Today, we're getting right in it: BABIES. Or rather, Fatherhood. Mohler writes:
Personal maturity sufficient to be a responsible husband and father.
True masculinity is not a matter of exhibiting supposedly masculine characteristics devoid of the context of responsibility. In the Bible, a man is called to fulfill his role as husband and father. Unless granted the gift of celibacy for gospel service, the Christian boy is to aim for marriage and fatherhood. This is assuredly a counter-cultural assertion, but the role of husband and father is central to manhood.
Marriage is unparalleled in its effect on men, as it channels their energies and directs their responsibilities to the devoted covenant of marriage and the grace-filled civilization of the family. They must aspire to be the kind of man a Christian woman would gladly marry and children will trust, respect, and obey.
For those of you who said I was reading into Mohler’s words that marriage and family is the endpoint, I’d like you to re-read the underlined sentence above. Got it? Yeah, moving on.
What this point says to me is: Let’s just erase all the men and women in the world who are single and plan to stay that way, or who are impotent, shall we? Is my friend who had testicular cancer at 16 and is consequently sterile somehow less of a man? Because that’s the implication here: "The role of husband and father is central to manhood."
Marriage and family: not counter-cultural at all.
Has Mohler seen a romantic comedy in the last 20 years? Marriage and family are the end point and goal of life even in the “secular” world. The remarkable amount of courage it takes to remain single by choice – even if you’re not called to the clergy (sidenote: clergy weren't required to be celibate until the Fourth century, and even Paul indicates that many of his fellow apostles were married) – is commendable, frankly. For me, even though I am a relatively successful woman, with a college and a graduate degree, taught by teachers in good standing and fairly well-respected by fellows in my field, there are many people on both sides of the aisle ("secular" and Christian) who have told me, either directly or indirectly, that I am incomplete because I do not have a husband or children. I have addressed this pressure previously on my blog. For the record, four of every five people in the United States will marry at least once.
But that’s kind of beside the point. Again, Mohler’s major problem here is that he is too vague. Every family and every parenting style looks different – my parents raised me differently than my aunts and uncles raised my cousins, even though they all grew up in the same family. Even the same parents can change styles depending on the child – my parents parented differently with me than with my brothers because I have a very different personality than they do. I was much more wild and outspoken and much less serious as a child than my brother was – and he’s the one who went on to become a pastor with a wife and children and I’m off being a firebrand in the blogosphere. Same parents, two extremely different outcomes.
One never fully knows if they are capable of raising a child until they have the kid - having a child is a life changing experience and can cause some people to be terrified and shirk responsibility, and cause some people previously thought irresponsible to step up to the plate. "Being a responsible father" as tied to manhood is problematic at best - to say that one doesn't need to have kids but merely show responsibility enough is ridiculous: how do you show parental responsibility without being a parent?
Is it important for a parent to model Christianity for their children? Yes. Is that a guarantee your child is going to turn out the way you want them to? No, absolutely not.
Like it or not, your child is their own person. And will always be. The goal of parenthood is not to create a mini-me, but to produce a contributing member of society and, hopefully, of the church. If there's any doubt that your kids can be incredibly different people from their parents, remember this: my folks are staunch Republicans. And look how I turned out.
And again, the woman has absolutely no agency. The statement that “marriage is unprecedented in its effect on men” implies that for men, marriage changes them from their wanton ways, from the wayward-ness of their lives and gives them purpose. Flipside of that coin: what does marriage do for women? Is Mohler implying that we are already mature or are we so infantile that we do not grow except apart from a husband?
The idea that marriage is what gives you purpose and not a calling from God is a dangerous one at best. I’ve no doubt that having a kid can change your life – just seeing my brother and his wife with my niece is evidence enough of that – but to imply that marriage ALWAYS will have a positive effect on the Christian man is to ignore the diversity of men and women in the world. Need I mention that people who identify as a born-again Christians divorce at the same rate as the national average? Because they do.
And last but not least, which example of Biblical fatherhood are we to follow?
Noah? He was a drunk who was conned by his son.
Abraham? He, uh, almost killed his own son (in obedience to God, sure, but he also fathered an illegitimate kid with a slave before he even had his “legitimate” kid to sacrifice).
David? He sure did respect marriage! Oh wait…no, no he didn’t.
Solomon? I’m sure of his 300 wives, there’s a sheer probability that he was a good husband to at least one or two of them.
Paul? Well…maybe he could have been a good father, but as he wasn’t a dad, we really can’t know.
Any of the disciples? If they had children, we don’t really know about it.
Jesus? We really don’t want to delve into the possibility of The Da Vinci Code, now do we?*
Point is: We don’t really have a good example of “Father” in the Bible aside from a God who seems to be telling EVERYONE to be Christlike and "responsible," not just the menfolk. This advice could be exactly the same if it were talking to women as well – replace fatherhood with motherhood and bam, not a thing changes.
There is nothing unique to men when it comes to caring for a child (nor unique to a woman). Being responsible enough to care for a kid is called being a good person, regardless of gender.
*For the record, Brown’s interpretation of Gnosticism is so wrong it’s laughable. The book’s a good action thriller (if you want to turn your brain off), but otherwise, yeah, let’s not go there.