Atlanta Baptist Church Missing Person Project Missing the Unmarried
Hats off to these guys – preacher Charles Stanley’s Baptist church in Atlanta – for at least attempting to de-focus on the usual evangelical, fundamentalist, and Baptist favored demographic of “young married couples with kids.”
This Stanley led Atlanta church is focusing on widows, “the needy” (their phrase), prisoners, and one or two other, usually- neglected- by- Christian groups. That is all fine and dandy, but I see no acknowledgement of un-married people in the list of people they hope to cater to.
Almost half the adult American population is single. A lot of Christians are in that figure, too. Where are the programs and appeals to unmarried adults in this “Missing Person” ministry by Baptist Church of Atlanta? Here is a link to their ministry:
(Link): Missing Persons Ministry (Atlanta Baptist Church, Charles Stanley preacher)
See the bottom of that page for the categories of people they are hoping to serve and reach – it includes “The Disabled,” “The Widows,” “The Orphans,” etc, but no mention of never-married adults past 30.
In last night’s broadcast of Stanley’s “In Touch” program, where he talked about people’s desire to be loved, he got on to this spiel about people who are still single, who would like to be married.
Stanley said it’s far better to be single than to be married to the wrong person. This is a common saying spouted off at discontent, unhappy singles, and does nothing to cheer us up.
I was engaged several years to an idiot, so I know that “being with the wrong person” can be worse than being single. But I do not appreciate my desire to still be married brushed off as though it’s unrealistic, stupid, or immature, and that is what that bit of common wisdom does.
Stanley, whose wife divorced him around ten years ago, after how many decades -was it three or four?- of marriage, was telling his audience that being single is not so bad. He is into photography (it’s one of his hobbies), and he finds other joys in life.
In my view, it has to be fairly easy for someone who at least had constant human companionship for 20 – 30 years to come to terms with singleness later in life, when they find themselves single again due to spouse death or a divorce, but if you’ve had to wade through much of your life single, not so much. I never got to wear the white dress. I did not get a honeymoon trip. I did not get a big wedding ceremony. I did not get the ten tier, fancy wedding cake. I do not have constant companionship. I am not getting sexual desires fulfilled at all.
UNANSWERED PRAYER / LONELINESS
Stanley got into a discussion in this same sermon last night of how he is never truly alone, considering that Jesus is always with him. He says he walks around his house, where he lives alone, “talking to Jesus all day long.”
I understand in one sense, Christians believe they are indwelled by the Holy Spirit (God, third member of the trinity), and that Christ is only a prayer away, so they are not alone, in a manner of speaking.
However, (and I’ve brought this up before), you can keep reminding me of this biblical truth, but it does nothing to diminish lonely feelings when I do feel alone. If I can’t see God, and he doesn’t answer my prayers (and he has not, many times), and I can’t hear him, then for all means and purposes, I am alone.
What would you think if your brother Hank never returns your phone calls, never sends you a birthday card, and never visits you on the holidays? You’d start to wonder if Hank really cares about you at all. Same thing with God.
When you go for months or years on end with no responses from God, you don’t feel his presence, it would appear your relationship is dead. Or maybe there is no God.
Even if there is a God, and he is not talking to you, or not answering your prayers or not reaching out to you in some other way, your relationship is dead. It takes two to make a relationship work. If I’m doing all the talking and reaching out, and waiting for an answer and listening, and I never get an answer or response, God is not participating in our relationship. I am in that relationship by myself.
Preachers (including Stanley) like to foist all the burden back on to the Chrisitan, though, and this annoys me. I can only reach out to God so many times over so many decades before I get tired of not getting any sort of response.
And this is an aspect Stanley never seriously wrestles with. Any time someone writes to him saying they feel alienated or ignored by God, he just reiterates, “you gotta take it on faith! God is there, he says in the Bible he is with you, just take that on faith!”
I’m sorry, but no. I’m done “just taking things on faith.” At some point, God needs to condescend to let me know he’s there and that he’s been listening. If I keep calling, calling, calling, and I keep getting a dead line, I’m going to give up. At some stage, God needs to pick up the freaking phone and respond already, even if it is to say, “No, I will not grant your such- and- such request.”
JESUS IS NOT SUFFICIENT TO MEET ALL YOUR NEEDS
There’s a Bible verse that says “Christ is sufficient to meet all your needs,” and I think this verse has been woefully misinterpreted by a lot of Christians.
Sometimes, Christ chooses for you to get your needs met via other people. Jesus does not drift down out of heaven on angel wings to personally assist you with whatever you need help with, but Christians act like that is what this verse means, and they mis-apply it to every single situation.
This also gets into something I said on my old web site for singles (site now taken down – and which some bits author Debbie Maken apparently copied in her book on marriage, apparently without giving my old site credit!), that singles have a “spouse shaped” hole in their heart that cannot be filled by Bible reading, by Jesus only, or by praying, or by serving in a soup kitchen.
The authors of “Singled Out,” Field and Colon, objected to Maken’s point (really it was my point, as I have no doubt Maken was copying my old site) about singles having a “spouse shaped hole in their hearts” -the authors seemed to find this argument insulting or theologically lacking.
However, I can’t take Field and Colon to heart on this criticism, as these are the very same authors who have a tendency in their book (“Singled Out: Why Celibacy Must Be Reinvented in Today’s Church”) to shame older singles for pursuing or for wanting marriage. (I did find their book quite good, but on a few points, they, in my view, dropped the ball, and that was one of the points they failed on.)
Further, Field and Colon seem to suggest all singles should be as they are: very spiritual about being single, dreamily, happily sipping tea and thinking about Jesus, and engrossed in daily Bible devotions, because God (they say or suggest) supposedly does not give a rat’s ass about our earthly happiness, so we should be satisfied and complete in God alone, think about eternity.
I (and Maken who apparently copied my views in her book) said nothing about singles being incomplete in the “spouse shaped hole in the heart” analogy – I do not think a single needs a mate to “be complete,” and find that view highly insulting to singles, so I don’t know why Field and Colon brought that into their discussion (unless Maken added it to her book?).
When I am feeling lonely, Jesus does not suddenly appear in my home physically, shake my hand, and offer to eat pop corn with me while sitting on the couch. The Lord is really not my husband, no matter how often you want to quote Isaiah 54:5 at me. Jesus Christ is not my boyfriend. (See also on this blog: (Link): Article: My Savior My Spouse? – Is God or Jesus Your Husband Isaiah 54:5 and see (Link):The Sexualization of God and Jesus)
Jesus does not take me out on romantic, candle lit dinners. In that way, (sorry authors of “Singled Out,” preacher Charles Stanley and many other Christian authors and preachers and commoners), Jesus is not sufficient to meet all my needs.
Telling me that Jesus is there by my side, but that I can’t see him or feel him (his presence), but just have to believe, at times comes across as pretty much spiritual- sentimentality poppycock. I can talk to him all day long, as Charles Stanley says he does, but if I don’t get a reply back, I’m basically talking to myself. No thank you.
If Stanley is peachy at being single again (after having been divorced), bravo for him, but there are times when I am not, and I am so damn tired of certain types of Christian singles (see (Link): this blog page by me) being all perky about their singlehood all the time and lecturing me I ought to be the same way.