I caught the first few moments of Bayless Conley’s show today. This must be the third or fourth week in a row the guy has devoted to the topic of marriage. He opened today’s show / sermon by at least acknowledging that not all his viewers are currently married and some may even not want to be married, so I will give him that much credit.
But then Conley added the dreaded qualifier (and I’m paraphrasing), “But regardless of your marital status, I’m sure you’ll still get something out of this awesome sermon! You will still learn something from it to apply to your single or widowed or divorced life!”
He’s not the only pastor who I’ve seen done this.
I’ve tried listening to marriage sermons before, even though I’m 40(ish) years old and have never been married, and no, I can’t say as though I ever get much out of such sermons; they don’t make my life more awesome or my problems easier to bear. Some of the marital sermons are so general and generic, they’d fit almost any situation in life, so I don’t know why the pastors bother to classify them as “marriage” sermons anyway.
Since recent polls and surveys show that marriage is heavily on decline in the United States (people are remaining single longer and getting divorced all the time, including Christians), it’s not, in my opinion, totally relevant for pastors to focus as much on marriage as they do.
Since so many people are single longer these days, why don’t these pastors acknowledge our existence? Why don’t they give sermons for Christians on how to cope with single life, and I do not mean the cliched crap about how we singles should not be having sex outside of marriage. That’s about the only ‘singles’ issue these preachers want to address. (Not all; some are hesitant to remind listeners that pre marital sex and other types of sex is sinful, see this link: Christian Preacher Admits He Won’t Preach About Sexuality For Fear It May Offend Sexual Sinners)
There is one other cliched bit of advice preachers will drag up when talking to or about single Christians: they will tell you to, “Serve! Get out there and serve, serve, serve!” – and I get really tired of hearing that also.
Some frame the “get out there and serve” rhetoric as a, “Hey, if you are busy serving the Lord, that is when and how he will send you your Mr. Right, that is how I got my spouse or how my friend Betty Sue got her man!” piece of advice. (It’s well meaning but so annoying, and “serving others” is NOT a guarantee of meeting a quality single.)
Or, the other (which is far worse) tactic is to make singles FEEL GUILTY for wanting a spouse, as in, “Shame on you for pining away for a spouse. How dare you feel lonely! You should be devoting all your time and energy to selfless serving!”
I hate the attitude and habit of preachers who try to make other Christians feel guilty for having NEEDS, especially when it’s MARRIED preachers or laypersons who do this garbage to singles and never marrieds.
I’m talking about offering sermons (and services) directed at the needs of singles specifically, things like telling single Christian women if they don’t know anything about car repair, that there is a group of men at their church who they can call who will help them fix a flat tire or change the oil in their car – practical sermons and help like that would be nice.
I’d also like to see pastors mention they realize how lonely and difficult it must be to be over 35 and never married, and I’d like to hear encouragement, things along the lines of, ‘I’m sure if you hang in there and keep believing, God will still send you Mr. Right. Don’t give up.’
But no. Most sermons by TV preachers (and non TV preachers) revolve around condescendingly telling Christian women how to be happily subservient to their husbands (even when done politely, it’s still condescending; I’m an egalitarian, not one of those “complementarians”), and that kind of thing.
If you’re a preacher, do not assume as long as you preface your speech by saying, “But hey, even if you’re single, I know you can still find something applicable in this ten month long marriage sermon series” that this magically makes the fixation on marriage and parenting from the pulpit fine and dandy. It does not change the fact that you’re ignoring all the non-married people in your audience and their problems and their needs and their hurts.
Why not actually tailor sermons towards singles, never marrieds, divorced and widowed? Stop with all the marriage (and parenting tips) sermons already. Since there is an all time high of people remaining single longer and Christians divorcing now, all the marriage sermons are apparently not working for most believers anyway.
(Link): Why Do Churches Treat Singleness Like a Problem? via Relevant Magazine