December 14, 2017

Have We Said Too Much? (About Marriage, that is)

married.jpgRecently, my daughter returned from a conference at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. She had a fabulous time, but she mentioned something unusual. She said that every public prayer contained a request for God to guide the conference participants in finding a spouse. This wasn’t the theme of the conference, but the conference was primarily single young college students. Was this odd?

It didn’t surprise me. Southern has become increasingly visible in the culturally confrontational Christianity of its President, Dr. Al Mohler. (A personal hero of mine, and nothing that I write here changes that, I assure you.) And Dr. Mohler is on a crusade to get Christian young students to make marriage a priority.

In August 2004, President Mohler gave an address to a group of (primarily) Christian singles under the auspices of Josh Harris’s New Attitude conference. Mohler’s summaries of the address can be found at his web site: Part 1 and Part 2. The audio of the address is also available on the site.

The address created a bit of a firestorm, as Mohler did not just endorse marriage, but specifically criticized those who delay marriage.

Singleness is not a sin, but deliberate singleness on the part of those who know they have not been given the gift of celibacy is, at best, a neglect of a Christian responsibility. The problem may be simple sloth, personal immaturity, a fear of commitment, or an unbalanced priority given to work and profession. On the part of men, it may also take the shape of a refusal to grow up and take the lead in courtship. There are countless Christian women who are prayerfully waiting for Christian men to grow up and take the lead. What are these guys waiting for?

The delay of marriage has caused any number of ills in the larger society, and in the church. Honesty compels us to admit that this is indeed tied to levels of ual promiscuity and frustration, even as it means that many persons are now marrying well into their years, missing the opportunity of growing together as a young couple, and putting parenthood potentially at risk.

Christianity Today’s Camerin Courtney responded to Mohler with “Is Singleness a Sin?”

We’re the first generation of the no-fault divorce. Many of today’s singles have lived with the consequences of young, perhaps-not-so-well-thought-through marriages of generations before. So of course many single people today are a bit gun-shy about entering an institution they saw, from a front-row seat, fail. We’re also renegotiating romantic relationships in light of recent gender role shifts in our society. Others still are healing from their own divorce, coping with widowhood, rethinking relationships after becoming a Christian later in life, or simply waiting for a healthy, God-honoring mate possibility to enter the picture. And what about those of us who feel like God is using us right now as singles? Aren’t these all logical, healthy reasons for “putting off” marriage? …

Perhaps many of us are slower to marry not because we don’t take marriage seriously, but because we do take it seriously. Because we’ve seen and experienced the consequences of hasty unions, because we’ve seen the statistical evidence that older first-time marriages have a better chance for survival, because we take very seriously the words “till death do us part.” If anything, I think rushing to marry and preaching a gospel of marriage for marriage’s sake devalues it more than our generation’s hesitancy and seeming passivity.

When Mohler calls marriage the “ultimate priority God has called us to,” I cringe. Not because I’m anti-marriage, but because I don’t find backing for this in the Bible. I don’t see the place where marriage is called a requirement. It’s called a blessing many times, but then so is singleness. The only list of Christ-follower requirements I find in my Bible is in Micah 6:8 “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” These things, not marriage, should be our ultimate priorities.

This debate is a small part of what I see as a major evolution within evangelicalism; an evolution toward overemphasizing marriage at the expense of much that is Biblical, good, healthy, balanced and normal in human and Christian experience. From the best of motives, some bad fruit is appearing.

How is it possible to “overemphasize marriage?” Mohler and other evangelical scholars do an excellent job of showing the central and important place of marriage in God’s creation order. Christians need to articulate a strong advocacy of marriage in a culture that is rejecting the Judeo-Christian ethic. We should oppose attempts to redefine or depreciate marriage. Children need to be raised, if possible, by their married parents. Marriage should be foundational to the Christian church and every vision of Christian society.

Of course, Christians must recognize the place of marriage in scripture, from its place in the creation narratives, to Jesus’ endorsement of marriage in his ministry and teachings, to Paul’s use of marriage as an honored description of God’s intimate love for his people.

How can we over-emphasize marriage? Let me suggest some trends that disturb me, and make me want to suggest a larger, more critical discussion of the current “family values” emphasis before we buy everything that is being sold in all the current rhetoric.

1. Saying that delaying marriage is bad is overemphasizing marriage. This is too simplistic, and we all know it. Don’t get me wrong. Mohler sees a legitimate problem: singleness as an excuse for immaturity and rejecting legitimate adul;t responsibilities. There are such people. I’ve met them. Kick them in the pants.

On the other hand, there are so many other legitimate, good reasons people delay marriage, it’s almost beyond belief that they are ignored. Mohler is speaking to the culture that he sees influencing America in sitcoms like “Friends.” Let me speak about the single’s culture I see at our ministry here.

We have many singles on campus. Most are single because being unmarried allows them to minister in a situation that isn’t conducive to family life. They frequently consider the balance of ministry and marriage and choose ministry. Others are single because they have no real marriage prospects. Some are delaying marriage to care for parents or to pursue a larger career path beyond OBI. Others are delaying marriage for education and the ability to travel. Our singles have unique ministries to our students that married staff do not have. Several of these singles have later married, after years of usefulness here. Of course, we also have divorced and widowed singles as well.

Frankly, many of the singles I know are more mature than I was when I was first married at 21. I absolutely encourage our high school students to delay marriage until they have matured in many different ways. Mohler is right to point out that marriage is a maturing experience, but it is not the only maturing experience, and it is not an automatically maturing experience. Idealizing marriage in a fallen world as a kind of “redemption from immaturity” is, franky, ill-advised. Sometimes, listening to the current advocates, you would think that marriage is unfallen, or at least a refuge from the fall. While I agree it is a common grace, and even has sacramental qualities, it is thoroughly fallen and is not our salvation.

Let me put it this way. Talking about delaying marriage as a mistake is a minefield. I’ve been criticized at times for being intentionally provocative in my writing and preaching. It’s a valid criticism, and I recognize the same tactic in Mohler’s approach. Sometimes it is the right thing to do. Sometimes not. I’ll vote “not” on this one.

2. We overemphasize marriage when we say only “spiritually gifted” singles are truly in God’s will. Again, when Mohler talks about those called and gifted to be “single” as the only “normative” singles, he is running along a very narrow path, with plenty of ways to fall off.

The contemporary concept of spiritual giftedness has proven to be far from perfect or even helpful in many cases. I have done far more counseling with individuals who were confused about their spiritual gift than those who were finding assurance and joy from knowing their spiritual gift. How does one know he or she is called to celibacy and their delaying or passing on marriage is approved by God? In particular, given the differences in male and female sexuality and sexual development, how does a young man know that he is called to celibacy?

The concept of being “called to celibacy” occurs in the Bible in two ways: purposeful vows to be single, and pastoral advice to those who are single. Where in the New Testament do we see a “gift of celibacy” being considered by young singles in the way spiritual gifts are discussed in today’s church?

I have total respect for all those who believe God has called them to a life of celibacy, but I have to be honest. I know many who concluded God called them to singleness who later married. Our Roman Catholic friends could tell us a lot of stories about this.

3. It is an overemphasis of marriage when marriage is automatically called a “priority” for the unmarried Christian. Here is where I hope my readers will think carefully along with me.

Marriage is important, and having a Biblical view of marriage should be part of the understanding of every Christian. Seeing marriage as God sees it in scripture, and understanding marriage in the human experience, are certainly priorities. Considering the qualities of a mate, and the qualities you need to be a mature spouse are important as well.

Does this mean that every Christian young person needs to make “finding a spouse” their major business? I say this as a youth professional and a youth minister who is watching many Christians- especially females- literally make finding a spouse the priority of their lives. Instead of boy crazy teenager girls, we have spouse-obsessed girls, who are seeing marriage as the most important, all consuming principle for living their lives. It is the focus of their prayers, the basis of their reading, the guiding principle of their involvements and a priority in all decisions.

This concerns me. It may not concern other people, but it concerns me, and it concerns me as a father of a daughter and a son. It concerns me as one who believes life is a rich and varied experience to be savored to the glory of God, and there is more than one way to glorify God in life.

I want my children to be useful and happy in the service of Jesus Christ. I want them to experience the goodness of life, and to know the adventure of living. I have invested a large part of the last twenty years sacrificing for their benefit so they can go to college, pursue careers, be encouraged as Christians and use their abilities and talents as salt and light.

If my daughter sees marriage as a goal, but sees college as more of a priority right now, is she wrong? If my son sees marriage as a priority, but wants to travel for several years with a musical group, is he wrong? Are other priorities always to be placed below finding a husband or wife? Should I be advising my daughter to put finding a husband as first on her list of priorities? Should my kids be, literally, pursuing mates in their relationships? (I use that word because I see this increasingly happening, and it’s not particularly spiritual.) Is there no value to a social activity with the opposite gender except what may lead to marriage?

In fact, shouldn’t the priority of general Christian character and growth be clearly ranked above any specific matter like marriage or missions, especially for a young person? Am I wrong to tell young people to pursue general Christian growth as the foundation of understanding God’s will in other areas? And will that general Christian growth always indicate that, yes, marriage should be the assumed priority for their life, even though Jesus wasn’t married and the New Testament shows a remarkable openness to single people in ministry?

I mean, hey, even Rick Warren doesn’t list marriage as a priority in The Purpose Driven Life. Slam the door!

4. We overemphasize marriage when those who are not married are out of the “center” of the Christian community, thus violating clear implications of the ministry of Jesus. I am extremely concerned that the emphasis on marriage in contemporary evangelicalism has created an imbalance within the body of Christ. I am already sensitive to this because of my own life experience.

I grew up in a fundamentalistic Baptist Church where the divorced were ostracized, baited, humiliated and blamed at every opportunity. (No, I am not exaggerating. Drinkers and divorced people were what was wrong with the world. Oh….and anyone who married a Catholic was bad, too.) This is why my dad only heard me preach, in person, five times in his life. What is outrageous about this is that 1) it was done by elevating never divorced families to the center of the church community, and 2) ignoring Jesus’ ministry to the marginalized and broken.

Jesus would have included- even preferred in some instances- the divorced, the single and the rejected in his community of followers. It is inconceivable to me that a church pastored by Jesus would put the emphasis on marriage that I saw in my childhood- or in many circles today. Today’s mega-churches specialize in that traditional family with two kids and a dog. Yes, many of them also successfully minister to singles and other groups, but am I the only one who hears such an incessant drumbeat of teaching on marriage, threats to marriage, crisis in marriage, marriage success principles and so forth that it can sometimes appear the church is preaching the “Good News of Marriage and Family” a bit louder than the Good News of Jesus?

I know single people can be whiners. Every pastor has those single members who don’t want to be single and annoyingly keep complaining that God is unfair. But are singles wrong when they say the church looks so much like a club for families that they don’t feel like they are normal, whole and blessed? Are so many family-oriented events and ministries done with serious thought to how Jesus did ministry? Did Jesus emphasize marriage as we do in most churches?

I only mention this because I know we all would agree that Jesus endorsed marriage, but I do not believe Jesus over-emphasized marriage. In fact, Jesus’ own words about family don’t sound much like any guest on Dobson that I have heard. You know the passages I mean. Jesus does recognize an idolatry of family, and he frequently challenges it. This is in a culture that reads the Ten Commandments and concludes that family is perhaps the highest earthly priority. A culture that practiced arraigned marriages as a way of promoting Godly living. Yet Jesus refuses to go to the door and speak to his mother in Mark 3, instead saying that his followers are his family.

Do our churches reflect this? Or do they reflect an over-emphasis on marriage?

5. We overemphasize marriage when a gospel of “salvation by marriage and family values” is confused with the Biblical Gospel. I will admit to being confused by the current evangelical emphasis on cultural renewal. I am confused on several fronts.

First, I do not see this at all in the New Testament. In fact, if anything, I see almost a complete lack of anxiety over the moral state of the Roman empire or the Greek cities where the epistles were delivered. Yes, the Christians have their eyes open, and the corruption of the culture is the background of much moral reasoning in the New Testament. What I see in the New Testament is the church offering an alternative culture where marriage has its proper place, but I do not see any concern to rescue pagan culture from itself. I do not see the emphasis on cultural renewal that I see in men like Dobson or Mohler.

Second, the political involvement of the church in America is closely tied to the issue of marriage and family. I understand that Christians are protecting and promoting what God has created, but the culture in which we are told to present an inviting community gathered around Jesus sees and hears a community gathered in opposition to gay marriage and abortion, and for the promotion and protection of marriage. Yes, our culture needs to hear about marriage, even as a basis for evangelism. But the overemphasis is doing a lot more than attracting people to our view of marriage. It is confusing many as to what we are all about.

There is quite obviously a vital connection between God, the Gospel, human life and family life. My concern in this essay is with an overemphasis on marriage. I am not trying to disassociate these cultural concerns from the church’s theology. But I am arguing that we have talked to the culture and to the media about marriage and family issues to the point that there is confusion about the Gospel.

Evangelicals are very good at obscuring the Gospel in the midst of other legitimate concerns. The shift of perceived evangelical leadership from Billy Graham to James Dobson is significant. Both men probably believe much the same things, but their perceived messages are quite different.

Thirdly, as a Reformed Christian with tremendous sympathies for covenant theology, it appears to me that we are seeing the triumph of a covenant understanding of marriage and family as a primary means of evangelizing the culture. It is now common to hear young singles state that they want to marry on order to have Christian children. Living and working in the world of Baptist revivalism, I can tell you this has not been the normal way of initially expressing the purpose of family. The emphasis on the nurture and conversion of children has always been strong, but not in covenant terms. Today, the covenant emphasis- sans infant baptism- is everywhere among evangelical young marrieds. Combined with an emphasis on homeschooling and even home churches, there is a definite shift toward the idea that Christian marriage and children are, in and of themselves, evangelism. (Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think that’s all bad at all. Just significant.)

6. Finally, there is an overemphasis on marriage when normal experiences not leading up to marriage are viewed, at best, as worthless, and at worst, evil. I experience much of this discussion in the context of questions about dating and courtship. Many- most- of the Christian young people I know are in tremendous confusion over these topics, and it is no wonder. The messages coming through evangelicals today are confusing. It is not at all unusual to hear spoken of as an invention of the devil for the purpose of sex before marriage, and courtship spoken of as a divinely ordained plan for arranging a certain to succeed marriage.

So I’ll show my cards and say I think we have some serious problems here. I’ll list them in no particular order.

1) Courtship is far from a Biblically established and ordained way of finding a spouse. Ever since post-Josh Harris youth speakers began saying “Don’t date. Court!” there’s been enough confusion on this topic to fill a warehouse. This essay won’t attempt to straighten that out, other than to say this: The view of family and adulthood I read in the courtship movement would be quite at home in medieval Islam. If an individual wants a parentally supervised or arranged marriage, then by all means they should have it, but nothing in the Bible compels such a thing. If we are going back to the view of women in Leviticus, please let me know.

2) Dating is not a dirty word. In fact, what I am learning is that there is so much mass confusion over single people of opposite genders spending time together that condemnation of dating is no longer a fringe activity. It is mainstream. Parents of small children confidently assert their children will not date. Those who have dated imply that it was sex, 24/7 and ruins marriage. Dating leads to depression, suicide and certain divorce. All this is said routinely.

Where are they getting this? Some have suggested that evangelicals are totally convinced that single life in America is a “Friends” or “Real World” episode that cannot be escaped. Certainly, the sexual revolution has changed everything. Pagans are sexually active, and Christians are tempted to join in. But am I to believe that we are left with nothing but the belief that dating is a certain road to a preview of hell? Must I be convinced that my children cannot become mature young Christians who can enjoy a date? Do I have to believe that dating, and breaking up are unmanageable tragedies that must be avoided, so bring on the marriage brokers? Must I believe that those who date have such “emotional baggage” that their marriages are doomed?

Good grief! Such pessimism. I believe the information age has done a number on us. Dating has always been an activity that tested our morals and maturity. That’s part of the point. I was never confronted with underaged drinking till my 8th grade dance. I passed. I had never been alone with a girl until I got my license and started dating. I wasted a few evenings abusing that opportunity, but we all navigated the experience with our virtue and sanity intact. In fact, the real cruel weirdness in went on at all those group youth activities, where no one knew who was going with whom. You needed a program guide! With a map!

3) My daughter wants to date for fun, to enjoy male company, for the experience, for friendship and, somewhere down the list, for the consideration of marriage prospects. Should I go and disavow her of this insane and worldly plan? Is she wasting her time when she could be conducting interviews with potential mates?

Dating is an American cultural phenomenon. Wise parents don’t buy into all it’s romanticism and rules, and we should beware of the possible folly. But if we can’t bring up our children to go out on dates as a part of growing up we are a sorry bunch of parents! There I said it! (Now I’ll change my email address.)

American Christians are afraid of the sexual wasteland that surrounds them and threatens their children. Eliminating dating and emphasizing marriage seems like a spiritual and rational response. I respect those who differ with me on this one, and yes, I am the same guy who thinks public schools are not quite the hopeless cesspool many other Christians do. I see kids do stupid things in relationships- including make terrible sexual choices- all the time. I have counseled hundreds and hundreds of teenagers with issues that go back to choices they made in .

Most of those young people were poorly parented, especially in this area. Even good parents can be naive. I understand our hope that our daughter will decide to marry the kid next to her in Christian school and it will just work out perfect. I know there are a thousand hazards and protecting our children from them seems like our godly duty. I know all that.

I still believe my daughter can date, and can make good choices. I believe it is a good experience, and matures her in ways that contribute to a good marriage. I believe she can cope with disappointment. Trying to shield her from a broken heart is a noble sentiment. I can’t do it. I’ve raised an adult and she can make good decisions. I don’t need to pick her spouse. She can make marriage as much- or as little- of a priority as she feels is appropriate between herself and God. She calls the shots, because this is her life, and God will teach her if her heart is open.

The very idea of overemphasizing marriage seems ridiculous. Christian radio, television, publishing….they all increasingly emphasize the importance of marriage. Pundits and preachers are sounding the marriage alarms. Christian families are more and more looking to marriage as the best solution to the problems of adolescence. Courtship is replacing dating, going steady and engagement for serious evangelicals.

Christianity is about Jesus. Marriage derives its meaning and beauty from Jesus. Is it possible to emphasize marriage too much and Jesus too little? Let the reader decide.

Comments

  1. From http://www.losingmyreligion.com/essays/sex.html

    “Why should we take advice on sex from the Pope? If he knows anything about it, he shouldnÂ’t.
    – George Bernard Shaw”

    “Lfe in Lubbock, Texas taught me two things. One is that God loves you and you’re going to burn in hell. The other is that sex is the most awful, dirty thing on the face of the earth and you should save it for someone you love.
    – Butch Hancock”

    An interseting essay on sex can be found at http://www.losingmyreligion.com/essays/sex.html.

  2. Interesting essay, indeed. Yet more proof positive that when we lose our emphasis on the gospel and fixate on something else to the point where we lose all sense of proportion (in the case of this essay, sex), we lose not just the gospel but our credibility as well.

    FTCMNC, if that’s your website, let’s talk. I see much of the same things, but I’m not ready to abandon the faith on account of them…

  3. Ken, you sound like an interesting person. I’m 33 single female and live in GA. I like geeks and geniuses! I love Weird Al. Check me out on christiancafe.com my nick is alicethegoon395. You can join them for a free week trial, you do have to fill out a profile but you don’t really have to write much on your answers. Email me there. I of course do not know you but you sound interesting to at least talk to. I’ve gained some weight since my pics posted there, though, but not enough to be unrecognizable 🙂

    And yes, I have been looking for a spouse since 1998, I could have been married by now to a couple of non-Christians, but I have wanted to be Biblical and marry a believer. I attend a large singles group in Atlanta and we women are extremely frustrated. I don’t know what else to say, me and my friends, at least, are not looking for perfection in a man. It seems to use that men are just looking for the beauty as their #1 priority. Anyway, I do think men should grow up, I know a lot more single women who have it together than men that do. I’m not male-bashing, just relating my own experience. Oh well, it’s a fallen world.

  4. greg bourke says:

    FTMNC
    “Why should we take advice on sex from the Pope? If he knows anything about it, he shouldn’t.
    – George Bernard Shaw.

    … wasn’t Shaw a Communist? Not in a funny way but in a naive puppet of Stalin, “I see no signs of famine in the Ukraine” kinda way.
    Choose your sources with more discretion! 😉

    Logically if what Shaw says is so, then perhaps we should take our sex advice from those who “know” the most such as Hugh Hefner, Paris Hilton, and porn stars.

    But been Christians in America of course you wouldn’t know what porn is, that’s why it’s such a massive industry, an industry that mysteriously no one one knows about, particularly good Christian men.
    The same ones Christianity Today mag, quoted above, reports are going at it like born-again bunnies.

    Yet another reason why the women posting here should be rightly infuriated.

  5. greg bourke says:

    As to the unbearable reccomended essay at
    http://www.losingmyreligion.com/essays/sex.html
    it covered all the emetic bases of late-teen cliche and self-help psyc. Should be popular then.

  6. Doug,

    http://www.losingmyreligion.com is not my web site, but I do think it has some interesting insights on various aspects of christianity. I give them credit for at least discussing things that a lot of christians think but are afraid to voice out loud. I would welcome a discussion with you.

    Greg,

    I thought the quotes at http://www.losingmyreligion.com were funny, especially “Life in Lubbock, Texas taught me two things. One is that God loves you and you’re going to burn in hell. The other is that sex is the most awful, dirty thing on the face of the earth and you should save it for someone you love.
    – Butch Hancock”

    Yes it is all the singles having all the sex that is keeping everyone from getting married. The issue is much more complicated than that and if someone gets married just so they can have sex, they are going to be very disappointed.

    I just wish so called “men of god” would simply preach the gospel and that alone. If they wish to opine on everything that is wrong in the world then they should shed their mantle of authority and speak as a regular person, not one who speaks for god. Untold damage has been done by ministers voicing their personal opinions on a variety of subjects and their parishioners taking what they say as if it came from God Almighty himself. I tell you that I am not worried about the wolf in sheep’s clothing, I am more worried about the shepherd in sheep’s clothing.

  7. FTCMNC,

    Use the e-mail in my name link. Fire away. ;-}

  8. okay, maybe i am simply not to the point of “freaking out” about being married, or maybe it just isn’t up there on my priority list, but what happened to having faith in God and knowing that He has a plan for your life and loving others was his greatest command. Not getting married, not having children, just simply showing others the love of Jesus. God has a specific plan for each of us, and maybe marraige isn’t in the picture yet but why are we wasting time worrying about when and if we will get married. As Christian singles we should embrace our freedom and do what God has planned for us now. There is a reason we haven’t met Mr. and Mrs. “Sweep me off my feet.” You never know who or what He will have in store for you when you walk by faith with Him. Why can’t we simply trust God with our lives and know that it will happen in His time?

  9. Gosh there is so much I want to say here…I married two years out of HS. By the age of 22 I had two children and my tubes tied. Life was rolling on when after 17 years of marriage my husband left. We had matured but not together and that turned into a lack of committment. Obviously, I question ‘pushing’ the marrying young idea and strongly feel each individual must follow their own heart and head after much prayer. For myself, if given the opportunity to ‘do over’ I would not change a thing – not one part of it. I enjoyed being a young mother and most of the time I enjoyed my marriage. Now as a single, I do enjoy my life. I went back to school and earned a Bachelor’s Degree. As a single I have my career and a decent life. At 45, I am having the life most have at 23 but with a little more wisdom. Is life perfect? No! I am amazed that my same frustrations as a single are voiced throughout these comments…from all over this nation. Yet, when I stop and refocus I know I would not change one thing about my life. My struggles made and continue to make me a better, stronger person in Christ. Not perfect…I still wonder about dating, I still wonder where all the ‘mature’ Christian guys are, I still wonder if I am destined to stay single, I still wonder what is wrong with me that I am not remarried, I still wonder until I stop and look up or look in my Bible. Okay, yes that is so redundant…so simplistic but it is the truth – His Truth.

  10. Sheila B. says:

    “Marriage will happen in His time”. Well, did the people in the holocaust die “in His time”? Do children get molested “in His time”? The fact is, this is a fallen world, and we all suffer because of it. The fact is that there are more single Christian women that there are Christian men, therefore a lot of single Christian women may not get married. Not unless there is a revival among men. I don’t like it as much as the next single woman in her 30’s. But facts are facts.

    Sheila B.

  11. I don’t see why one must blame the large number of Christian singles for the amount of extra-marital sex in the USA. I’ve known LOADS of Christians who remained sexually pure, and only a few who had sex before marriage – and many MORE who committed adultery while married (mostly older “mature” married Christians).

    I also want to say that I’m tired of singleness or marriage being such defining characteristics of a person in the Christian world. Why must singles all be lumped together in one group, kept away from the couples and families? Do they think that because I’m a single girl, I won’t want to be invited to activities or Bible studies with my married best friends? Will it be a disaster if there’s an odd number of people at dinner, so singles and couples shouldn’t mix? And I know my married friends feel the same way – sometimes they’re sad when the church “singles group” has a fun activity and they’re no longer invited because they’re married now. (“Sorry! You forfeited your membership when you took that vow to the OTHER club!”) Why is there such a barrier? The apostle Peter was married, apparently, but he still “hung out” with Jesus and other single men. We’re all PEOPLE. Why should singles and marrieds and families be encouraged to segregate? Now that I’m getting older (27), and the singles groups are made of people much younger than me, it’s getting harder and harder just to make FRIENDS, even with other girls, because I’m herded into the “singles only” corral.

  12. Jeremiah Lawson says:

    That married and singles don’t spend a lot of time together does seem to be the case. I remember trying to go to two community groups at my church. One was entirely full of single young guys and the other was entirely full of couples with kids or mostly full of them. I felt really out of place in both settings.

    About half my friends at church are married and half are single. How I managed that I’m not entirely sure but I feel very fortunate that this is the case. When I’m with my married friends I don’t feel like I need to be married I feel like I want to be with my friends. When I’m with my single friends I don’t feel like I need to be single to relate to them.

    I’ve started noticing that with a few of the guys I’ve known they’re single guys and crazy. They’re not crazy because they’re single (though I’m sure THEY think that) they’re single because they’re crazy.

    Two guys I’ve known really think that Ecc 7 teaches that there are no righteous women of any sort, as though statements of that sort in Ecclesiastes could be taken at face value without any accomodation for Jewish sarcasm, let alone Hellenistic influence if Ecclesiastes was a late composition that wasn’t written by Solomon (never mind that part because they don’t doubt Solomon wrote the book). Then again, maybe these guys are better off for at least knowing Ecclesiastes is in their Bible. I wish … .

    “Headship” as a term that applies to fatherly oversight is another term I’ve heard bandied about. Now when a dad says he wants to make sure his daughters don’t have “special guy friends” they spend one-on-one time with I don’t mind that. Where I mind the idea of headship is when single guys start getting stupid ideas as to what it means, usually something to the effect of all single women have to submit to some guy they can easily identify rather than getting to know the women enough to know who SHE trusts to look out for her interests.

    One of my friends decided he might be interested in a woman and since he assumed (because her parents were divorced) that neither parent was reliable he was going to just nominate an older guy to be the overseer in the relationship. When he talked to this older guy the older guy admitted to knowing nothing at all about the woman.

    That really defeats the whole purpose of having someone looking out for the woman’s interest if you, as a would-be suitor, can simply nominate some guy who doesn’t even know her.

    Then there are Christian guys who think that while dating is bad it’s a great idea to invite a brilliant, beautiful, young Christian woman to come cook food for them and their roommates. What the hell kind of invitation is that? If THAT is a new standard in biblical hospitality I say DATE. At least the woman will have an incentive to spend time with you that isn’t based on servile house-work. The woman who got this wonderful invite was more interested in talking about why Jude quotes so much apocryphal literature. Besides, I thought that in biblical hospitality you rendered service to the guest not the other way around. How would God have reacted if Abraham propped his feet and said, “Say, God, cook me something”?

    The craziest thing about ALL these ideas is that I’ve known Christian men who’ve done ALL these kinds of things in the grave delusion that they’re doing perfectly biblical stuff and that they’re trying to find a really godly women amidst the sea of shallow girls.

    There are some Christian men out there who hold patently unbiblical and even frightening views about women who think they are the manly men who are most primed to be godly husbands. Then they wonder why really hot, smart and godly women don’t invite them to their parties. There aren’t many of these guys but they’re self-important enough to make their voices heard.

  13. If all the other bitter single people are complaining, I may as well join in.

    Why is it that the lunkheads Jeremiah Lawson knows can meet a brilliant, beautiful, young Christian woman who wants to talk about the Epistle of Jude and ISN’T TAKEN and I can’t?

  14. Jeremiah Lawson says:

    Well, it’s no consolation to you, Aaron, but I’ve met these women, too. Hoping I’m not a lunkhead.

    I wouldn’t say I feel bitter about being single, actually. Frustrated by the attitudes some married and unmarried Christians have, yes, definitely. But I want these guys to grow and mature in faith. I want them to consider whether or not they’re reading their own ideas into biblical texts rather than letting the biblical texts challenge them. Jesus died to save them, too.

    I’ve seen how things are for my sister and brother-in-law with their kid. I love my niece and think she’s adorable. But I also know that a lot of goals and dreams they had had to be completely sacrificed for the sake of raising a family. I admit to feeling ambivalent about seeing that.

    As I understand marriage there really is an element of completely laying down your life for your friend [insert boy/girl as a prefix if you wish] once you marry them. I adire that committment and sacrifice and honestly doubt whether or not I have that in me. Since I’m not sure I’d rather not saddle some poor woman with that until Jesus, however He wishes, makes it a lot more obvious to me that I’m actually up for that sort of thing. Sometiems we may overemphasize marriage by under-emphasizing how much service and sacrifice it involves. Talking about the social benefits of marriage just isn’t the same thing as talking about that sacrifice.

  15. Sounds like a “chicken/egg” argument.

    Marriage is a calling for self-sacrifice and forgiveness, which requires character.

    Since many in America have not had these virtues modeled to them, they may not appreciate what is required of them in marriage – and the culture makes it easy to “bail out” if they think they can’t hack it.

    The church, OTOH, (at least in “conservative” circles) insists on making marriage a lifetime commitment (as is right) – but skimps on the character preparation that makes for the foundations for a successful marriage.

    God, now I am depressed.

    I remember reading in “Screwtape Letters” how the devils want to prevent and sabotage godly marriages. Well, the devil in charge of that job in America must be on the fast track to a CEO slot in the Lowerarchy…

  16. I do find it impossible for me to get married or to start a relationship plus I’m very happy with being single indefinitely. I believe that it is not sinful to remain single even if one chooses to do so. The bible never said that marriage is a mandate. Marriage is only a commitment made by choice and making the commitment to marry is optional which means that if one decides to marry, then according to God, they are obligated to follow through and keep that commitment, but if one does not wish to marry, then they are not obligated to make such a commitment so according to the logic, indefinite singleness is not sinful.

  17. Many men which are mocked as “geeks” or “anti-feminists” in their own country, have found brides in my country, the Philippines. Most Filipinas prefer Filipino men, but there are a number of sexy Filipinas, which are open to white men.

    Contrary to popular belief, a significant number of Filipinas, which marry white men, are happy to live with their rich white husband in the Philippines instead of immigrating to the white man’s country.