Gender Complementarian Owen Strachan’s “Being Single To Bring God Glory” Essay
The following post contains one or two cuss words – the majority of the post is “clean,” however. Proceed at your own risk if you are a dainty Christian flower who gets the vapors upon seeing crude language.
Owen Strachan, who almost always gets 99% of commentary about gender roles and gender incorrect (he’s also written some (Link): very insulting, (Link): way more insulting, or (Link): weird things about gender roles – Strachan used to be head guy at CBMW, an organization that promotes the bogus gender complementarian view), wrote this page at Patheos about a year ago about adult singleness and giving God glory.
In this short blog post, (Link): Being Single To Give God Glory Strachan links to another, longer version of the same editorial hosted on Boundless (longer version: (Link): complete version at Boundless).
A reminder: I am not a fan of Boundless, one of several reasons is that Boundless laser focuses on 20 something singles ((Link): for example and (Link): for example) but ignores older singles, and some of their writers give horrible or insulting advice to and about singlehood.
After I began pointing out on my blog and under a few of their blog posts, that there are tons of over 30 singles out there, I notice the writers at Boundless began lumping 30 somethings in with 20 somethings, rather than focusing solely on 20 somethings as had been their previous habit.
However, the folks at Boundless don’t seem to notice or care that there is a significant crop of 40 and older (never married) singles in existence, too. It took them a long, long time to catch on to the fact that there are singles over the age of 29.
Returning to the topic of Strachan’s post about singleness. Not all of Strachan’s blog post about adult singles is terrible. I agreed with a few parts of it.
Strachan actually mentions a few of the same points I’ve been bringing up on my blog here in the last 3 or 4 or however many years.
I believe his blog post was written in 2014, but I did not see it until today (August 2015).
Before I paste in a few of the excerpts from his blog post (probably much farther below), the parts I agreed with, I wanted to comment on this “give glory to God” rhetoric that shows up in his post’s title.
Not only does Strachan use the “glory of God” phrase in his posts about singleness, but I saw Challies (another Christian blogger) use the same phrase in talking to a Christian woman in my same situation (over the age of 35, never married, a virgin).
Challies was saying to this lady, under his post (which essentially put down adult virginity), under her comments to him on his post page, that this woman remaining a virgin over her mid 30s and that she was still single was all to “God’s glory.”
Now, I don’t want to spend a long time dissecting this or commenting on it, but suffice it to say, it offends me, annoys me, and hacks me off when Christians trot out this “be single and be a virgin to God’s glory,” or that they insist that being a single virgin is for his glory.
Before I go further with that, I must also note that Strachan has a graphic on his Patheos page that says “Don’t Waste Your Singleness.” Ugh, no. I have written about that cliche here:
- (Link): New-ish Christian Cliche’ About Singlehood: “Don’t Waste Your Singleness” -or- “Make the Most of Your Singleness”
This “it’s for God’s glory” is a pat answer, a cliche’ response, and does not really address the heartbreak, frustration, or dashed hope of someone who is past 35 and marriage never happened for them, although they had expected and had hoped to marry (and to have sex).
At my age (and also that I am partially agnostic now), I don’t give a rat’s ass about God’s glory.
I really don’t.
Appeals to me to stay a virgin so that it gets chalked up to God’s glory, or that my middle aged virginity is for God’s glory, are empty to me now.
On a related note to that, I’m tired of Christians and churches shaming people like me for having needs, for wanting to get them met.
Not only does Strachan get into this “for God’s glory” business in his post, but he spends a paragraph or two telling adult singles to put their singleness to use by serving the married people in their church, by volunteering in the church nursery, and so on.
I spent my youth until my late 30s or very early 40s putting myself last, serving others, helping church people, helping friends, and I have nothing to show for it.
I was conditioned to be this way by my codependent Christian mother and by the gender complementarian Christian literature I read while growing up, that taught me that nice, Christian girls are never to put themselves first or get their needs met.
Consequently, I very earnestly and regularly spent my youth and up until around my late 30s or early 40s always putting myself last, and seeking ways to help other people and put others before myself.
The result of that “put myself last and ignore my own needs, and at that, to meet the needs of others” lifestyle is boatloads of resentment and exhaustion, and I am horrified to see how many years of my life were wasted and frittered away helping others from a pure heart and desire to serve or please God, while my own goals, dreams, and ambitions went unmet.
I’m tired of my needs going unmet.
I have since decided in the last few years to put me and my needs first. I am going after what I want in life. And, due in part to that, I feel better about myself, better about life, and I feel as though a load has been lifted from me. I feel a little more optimistic about my future now.
Most Christians, however, are very bad about repeating this mantra about how it’s wrong for a person to go after what she wants in life, that you will only find meaning and happiness serving God and others (it’s wrong, selfish, and unfulfilling for you to seek after your own needs, they say), and so on.
Most Christians will shame you or lecture you if you go to them asking for help, or asking for help in getting your needs met.
Even after my mother’s death, when I reached out to people, including church going Christians, for emotional support, I was either ignored, or I was scolded. I basically had Christians shame me for asking for help!
Christians were telling me that me feeling grief was a form of self pity, that it was selfish, I should only care about total “sob stories,” like starving orphans in Africa. I was told repeatedly that my own heartbreak (over my mother’s death) did not matter worth a damn.
I had Christian relatives cruelly mischaracterize my grief over the death and dismiss it as being a “pity party” or as “self pity.”
I was not given permission by Christians (not even ones in my own family) to cry, feel sad, miss my mother, to grieve the loss with someone else. I was further told to stuff those sad feelings down, repress those feelings, and go volunteer at soup kitchens.
I’ve spent a life time of having people (usually Christians) tell me that my needs and feelings do not matter.
I am only supposed to care about other people, especially, for some fucking reason I don’t comprehend, primarily (or only) African orphans and people in American homeless shelters.
(Understand: I am NOT opposed to people helping African orphans and the American homeless, only that I don’t see where the Bible teaches that there are only certain groups of downtrodden Christians should show compassion to.
The Bible does NOT say that “only orphans and homeless deserve compassion,” but Christians act as though that is what it says.)
I have read many blog posts, blog comments on other blogs, and books about adult singles that are filled with story after story by adult singles who say in the churches where they were not neglected their church took advantage of them.
Many preachers and churches expect adult singles to act as free maid or chef service to the church. They expect the singles to always provide the free labor pool to the rest of the church. Churches, however, rarely ask singles how the church can be of service to singles.
Married couples are never asked by churches how to minister to singles. It’s a “one way” demand.
Singles are expected to serve the married people and/or the church, but never the other way around. It’s unfair.
So I get beyond pissed off when I see these magazine articles or blog posts – like the ones by Strachan – advising singles to put their singleness to use by volunteering at church. When is the last time this guy ever wrote a blog post telling married Christians to meet the needs of the adult singles? Probably never.
But I cannot begin to rant enough about how “be single / be a virgin for God’s glory” propaganda rubs me the wrong way.
No, I don’t want my singleness or sexual status to be for “God’s glory.”
I don’t think the Bible teaches that God requires or needs certain behaviors from me to have glory or to be glorified.
Yes, I know there is a verse in the New Testament that says “whatever you do, do it for God’s glory.” I’m aware of that.
But God doesn’t NEED me to glorify him. He already has glory.
Also, as I said above, I want to be married, or at least in a stable relationship with a guy and having sex. God’s glory in this can take a hike. I’m interested in getting my needs and wants met, not in humoring a deity by my relationship status or whether or not I am boinking some guy.
Why don’t married guys like Challies and Strachan (I assume both are married) practice celibacy for the next 18 months? No sex with their wives for a year and a half, all for “God’s glory.”? My guess is that neither doof would take this offer up because secretly, all the married boinking Christians know that celibacy (when one wants to be having sex) totally sucks.
You can try spiritualizing un-wanted and un-planned-for singleness and un-wanted celibacy away all day long and wrap it in pretty sounding theological wrapping paper, by telling me my singlehood or virginity is for “God’s glory,” and what not, but at the end of the day, you’re sitting there thinking, “Thank God I am married, can have regular sex and am not going without, like that Christian Pundit blogger person!!!”
Please, stop telling singles and celibates that their single status or celibacy status is “for God’s glory.” Just stop.
It’s like telling someone who just had a miscarriage, job layoff, or death in the family that those situations were “for God’s glory.” It hurts. It doesn’t lighten or comfort. It offends, hurts, wounds.
Just stop it with the “it’s for God’s glory” nonsense.
I’m at a stage in life now where I don’t give a bupkiss about God’s glory or adding to it.
Having said all that….
Here are excerpts from his page that I agree with:
(Link): A New Model for Single Living by Owen Strachan
- …In the midst of this turmoil, the church is starting to think afresh about single men and women, asking itself if it has cared well for them over the years. The answer seems rather plain: It hasn’t, as many a single man or woman can attest. Here’s a sampling of unhelpful approaches to singleness that one might commonly hear:
- • In some cases, we’ve shamed singles. “Can’t you just find someone you’d like to settle down with? Is it really that hard?”
- In others, we’ve talked down to singles. “I want you to know that I am here to help you through this condition.” We make it sound as if singleness is a disease — when the apostle Paul says it’s the state he prefers. (See 1 Corinthians 7, for example.)
- • At other times, we’ve simply ignored singles. Too many sermons and pastoral prayers, for example, treat only the realities of marriage. “We pray for husbands and wives for their flourishing, their protection, their happiness … and, Lord, for everyone else.”
- At a time when our culture is harmfully redrawing the boundaries of marriage, the church needs to give more attention not simply to this institution but to singleness. This is especially true as more and more people are entering the church with only a worldly understanding of their single state.
- First, you should feel complete freedom to wrestle with your singleness. Singles do not have a monolithic experience. Some are quite content to be single for all their days. I suspect that a larger percentage of single men and women go back-and-forth with their state. Some days they’re excited by the liberties their life affords them; other days they find themselves wanting close companionship.
- Whatever one’s precise feelings, I think it important that the church gives singles the freedom to grapple with their state. We haven’t always made this clear; we’ve expected singles to accept their state as if it won’t pose some difficulties (like every major life experience).
- …On this subject, we don’t want to commend either doom-and-gloom sorrow or chipper-to-the-point-of-explosion piety. We do want to say this to singles: It is OK to wrestle. It is OK to have some days when you feel lower than others and must truly cling to Christ by a mustard seed of faith for your joy.
- (( click here to read the entire page ))
Here are the comments I left at his Patheos version of the editorial:
(Link): Being Single To Give God Glory
My comments on that page:
- You [Owen Strachan] mention that Christians ignore adult singles, which they most often do, yet, you fail to acknowledge there are never-married Christians who are age 40 and older, such as myself (you only mentioned singles who are in their 20s and 30s in your other page).
We 40 something and older singles had hoped to marry, but it never came to pass.
- I don’t have the inclination to get into it here on your blog page (I’ve discussed it on my own blog), but gender complementarianism plays a role in keeping singles single, even the ones who want marriage. You advocate for gender complementarianism on other blogs.
- At any rate, I have been saying on my blog the last three, four years that if churches are serious about traditional marriage, they need to do more to shore up and support adult singles, rather than expending all their time, effort, and money on supporting married couples, seminars about marriage, etc. Again, I don’t have the time or space to explain why that is so (I’ve explained it in posts on my blog).
- The bottom line is that supporting adult singles, can, in the long run, end up supporting marriage and marital sexual fidelity. There is a connection there that most Christians miss.
- Christians who are married need to help single Christians get married, but they never think to do this, or are very reluctant to do so.
- You need to play match-maker for single Christians who are marriage minded (who want that help; some singles do not want others trying to fix them up on dates, so ask each single first).
- God does not supernaturally grant spouses to people, but Christians keep acting as though He does (the phrase “God sent me my spouse” or “God blessed me with my spouse” are not true and need to be dropped from the Christian lexicon).
- Christians, though, hold to this naive, bizarre, superstitious view of marriage that it will “just happen,” if God intends on you marrying, or that anyone who wants marriage will get married (this is not so; I had very much wanted marriage but am single into my 40s).
- According to most evangelical Christian thinking on this subject, you’re supposed to just “wait, pray, and trust” for marriage to happen.
- Okay, I did that stuff for years, and I am still single in my 40s. All the “pray and wait and serve God” stuff did not land me a spouse. I could have used some human intervention in getting married. Dating sites most often do not work.
- Yet, Christians refuse to play match-maker for their marriage-minded single friends.
- Churches refuse to host parties or other social type functions where single adults can meet, greet, date, and marry. Churches talk about being afraid of being turned into “meat markets,” leaving singles like me no choice but to attend ACTUAL meat markets to get mates, such as bars and night clubs.
- Singles are left to their own devices to getting hitched, which is problematic the older you become.
- In the page you linked to, you said, “On this subject, we don’t want to commend either doom-and-gloom sorrow or chipper-to-the-point-of-explosion piety.”
- Yes, this is a point I’ve raised on my own blog. Christian singles are either portrayed as being totally bitter about being single, or they are pressured into being always chipper and content with being single, when they may in fact struggle with it, and on some days, find it frustrating or heart breaking.
- I do disagree a bit with part of your linked to page, where you wrote,
- “Find your own niche. You may babysit the children of tired young parents who desperately need a night away. You might tutor children who don’t have a father. You might start a youth baseball league”
- Look, some adult singles, such as me, do not like children. I do not hate children and wish them no ill, but I have never been fond of kids. Kids are annoying, loud, and messy.
- Even as a kid, I preferred being around adults, not other kids. Singles ministering to other people does not mean only acting as glorified baby-sitters, or helping married couples who have kids.
- You need to write blog posts telling married church couples to help the adult singles among them.
- Stop asking singles how they can serve the marrieds, because this is also crammed down the throats of singles, telling them how and why they should serve married people and the church. I seldom see pages telling marrieds how they can serve singles.
- Further, out of the churches who do not ignore singles, they tend to use and take advantage of singles. They use singles as though singles are slaves, work horses, or butlers and free cooks. This needs to stop.
- You did say on your other page, “You might serve in the church’s media ministry and improve the congregation’s website”
- The problem is, though I am tech savvy and have offered up my skills when I used to be a church goer, churches would not take me up on my expertise. Further, a gender complmentarian church might bar women from helping out in tech areas because tech is considered “man’s work.”
- Single women such as me are often expected to go work on stereotypical girly areas of church, such as the nursery (I have no interest, I don’t feel comfortable around children) or baking muffins in the church kitchen.
- Your very own gender complementarian views hamper single women who desire marriage or to fill other roles in church. Single women are often given no choice but to work with or around kitchens or kids, even ones like me who have zero interest in doing either of those things. There is no place in gender comp (and other types of) churches for single women.
Though Strachan said some decent things on his page about singleness I linked to above, you have to bear in mind this guy used to head CBMW (or be one of their major spokespersons), a group which pushes for some unbiblical and ridiculously narrow, sexist, out of step gender role teachings, which actually keep marriage minded singles single!
Teachings gender cliches as Christian gender complementarians do (such as all men like to pursue, like to be physical and tough, and all woman only want to be protected, passive, or nurturing) actually act as roadblocks for singles who’d like to marry an opposite gender person. I have addressed that on previous posts so shall not get into it now. See my older posts for more.
(Link): Singleness Is Not A Gift