On occasion I make note of the very strange state of dating and relationship theory amongst (particularly conservative) Christians. Having been through a few iterations of it in my life, it's a continual source of fascination, if only because it's one of those places where quote-unquote biblical or quote-unquote traditional norms are very clearly the preferred norms of a particular subculture rather than any sort of general standard or guide. In particular, the problem is to be found in the idea of 'roles,' which are the sort of things individual people can develop on their own, apart from relationships with people of the opposite sex. When a man who knows and understands his role comes together with a woman for whom the same is true, they get married and that's that. There's little recognition that people are individuals with idiosyncrasies that don't map onto this.

Which is why I found this post on male spiritual 'leadership' quite interesting: men can exhibit many different gifts, which are meaningful and important, helpful in a relationship, integrated into a serious adult personality, and yet not in any way resemble a vision of leadership. The post is good in that it recognizes that the problem is the expectation, and not the men themselves.

(Of course, in a later post on First Things, the following counterargument was raised: of course some men are like this. Men have access to all the gifts! Implicit was the idea that women do not, or at least not the gift of leadership. Thus does the attempt to give nuance to the role of men who do not fit particular culturally-bound masculine stereotypes become a means of asserting the superiority of men to women in all circumstances. I sometimes think that it's not so much that liberal Protestantism has a nominalism problem as that conservative Christianity has a realism problem--the inability to see any distinctions or particularities as mattering.)

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