hell as fast as they can. The only thing that’s going to stop this is not a group of feminized men who thinks God just wants to give them what they want so they can be happy. What this world needs is not sensitive men, it needs strong men. We live in a world of compromise, more than compromise. You could barely call it compromise because there’s nothing left of that which is good, so what are they compromising with.

That said, it is clear that MacArthur, a Californian, disapproves of California Governor Gavin Newsom’s views. Newsom is a self-proclaimed Catholic. Here’s a 2008 video of the two of them on the old Larry King Show on CNN when Newsom was the mayor of San Francisco and married to his second wife at the time:

Now on to the word ‘integrity’:

To add another word to your thoughts about this, I would say that people who have no price have integrity, integrity. So we talk about fortitude, let me talk about integrity. “People who have no price have integrity.”

What is integrity? It is essentially unbreakable fortitude. Integrity is defined as steadfast adherence to a moral code. It comes from “integer,” which means “whole” or “complete.” Its synonyms are “honesty,” “sincerity,” “simplicity,” “incorruptibility.” It’s antonym is “duplicity” or “hypocrisy.” A person who lacks integrity is a hypocrite. Integrity means that you live by your convictions: you say what you believe, you hold to what you believe, you’re immoveable. That’s wholeness. That’s integrity: you are one. It was said long ago of a preacher that he preached very well, but he lived better. The world is a seducer, and Satan is a seducing deceiver, pushing us into compromise, and therefore into hypocrisy.

When our Lord indicted the scribes and Pharisees who were the frequent objects of His blistering attacks. Inevitably it was on their integrity that He assaulted them. For example, in Matthew 23:3, He said, “They say things and do not do them.”

MacArthur, who is truly blessed, has a number of additional observations. As such, I would invite you to read or watch his sermon in full.

In short, manliness does not involve belonging to a street gang.

Each man, at some point, will have to rely upon his own wits, determination and fortitude to resolve his own trials, whether they be his own or those of his family.

We need to recover the biblical ideal of manliness, which has kept Western society protected for centuries. It hasn’t always succeeded, but we are fallen people, susceptible to temptation and sin.

Men have been beaten into the ground for decades. This must be remedied:

We need a generation of men who are alert to danger, who stand firm in the faith, who are courageous with the Word of God, uncompromising and strong.

And, listen, everything about this that I’ve said indicates they will be tested. Manliness will be tested. Conviction will be tested. Courage will be tested. Strength will be tested. The pressure will come, it’ll come in unexpected ways, but it’ll come. You may get away with your statement of conviction for years, but there will come a test, and many men will shock the people who knew them by selling out, compromising, abandoning their integrity, playing the hypocrite out of cowardice. This falls into a translation of Romans 12:2. Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold.

Stay strong. Stand firm in the faith, as Saint Paul did.

The world needs real men now more than ever, especially to stand by principled women.

Today, any number of fathers are absent from the home.

Some have rarely or never been at home for their children.

Others are stuck in the office working 60 to 70-hour weeks. I worked for a man several years ago whose mantra — and, yes, he did keep repeating this — was, ‘Work, work, work! Work is everything!’

Admittedly, he was working for sales commission and at an ambitious self-imposed target, but there must come a time when a man must begin weighing his priorities. This particular sales manager had a wife and two young children at home. By now, they must be nearly ready for secondary school. I wonder how he feels now, having missed their formative years by being in the office late into the night then closeted in his office at home during the weekends.

I also knew a number of other executives who adopted the same modus operandi with their wives taking care of everything child-related. One cannot help but think that their children really won’t know them as they were always fed, bathed and in bed by the time these men returned home at night.

Then we have absentee fathers, enabled by the welfare state and leftist propaganda. What a joy it must be to sleep around, father children, boast of one’s potency and have no bill to pay at the end of it. The government pardons and encourages this behaviour in its goal to make nation-states matriarchies — whilst retaining a patriarchy at the highest levels of office. Welfare moms don’t see that, however. Handouts are everything to them. The government becomes a surrogate husband and self-servingly retains their votes.

On Christmas Day 2012, the Washington Times featured an article on the decreasing presence of dads in the United States. What follows is a brief excerpt from the article:

In every state, the portion of families where children have two parents, rather than one, has dropped significantly over the past decade. Even as the country added 160,000 families with children, the number of two-parent households decreased by 1.2 million. Fifteen million U.S. children, or 1 in 3, live without a father, and nearly 5 million live without a mother. In 1960, just 11 percent of American children lived in homes without fathers.

America is awash in poverty, crime, drugs and other problems, but more than perhaps anything else, it all comes down to this, said Vincent DiCaro, vice president of the National Fatherhood Initiative: Deal with absent fathers, and the rest follows.

People “look at a child in need, in poverty or failing in school, and ask, ‘What can we do to help?’ But what we do is ask, ‘Why does that child need help in the first place?’ And the answer is often it’s because [the child lacks] a responsible and involved father,” he said.

A second article, which the Washington Times featured on December 27, 2012, expanded on the topic but also included fathers who work excessive hours:

Welfare policies among the poor have put government in the role of the father and equated fatherhood with a monthly check, said Glenn T. Stanton, director of family formation studies at Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs. This has left many fathers free to walk away from their children knowing they will not starve thanks to programs that provide cash assistance to single mothers in proportion with the number of children they have, he said.

For fathers who are physically present, it sends a message that a few hundred dollars is a sufficient role.

“I think it would be difficult to overstate the significance of a welfare check replacing a marriage,” though a committed relationship between a man and a woman — even if the man provides only the same modest income that welfare payments would — “rivals maybe a college education as a path” to upward mobility, Mr. Stanton said.

But if single mothers on welfare are married to the government, others said, the frantic and competitive lives of many men in the upper-middle class have wedded them to their jobs and relegated fatherhood to a role more centered on financial support than emotional guidance.

“I don’t strictly believe it’s an inner-city deal,” said Hugh Cunningham, pastor of the Sojourn Church in the Dallas suburbs. “A lot of suburban men are married to their work. What they bring home is leftovers.”

Although those wounds may be hidden under better clothing, the lack of two emotionally available parents crosses cultural and demographic lines.

It also seems to be a phenomenon of two extremes: the workshy absentee father who sponges off others and the ambitious senior manager intent on the next promotion to keep pace with his peers and earn more money for his family.

Whilst most of us rightly have more empathy for the latter than the former, both situations are problematic for the future of the family, including marriage. What happens when the man retires to an empty nest to a wife with whom he can no longer communicate?

Something to consider.

Over the past several years a rather alarming phenomenon has been occurring among Western males.

Have you noticed how more and more are beginning to look like women?

An online discussion I read about Paul McCartney at Thanksgiving (lambasting his criticism of turkey eaters) ended up with someone posting this link: men who look like old lesbians.

No, it isn’t your imagination — they are out there.

I’m not sure what causes this to happen. Sure, a man’s testosterone declines with age, just as a woman’s oestrogen levels do. However, not all of these men are older. Some, in fact, are quite young.

I could come up with only two possibilities and as I know none of these men, it’s only a hypothesis. Either some are having lamb placenta injections to keep them younger or to reproduce an antioxidant effect. Such injections are done by at least one world famous spa which has been giving them for decades to men and women. The late Truman Capote used to go every six months for one; I used to watch him tell Dick Cavett on his late-night talk show in the 1970s. ‘Ohhhhhh, I feel faaabulous, Dick. Youuuu should tryyy it.’  I did notice that the more treatments ‘Tru’ had, the more feminine he looked. However, perhaps there were other factors in play (and I’m not talking about his sexuality).

There’s also the issue of vegetarianism with a high-soya diet. Again, just a hypothesis, but McCartney’s been a vegetarian for donkey’s years. I just wonder if large amounts of soya protein produce this effect.

The photo of the priest concerns me; many men could, with some justification, point to it and say that’s why they don’t go to church anymore. However, the saddest picture on this site is that of Fess Parker. (Be warned — language alert in the comments.) Remember him from the 1960s American television show Daniel Boone? He played a macho character and looked like a man! In fact, the signature tune’s lyrics began:

Daniel Boone was a man

Yes, a big man!

Whatever is causing this, men — just say no. Eat plenty of MEAT, forego injections and plastic surgery — stay masculine. Womankind will thank you for it!

My better half (in many ways!) and I always enjoy cooking shows on British television.  We don’t watch too much telly, so these provide not only inspiration but involve further enjoyment of our favourite aspects of God’s creation.

One of the things we have noticed since cooking competitions have begun is that an increasing number of men and boys — from teens to seniors — have participated in them.  Some series now have close to a 50-50 ratio.  Now, I realise that this will probably rankle with some of my male readers who might draw a line between men’s and women’s duties.  However, it proves a valuable point — there is no reason why men and boys cannot cook!

When I was growing up, a new concept entered the popular lexicon — ‘talking about things’. It was aimed at men and received a stiff-necked resistance. All I have to say on that subject is that the more parents get involved with their children in various household activities, the less there will be a need to … talk about things.  Forget the talk, just get on with the doing.  Doing will require discussion about and collaboration on the task in hand.  As so often happens, quiet intervals arise.  At that time conversation ensues.  ‘How is school?’ ‘Dad, I wanted to ask you something …’

We all think of women and girls being the cooks of the family.  However, that is less often the case now.  Many times, the men of the house have their own food specialities, which is especially true in Britain.  This might be the domain of the barbecue.  However, equally, it can be with certain dishes and even desserts prepared in the kitchen.

Recently, Britain’s Best Dish aired on ITV1.  Over the past few years, a number of men — and boys — have taken part, some of whom became finalists.  I can assure you that some of these chaps live in the country, play rugby at the weekend and are quite stocky.  Many are married with families and businesses.  Some are livestock farmers who prepare delightful dishes made from their own farm animals. A few years ago, a pig farmer, Mr Kelly, entered the finals with a spectacular rolled pork belly main course which looked (and, according to the judges, tasted) out of this world.

This year, a 15-year old from Scotland, Conor McLean, won the honours for an exceptional French-inspired dish, Vanilla Friande (pictured at right, courtesy of the Savoy Hotel’s Facebook page), an assortment of delights making a very fine pudding indeed.

Conor participates in an after-school cooking club.  The ITV1 site says:

Conor cooks 2-3 times a week at home and he’s even gone out to friends and neighbours to cook for them! Conor’s dish, Vanilla friande was created with the help of his college mentor Scott Lyall. Conor’s mum doesn’t usually like desserts, but this one is an exception.

As we approached the final, ITV showed the contestants in everyday life.  Conor’s film clip was by far the best.  The production crew showed him hosting a cookery session at home and giving helpful  instructions to his contemporaries.  Conor was calmly and remarkably self-assured.

The three finalists for the starter, main course and dessert each had to prepare their dish at London’s Savoy.  (Yes, that Savoy!)  They judged Conor’s the winner and offered Conor an apprenticeship at the world-renowned hotel.  Wow!

After the competition, ITV interviewed Conor, who said that the whole experience — particularly winning — was quite emotional.  This is what else he had to say (photo courtesy of ITV):

Why did you choose to cook this particular dish?

I did a previous competition where I got a mentor, Scott Lyall, from the Adam Smith College. I came up with this dish through working with him. Sometimes we work all day and play about with a dish until we were happy with it …

How did you become such a good cook?

I’m not too sure to be honest. I went to an after school club run by mentors from the Adam Smith college. And then my home economics teacher Mrs Scott encouraged me to enter the future chefs competition where I got to the national finals. I must have a natural talent, maybe from my gran. She’s a really keen cook!

As I write, he and his family are negotiating on the offer of the apprenticeship. Nonetheless, on May 31, 2011, the Savoy’s Facebook page tells us that they have already put Conor’s Vanilla Friande with Amaretto Cream on the menu of their restaurant in the Thames Foyer.

The ability to cook can definitely attract a mate and impress her family and friends. On a more serious note, if your wife is out of town or unwell, you might have to put together a meal or two of your own for the family. This is part of the reason I run recipes now and then — not as exciting as Conor’s, admittedly, but they are simple enough for a beginner and won’t tax the budget.

A number of Conor’s contemporaries who participated in Britain’s Best Dish are also studying at catering colleges or taking domestic science courses around the country.

Let’s celebrate the fact that men are interested in cooking.  These days, there’s everything to play for in the world of food — whether you’re looking for a career or for Ms Right.  Cooking for a girlfriend or her family will impress them, believe me.

Best wishes to Conor and to all who pursue a noble dream of a career in cookery.

Over the past few days, Churchmouse Campanologist has covered the sensitive topic of sexuality in marriage.

However, there is more to marriage than sex.  When I was growing up, like many over-40’s, I had the opportunity to visit many souvenir shops in the US, with all their many kitschy trinkets and small wall-mounted plaques.

One of these — available everywhere then — was a small square of wood on which was appliquéd the saying ‘Kissin’ don’t last, cookin’ do’.  Today, many people find this offensive, yet, those who have been married for any length of time find, to their amazement, that they are not always in the mood for romance.  The frequency of sexual congress might well decline occasionally with the pressures of work, children or crises involving extended family.  It’s at that time when a couple’s friendship and emotional attachment keep them together.

General advice

After nearly 20 years of marriage, this is why the most important advice I can give a couple is to marry your best friend.  You don’t have to agree 100% on everything, but you do need to view life in the same way and find the greatest pleasure in each other’s company.

Have you had the same type of upbringing as your future spouse?  A similar type of schooling, religious upbringing, personal standard and level of intelligence put us on more of an equal footing.  There are always exceptions, but, by and large, the chances for conflict are considerably fewer.

Are you ready to honour your spouse and to build a life together? Often, people who are too tied to their parents or their siblings find that they cannot focus on their spouse.  Naturally, the neglected spouse says, ‘Remind me again why we got married.’ One’s spouse comes first.  Yes, we still honour our parents, but, in general, our own household responsibilities take priority.  As for siblings, there might be times when we have to say ‘no’ to certain family requests if they have the potential for creating conflict in our marriages.

Do you want to remake your spouse into something s/he isn’t — and never will be? This tends to affect women more than men (although some men are also guilty of indulging certain habits before marriage then work hard later on at getting their wives to change).  We cannot change our partner, so if they’re sloppy, inelegant or unsuitable in some way before marriage, they’re likely to be the same after we tie the knot.  If we are preoccupied with their personal habits or characteristics during courtship, let that be a red flag to gently break off the relationship.

Do you share the same perspectives on children and money? Some couples marry without thorougly discussing these topics.  I have known a few where I could see right away that problems would not be long in coming: one wants children straight away, the other doesn’t; one is concerned about financial security, the other isn’t; one likes to plan in advance, the other prefers to do things on the hop.  In each case, they said, ‘We never really discussed it.’  Yet, a proper church-sponsored course before marriage will get couples asking the difficult questions.  I remember a young couple from New England who said they were amazed at the depth of their Roman Catholic Pre-Cana course in the 1980s.  The woman told me, ‘The arguments people had! My husband and I sat on the sidelines watching them unfold.  We’d already talked about family planning and money management.  Yet, it turned out that some of the men had gambling problems their fiancées were unaware of, some women were shopping addicts, some couples disagreed on child-rearing.  It amazed us that they hadn’t thought to explore these topics before they got to the course.’

Advice for women — true stories

The overbearing mother-in-law.  About 30 years ago, I knew a young couple who had been married for just a few years.  Both had good jobs.  It was the second marriage for him and the first for her.  Although the wife loved her husband very much, she and her mother had perhaps too strong an attachment to each other.  Her mother travelled cross-country to visit for a week every few months.  Naturally, she stayed with the couple.  Being rather chatty, she said whatever came to mind.  One evening, after the husband returned home from work, the mother started a polemic on which of them her daughter preferred.  The husband asked, ‘Why are we even discussing this?’  His mother-in-law replied, ‘Because, if push came to shove, my daughter would choose me over you any day.’  A year later, the couple divorced; he had found someone else.  Ladies, understand that men prefer to keep a certain distance from their mothers-in-law, no matter how nice, so please limit their visits to your marital home and try not to ‘go home to Mother’ too often!

Evenings are for your husband — not your girlfriends. When your husband gets home, he is looking forward to being with you, not enduring a load of phone calls from your mates!  Set a rule with your friends that, unless it’s an emergency, you don’t take calls after 6 p.m.  See them on a Saturday or make arrangements in advance — with prior agreement with your husband — to go out one evening every now and then.

If your intended isn’t ‘man’ enough for you, don’t marry him.  I knew a woman who had been ‘on the shelf’ for a long time.  She and her sisters grew up in a culture where marriage and children were expected, yet she was pushing 40 with no prospects.  I knew her husband only through conversations she had with him while she was at work.  This guy couldn’t do a thing right, whether it was cutting a sandwich in two, picking up the kids from crèche or getting dressed in the morning.  ‘He’s hopeless’, ‘He has bad taste in clothes’, ‘He just doesn’t think’ — the list went on and on.  She bawled him out on the phone every afternoon.  Finally, we saw a photo of him: ‘Just ignore him, he’s not very handsome — just look at me and the kids’.  (Not that this woman was any oil painting — or genius — by the way.) He was perfectly normal and pleasant looking.  Much to our surprise, he was twice her size.  If his temperament had been different, he could have biffed her and knocked her unconscious.  I wanted to say, ‘You don’t know how lucky you are, missus’, but didn’t.  It seems to me he’s staying with her for the sake of the children.

The unexpected pregnancy.  I knew one husband who really did not want children for the first few years of his marriage because of job insecurity.  His wife really wanted them, but to please him and tie the knot, she agreed to delay childbearing.  Her family planning measures were working out for them until, suddenly one day, she joyfully announced the positive result of her pregnancy test.  He was floored — words failed him.  ‘Aren’t you happy?  I’m thrilled!’ she said.  Their son is now ready to enter university, and, of course, his father loves him dearly.  However, he still wonders how it happened.  A fluke?  Or did she stop the contraception without telling him?  ‘I knew our lives would change dramatically and they did. It’s meant a lot more worry for me financially.’  Ladies, be honest with your man.  If you really want children immediately, discuss this matter thoroughly beforehand.  Don’t leave your husband questioning your integrity.  He might wonder what else you’ve concealed from him.

Remarrying too soon after widowhood.  Another woman I knew became a widow in her 50s.  Her children were grown. She’d always spoken of her late husband in glowing terms yet, less than a year after his death, she was already planning her second marriage.  It seemed the physical side of things was extraordinary.  She could hardly wait for the big day.  Unfortunately, things went pear-shaped for her soon after they took their vows in a registry office.  Husband No. 2, a charmer during courtship, turned out to be physically and emotionally abusive.  That marriage lasted less than a year.  The third time around, she was more prudent and has been married to Husband No. 3 for over 20 years.

Conclusion — with some words to live by

Bottom line — self-discipline, discernment and quiet reflection will help us make the right choice in marriage.  Yes, there are different stages — the youthful honeymoon period, the stressful working years, the family illnesses and deaths and the subsequent reawakening of one’s love for each other.

What follows is advice from pastors and Christian authors on the ordinance of Holy Matrimony:

Husbands and wives, recognize that in marriage you have become one flesh. If you live for your private pleasure at the expense of your spouse, you are living against yourself and destroying your joy. But if you devote yourself with all your heart to the holy joy of your spouse, you will also be living for your joy and making a marriage after the image of Christ and His church. — John Piper

Marriage itself is consummated with the literal bodily union of husband and wife. From that point on, the husband should regard the wife as his own flesh. If she hurts, he ought to feel the pain. If she has needs, he should embrace those needs as his own. He should seek to feel what she feels, desire what she desires, and in effect, give her the same care and consideration he gives his own body. — John MacArthur

As God by creation made two of one, so again by marriage He made one of two. — Thomas Adams

Also:

The ultimate thing we can say about marriage is that it exists for God’s glory. That is, it exists to display God. Now we see how: Marriage is patterned after Christ’s covenant relationship to His redeemed people, the church. And therefore, the highest meaning and the most ultimate purpose of marriage is to put the covenant relationship of Christ and His church on display. That is why marriage exists. If you are married, that is why you are married. If you hope to be, that should be your dream. — John Piper

The first negative judgment we find in Holy Writ is a judgment on loneliness. God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” — R C Sproul

Marriage has all kinds of purposes: it provides the environment in which children may be born and properly reared. It provides the context in which the sexual instincts can be exercised in a God-intended way. But first and foremost, Genesis teaches us, it provides a very special friendship. In marriage a man and a woman can become the best of friends, knowing each other to such a depth that only God knows them better! This, too, is a gift from the Creator. — Sinclair Ferguson

And:

To take an unbeliever to wife, to bring into that family circle, in the key role of wife and mother, a woman who does not love God or know his salvation, who does not reverence his Word and law, is to violate the very purpose of a family and render it incapable of being and doing what it has been created for… He made the family, the godly family the instrument of his grace in the children’s lives. But a spiritually mixed marriage injects poison into the children’s milk. — Robert Rayburn

A Christian is bound, by virtue of his oath of allegiance to God in baptism, not to have intimate converse with such as are God’s sworn enemies…The bad will sooner corrupt the good, than the good will convert the bad.  Pharaoh taught Joseph to swear, but Joseph did not teach Pharaoh to pray. — Thomas Watson

When we claim to love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength, and then willfully choose to unite ourselves with an unbeliever in the most intimate personal union on earth we profane the holiness of God. We act as though our emotional drive for human intimacy is more important than affirming the preciousness of God’s holiness and nearness. — John Piper

Finally, in case things go wrong:

1/ First, make a full list of all the things that you have been doing wrong in your marriage.

2/ Second, confess your sins in repentance to God.

3/ Third, determine to change according to Biblical precepts and examples, and write out specific proposals next to each item on the list.

4/ Fourth, go humbly to your husband or wife…and admit your sins against them, telling them that you have sought and found God’s forgiveness and now desire theirs.

5/ Fifth, having received forgiveness, seek to rectify any wrongs immediately whenever that is possible.    — Jay E Adams

Remember still that you are both diseased persons, full of infirmities; and therefore expect the fruit of those infirmities in each other; and make not a strange matter of it, as if you had never known of it before. If you had married one that is lame, would you be angry at her for [limping]? Or if you had married one that had a putrid ulcer, would you fall out with her because it stinketh? Did you not know beforehand, that you married a person of such weakness, as would yield you some manner of daily trial and offense? If you could not bear this, you should not have married her; if you resolved that you could bear it then, you are obliged to bear it now. Resolve therefore to bear with one another; as remembering that you took one another as sinful, frail, imperfect, persons, not as angels, or as blameless and perfect. — Richard Baxter

In every marriage that ends in disaster, some stupid decisions were made with respect to God’s regulations. If God’s regulations were followed scrupulously, not only would there be no divorces; there would be no unhappy marriages. To violate the regulations of God is not only an exercise in disobedience but also an exercise in foolishness. If you want a happy marriage, the most intelligent thing you can do is to submit to God’s regulations. They are designed to promote and protect your full happiness. — R C Sproul

For those needing further resources, see:

‘Biblical principles for successful marriage’Abounding Joy

‘Practical tips for marriage enrichment’Abounding Joy

‘Why older couples break up’Daily Mail

Marriage Builders® Forms and Questionnaires

If you are reading this post on May 21, 2011, the world may end within the next 24 hours … or not.  Evangelist (and ex-Calvinist) Harold Camping’s acolytes are out in force with final warnings from their pastor’s predictions.  As I write, this is the latest news from Yahoo! News:

All over New York, preachers armed with T-shirts, brochures, books and posters are preaching the end of the world. Using a complex numerical calculation from the Bible, there are even advertisements on the New York city subway warning of the “great earthquake” that accompanies the advent of Judgement Day.

From what I have read, Mr Camping has been mistaken before.  If he’s correct this time, then he truly is blessed with the gift of prophecy.  But, as the Bible tells us, no man will know when the world will end.

With that, we move on to another hot news topic this week, that of IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn — DSKwho, by the time you read this, will have been released from Riker’s Island Prison on bail:

A judge in New York set bail at $1m and imposed an insurance bond of $5m.

Strauss-Kahn will be placed under 24-hour home detention with electronic tagging – conditions he had already agreed to …

He is spending one more night at the notorious Rikers Island prison, where he has been on suicide watch, before being released from custody after paperwork is signed.

His lawyers welcomed the decision to grant bail, saying they were “very relieved” and expect to return to court on June 6, when their client will formally answer charges …

Strauss-Kahn’s wife and daughter were in court for the hearing.

The family have a home in Manhattan.  Yesterday’s (Friday’s) RMC Grandes Gueules (‘Big Mouths’) programme discussed the role of the wronged wife — Anne Sinclair — in this drama.  One chap said that she was following in the footsteps of mythology from time immemorial.  The panel agreed that she is valiantly taking up her responsibilities as a dutiful wife by supporting her husband.  Her support can only help him should the case come to trial: the public perception, the press coverage, the opinion of the jury.

Of course, we still have the role of money and power in all this.  The all-male RMC panel considered whether power gives some men the impression that they can betray their wives, then buy their way out of trouble.  Another man rang in to say that marital infidelity happens every day in France — to the poor as well as the rich.  And, it is on this note that we come to the delicate subject of marital fidelity and sexual continence.

I have posted an image of DSK’s prisoner movement slip (click to enlarge, courtesy of ExtremeCentre.org) not for sensationalist purposes but as a warning of what can happen in the worst case scenario.

About a year ago, I had a conversation with someone from another Latin country in Europe about sexual incontinence.  He told me that his local Catholic priests counsel men about concupiscence — on which much has been written in a theological context — and say, ‘Okay, it happens.  Don’t worry about it — it’s natural.’ (It should be noted that their laissez-faire outlook is not part of Roman Catholic doctrine.) This attitude is rather widespread throughout the Latin countries of Europe.  In fact, since the DSK debacle broke, the French have not hesitated to criticise what they see as the ‘Anglo-Saxon prudery’ of the United States and the United Kingdom. (Never mind all the sexual activity that actually going on in these countries!) The Latin attitude to marital infidelity, on the other hand, is much more ‘mature’ and ‘realistic’ — two fine words in which to dress up sin.

However, the difference in interpretation may be one of the clearest demarcations of attitudes between Northern and Southern Europe — Reformation countries versus Roman Catholic countries. And, once we move into the former British colonies — especially the United States, based on Protestant biblical principles — the attitude towards this subject as well as to equality under the law, reflects this quite clearly.  This is true even though the American interpretation of law is now considered humanist.  It did have its origins with the Puritans and the deists among the Founding Fathers, all of whom knew their Scripture.

Before starting, I have known a handful of women personally — in the US and France — affected by marital infidelity.  The Frenchwoman said some years ago, ‘I know it goes on in my country all the time, but I never thought it would happen to me.  I thought that my husband and I were different, that we loved each other.  I have raised four children and been faithful to him.  Now he does this to me?’

Yet, sometimes the wife plays away or a single woman cannot control her sexual appetites, so this post is for women as well as men.

What is sexual incontinence?

The King James Bible Page defines sexual incontinency — or incontinence — as follows (emphases mine):

INCON’TINENCY, n. L. incontinentia. See Continence.

1. Want of restraint of the passions or appetites; free or uncontrolled indulgence of the passions or appetites, as of anger.

2. Want of restraint of the sexual appetite; free or illegal indulgence of lust; lewdness; used of either sex, but appropriately of the male sex. Incontinence in men is the same as unchastity in women.

3. Among physicians, the inability of any of the animal organs to restrain discharges of their contents, so that the discharges are involuntary; Also, the involuntary discharge itself; as an incontinence of urine in diabetes.

incontinent

INCON’TINENT, a. L. incontinens. Not restraining the passions or appetites, particularly the sexual appetite; indulging lust without restraint or in violation of law; unchaste; lewd.

1. Unable to restrain discharges.

In the sense of immediate or immediately,obs.

INCON’TINENT, n. One who is unchaste.

incontinently

INCON’TINENTLY, adv. Without due restraint of the passions or appetites; unchastely.

1. Immediately.

What the Ten Commandments say

It’s worth remembering that although Christians are no longer bound to the 613 tenets of Mosaic Law in the Old Testament, we are still obliged to obey the Ten Commandments, as Jesus Himself instructed us.  The Gospel of Matthew contains two references for our purposes:

36“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matt. 22:36-40)

and

16Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

17“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.”

18“Which ones?” the man inquired.

Jesus replied, “‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, 19honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”  (Matt. 19:16-19)

Please note that the exposition of the Ten Commandments differ from faith to faith, even within Christianity, although the content is the same. The Wikipedia link has a table halfway through which gives a breakdown.  As all good film buffs will know, God revealed them to Moses (Exodus 20:2-17; they are repeated in Deuteronomy 5:6-21).

Today we are interested in ‘You shall not commit adultery’ and ‘You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife’.

Other passages in the Old Testament reinforce this message, one of them being:

But a man who commits adultery lacks judgment; whoever does so destroys himself. (Proverbs 6:32)

What the New Testament says

In the Gospel of St Mark, we read Jesus’s words:

20And he said,  “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”  (Mark 7:20-23)

St Paul advised the Ephesians:

 3But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7Therefore do not become partners with them;  (Ephesians 5:3-7)

And to the Corinthians he wrote:

1Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” 2But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again,so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

 6Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. 7 I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.

 8To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. 9But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.  (1 Corinthians 7:1-9)

And to the Hebrews:

Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.  (Hebrews 13:4)

Man’s love for woman is as Christ’s for His Church

What we don’t understand enough of today is the marital relationship being modeled on Christ’s relationship with His Church, His Bride.  This is something which must be stressed again in premarital courses which churches provide.  It may still occur in some, but it has been devalued or ignored in others.  Yet, this is an essential part of Christian marriage.

I never understood this properly until a few years ago, even though I have been married much longer than that!  As Christ honours His Bride — the Church — and does nothing to harm Her, so a husband must honour his wife and cherish her.  So, a man is not to abuse his wife, cheat on her or neglect her.

Conversely, a woman’s role — like that of the Church — is to honour and obey her husband.  The Church is (supposed to be!) obedient to Christ through the faithful preaching of the Bible, notably the Gospel and the Epistles, not altering or reinterpreting them, but representing them as the truth by which we must live as Christians.

St Paul wrote to the Ephesians — commonly read at weddings but rarely explained in the sermon:

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands,as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (Ephesians 5:22-33)

Similarly, St Peter wrote in 1 Peter 3, part of my Forbidden Bible Verses series:

1Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 4but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. 5For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, 6as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.

 7Likewise,  husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

Although St Peter referred to the Old Testament stories in Genesis, the message is the same of mutual respect and emulating the prophets as being godly.  As I mentioned in that particular post:

Husbands receive only one verse of instruction towards their wives (verse 7). They are to approach their wives intelligently and honour them by bearing in mind the differences betweem the sexes (e.g. physical strength, business acumen, lack of income).  Yet, they are told to bear in mind that women, as well as men, are heirs to God’s kingdom and have a mediator in Christ Jesus.  The last phrase ‘that your prayers be not hindered’ is … that good and gracious living bring forth prayers worthy of God.  Too much marital strife hinders our focus on Him and His divine grace.

Tomorrow, in Forbidden Bible Verses we shall explore another passage relating to personal holiness, 1 Thessalonians 4, which includes these verses:

3For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.  (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8)

So, if you are planning on getting married, are having problems in this area of your life or know of someone who is — man or woman — I hope that this gives you relevant points on which to reflect.

Tuesday: Reflections on marriage

Now that warm nights are almost upon us in the Northern Hemisphere, our thoughts turn to romance.

Many couples are planning their weddings and young people are thinking about dating during school holidays.  So, with the past few posts in mind, how do young people go about finding the right boy or girl?

Parental extremes

Despite the recent tendency towards home lock-down in the US, parents should trust their children enough to let them out of the house for group activities.  It’s a good way for teens to mix with the opposite sex and prepare for courtship.  When I was growing up in the 1970s, we had ample opportunity to meet other teens from different schools, which eased the way into the dating game.  From some Christian sites I read, this has gone by the boards.  Parents won’t let their children sleep over at a friend’s home or leave the house unless chaperoned.  Well, if they want their children to be living with them when they’re 35 years old, they’ve got the right idea.

These parents often met each other at university then ‘find the Lord’, place themselves ‘under care’ of a church and adopt house rules which are a cross between 17th century Puritanism and Little House on the Prairie.  Reading these sites and fora contributions is a real education.  It’s a perfect formula for producing neurotic children.

Yes, as I have explained, Western society does have a problem with gender roles, family disintegration and sexual preoccupation.  But that’s not a reason for Christian parents to keep their children — especially daughters — locked up at home.  At some point, they will have to enter the outside world.  The longer parents prolong that day for them, the worse it will be.  It’s one thing reading or hearing about the world, it’s another thing for young people to experience it  themselves.  So, if these parents have brought their children up as biblically as they claim they have, problems should not arise.

I feel sorry for a lot of these young people, sheltered beyond belief.  Are they — particularly the girls — going to college or university?  Or are they staying inside the house as cheap labour?  What happens if the main family breadwinner falls ill?  Someone will need to go out and work.  Jobs are difficult enough to find as it is, but for someone — no matter how talented — with no paid work experience or college degree, it will be a nightmare.

This is something I really don’t understand, and, with all respect for my readers across the Atlantic, it does appear to be an American phenomenon — and a rather recent one, at that.

On the other hand, we have single mothers by choice.  This is an equally hot topic.  One thing which is completely forbidden today is an open criticism of single mums.  That holds true not just in the media, but at work or social situations.  Any slight or question on this topic meets with a barrage of abuse from someone aged 30 or younger.  ‘How can you say that?  My mum is a single mum.  You don’t expect her to live with my dad, do you?’  After hearing this enough times, one draws the conclusion that sex no doubt took the place of conversation in those relationships.  Avoid being unequally yoked.

In my childhood, divorce was the exception rather than the rule.  Living together was unheard of, unless it was a boho artist or dissolute celebrity.  And people who have lived in a two-parent home are wondering where all this is going to end.  The UK has the highest teen pregnancy rate in Europe, yet we have more sex education than ever.  The clear message is for kids to rut like beasts.  And many do.

I don’t think it’s all about getting a council house, although that might be part of it.  I don’t think these girls felt loved at home, so a baby provides a replacement for that absent love.  However, as it is a dependent love — that of a child — the young mother soon finds that she needs adult companionship.  Enter ‘the boyfriend’.  Then, the relationship between mother, child and stranger becomes mixed up in all manner of potentially horrible ways. He doesn’t care about the child because it isn’t his. He does, however, care about sex with Mum.  If you haven’t already done so, try a Google search on ‘I hate mom’s boyfriend’. The number of child abuse stories in the news which appear will keep you reading for days.  There are too many to take in.  Even scanning the first couple pages of entries reveals an alarming array of scenarios.

On the other hand, sometimes the single mother goes without sex for many years after she has her child.  I know one woman who didn’t want to marry, just have a baby.  So, she did (with only a brief period of dating another man some years later). She never told her son who the father was. He found school difficult because he was the only one in his class whose dad didn’t live at home.   Needless to say, when his primary school teachers assigned their pupils to make a Father’s Day card, he felt bad because he couldn’t participate.  He went home on more than one occasion crying: ‘Why don’t I have a dad?’ During his adolescence and young adulthood, he begged his mother to tell him who his father is. He still doesn’t know. His mother’s selfishness caused considerable tension in the household.  Fortunately, the son ended up marrying a lovely young woman whom he had dated for a few years.

Advice for dating success

Parents can help ease social pressures from the time their children are small.  Simple courtesies, pleasing attire, good table manners and making conversation are essential.

(Before I go into my suggestions, one of the biggest eye-openers for me as an adolescent was going out to dinner after school dances or proms and watching the table manners on display.  Appalling!  What I witnessed really lent credibility to the old saying, ‘You can dress ’em up but you can’t take ’em out.’)

What Mum and Dad can do

1/ Give children small cutlery sets to eat with, so they know how to hold and use a fork, knife and spoon properly from an early age (i.e. three years old).

2/ Serve a variety of foods at home which not only require a knife and fork but introduce children to a number of tastes, textures and flavours. 

3/ Eat together as a family at table — with Dad leading the conversation — at least once a week.

4/ Ensure that girls dress appropriately for their age.

5/ Teach boys how to tie their own ties.  I read where some young men keep the knot on the tie and just slip it over their heads to put away until the next time!

6/ Start good manners when children are small — reinforcing the use of ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ as well as introductions and shaking hands.  And why not revive the long-lost courtesy of the thank-you note?

7/ Children should have manners allowing them aspire upwards, not just socially, but with regard to education and work.

8/ Know who your child is dating — have a polite conversation with the person when s/he comes  to the house. If you have a funny feeling about them, have a one-on-one discussion later with your son or daughter and calmly explain your reservations.  Don’t turn it into an inquisition unless absolutely necessary.

What girls can do

1/ Men like a healthy-looking girl for breeding purposes. (It’s true!  Their parents have also been known to pass comment.) Look fresh and radiant.

2/ Hair reflects general health, so it’s important to keep it clean and luxuriant — not too close to the head.

3/ Wear simple jewellery — a single strand of pearls will see you through any social occasion and should be worn every day to keep them looking their best.

4/ Classic clothes are always in fashion.  Nicely tailored skirts and trousers can last many years.

5/ Be gracious and feminine.

6/ Offer to pay your share of the date now and then — and mean it.  Take him out once in a while, if he allows it.

7/ Avoid strong scent — e.g. vanilla.  Classic fragrances (e.g. rose, jasmine) rarely offend.

8/ Know how to get out of a car: legs (together!) out first, then the rest of the body.

What boys can do

1/ Have a variety of polo shirts for going out.  They’re neutral and will pass the parental beady eye! 

2/ Buy a navy blue blazer which you can wear all year round.  Very handy when you’re going out with her family to dinner.

3/ Be polite and chivalrous — protect your lady.

4/ Know how to tie your own tie — very important.

5/ Forget trendy, strong colognes and opt instead for classic men’s scents (e.g. sandalwood).

6/ Wear a classic hairstyle which doesn’t require much product.

7/ A good sense of humour can lighten most situations.

8/ Keep yourself clean and tidy — and remember the loo seat!

For both sexes

1/ Keep to a normal weight.

2/ Get enough sleep and exercise.

3/ Learn to cook — it will impress not only your future spouse but their family, too.

4/ Remember your table manners and start from the outside in

5/ Wear a full-length winter coat in cold weather — it looks smart and is perfect when you want to impress.

6/ Speak clearly and confidently — no grunting or fast-talking.

7/ Keep bad habits in check, especially when you think no one is watching!

8/ Shop on sale and at discount malls for the best deals on clothes.

9/ Know what’s going on in the world and be able to discuss the day’s news.

10/Maintain good posture and eye contact.

11/ Write a short but sincere thank-you note to your friend’s family after an important dinner or social engagement which you attended as their guest.

12/ Study the Book of Proverbs, which tells you what you need to know about leading a life pleasing to God.

Readers will have their own pointers to add — feel free to comment.

In any event, I wish singletons everywhere all the best in finding Mr — or Ms — Right!

Okay, to be fair, not every Protestant church in the UK will broadcast the World Cup, but some are planning on doing so.  And, even one is too many.

You know, I thought about this a year or two ago when Fresh Expressions launched.  Check out my posts at the link.  This is the nationwide scheme whereby church can be anywhere.  And church can be anything you’d like it to be.  Talk about tickling itching ears!

So, what do I see just before the World Cup starts?  An article in the Telegraph: ‘Churches to lure men back into pews by showing World Cup matches’.  Oh, my giddy aunt (as we say in the UK), you couldn’t make it up.

It’s not Fresh Expressions this time who are responsible but an organisation called Christian Vision for Men.  If you go to their ‘About’ page (at the link), you’ll see the motto is ‘Equipping the church to introduce every man to Jesus Christ’.  That sounds great — heaven knows we need that sort of work.

Now back to the Telegraph article:

In order to entice them back into the pews, the campaign group is asking vicars to show the World Cup on big screens above the pulpit and even serve beer while the football tournament is on.

Carl Beech, General Director of the CVM and a Baptist minister, said: ‘The World Cup is when pretty much every bloke in the country bonds over a common goal…’

Revd Beech says:

‘The problem has become male culture versus church culture. Too many sermons talk about Jesus’ love, compassion and grace which are great but not male concepts.

‘Men want to know about his great decision-making and leadership. That is what they recognise.

‘Churches are very pastorally driven whereas blokes are looking for decisions not discussions. The breakdown in most churches is now 70 per cent women to 30 per cent men.’

Well, whose fault is that?  If the preaching weren’t so postmodern (check out the Christian Vision for Men photographs — very emergent church), guys would still be in the pews for a church service instead of (shudder) a football game.  Notice that he uses the word ‘now’ in his last sentence.  It implies that, somewhere along the line, a fair number of British men were going to church regularly.  So, what happened? 

He thinks it’s because of hymns like ‘Amazing Grace’.  I can assure you that it isn’t.  Men love that song — it’s played everywhere, especially on bagpipes.  The blokes I know want a bit more fire and brimstone: a ‘tell me what I’m doing wrong and how to make things right’ approach.  Judging from Christian Vision for Men, they aren’t the ones to tell them.  No, they want to use God’s house to show a football game and serve as a venue for a knees-up.  Please don’t! 

Does Christian Vision for Men seriously think that men going to watch a World Cup match — and drinking beer — in church one day are going to return later for a service?  What if they bring along a six-pack?  In that case, I would love to be in a nearby mousehole when the fun starts between a metrosexual pastor and a macho bloke passing time in a pew on Sunday morning waiting for the pub to open.

Good luck with that one. Needless to say, some C of E clergy are on board with the idea, like the Right Revd Wallace Benn, the Bishop of Lewes. 

I hope my fellow Britons have better sense than to accept such an invitation.

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http://martinscriblerus.com/

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