Marriage-Pushing Zealot Wilcox Suggests that Being Single is Immoral: National Review Article
I’ve written about Wilcox many times before. Wilcox is obsessed with marriage and advocating for it, and in the process, he enjoys insulting singleness and adult singles, although the Bible states in 1 Corinthians 7 it is better to remain single than to marry, and of course, as we all know, Jesus of Nazareth, who is highly regarded by many, never married.
Jesus remained single and celibate and never formed his own “nuclear family,” because he was more concerned with establishing a spiritual family, and he taught his followers to be just as, if not, (Link): more concerned with spiritual family than with biological family.
But marriage-idolaters and singles-shamers, such as Wilcox and Al Mohler, continue to promote marriage far too much, and they tend to do so consistently at the detriment of singles.
Allow me to first provide a few excerpts from the National Review piece by Wilcox, then I will explain the flaws with some of the points below the excerpt:
By W. BRADFORD WILCOX , PATRICK WOLF & PEYTON ROTH
There’s more to a quality education than academics; good schools give students a healthy moral environment that appears to shape their future family life.
… Different kinds of schools, with different moral ecologies, set our children up for success or failure in areas of life outside of the classroom. Chief among these is family life.
We know that men and women who forge strong and stable marriages are generally happier, healthier, and more prosperous. [Note from blog owner: this is a repeated but false claim across marriage-hyping articles; please see (Link): this post for refutations]
…in a new report published by the Institute for Family Studies and the American Enterprise Institute, we and our colleagues, Albert Cheng and Wendy Wang, examined how enrollment in public, Catholic, Protestant, and secular private schools is associated with family outcomes later in life.
What we discovered was evidence that the moral ecologies of these different school types are powerfully linked to the family lives students will ultimately lead as they grow into adulthood.
In general, students who attend private schools are more likely to forge strong and stable marriages, and to have their own children in marriage.
We were especially struck by the ways in which students who attended Protestant schools had an advantage when it came to forming and sustaining their own families.
…According to the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997, three-quarters of teens who attended a Protestant school said almost no kids in their grade had ever had sex. In comparison, only one-sixth of teens attending a public school said the same.
… Protestant schools are more likely to teach that marriage is a good in itself and stress the importance of having children within marriage.
Some Catholic schools present a similar message to their students, but today many of them steer clear of difficult conversations surrounding marriage and family life.
… Moreover, as parents across the country reconsider their children’s schooling in light of the pandemic, perhaps they should think not only of academics but also of how the moral environment of a school will shape their children’s future family life.
— end excerpts —
To Wilcox: the primary goal in life or culture, at least in the United States, and for Christians world-wide, is not marriage, to get married, or to be married, or to have children.
The Bible nowhere teaches that the ultimate purpose or goal of a person’s life is marriage or should be marriage or parenthood.
(And hint: there’s a reason why mega entertainment corporation Disney has moved away from the trope of “single young lady’s only ambition in life is to marry a Prince Charming.”
See the films “Frozen,” “Brave” and “Moana” as a few recent examples.
I would suggest that the church and Wilcox catch up with what Disney has grasped.
If people, including women, would like to marry, that is fine – but it should not be presented as the end-all, be-all goal for a woman’s life, and then disparage her if she never marries, for whatever the reason.)
The Bible does not teach (nor do secular studies bear out) that marriage will make people happier or that marriage and the nuclear family are necessities to make a society better, healthier, or stronger. A few links pertaining to those issues before I move on:
I am over the age of 45 and never did marry myself, despite the fact I was raised in a traditional Christian family, with my mother married to my father, and despite the fact my parents took me to conservative churches constantly when I was growing up, and, I had wanted to be married for many years.
When marriage did not happen for me, I went through a grieving period in my late 30s, a little into my early 40s, overcame it, and eventually accepted my single status, and pretty much made peace with it.
I don’t need to have a husband or get pregnant and give birth to children to be happy, at peace, successful, or to be mature, responsible, or “human” (yes, some (Link): pro-marriage advocates actually say that people who do not have children are not human, because, it is falsely claimed, humanity is defined by being a parent).
My being married would not make society any better. Society is not worse off because I am single.
Comments or sub-headings such as this one from your article, Wilcox,
“good schools give students a healthy moral environment that appears to shape their future family life,”
implies that remaining single and/or childless is itself immoral, that singleness is a product of an “immoral” environment.
This is patently false, but it’s also very insulting to people such as myself who were brought up in “proper” Christian households, who are educated, and who are responsible, law-abiding citizens.
I am not “immoral,” nor was I brought up in an “immoral” environment.
Despite the fact I attended public grade schools and high schools and later graduated from a university, I was not deterred from wanting marriage.
None of my instructors at any grade level, not even the liberal feminist professors I had at university, ever told me or the other students that marriage is bad and to be avoided.
I, who am conservative, was sometimes exposed to liberal bias in the classroom by way of liberal instructors, but I don’t recall any of that bias ever having pertained to being “anti marriage” or “anti nuclear family.”
I had expected to marry by my mid-30s at the latest, but I never did marry.
I am still a virgin – I’ve never had sexual intercourse – and I am nearing age 50, because I believed in the biblical teaching that sex outside of marriage was wrong (I also have other reasons for abstaining, but that was a significant one).
I never abused drugs, nor did I abuse alcohol.
And again, all this in spite of the fact I did not attend private schools; I did not attend “Protestant” schools.
I attended run- of- the- mill public schools.
Let me tell you something else about “Protestant” (and Baptist) teachings about family, marriage, etc that Wilcox is so heavily promoting in his NR piece: many of them promote very dangerous, un-biblical teachings based on sexist stereotypes, such as the “permanence of marriage view,” under what is called (Link): “gender complementarian” teachings.
In such teachings, girls and women are taught by Protestants, Baptists, and any other Christian groups who teach complementarianism, to believe that girls and women are to be subordinate to all (especially men) and lack agency.
Such atrocious teachings renders girls and women very vulnerable to attracting abusers and users and not knowing how to cope with such users and abusers when they actually encounter them, because in this system, females are taught that being assertive is wrong, ungodly, selfish, and unfeminine.
Under Christian complementarian teachings, girls and women are left un-prepared for how to handle conflict, they may be sheltered and over-protected, which leaves them inexperienced, and this can also lead them to a dangerous disadvantage (Link): in dating and in marriage.
Therefore, if and when a woman raised under such Protestant teachings marries a user or abuser, most of the Protestant and Baptist churches out there will not counsel her properly in this matter (i.e., mentioning that divorce is a good and viable option)…
Churches who believe in “male headship,” and other complementarian teachings, will place all blame and responsibility on the woman to “fix” the abusive marriage (but (Link): abusive husbands cannot be “fixed” by the wife), and such women will be told and counseled to remain in a broken marriage, where she may be the recipient of regular verbal, sexual, physical, or financial abuse for many years.
So, really, Wilcox, if I were you, I’d stop advocating that Protestant teachings on anything (but especially marriage) are “healthy” for anyone, because the opposite can be true. Their teachings on gender roles, wifely submission, and the “permanence view of marriage” can be deadly or severely damaging to the wives in abusive marriages.
Then there are studies such as this one, (Link): Study: Conservative Protestants’ divorce rates spread to their red state neighbors which shows that conservative Christian marriage is not stronger than that of their non-Christian neighbors.
The primary reason for attending any school is to obtain an education – not to find a marital partner.
It might be easier to meet potential marital partners while in college (I am guessing), but you’re ultimately there to receive an education and figure out who you are.
Then, you have plenty of conservative, moral, non-drinking, non-drug abusing, (formerly) devout Christian women such as myself who attended school, went on to college, had wanted to be married – but just never met the right guy.
According to you Wilcox, there is apparently some “recipe,” or set of rules, a person can follow and get married.
Wilcox’s set of rules seem to consist of, just attend a private, “Protestant” school, come from a moral, traditional family (where your mom and dad are married to each other), and etc, and bingo!, you’ll get married in adulthood.
But that is a fairy tale.
I meet all your criteria, Wilcox, (except I attended public, not private, schools), yet I remain single. And it wasn’t from lack of trying on my part: I was a member on dating sites, I went to singles classes at local churches, and I was engaged in my early 30s, etc.
A person can follow all the rules another person think are right, but that is not guarantee of desired outcome.
Ironically, the persons and notions that have the ability to turn me away from, or against, marriage are NOT secular education, liberals or feminists, but these conservative marriage-idolaters…
Such as Bradford Wilcox, the organizations he writes for (and similar, such as “Focus on the Family”), and Southern Baptist Al Mohler, who all suggests that single adults who don’t marry or who don’t have children are not “human” or are “immoral,” or are failures.
I am not inhuman, immoral, a failure, and I am not “ruining culture” or “ruining society” in some sense because I did not marry and did not have children.
I believe the Bible teaches that I have value merely for existing, for being human, that I am in the image of God whether I marry and have children or not.
The reality is, the Bible does not teach that marriage or nuclear family can “save” or “improve” a person or a culture. Those are your assumptions.
Societal problems come from sin in the individual’s heart (which is what Jesus taught), not from marital trends in society.
The Bible does not teach that marriage or becoming a parent can “improve” a person – or a culture – and, even for those of us raised in middle-class, traditional, Christian, “good values” families who had desired marriage, did not get married.
Not all who want marriage, regardless of educational or religious or moral background, will be able to marry.
Particularly in churches, this is a huge issue, due to a gender imbalance: there are not enough conservative Christian single men for all the conservative Christian single women.
A woman cannot marry a man who does not exist.
The Wilcoxes out there would do well to bear all that in mind and stop insulting singles or singleness, and stop trying to depict singleness as scary, awful, or “not as good” as marriage.
I end this post with a reminder; from 1 Corinthians 7 (online):
Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry
…Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. …But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.
…I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs–how he can please the Lord.33But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world–how he can please his wife–34 and his interests are divided.
An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world–how she can please her husband.
(Link): Singles Advocate DePaulo Responds to Right Wing, Conservative Critics of Singlehood, Who Blame Singles For Breakdown of The Family (reminder: I myself am right wing)
(Link): What Two Religions Tell Us About the Modern Dating Crisis (from TIME) (ie, Why Are Conservative Religious Women Not Marrying Even Though They Want to Be Married. Hint: It’s a Demographics Issue)