Reframing the choices from the Biblical viewpoint of the Prodigal Son.
Readership: Christian Men
Length: 2,100 words
Reading Time: 8 minutes
I want to say a few things about the row between Eric and Oscar, since this has continued on for weeks now. Their back-and-forth argument is significant because it sums up the state of Christianity — not just modern Christianity, but the way it has always been.
According to my understanding of their argument, Eric wants to explore Option 1 in further detail, and Oscar is saying, “Don’t go there because it’s not a Christian approach.” Personally, I see nothing wrong in examining the choices, and I believe that clouding the choices with confusion, or to deprive one of a choice is somewhat evil. But this argument cannot be easily settled because there are more complicated issues involved, something like the iceberg analogy.
Our exploration of the Christian Conundrum is intended to help us understand the current situation of the SMP/MMP. Overall, we’re trying to build a coherent thesis that presents a collection of transferrable knowledge that might actually help somebody make sense of things. NovaSeeker did a nice job in laying out the options, and unfortunately, there aren’t many, and none of them are very attractive.
I know there is an assumption in the minds of readers that the main question of this exploration remains: “How can we interpret, understand, navigate, resolve, or ameliorate the conundrum?” …because everyone wants a “solution” to the suffering – and not only men, but some women too.
If we frame the options in terms of suffering, then this might help certain people get a better handle on things.
- Option 1 (Adaptation/Compromise) has less suffering up front, but perhaps more later down the road of life.
- Option 2 (Strong Hand/Law of the Jungle) offers success to only 30% of men, at most. Within this 30%, there are 10-20% who are naturals, and for them, there is very little suffering. The other 10-20% of men who are not naturals have to work to get into the game, and for them, there is just as much suffering as Option 1. For the remaining 70% of men who are not naturals and no amount of self-improvement can get them there, this option is a smorgasbord of suffering. Furthermore, this layout is highly unlikely to change as life progresses.
- Option 3 (Single Tailored/Greener Pastures) has a great deal of suffering, but there is also a sense of adventure and challenge which may make the suffering worthwhile.
There is a fourth option, which has not been mentioned, and that is to form connections with people through faith, and see where that might take you. Personally, I think this is the best option, but it requires social dexterity, emotional vitality, charisma, and a certain level of spiritual maturity which is difficult and time consuming to obtain. The path of faith is unique to each individual, and too abstract to be able to wrap our minds around it and describe it in only a few words on a blog post.
Modern Prodigal Sons
The story of the Prodigal Son (a parable contained in Luke 15:11-32) comes to my mind here. (If you’re not already familiar with this story, please click on the link to read it at BibleHub.)
The older son believed that everything good in life was made and maintained by his own hands. So he made a special effort to do everything right, and he believed that he did so. He thought that since he was righteous (in his own eyes), then he deserved to have special favor. He thought that because he did everything right, then he should obtain the results he desired. But apparently, he was disappointed with the results he was getting, because he was still deeply dissatisfied with his life.
In other words, the older son was playing by Option 2, but he obviously wasn’t in the top 20-30% (described above).
This is similar to the “covert contract” described by Robert A. Glover in his book, No More Mr. Nice Guy. In Glover’s description, these covert contracts create social expectations and a roadmap for life that rarely results in the Nice Guy getting what he really wants. In comparison, the older son in the parable made covert contracts in his expectations of being (what he thought was) a good son, and when this didn’t turn out to be fulfilling, he became resentful towards his younger brother (an archetype of the fellow man) and his father (a figurative archetype of God).
It’s also the same story with the legalistic Judaizers whom St. Paul warned us against in Galatians 2:11-21. The Judaizers misinterpreted the words of the Covenant of Moses and assumed that God confines His expression of grace only to those who conform to the Judaic law (viz. those who follow the rules). The flip side of this coin carries the idea that God is “required” to grant certain blessings they desire simply because they can prove through semantic gymnastics that they obeyed the Mosaic law. In essence, it is a “salvation by works” approach to God. Jesus and St. Paul both warned us that this is hypocrisy, and that this mindset of legalism, once established within a social circle, is extremely difficult to escape. (See Matthew 16:6; Mark 8:15; Luke 12:1; and Galatians 5.)
From a mystical viewpoint, the root of legalism and hypocrisy is “pride” or “self-sufficiency”, but there is also an element of legalistic rule-keeping and a “works” mentality. It’s kind of like building your own little tower of Babel in your psychological outlook. In the past, I think I was like this in terms of me thinking that maintaining spiritual disciplines like prayer and reading the Bible should contribute to my spiritual growth and peace with God. I always thought there should be a cause-effect relationship there, but in my general experience, there is not.
Continuing on with my review of the story of the Prodigal son, the younger son took Option 1 in the context of the current discussion. He knew he was never going to get what he wanted most in life (women and sex) by being a Nice Guy — an outwardly good but inwardly resentful son like his older brother. He didn’t care about being right. He didn’t care about acting right, or obtaining any of the blessings thereof. He hated his father and his brother, and by demanding his share of the eternal inheritance to be presented to him in this present life, he rejected them and wished them to be dead. So he took a very practical course of action that would bring him what he wanted most – good times with some hot p*ssy!
But after he got what he wanted, and the consequences of his actions brought him to live among the pigs, he decided to come home, and he was enthusiastically received by his father (the archetype of God).
This is exactly what we see happening with those people who abandon the “rules” early in life. They navigate through the mess and eventually find what it is they were looking for, and then they “return home”. They resume a common Christian life script. They settle down, come back to church, get married, and so on. We know this to be the case with a few regular commenters, and we have even seen this happen with many men who were formerly PUAs, with Roosh being the star of the show. We might say that they learned to love God and His ways by experiencing first-hand the heartache and futility of the alternatives.
There are several takeaways from the story of the Prodigal Son. One is that both brothers got what they wanted, deep in their hearts. The older brother continually chose to be the self-righteous prig who was always “right”, yet remained emotionally distant, feeling unloved and unattached, and he got what he chose. Another big point is that neither son really loved their father and cherished their lives as His son. Instead, the older son loved his inheritance, legalism, and his own false self-righteousness, while the younger son loved hedonism and women. The older son insisted that everyone was wrong, including his father. The younger son faced the truth about himself, what he really wanted, and after going through that experience, he came to love and appreciate his father in the end.
Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37), but only the younger son was able to do that, and he was only able to do so at the end of the story. But we must not fail to notice that there was a cost to that. Ultimately, the older brother had to pay for the younger brother’s choices, which stoked his resentment to the maximum.
We still see this archetypal dynamic being played out among people today. Some might think this is a huge mess of a dysfunctional family. We might wonder how those two brothers ever managed to live together after the story ends. However, this dynamic glorifies God because it reveals our human nature as well as the depths of His grace and love — and that is the whole point!
Since we first introduced The Christian Conundrum at the beginning of this month, we’ve heard personal testimonies from various readers in the comments.
- Some people have followed the rules and got lucky in love and marriage, albeit a very small number of them.
- Others have followed the rules and lost out on a mate, or else had their marriages eventually blow up over some permutation of the issue of sex (or the absence thereof) in the marriage.
- Some broke the rules and ended up in solid marriages.
- Others broke the rules and then wound up divorced. I suppose we could say that this is the “expected” outcome.
Those stories that match (2) and (3) cause us the most confusion and frustration, because they are not the expected outcome. The resulting cognitive dissonance poses a challenge to our interpretation of the archetypal mythos because…
- It destroys our mental concept of cause-and-effect.
- It blows apart our false understanding about the nature of God.
- It does not fit our human concept of what divine justice should be like.
- It becomes impossible to form a mental model of an ideal “Christian” trajectory.
- It makes us realize that we are not in control of our lives as much as we would like to believe.
- We are reminded of the fragility of life, how helpless we are, and how much we must depend on God’s love and grace.
I tend to believe that those who broke the rules and yet were still “successful” were able to achieve these ends because their honesty, faith, and/or their love for their spouse (and God) was stronger than their shame, guilt, and/or fear of not adhering to the rules. Also of note, they were willing to do the Exploration vs. Exploitation Tradeoff and learn something and grow through the process. How many of us fail to take any action at all, because we know things won’t turn out as we want or expect (or from a darker perspective, because we know it will) — that there will occur some unexpected seismic shift by the hand of God that will change the entire context and put us at the mercies of God? Could this be a fear of trusting God? Or could it be a fear of suffering, turmoil, and paying the cost of maturation? Or maybe this is the same difference.
In summary of this post, as long as our mind is set on examining the rules, we’re still living under the law. We could be conscientiously examining the rules to see how well we measure up, or else we could be scrutinizing the rules looking for loopholes and justifications, and how much we can get away with. But either way, we’re still rule-minded and we’re still living under the law.
Instead of worrying about the rules, we should be concentrating on how to be more humble, opening our hearts, and exploring God’s will and purpose for our lives.
16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.Galatians 5:16-18 (NKJV)