A Herman’s Hermits heart in a Rolling Stones world

This is a somewhat roundabout post. Please bear with me–I do have a point and will get to it before the end.

Someecards: “Best of luck explaining why you’re still single at Thanksgiving and Charles Manson isn’t.”
Me: Do you really want me to be the kind of girl who would marry Charles Manson?!

Yesterday I came across an article by Gina Dalfonzo with the subhead, “Why the state of marriage doesn’t mean we lower our standards.” She’s objecting, quite rightly, to a sociologist who argues that despite the destructive nature of pornography, single Christian women ought not to consider a man’s consumption of porn an automatic dealbreaker because otherwise finding a potential spouse will become well nigh impossible. One of the comments on the article notes that such a response is a very secular one, based solely on pragmatic consideration of statistics and ignoring the fact that, as the song says, “God specializes in things called impossible.”

It also ignores Mark Twain’s comment about “lies, damned lies, and statistics,” but that’s a question for the boffins what have the hard data. What I know for a certainty about the odds is this: When you’re looking for a needle in a haystack, you don’t just grab hold of the first thing that pricks your finger, because there’s a better-than-even chance it’ll be a grass burr–maybe not Charles Manson or Henry VIII, but there are any number of abusers or deadbeats, dudebros or Nice Guys who would fall into such a category (and any number of abusers or gold-diggers, prima donnas or Run-Around Sues who would be equally bad matches for a good man).

I’d rather die single than marry a grass burr.

And by Henry VIII, I do mean this guy:

All of this brought to mind a paper I wrote once for freshman comp in which I contrasted “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” by Herman’s Hermits with “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones. The thesis of that paper isn’t relevant, but the contrast is, since both songs deal with the subject of disappointed love.

Let’s start with the Hermits:

Peter Noone has a sweet, gentle voice, and it’s well suited to this quiet, simple, almost Edwardian-sounding tune. And the lyrics themselves tell more of a story than just the words might suggest. Here we have a speaker who has evidently had a healthy relationship not only with his girlfriend but also with her mother–so much so that when the girl decides to break up with the guy, he goes to her mother to explain what’s happened. And while he admits to being heartbroken, he not only respects the girl’s decision enough not to beg (“I’d go down on my knees, / But it’s no good to pine”) but also continues to sing her praise to her mother and asks that her mother not reveal the state he’s in.

On the other hand, we have the Stones:

There’s nothing quiet or gentle about this song once it gets going; both the melodic line and the volume are pitched high enough on the verses that Mick Jagger seems to be yelling more than singing. Notice the difference in focus of the lyrics, too. The speaker’s frustration centers on his own inability to find “satisfaction,” causing him to lash out at minor annoyances–a PSA on the radio, a detergent ad on TV–before finally coming to the root of the problem: girls keep turning him down. The subject of almost every clause is I, I, I. (Well, gee, dude, maybe if you weren’t so self-absorbed, you’d find someone!)

Now, of course there are limits to how readily one can generalize this contrast to the whole of both bands’ discographies. Not every Hermits song is equally harmless, nor is every Stones song equally objectionable. But whereas, for example, the Stones complain about their treatment by “Honky Tonk Women,” the Hermits appeal to the A students with their cover of Sam Cooke’s “Wonderful World.” And overall, the Hermits’ image is that of genuinely nice guys, whereas the Stones have always been proud of their status as bad boys.

As I reviewed these ideas, it struck me: Those of us singles, men and women, who are doing our best to live godly lives and keep our hearts pure are rather more like Herman’s Hermits–but society as a whole has embraced the me-first, “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll” philosophy of the Rolling Stones. And that trend includes people in the church who don’t want to bother with submitting their sex lives to Christ’s lordship as well as authorities, like that sociologist, who seem to think that singles should marry at any cost, even if it means… well… finding some sympathy for the devil.

To which I have to respond with some Keith Green:

Granted, marriage isn’t God’s plan for everyone. Some people know all along that they’re called to remain single and celibate; that may or may not involve a call to full-time ministry or, in the Catholic Church, to holy orders. I wish we Protestants had a better way of recognizing such a call officially! Other people do desire marriage, and God alone knows why His plan calls for that desire to go unfulfilled. Either way, those singles deserve the church’s support as they navigate what their status means in light of the command to be “in the world, not of the world”… not pressure born of statistics-driven panic.

The rest of us to whom God’s answer is still “Not yet,” however, seem to have another quality that earns us the Herman’s Hermits label: Like real hermits, we’re cut off–not just from society’s Rolling Stones pursuits, but from each other. I’ve lost count of the number of articles like Gina’s that have comments sections full of laments from both men and women that they’re doing their best to live pure lives and would happily marry if only they could find someone worth marrying! In some cases, the answer is a site like eHarmony, but I’ve heard as many horror stories about such sites as I have success stories, if not more.

If I knew of a sure-fire solution other than relying on God to act in His own way in His own time, I’d be married to my Faramir by now. As it stands, I’m doing my best to follow what I know God’s will is for me in this season even as I pray this no-name horse will get me to the edge of the desert sooner than later. But my plea to the church at large is this:

Please recognize the Herman’s Hermits among us and give us the support we need to stand firm as we wait for God’s timing. Don’t condemn us for being Rolling Stones when we’re not… and don’t tell us to become Rolling Stones when we shouldn’t.

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