This is actually a pretty good editorial. I found maybe only one or two comments I didn’t fully agree with, but otherwise, and considering this was written by a married guy, it was pretty good. He’s one of the few married people who “gets it.”
And I didn’t find his editorial condescending. Often when trying to cheer singles up about being single, the married Christian author comes across as a patronizing jerk, but not this guy.
He basically repeats many of the same points I’ve been blogging about the last couple of years.
…. It seems to me that the evangelical church places marriage on something of a pedestal, describing it in elevated terms, and investing enormous amounts of time and resources into strengthening that institution.
…. And so it was only natural that the church would shift its attention to marriage, in order to prevent, or at least slow, the degradation of that institution. I think it’s important to keep this context and these good intentions in mind.
But there was an unintended side effect to this, that as the emphasis shifted towards the signifcance of marriage, the significance of singleness was minimized. Marriage became very very important, and very very good, so good and so important that it became the implicit goal for all Believers.
And in contrast, singleness was naturally overlooked, and even became something of a pariah status, a deficiency to be avoided at all costs. Singles’ ministries often focused not on living as a single person, but trying to escape singleness as quickly as possible, offering mixers and retreats where single people could meet, court, and get married, and so leave their wretched state behind. Whether consciously or not, marriage had become the goal for all Believers, an ideal state that was infinitely better than the alternative.
…. In my mind, this was an enormous failure on the church’s behalf. Of all institutions, church should have been the one place where single people could thrive and feel valued for who they were. After all, there is a deep respect for singleness both in the Bible and throughout church history, just as much as for marriage. Jesus himself was single, and so being single is hardly a sin.
[Describing a single woman friend the author knows who quit attending church]
…No one [at church or in Christian culture] ever spoke about singleness, nor assigned it any value except as a stepping stone to marriage. She received sideways glances whenever she expressed a lack of enthusiasm about getting married. Although no one ever consciously drove her away, she felt out of place, alienated, and unappreciated. And so she stopped coming to church.
….She eventually did find people who accepted her as a single person, and never pressured her to get married: non-Christians. It was her non-Christian friends who provided her a community where she could be both single and fully valued – after all, to them, marriage was a dated and impotent institution, why push it on anyone?! And to this day, she has not set foot in a church, and feels little inclination to do so again.
(Link): “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” – one of the most excellent Christian rebuttals I have seen against the Christian idolatry of marriage and natalism, and in support of adult singleness and celibacy – from CBE’s site
(Link): Seven Truths About Marriage You Won’t Hear in Church by F. Powell