A few words on clarification
Wow. What a month it has been.
Since publishing my article in the Catholic Weekly (For want of a lot of good men) on 2 May 2019, I have been inundated in a deluge of messages, phone calls, conversations and advice. I cannot stress enough how unexpected this has been, given my greatest fear before publishing the article was that nobody would read it.
Because of this fear and to give it a bit more traction, I offered the article to LifeSiteNews, where it drew an astonishing 300 comments (and counting). It was later picked up and republished (with my permission) by Rod Dreher on The American Conservative and The Australian newspaper – both sites also drawing an impressive number of comments.
For an unknown Sydney-based journalist and media advisor, the response has been mind-boggling. Shortly after it was published, I was invited to talk about the article and the firestorm I’d unwittingly created. Despite being horribly nervous about speaking publicly, I accepted and I’m very glad I did, as it gave me the chance to address some of the more glaring misinterpretations I’ve encountered.
It was a great turnout of about 150-200 people, but it occurred to me that only those present heard what I had to say, and I would like to spread my words further afield. Before reading on, please read the article for yourself. There is also this edited version I wrote for The Australian more recently.
These two little words have undoubtedly been the most misinterpreted, misunderstood and maligned by readers. When I wrote about men who were not “worldly-wise” or who were “socially awkward”, please allow me to clarify my meaning:
What I did NOT mean:
- Shy or introverted
- Secular (unchristian) moral and social views
- Or that “worldly-wise” = the face and physique of Chris Hemsworth, the salary of an investment banker, a sensitive and attentive listener and slavish lapdog ready to attend to my every want and need – and a masseur to boot (or any combination thereof)!
What I DID mean:
- Men who have serious problems interacting socially (including those who are on the spectrum or have an intellectual disability)
- An inability to have a mature, intelligent, normal conversation
- Just plain weirdos
In other words, all women like me want is someone with shared values and a mutual attraction. That’s it! That’s all. I don’t think this is setting a high bar.
What used to be the regular, run-of-the-mill, everyday state of affairs is becoming less and less common. All I’m advocating for is what used to be the social norm, back when your average Aussie went to church on Sunday.
Now, I’m well aware that the above description of social awkwardness applies to both men and women in the Church. However, in my experience, the majority do seem to be men.
SUBJECTIVITY VS OBJECTIVITY
I think some readers lost sight of the fact that when making my assessment of men in the Church, what I was describing was my own subjective experience.
I obviously was not commenting on every man in the Church (I simply haven’t met them all), but my observations do reflect just that – what I’ve observed. These are also not just my observations, but those of dozens and dozens of women (and men) I’ve spoken to over the years.
Clearly though, there is an objective element to all of this as well:
In Sydney churches, women outnumber men nearly two to one.*
It’s hardly surprising that men are hard to find in the church when there are simply less of them.
This is not necessarily new, either. What makes this era so unprecedented when it comes to finding a good marriage-partner is, I believe, a combination of the effects of the sexual revolution, radical feminism and the ubiquity of pornography.
Contraception and rampant sexual promiscuity mean men are less likely to commit to serious relationships and marriage. The Austin Institute made a fascinating video called “The Economics of Sex” in which they illustrate this – literally. This, coupled with radical feminism demonising masculinity and traditional male and female roles, means men are also less likely to live according to a traditional moral code – something women like me prize greatly.
There are plenty of studies and personal testimonies out there attesting to the damage pornography addiction (primarily a male problem) causes, particularly in forming and sustaining healthy relationships. Make no mistake, it is an addiction and its effects can be just as devastating as an addiction to hard drugs. (For an offbeat and refreshingly honest look into it, check out this video of Russell Brand.) To learn more, I recommend Fight the New Drug, a fantastic non-profit which has done a ton of research into the issue.
WHY I WROTE IT
I’ve been accused of being anti-man, a liar, a whinger, and even of playing the victim in some of the nastier comments out there. While I definitely enjoy a good whinge from time to time, I think I can safely say that none of these labels played a role in my decision to write what I did.
I was deeply concerned to learn about so many Christian women turning their backs on their beliefs for the sake of men. One time you could call an oddity. Two is concerning. Three is a trend. Especially when this all happens in such a short space of time.
I thought, if these women knew they weren’t alone in this struggle, if they had support and heard testimonies from other women out there, would they have done what they did?
But more than all of that, I felt a very strong calling to write about this issue. So I did. I also sent it to at least a dozen different people – including three men – to proofread before having it published, to ensure what I wrote was accurate, truthful and fair.
I have been truly overwhelmed and humbled by the response. And this post notwithstanding, I’m pleased to report that the vast majority of messages and letters I’ve received have been positive.
*In October 2017 National Church Life Survey data found that 63% of parishioners in Sydney churches were female, with the average parishioner 56.
Update: From reader Brendan:
The point on worldly-wise is interesting for me, being on the spectrum myself (though not heavily). But at the same time, I think it’s important that people realise these are personal preferences of an individual in regards to who they’re attracted to or would like to be in a relationship with. People wouldn’t bat an eyelid over someone saying they prefer blondes, but they do if they said they wouldn’t date someone with a disability. It’s part of the modern psyche. And it’s not you saying that you think these people are less or anything – you just don’t think that you could have a long-term relationship with them, which is fine. It’s better to be able to know that beforehand rather than figuring it out when you’re in the middle of it.
The point on porn is also super-important, and really not addressed enough. It’s something that I’m really passionate about helping people to understand, and fighting against, because of my own experiences with it. It’s a really dangerous, insidious thing, and I’m really glad that some non-Christians are starting to see that too. Fight The New Drug is a great resource.
I’m not a Catholic, but I am a Christian, and I’m cheering for you as a brother in Christ.