Poverty slumming and the devout Christian male’s failure to provide for a wife

Related to my little example breakdown from yesterday, this post is derived from comments I made on a “letter to the editor” post here in which a reader wrote in lamenting a false binary of his own making between poverty-wage ministry callings and making decent enough money to provide for a family.

It was a false binary because not all Christian men are called to poverty-wage ministry.  And further, it’s not the only holy or pious way to honor and serve God.  Some are called to be accountants.  It’s ok, someone has to earn enough to pay for the relative few who are spiritually and psychologically prepared for poverty-wage ministry.

As far as the lament in the post and some of the comments that Christian women are money-hungry and demand high earnings from a potential Christian husband, it costs a lot of money to (badly) compensate for the lack of relationships that even very poor people used to take for granted. It also takes a fair amount of money to compensate for the multi-decade assault on the domestic sphere.  The domestic isn’t valued any more, even among much of the conservative world, and compensating for that with expensive conveniences and machinery isn’t cheap or free.

The sense of entitlement in the idea that it’s ok to pursue an expensive but low-paying “mission” so long as you’re a man is not a bit better than a woman believing there is no other income bracket she deserves in marriage than the very highest one. That money has to come from people who do boring but higher-paying work and frankly there are already enough Christian men sidestepping their responsibilities by slumming it out of a confused belief that it’s a good thing to not be a hydrological engineer/accountant/etc and instead rack up 80k in debt for a divinity degree while subjecting a wife and children to an itinerant missions lifestyle.

There has been an explosion in religious degree accreditations and men shelling out tens of thousands in student loans to acquire same and “callings” to live in the ghetto or hop on the missions merry go round with a wife and family to support. Sometimes there are multiple systemic failures. You can have more than one group of people making bad decisions regarding racking up college debt and misunderstanding the nature of vocations and callings. Or you can just blame women and their cruddy liberal arts degrees and ignore the men messing up for different reasons that still lead to the same debt-drowned, economically fragile place.

The OP who wrote in to that blogger is confused and entitled in the very way that leads to the expensive poverty slumming above. There’s a strain of idolizing poverty slumming among many devout Christians and it does involve men leaving their 50-150k jobs to go be poor for Jesus. A nondenominational example is all the guys quitting their decent-paying jobs to plant churches (while also getting an expensive religious degree). Since the men doing this are devout, it’s a bigger problem for the Church than when a culturally Christian woman majors in liberal arts.

Without real patriarchy, it’s expensive to be functional as a single-income family and that plays into the thinking of a lot of Christian women. It’s not all consumption obsession.  They may not be able to articulate it, but women can see the exhausted SAHMs with lower household incomes and they subconsciously are likely to think that maybe a six-figure income can buy ways to get enough sleep when it’s 4am and this year’s baby is up for the sixth time that night.  Or maybe they think they would plump for a maid when the kids were little and constantly making messes.  Whatever their hazy, not-conscious thoughts, it’s not necessarily greed and laziness motivating their desires that a future husband earn a solid income in providing for their needs as SAHMs raising a passel of younguns and also keeping a house on top.

What women do now when they SAHM is cheaper than encouraging Christian SAHM hopefuls to marry well and youngish, but it’s not actually functional.


3 thoughts on “Poverty slumming and the devout Christian male’s failure to provide for a wife

  1. Pingback: Incoming Question | Donal Graeme

  2. It seems to me that this makes sense, but I admit that I do not see the motivation to forgo a high income very often, indeed I see it never. Usually men wind up with a lower income because of general economic problems, and the false promise of business and communications degrees.


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