Candice Watters and Boundless Blog Magazine Are So Wrong. So Very, Very Wrong (Regarding Singleness and Marriage and the Church)
Candice Watters really missed the mark in her blog page for Boundless, “Mind The Single Minded Church.”
Watters notes that one reason so many singles have cited for dropping out of church attendance is that so many churches are “family focused.”(I think this is especially true for singles over the age of 35.)
When one has never been married but one’s local church never offers programs or sermons aimed at the particular heartaches and challenges of being single, one does tend to feel ostracized, ignored, hurt by this, or taken for granted, and so they stop attending church.
Most church sermons (the ones about how to be a better spouse or a better parent, or other marriage-related topics) are completely irrelevant to most singles.
I am one single who would not object to the occasional marriage or parenting sermon or after-church program, but it seems they are way, way, way too frequent, not only in local churches, but on Christian television shows, and on Christian blogs and in Christian magazines.
Marriage or parenting are the only metaphor preachers use in their sermons, tracts, articles, or books, as I’ve noted in previous writings on this blog.
As someone who has never married or had kids, it really stings, hurts, and annoys to always hear marriage (or parenting) used as the default story illustration in sermons or Christian books/ TV shows/ magazines. It would not be difficult for preachers or Christian television hosts to use other, non-marriage metaphors to make their points, and to stop making singles feel so excluded.
Because older singles (older, as in over 35 years old) feel so overlooked and out of place by a marriage-obsessed church body, many do stop going to church.
Therefore, some singles, some Christian authors, and a tiny minority of married pastors, have suggested that to make singles feel more included, that the church needs to stop focusing as much on the family (and on marriage) as they have been doing.
Christian author Watters, who contributes to the Christian blogzine “Boundless,” however, feels this is a bad idea and that doing so will actually create the reverse situation: make marriage even harder to obtain for Christian singles who want marriage. I have no idea how the hell she arrives at such a bizarre conclusion.
Watters asks (I am amazed that she asks this, but then I think Boundless is an extension of “Focus on the Family” organization, so there is a pro-nuclear family agenda to maintain at all expense, I suppose),
“But is it in the best interest of single believers who hope to marry some day to attend such churches [that stop relentlessly sermonizing and focusing on children and marriage]?”
My answer is YES it is. HELL YES.
The extreme family (marriage and kids)-centric outlook of most churches is what is driving singles away in the first place.
If you hope for singles to meet at church (and then marry), one has to get them to attend, which naturally means removing aspects they find hurtful or a turn-off.
And singles are not going to bother showing up to attend if their current needs and current status (which is singlehood) is being ignored.
Or, when the needs and issues of the single are not being ignored, they, or the singles themselves, are usually being insulted, as is the case in some churches who make marriage sound more biblical, proper, or better than singlehood, or they make singlehood sound abnormal (which is what Boundless does, especially in regards for singleness over the age of 30).
Some churches, and some Christians, elevate marriage to such an absurd degree to the point they make singleness sound bad, weird, shameful, un-biblical, or disgraceful.
I do want to get married – but the way to get me to show up to your church and meet a single Christian man at your church (if such a creature even exists?) is once I get in the church door, treat me with just as much attention and respect as you do the marrieds.
Ignoring me, or ignoring what I go through as a single, gives me no incentive to return to your church (or any church that operates this way), Ms. Watters.
Your church can offer as many pro- marriage rallies, pro- parenting seminars, and pot luck suppers for “families” as they wish, but if they keep ignoring my status in life as a single, it’s very wounding, infuriating, and annoying – and I won’t be back.
Or, if your church insults me by (including but not limited to), (and yes, some Christian writers and publications have indeed mentioned or done the following, I am not fabricating this),
- blaming me for my singleness (i.e., I did not deliberately choose to be single this long; I did not put career before marriage, etc – contrary to “marriage mandaters” such as Debbie Maken);
- or by implying I’m a sex- crazed floozy (because you know the usual assumption even by other Christians is that all Christian singles past age 30 are having sex all over the place);
- or by teaching I’m weird, I must have too much baggage;
- I’m second class – not as mature, responsible, or valuable as married Christians;
- or, according to the pastors and married people, I’m there only to serve the marrieds and the Christian nuclear family (e.g, babysitting the married people’s kids in the church nursery);
- (if my presence and needs as a never-married woman over the age of 35 are actually acknowledged, which they rarely are), or, if, in most sermons, your pastor goes on and on about how great or challenging marriage is (as though being single is shameful or does not pose challenges), and
- your church caters primarily to marrieds while offering next to no programs and help to singles,
-also gives me no incentive to return to your church. That’s the way it is.
The fact is that the never-relenting beating on the pro-marriage, pro-parenting drum by preachers and church laity can, and has, driven older singles away from the church.
You writing your editorial saying churches should keep on beating the same pro-marriage (pro- kids) drum is not going to rectify this, and it is not the way to address the issue.
Watters believes that downplaying the amount of attention marriage receives in churches (for the sake of making singles feel more welcome) would mean that churches would somehow be elevating singlehood to a preferred, super-spiritual status, and that this would be harmful to marriage. Again, I have no idea how she arrives at this conclusion.
Maybe Watters believes that cutting the amount of time and attention lavished on marriage (by Christians or by local churches) would mean treating the institution itself as unimportant, but that is not necessarily so. A church or a preacher can still easily uphold marriage as being biblical and wonderful – but they do not have to do so by preaching on the topic practically every single Sunday, which has been the norm the past few decades.
Singles are not asking for married people, and for the topic of marriage itself, to be totally ignored by churches, nor are we asking marriage to be insulted or put down. Most of us singles want to be married too.
We older singles are asking for equal time and equal respect, not for preferential treatment. Why is this such a hard concept for Watters and those like her to grasp?
Instead of a church offering a six- week marriage series, for example, why not cut it down to two or three weeks? Or, why not devote a six- week singles series in addition to the six- week marriage one? (Click on “more” below to read the rest of this post)
One problem is that many American Christians, churches, and pastors shame older Christian singles for wanting marriage.
The ones who tell singles that singleness is a super spiritual, great status to be desired are often (though not always, but often) the very same Christians, churches, and pastors who bray on and on about how marriage is so important, beneficial, and godly. (These are also the same Christians who are wringing their hands in worry about how Christians are delaying marriage well past age 30.)
Many (Baptist, fundamentalist, and conservative evangelical) Christians are guilty of “speaking out of both sides of their mouths” about marriage and singleness.
Overall, evangelical Christians, fundamentalists, and most Baptists are constantly going on about how godly, great, and desirable marriage is, but those very same Christians, when confronted by a single Christian who gets vulnerable and admits to wanting marriage, will shame and ridicule that single for wanting marriage.
The typical evangelical, fundamentalist, or Baptist will tell the single Christian who admits to wanting marriage things like she is making marriage an idol; or, other things they are told or taught:
- singles should be content with their singleness; it’s a sin not to be content with singleness;
- singleness is great because it gives one more time to serve God;
- singleness is a gift;
- singles should look to eternity and marriage is only temporal;
- if God has not sent her a spouse by the time she is 40 years old, this is considered proof He has called her to lifelong singleness, etc.
I think most married Christians have no idea how to really comfort older singles who want marriage, much the same way many Christians have no idea how to properly comfort the woman (or man) who is in grieving over the death of a loved one.
As a result, married Christians say all sorts of hurtful, incredibly moronic things to hurting single Christians.
To give another example of this:
When my family member died, I needed support and attention, but I was mostly ignored by Christians. When other Christians did pay attention to my ordeal at all, they often did not know what to say.
Many Christians I did get a chance to talk to about the death felt they had to give a pat, terse, and / or “religious-” sounding answer to cheer me up, so they would say stupid, simplistic, insensitive things to me, such as, “God must have needed another angel in Heaven, that’s why he allowed your family member to die. And remember Romans 8:28!”
In the same way, I think married Christians make the same sort of blunders when talking to older singles who are hurting because they desire marriage, but it has not happened.
Those married Christians feel internal pressure to “cheer the single up” by making these insensitive, stupid, shallow, spiritual-sounding comments such as, “The Lord is your husband,” “As soon as you are content in your singleness, God will send you your partner,” “Jesus is all you need!,” “singleness is a gift!,” -etc.
Churches that don’t offer practical help for marrying well often imply that it’s much more spiritual to focus on Christ and let the marriage thing happen if it’s meant to be. “If it’s God’s will for them to marry,” the pastor with a ban on matching told his congregation, “He’ll provide spouses.” In his mind, practical efforts only get in God’s way. Such an approach would be laughable if applied to getting a degree, a job, a house. And it fails to serve those who are looking for an alternative to the relational confusion and recreational dating around them.
I agree with much of Watters’ assessment above, but can she explain how churches parroting the marriage-friendly sermons week in and week out will help change the situation of Christian singles who want marriage yet remain single?
How does a preacher telling his congregation on a weekly or monthly basis that God designed marriage, and that marriage is wonderful and admirable, and something one should desire, do anything in actually helping singles get married, or in making them feel welcomed and wanted in that church, especially the never- married Christians who are over 35 years old?
(Regrettably, the focus of Watters’ article, like that of most articles about Christian singleness these days, is ageist, in that they don’t address the needs of singles over the age of 30, but only upon the 25- year- old Christian men who are players, who aren’t demonstrating an interest in “settling down” soon.)
Often times, the same churches that frequently preach “Marriage is Great!” messages are the same ones who don’t do anything to help singles get married.
It has the reverse effect; the constant message repeated week after week, year after year, that “We here at XYZ Church support marriage because it’s God’s creation, and how dare nasty, liberal, godless, secular culture change the definition of marriage, and by the way, we support the nuclear family!” only alienates those who want marriage (and maybe children of their own) but cannot get a spouse.
And what if you have a single, a never-married Christian, in your church who was truly called to be single for life, and maybe one who does not want to be married and feels fine serving God as a single?
Can you imagine how depressing, alienating, and insulting it is for him (or her) to hear repeatedly (or even one time, since it is UNBIBLICAL) that God supposedly values marriage for the Christian more than lifelong singlehood? (The Bible teaches that singleness is equally good and valuable in God’s sight.)
Watters goes on to say,
What’s worse is that when churches pull back on their support of family and helping new families get started in their effort to be seen as more single-friendly, they often end up eliminating the very things that research shows is most likely to help singles marry well.
What are “the very things” that help singles marry that she refers to? Surely she cannot mean those month-long “how to have a great marriage” church series and so forth? Those have been going on for decades and have done nothing to help singles get married.
The only thing I recall Watters saying to even remotely back this up was a quote by some guy who suggested that if younger single Christians were exposed to more married people in church and more marriage sermons, this would cause them to question the awesomeness of singleness and open them up to becoming married. What a load of crap.
This may come as a shock to you, Ms. Watters, but those “how to have a great marriage” church series and similar programs and teaching series only help people who are (brace yourself for it) ALREADY married.
Secondly, churches have been exposing kids, teens, and 20-somethings to married people and to pro-marriage sermons and information for DECADES now, and yet, we still have a huge crop of Christian men and women over 35 who have never married. Obviously, harping on a topic and exposure to it is not a guarantee to get people to act upon it.
Anyhow, churches are not helping “new families get started,” Watters. That’s the problem; that is the point.
To get me, a single woman, to start a family (by the way, “family” does not have to mean “married couple with kids“), you need to get me a Christian man.
You need to have a church environment conducive for singles to meet, chat, and feel welcomed or wanted at your church – which cannot be done by de-valuing (or ignoring) singleness.
You do not help singles in their singleness, or to get a spouse, by focusing primarily, or only, on marriage and the needs of marrieds or the defense of marriage from the attacks of secular society.
Watters wants to put the cart before the horse. I am not married: I am a Christian single over 35 years old who is seeking marriage. Meet me where I am, not where you wish I were, or where you think I should have been by age 29.
Get me married first, and then you can lecture me about how great marriage is or offer me all sorts of “isn’t marriage swell” church-hosted teaching series. Then it would be relevant, it would matter, and be of use.
In the meantime, I am not married. I am single now, and my needs and problems are different from those of a married person, but I and my singleness-related issues are not less worthy of your or your church’s time, effort, love, and respect.
To meet me where I am, Ms. Watters, acknowledge that I am single, which means acknowledging singleness – and not marriage constantly.
I want your preacher to give sermons about what it means to be single past the age of 35 and how difficult and lonely it is at times (and no puffy, touchy feely, simplistic, stupid pieces filled with cliches and platitudes about how blessed I am to be single because I can serve God more, or how marriage does not really matter, and I should be looking to eternity, etc).
I want to see fliers on your church bulletin board for activities for singles or for mixed groups (that is, mixed groups as in singles with marrieds), such as pot lucks, movie nights, bowling league days, visiting the lonely seniors in a nursing home, or other causes, missions, and social functions.
Stop pinning all the “Family Night” fliers up on your church’s bulletin boards. Stop with all the “Father and Son Church Football Sunday” nonsense. Stop with all the “Mother and Daughter Doily Sewing Church Class” nonsense. Stop with all the “How to spice up your married sex life” presentations.
How about giving all that crap a rest every so often, or at least even it out by tacking up stuff like, “Movie Night [or insert whatever other social or mission function here] at our Church this Saturday FOR EVERYONE – single, married, kids, no kids, divorced, never marrieds, seniors, young, middle age, widows, teens: we don’t care about age or stage of life, please show up!….”
Me walking into your church only to hear things like singleness is bad, is not as important for culture, or is not God’s best, or I’m to blame for being single, while simultaneously preaching on the wonderfulness and sacredness of marriage week after week after week is only a recipe to ensure I will never return to your church.
Telling me you’re going to keep harping on marriage and encourage other churches to keep harping on marriage, and in spite of the fact that myself and many other single Christians have repeatedly told you that such unrelenting focus hurts, it’s rude, annoying, and that it is actually KEEPING US from getting married, is alienating and does not make me want to visit your church or stay in such a church.
Imagine a church where the white pastor only preaches on the problems white people face, or how God loves white people.
Now, if you are a black Christian, you would probably think,
“Well, yes, God loves white people, and white people have problems that the pastor should address, but why doesn’t the pastor ever mention black people or mention that black people have problems, or that sometimes, whites and blacks have similar problems? What is up with the fixation on white people? Sermon after sermon uses white people as examples, and this church, all the programs they offer, are to specifically help white people, or to get whites to socialize with other whites. What if you are black or Hispanic, do our needs not matter?”
According to Watters, such a church should keep preaching primarily to and about white people and their needs anyway, and not appeal to black people, because doing so would somehow erode the lives of white people or whiteness itself.
When, in actuality, all the obsessing about white people is doing is needlessly excluding and insulting the black (or Hispanic, Native American, or Asian) members.
Do you really think such a church is going to attract more black members, or retain the ones they presently have, by repeatedly going on about white people only in most church sermons, and by going on and on about how important whites are to society and to God and the church? If your answer is “Yes,” you are very naive.
Or, imagine a church where most all the members are dentists, lawyers, and brain surgeons, but there’s a smattering of auto mechanics and school teachers too.
If you are a school teacher or mechanic who hears week after week from your pastor in his sermons how valuable dentistry, lawyers, and brain surgery are, how godly those professions are, would you not feel excluded or “less than”?
What if most all the sermons dealt with only the problems dentists, lawyers, and brain surgeons faced, complete with after-church seminars on how to be a better, or more successful, lawyer, surgeon, or dentist?
And, what if the pastor hinted or suggested in some sermons that being a surgeon is more “godly,” or is to be preferred, or is a more responsible and mature position, to being a car mechanic or a teacher?
Or, what if your pastor kept bringing up his view that being a brain surgeon is a more important, integral basis for American culture (as though mechanics and teachers don’t matter worth a whit, they don’t contribute, or matter)?
Or, how would you like to hear at least once or more a month at your church, that since secular society is attacking brain surgery, the church should go full force on protecting and supporting brain surgeons and they, in practice, in the midst of defending brain surgeons, totally ignore, or de-value, auto mechanics as a profession, and the struggles that mechanics face?
Where in the Bible does it say that because secular society is attacking one aspect of life that the church is free and okay to ignore the needs and hurts of the other aspects?
Let’s further suppose you were a school teacher who wanted to be a lawyer but your pastor tells you,
“But if you are a 35 year old school teacher, you should not seek a law degree, because if you have not received a law degree by the time you are 35, God has called you to be a teacher forever. Accept that and be content in your fifth grade classroom. To want to be a lawyer is idolatry. Besides, think of eternity; being a lawyer is only a temporal blessing and you will not be a lawyer in heaven anyway, so just accept things as they are now.”
Watters incorrectly assumes that if a church stops obsessing on family and marriage (as is the current norm), this will make it harder for Christian singles to obtain spouses.
How is that so, when the church’s status quo, which is already set to Watters’ preference (that is, it is extremely, extremely pro-marriage) has not solved the prolonged singleness issue?
Churches have been fixated on marriage/family now for decades, and doing so has not only not helped marry Christian singles off (we’re at an all- time high of prolonged singleness among Christians), but it has made Christian singles feel alienated to the point they have stopped attending church.
If Watters’ recommendation is that the solution is for churches to keep on fixating on marriage and family as they have been doing, this is not going to change things or improve things for singles.
Obviously all the fixation on the nuclear family among most American churches for the past 20 or 30 or more years has NOT been helping Christian singles (and Christians get divorced at the same rate as Non Christians these days), so why does Watters think that doing more of the same will fix things now, or lead to some kind of marriage utopia where all Christians get paired off and remain happily married?
I totally disagree with Watters when she writes,
Contrary to much of the trendy church-growth advice, churches wanting to reach singles should be intentional about their life in the body — but they shouldn’t assume that cutting back on marriage and family messages and family formation efforts equal single friendliness.
What is Watters not getting about this? Singles have said they stay away from church because the church either ignores singles, or treats them badly, focuses way too much on family and marriage, or acts as a stumbling block for them getting married.
How is offering yet another sermon about the sanctity of marriage, another church-sponsored marriage seminar, or another mother- and- daughter- church- tea, going to make singles feel more included, or make them want to attend more often? It is not.
Most Christian singles WANT to get married, and want it BADLY. Watters seems to be operating under the assumption that cutting down on the number of marriage sermons will cause Christians singles to stop wanting marriage.
The problem is not a lack of desire, it’s lack of opportunity and support for my life status as it is right now (which is single)!
I’d love to get married, but most churches do not have many single Christian men over the age of 35, and I feel as though I am not wanted by most churches as a single woman – in part because of the OVER-emphasis on marriage.
As a never-married woman over the age of 40, I’ve come across tons of pro-marriage sermons on Christian television networks and in local churches the past 25 years.
Hearing all that “Rah rah, let’s hear it for marriage, sis-boom-bah, Marriage is GREAT, Rah Rah, Let’s Go Team Marriage, single-ness is not as great as marriage, but for any singles who might be in attendance pretend you didn’t hear that last line, God still loves you, and if you are single, be content! But Rah Rah TEAM MARRIAGE, Marriage is The Best!!” crap has not gotten me a spouse.
Attending churches that have a vehemently pro-marriage culture, who offer round the clock sermons and programs for marriage, has not gotten me a spouse.
Watters does not seem to appreciate that the American church obsession on marriage (giving sermons and seminars for those already married, or hell fire and brimstone sermons on defending marriage from assaults by secular society) has not helped me and other singles to get married.
My problem is not a lack of desire for nor is it a lack of respect for marriage nor is it a church that does not support marriage as a concept – but rather, again, one big problem is that the majority of American Christian churches and Christian culture only support the ALREADY-married.
Churches that seek to attract singles by removing any context of “pressure to marry” by scaling back on premarital support undermine their intentions of helping the unchurched to re-engage in church for the long-term.
Again Watters muddles issues and shows a lack of understanding of the situation (and gets another point wrong).
The church is not truly encouraging singles to get married, not really (or maybe with the exception of single 20 to 25 year olds) – when we singles say that the church focuses too much on marriage and kids, we mean to say they focus on the members who are ALREADY married with kids.
For churches to focus on people who are already married (as they do) does nothing to help singles get married; it does not foster or create more marriages.
Marriage is held up by most American churches as the goal or ultimate prize in life, but no help is actually given to singles who want to get married.
You, as a Christian single, are expected to somehow magically get a spouse on your own (or by joining lots of dating sites), or, it is assumed by these types, by praying and waiting long enough, God will toss a spouse your way.
But the church makes no practical effort to actually pair up a single Christian woman with a single Christian man – doing so is considered worldly, smarmy, or interfering with God’s sovereignty, or something.
Also, as many Christian blogs and dating books will attest, Christians rarely date other Christians precisely because of the “pressure to be married” from churches, pressure that Watters thinks does not exist (has she been living under a rock the last 30 years?).
Christian leaders have placed such excessive pressure on Christians to marry, and the Christian books on dating that stress “courtship” over “casual dating,” has caused most Christian singles to over-think and over-spiritualize dating.
In order for two people to marry, they must date first. (Seems like “a gimme,” but most Christians are very stupid in this area.)
However, when a lot of Baptist and evangelical culture behaves like singleness is a curse to be rid of at all cost and that a mere date is tantamount to Old Testament betrothment, or as though a mere first date is on par to an engagement (which they do), that sort of intense pressure is too much for most to bear – so they don’t date, but they hate being single.
The American church treats dating practically the same thing as marriage itself, which is very intimidating to the average single Christian guy or gal, and puts the single in an odd position of simultaneously wanting to date (and wanting to marry eventually) but being terrified to date.
Then we have all the idiots in and out of church who make it impossible for two singles to date and get married because every one, both Christians and secular people, think it is impossible for a male and female to be “just friends.”
When any and every male-female interaction or relationship is colored with the assumption there is always sexual tension or sexual or romantic desire on the part one or both parties, it becomes impossible for either gender to even start a genuine friendship.
These views also get in the way of dating, ultimately. Friendship, or just being friendly (in a platonic sense), or acquaintanceship is the first step to dating.
If every potential encounter between the genders is made to feel it may explode in sex, or, as is commonly taught in Christian and secular corners, that men cannot control their sexual urges, and all females are sex pots who will tempt a man, and since Christians teach singles to “avoid and flee all lust or possibility there-of,” what happens is that a lot of singles end up avoiding one another.
Therefore, if you are a single Christian man who ultimately wants marriage but who avoids women all the time because you have been taught by the Christian culture that meeting with a female is TOO RISKY and may led to temptation and sexual sin, you are not going to make female friends, which in turn means, no dates for you, and lastly, no marriage.
(And all that is vice versa for the single Christian woman who wants marriage. Christian women in the United States are taught that all Christian men are sex-consumed monsters who cannot control their urges and hormones, they can’t be trusted; they will rip your clothes off, or tempt you, or con you, into sex. Better stay away and remain lonely than to risk sexual sin.)
We single Christians are told to get married but to basically stay away from the opposite sex – very self defeating premise.
So we Christian singles get mixed messages from other Christians, ones that do nothing to help us get to the altar.
We Christians are told to get married… but then we’re also told we are not supposed to actually put forth effort at it, nor take steps that might actually lead to it, such as meeting a single of the opposite sex for coffee, because we might end up having sex at Starbuck’s on the table after drinking our mochachinos.
I wish I was joking about that, but a lot of conservative, evangelical Christian attitudes and dating tips about dating, sex, marriage, temptation, etc, works out like that – it is counter-intuitive to getting two people together to get them married off.
Singles are usually not discussed or paid any attention to in Christianity, especially not among evangelicals.
When singleness is mentioned from the pulpit (or on Christian blogs, television shows, or magazines), it’s usually to tell singles to refrain from sex, and most of these inane, nauseating sermons are directed at 20 year old kids, and it’s assumed that all these 20-somethings will be married by age 30.
I’m a female in her early 40s who has never married, and judging from census and Barna data, I am far from alone – where are sermons for me, addressing the issues I face (such as loneliness, or the fact God has not answered my prayer for a mate? Why does the Bible say over and over to pray and ask anything in His name, and it will be granted, but then, that has not come true?), or where are the sermons encouraging me to hang on for a spouse? Such sermons or Christian television topics don’t exist, or are very rare, more rare than Big Foot sightings.
All I hear from the pulpit are topics such as “How to have a great marriage” or “How to raise godly children.” That failure of churches to only address the situations married people face does make me, a never-married Christian adult, feel excluded. It’s insulting to be overlooked 99% of the time.
When singles are addressed by Christians, the advice and lectures we get are typically insulting, filled with condescending assumptions, aimed at 20 year old kids, or they are patronizing or overly-spiritual sounding advice, or, at the other end, insult, stereotypes, blame for our own singleness, etc.
Even though the Bible places no age limits on marriageability, we singles are told by Christians that if we have not married by 40, God has called us to singleness forever; or, we are told, since we are single past 35, we must be losers or slothful, so we do not “deserve” a spouse (see books and articles by Debbie Maken for more on that rude line of thinking); or, we are told we must be immature and selfish; or, if only we’d lose our baggage or lose ten pounds, or grow our hair out, we could instantly get a spouse.
When Christian pastors and authors do bother to admit that older single Christians have problems in life (with jobs, our health, whatever), when they do bother to address our particular brand of suffering and loneliness, these idiotic Christian pastors and writers usually tell us, “Solution easy: JUST GET MARRIED!”
(Seriously. Authors of books by Christian singles for Christian singles have printed excerpts from Christian dating and marriage advice books that actually tell Christian singles, “If you are single and lonely or having sexual desires, easy solution: just get married!” -For people who issue such moronic, unfeeling advice, I want to punch them in their stupid faces.)
My response to that: “Hey, jackass, that is circular argumentation and is not the least bit compassionate or understanding of my situation. I want to get married, the problem is, it does not happen by magic. I cannot snap my fingers and magically make a husband appear at my side.”
Telling a single who struggles with loneliness at times and who desires marriage to “just get married!” is like telling your church member who has cancer, “Solution simple: just get healed already!”
Both the single status and the cancer are both situations that neither group has much control over – (and God does not always heal people or give them what they ask for in prayer, either, so do not say, “Just pray about it and have faith!” – that’s not a helpful answer either).
Helping Christian families form is still a fundamental role and responsibility of the body of Christ. God created the institution of family even before he created the church. Family is the institution that, for most of us, will be our primary area of spiritual shaping and development. It’s where we grow in our faith, learn how to serve others, and become more like Christ.
Pushing the family message to the margin is not the answer. Better to tolerate some of the quirks of a marriage-friendly church.
Did you just characterize the family-centric drooling-fest that takes place among most American evangelical or fundamentalist Christianity as “some quirks”? It’s beyond “quirks.” It’s way beyond “quirks,” lady.
If most churches offered only the occasional pro-marriage or nuclear family sermon or function, singles would not be upset as they are.
Watters reveals how clueless she is. The churches that have “Marriage ‘n Kids tunnel vision,” who push for marriage and how godly it is, are some of the very same churches that are not helping or encouraging singles to get married.
The very same Christians who wax eloquently and endlessly about how marriage is so wonderful and ordained of God; the very same churches who offer programs for married couples or couples with kids; the very same churches and Christian magazines and organizations who feel they must extol the nuclear family, are the very same Christians who do one or more of the following:
- ignore singles (no mention of prolonged singleness in sermons, tracts, bulletins, teaching);
- do nothing to help singles (don’t help meet their needs, such as bringing a physically ill single person chicken soup to their home);
- prohibit singles from meeting a potential spouse at church (they teach that using church as a place to meet a partner is sinful, selfish, treating church like a “meat market”);
- tell singles being single is to be preferred because it gives them more free time to serve God;
- wanting marriage is idolatry;
- parrot the tired cliches, such as, ‘Jesus is all you need,’ ‘the Lord is your spouse,’ ‘stopping looking and then the right one will show up’ etc
Churches that understand this divine plan for spiritual formation are more likely to have a biblical approach to helping singles marry well. What ultimately serves singles and the overall church body is more, not less, emphasis on family. The good news for singles is that churches with a healthy perspective and emphasis on the biblical family are more likely to be a helpful place for finding a spouse and forming a family of their own.
Where is her proof of this? It is asserted but not demonstrated.
All I can do is repeat what I said above – often times, the very same churches and Christian organizations who believe family and marriage are so incredibly important and under attack by secular society are often the very same people who tell singles to be content in their singleness, don’t try to get married (just keep praying and God will send you a spouse), it’s selfish to want a spouse, etc.
Watters view that the church’s fixation on marriage will create more marriage is not true (she didn’t back it up with any data, either, not that I recall), since many singles have said that is precisely one of several reasons they stop attending church.
Watters herself (as well as Focus on the Family’s “Boundless” blog), by defending this view that churches should continue to cater only, or primarily to, marrieds or to the institution, is actually standing as a stumbling block to believers who want marriage.
I’m guessing Watters / Boundless does not truly support marriage, since she is not helping to erode the barriers Christians face in even getting married, but is sustaining them?
The attitude of the folks at Boundless, and many other American evangelical, Baptist, and fundamentalist groups can be summarized thusly:
If you are a single Christian between the age of 18 and 30, get married now, RIGHT NOW.
Because you are horny and have no self-control at all over your sexual desires (even though the Bible says you can and do have that kind of self control). And…
Be like Mormons and Muslims and pop out twenty kids by the time you are 30 to out-pace the breeding of pagan, liberal, secular society! Who cares about making converts of the unsaved, just out-breed them, Allahu Jesus Akbar Religious Right be praised!
If you are a never-married Christian over the age of 30 (and not having sex, thus not popping out kids for the kingdom), well… screw you, we don’t care about you or your troubles; just be content in your singleness and go away.
If you are single, over 30, and having sex and having kids, bravo to you for at least adding “children to God’s kingdom,” and God can and will forgive your sexual sin.
Pushing the family message to the margin is not the answer. Better to tolerate some of the quirks of a marriage-friendly church.
I hate to beat a dead horse, but the constant obsession with marriage, all the sermons and programs, which are aimed at the ALREADY married in churches, is not doing anything to help singles get married. It’s not helping the 20 year olds, the 25 year olds, the 35 year olds, or the 45’s and up.
Christian singles have said in numerous interviews, polls, books, articles, and blogs for the last ten years or more that since they and their needs are never addressed by churches, but the concerns and needs of marrieds are, they feel hurt and left out, so they stop attending.
How is a strategy (which is fixating on married people and marriage) that singles says drives them away from church, going to help singles find marriage partners in the church? (Answer: it is not, nor has it been helping. Christians are remaining single for years and years).
Doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results has been said to be the definition of insanity, yet Watters’ solution for the problem of prolonged singleness among Christians who want marriage is for more of the same, for singles to keep on being ignored while marriage is preached on and talked about all the time?
How is continued fixation on marriage within churches going to change things for singles? (It isn’t).
Related post (at another blog, though I do NOT agree with all views expressed in the comments section):
Candice Watters, Singles Gender Gap and Protracted Singleness
(The reason some of my blog headings are so long – search engines seem to pick up my blog pages based mostly on the headings, which is why I cram them with so many words, such as “singlehood,” “Christian,” etc.)
AUGUST 2014. For the woman who left me a reply under this post telling me I am bitter (I trashed your reply and only skimmed part of it first), here is a post for you:
(Link): Response to Various Cranky Critics Who Have Left Nasty Posts At This Blog From June to August 2014
6 thoughts on “Candice Watters and Boundless Blog Gets It Wrong / Christian prolonged singlehood singleness singles ignored”
I attended church weekly until I reached my late 20s/early 30s, at which point it became uncomfortably clear to me how unwelcome singles are in the church. It is as you describe, a very family focused environment – and that was one of the more liberal denominations, which ought to be more welcoming, and should know better. I’m now more of a “Chreaster” – I attend a local church only very rarely. Christmas, Easter, special occasions only. I’m not a member, and I don’t always attend the same church, since I’m not attached to any particular one. There aren’t any programs – or even a Sunday school class for 40-something singles – at any local church which I would be interested in attending. Here’s a thought: let’s think about “church” as beyond just the local church. Let’s consider other options: interdenominational, ecumenical programs and ministries that aren’t family-focused and would provide another outlet for older singles to belong to “church” in the larger sense, if not in the local sense. Maybe the local churches’ days are numbered. Or, maybe they will still be about to round up enough 2-parent, nuclear families to survive into the 21st century (but probably not). That doesn’t mean the church at large will die. It just means it will shift into internet-based or non-locally-based parachurch ministries which welcome the involvement of members who aren’t of any particular demographic background. Older singles will be able to find their “niche” in these kinds of programs. And that’s a good thing. 🙂
Thank you for the comments.
I find it interesting you say even some liberal churches are bad, because I’ve had single ladies at other blogs keep pestering me to try liberal churches. They tell me to give up on conservative evangelicals and Southern Baptists.
They swear up and down I’d find a place to belong in a more liberal denomination. I doubt it, but I also don’t think I’d feel at home in a church that embraces liberal theology.
Yep, most churches lack singles classes for 30s – 40s. I don’t feel comfortable attending anymore – but then I also have other problems with the Christian faith lately besides the fact that most churches neglect singles.
You may be interested in a few other related posts on this blog, such as:
(Link): Aged Out of Church by M. Van Loon (For Christians over the Age of 35 – 40 – Churches ignoring middle aged adults)
(Link): The Stupid Advice We Give To Single Women Over 40 (from the Current Conscience Blog)
(Link): Myths About Never Married Adults Over Age 40
(Link): Are There Any Protestant or Baptist Singles – Friendly Churches or Denominations ? / Singles Single Adult Childfree Childless Age 30 40 50 Christian
I have a few other blog pages about being 40 and single on the blog, those are just a few.
Thanks for this article.
I have read some of Candice Watters’ stuff, and her strategy seems to be over-doing it regarding the value of marriage as an antidote to all the crap in American culture at large that has belittled marriage for decades. But sometimes it really is too much.
I am sixty, never-married, and have struggled through a lot of the crap you talk about. I am in a developing relationship with a guy ten years my junior who has been twice-divorced. I don’t know sometimes what to do about it.
Since marriage is a gift from God, and since there are a lot of people out there who are not married and want to be, in some ways it makes sense to put marriage front and center as an item of concern in a church. But so often these days, it’s the haves talking down to the have-nots.
I have had married Christian friends give me good advice in a kind of mentoring that Watters says is valuable, but generally I still get the feeling that the church I belong to (really great in most respects) has no clue how to help me toward what is supposedly “normative for most people,” marriage. And this is a church full of married people. I do often get the “we’re in the club, but we’re not going to help you get in.”
My cry right now is: please help me understand what marriage is, how to honor it . . . and how to get to it from my position as an unmarried person who has. Had. A. Much. Different. Struggle. Than. You.
And please, dear church, take it seriously when I say it has been a struggle.
you are welcome. I am glad you got something out of the post. I related to some of your experiences.
I hope your relationship works out and you get married.
Churches really do nothing to help never married adults past the age of 25/ 30, and they’re also pretty miserable at helping the divorced, widows, and all childless people.
I can’t believe Watters thinks more of the same (non stop marriage sermons) is going to do anything to help singles get married – it sure hasn’t helped to this stage, so I don’t think more of the same will do anything.
The thing that probably drives me most nuts are how so many evangelicals and other Christians make a big fuss about marriage and how great it is, and they shame you for being single
if you try to get married, if you ask for help in getting married (like, “will you pray for me in this area”), you will get scolded, told you are idolizing marriage, that you should “be content.”
It’s so hypocritical. Christians set marriage up as this lofty goal all people should aim for, so fine, you aim for it, then you get browbeat or chided for going after it.
Thank you again for the comment, and I wish you luck. 🙂
Comments are closed.