A few weeks ago, a reader asked me if I would write a post about anger at the Church and what to do with that so I thought I’d take a stab at it.
Let’s do two things by way of prologue.
Bitterness Is An Enemy and Not From God
I’ve written before about how as a single we can easily fall into the trap of bitterness. There are a lot of mad singles. I’ve been there. Believe me. There is an anguish. There can be a sense of entitlement. There is a sense of loss and we react to it. I’ve written before that we can be mad at God, mad at women, mad at other guys, and mad at ourselves. All of these are important things to consider and deal with. I believe that we are mostly mad at God. Really all of us at one time or another feel this. We can also be mad at The(a) Church which brings us to:
The Church in general and in particular within protestantism, has really messed this up.
I mean it’s not good. Where to begin? The don’t get it. And maybe worse, they don’t like it. We don’t honor or even teach about celibacy. We often don’t let singles into leadership. The church is in a defensive position on marriage, and is actually often unwittingly helping to hurt marriage in the process. The Church as a whole has created an idol out of marriage and family.
Rarely does a church address the singles in it’s midst (let alone the outside of it) and when it does, mostly what it does is tell us is what not to do, wait for the one, and then your questions of sexual prowess will magically be answered. Of course as a guy the church has told us it’s all our fault, and therefore we are all (men and women) set up to fail.
So basically most of the church’s answer to singleness is to offer spiritual platitudes, worry more that we might marry wrong that if we would marry at all, and never address any of the things that we go through – including have to walk into their doors all by ourselves. And that is just a brief warm up. So yeah, there is a lot to be mad about.
What Do We Do With It?
The real question isn’t are single people generally frustrated with the church. It’s not even should they be, because frankly they probably should be. The real question (and the one that the reader was wanting to know) is what do we do with it.
I think there are three choices really.
- Say screw the church and leave – if I get married think about coming back
- Go to church at least at some level, but not engage the battle. Maybe find a church that at least isn’t anti-single.
- Engage the church, forgive our leaders, earn the right to be heard, and then fight for what we know is right.
We all know option one is wrong, but it is an option. The problem here is that it hurts the church, and that really shouldn’t be our goal. Taking ourselves out of the equation won’t change the equation in our favor (or anyone else’s).
Option two is where a lot of people I know (and myself for a long time) seem to be at. It’s kind of a surrender really – this is just the way it is. That is easier in a lot of ways and I guess at least you are there.
But option three is where I think we need to be. So how do we do that? We need to do three things.
- Do our best to understand why it’s the way it is, and trust that most of it is not personal.
- Earn the right to have a voice.
- Exercise our voice in a way that can be heard.
Today, I want to tackle the first one and tomorrow I’ll write about the other two.
I’ve written a lot about this part before, but let’s sum up some thoughts that can help. We need to understand that the leaders of the church (most of the time) have the right heart, even if the wrong solutions. There are so many factors in play. Many in the church are looking around and watching the family fall apart. They see it and want to help. This is where all the family focus and effort comes into play. It’s why there are hundreds of Christian books on marriage and family. They are trying to rescue the family, which isn’t all bad. To their credit, I think these resources have helped a lot of families make it. That’s a good thing.
They also don’t want to see us hurt ourselves or others, which is why they constantly are worried about sex outside of marriage and all that goes with that. As I told an audience of singles at our church, the surest ways to get the pastor to stop talking about not having sex, would be if all of our singles would . . . stop having sex.
And finally as I’ve written about before, on a practical level most pastors and church leaders have never been single. They really don’t get it. It doesn’t mean they don’t care. They just literally don’t understand.
What knowing these things can do, if we can get past the bitterness, is allow us to forgive people for getting this wrong. I think we have to start there, because otherwise it’s just about us and that’s not enough. This whole thing is way bigger than just our own personal situation. It’s a real problem in the Church and we have a chance to help. More on that tomorrow.
Just curious: Have we “Balkanized” the church by segregating everyone into groups that never commingle? We have the singles hidden in a back room, the young marrieds down the hall, the senior citizens in another room, parents of teens over here, and the youth in three different groups somewhere else.
Is there any doubt why we don’t understand each other?
Hey Todd. There’s no doubt about it. One of the things I first liked about my church is that community groups aren’t based on affinity. I wrote a post a long time ago called singles segregation. While I think having ministries and events directed at certain groups to help in those live stages, having it be that way every week is a real problem for the long run health of the church. At least in my opinion.
I “love” the name of my friends young adult ministry….drum roll…”Pairs and Spares.” I’m not even joking. Needless to say, my single friend decided not to be a part of the young adult ministry at her church.
Wow! I mean Wow!
Great article! I can totally relate. Most pastors have never been single- perhaps a year or two into seminary then they met someone so no they can’t possibly understand singles over 35 since most are married by 22. I read your blog while searching for dalerock blog. I am a strong Christian male- I’ve never married and don’t have kids. I am also celibate since I have strong biblical convictions. I went to Liberty University where I received my MDIv to be a minister. I have found that many churches don’t want single men to be pastors. I am also computer savvy and read many Christian posts and websites. I have read many many comments from people with their own opinions and comments about single men and single men in the ministry and everything is very negative. Singleness is a subject nobody wants to talk about except to force or shame single people- especially single men into getting married. Not to even go into why so many young men are not getting married or pursuing marriage today- there are many many varied reason. Reasons range from too much feminism in the church and over the top expectations from women to the inequalities in family court and marriage laws being so unequal for men today.
I am not ugly, fat, socially inept, gay or weird nor a pedophile I am single because I have never found that person I felt was compatible for me. I noticed very young that dating was a very one sided game that people play and the women call the shots- the most attractive outgoing and financially stable men were getting all the dates and getting married. This has always been the case even way before feminism took root. The problem is today in the secular and church world everything is gynocentric- too much emphasis on women and their needs and men are totally forgotten about or exploited. Men are treated like an afterthought or an accessory or an ATM machine. This is not a godly Christian perspective. All people are important and God’s children. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that men are to sacrifice their lives, money or happiness to please a female. Marriage is to benefit both people not just the female- but unfortunately that is what even preachers are saying- they are copying the secular people instead of preaching the truth and the gospel. I’ve even read comments where single men are being shamed for not getting married and taking the Bible out of context and saying that men must get married- it is their responsibility. (This heresy is called pronutialism) Really? Mind telling me what chapter and verse that is? I;m a seminary graduate and i read and study the Bible often- sorry I haven’t found that passage yet- LOL
The church is biased against single people anyway. Every church I’ve ever been too has always treated singles like a second class citizen or like half a person till they get married and single classes always are a place to teach about how to get ready to be married. I’m not against marriage at all- don’t get me wrong. Biblical marriage is ordained by God is good and necessary but we all have the ability to make our own choices. God gave us free will to get married or stay single. Nobody ever talks about the Apostle Paul and how he preached about the benefits of singleness. It’s like that part of the Bible is ignored. Or if you mention it they make stupid comments saying Paul was special- no he wasn’t he was a man like anyone else. he struggled with sin just like the rest of us. I just may be a person who is blessed with the gift of singleness and I think there are others who are as well. I understand that most people want to get married and have a family and it’s only normal and natural but it is sinful to put single people down just because you don’t understand single people- People take God’s word out of context and especially in this area. (I Corinthians 7:8)
…7 Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that. 8 But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I. 9 But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.…
For 1500 years the catholic church praised singleness and actually forced priests to remain single (and still do) until Martin Luther revealed the truth of God’s word. The catholic churches teachings have always been mixed with pagan philosophy. Singleness was expected and seen as a means to self sanctification- which is unscripturial. Now the pendulum in the Protestant churches have swung to the other extreme where marriage is upheld to a level of idolatry. Neither extreme is biblical. The reasons people give for telling people they must be married are tantamount to bigotry. Especially young men being told they must be married. Besides being heretical in nature the reasons show how people despise single men. I’ve heard such outrageous things from Christian people like- ” if men don’t get married their sex drives go out of wack and they screw everything in sight or become gay or child molesters or pedophiles.” And then there is the ridiculous and vile comments about “man boys” who won’t grow up. I guess Paul was a “man boy” too since he wasn’t married? I image there are young men who play video games and don’t want to make anything of themselves but I don’t know any personally. I know right now many young people and older singles also who are struggling with trying to find jobs because of this horrible economy- including me. I can’t imagine getting married and having a family when you can’t pay your own bills. I didn’t know it was my responsibility to marry a female and take care of her. When a woman grows up she should take care of herself financially. I pay my own bills and I also give my tithe and offerings to the church. Getting married doesn’t make you an adult. Taking responsibility for your life and paying your own bills makes you an adult. That is another comment people say about singles- they don’t want to take responsibility for their lives and they are self centered. I know plenty of married people who are self centered and are narcissists. Can you imagine someone actually believing such nonsense?
The older I get the less sexual desire I have. I have self control and I have plenty of it. I guess these people who think that way must be evolutionists? They must think we (men) are animals who can’t control ourselves. If I didn’t have any sexual feelings I wouldn’t be human or perhaps there might be a hormonal problem. The thing that angers me is how preachers push this same nonsense. I never hear a sermon on Christian singleness. It’s all about preparing to be married or talking about relationships and marriage problems. I am not anti-relationships or anti-marriage I just feel that I am called to be single. If there is talk about single men it’s always shaming them for not dating or wondering what’s wrong with single men today. Women are much more relationship oriented and more vocal and make up a larger portion of church congregations including putting more money in the church treasury so pastors are catering to the whiny females instead of preaching God’s word and the truth. I guess they are afraid if they don’t cater to the women they will lose their job or their salaries will go down. They don’t seem to recognize nor care about problems men face today and take those things into consideration as to why men are not marrying. Also they ignore the fact that some people (men and women) may never marry because it is their choice and ignore the scripture passages that say that is fine to be single.
I just turned 48. One of these days I may meet the right person for me and get married but so far that hasn’t happened. I like being single, but I get sick of all the negative and ugly things so called “Christian” church people and pastors say about singles and especially single men. I wish they would read the Bible and stop regurgitating all the uncouth and ungodly feminist rhetoric.
Singleness is not for everyone but there are those like myself who are perfectly able to conduct themselves in a Biblical manner. It’s high time churches and church people uplift all people in the church and stop labeling single men as “man boys” because they are single. There is usually a really good reason they are single. The generalities and the shaming techniques need to stop and we need to get back to teaching the bible instead of offering opinions or regurgitating worldly values. Thanks for reading my letter.
Yours in Christ;
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