Don’t Be A Singlist

I knew it would happen.  In an era of hash tags and isms it was only a matter of time before our growing unmarried population found a way to play the same card.

It’s finally here single folks.  You’re very own ism.  Singlism.  This is the new word for the way that singles are discriminated against in our society.  I guess the people doing it will be called Singlist?  Man the church for sure is #singlist.  No doubt about that.

Bella DePaulo is a single lady in her sixties and a harvard trained social scientist has “coined” the term.  (Man I wish I had gotten to it first).  She defines it as “the stereotyping, stigmatizing and discrimination of people who are not married”.

Oh but it gets better.  Married people of course have “marital privilege — the unearned advantages that benefit those who are married”

DePaulo actually points out many things that we’ve talked about here.  Married people make more money than single people.  Not only that, but due to tax laws, family leave acts, along with other systemic Singlism issues in the corporate world such as insurance rates and even travel packages, singles end up paying more for things.  All of that is true.

Man, I was a victim for so long, and I didn’t even realize it.

If DePaulo thinks singles in the secular world have it tough, she should try the Church. In the Church it’s hard to get a job as a pastor if you are single.  Often singles are not offered positions of leadership even in non-paid positions.  And they have to endure marriage sermons, conferences and a barrage of bad Christian romance novels. #suffering #singlechristianproblems.

Now I want to be clear, if I were running things I’d change a lot of this.  Obviously I have constantly advocated here many times that the Church needs to change how it deals with singles.  But that starts not with creating a new victim group but instead actually dealing with whole body of Christ including all forms of singleness and marriage.

What I have never advocated and do not advocate is turning singles into a special group in and of themselves.  There are a number of reasons for this.

The first is that as I’ve pointed out many times, singleness is a terrible term.  We have to get that there are many different groups and each has their own standing and context in the Church.  There are the widowed, the divorced, those called to marriage who aren’t and then those who are celibate for life either because of gifting, choice, or the sin of man. These are absolutely not the same.

Second, to me the idea of singlism implies that it works the same as say racism or sexism etc.  The problem with this is that for most of us, being single is sort of our choice.  Our race or sex is not (at least from a biblical perspective – I can’t believe I have to type that).

Now I know that right now some of you are saying, “but I’m not single by choice”.  Ok, I hear you.  Let me make a couple points about that.

For starters saying that there is singlism when a significant amount of people are simply single because they lack the ability/desire to make a lifetime commitment to a person is ridiculous.  Every single person who is sleeping with or living with someone does not count as living the single Christian life.  In no way are they a victim of the people with marital privilege.  GIve me a break.

Secondly, most people could get married to someone if they wanted.  Not all.  But most.  I was single until I was nearly 41.  But there were people I could have married.  But many things kept that from happening.  Some of those things were my own fault.  Some were issues that I needed to deal with but again, I had to choose to deal with them.  Sometimes I chose the wrong person to date.  Sometimes someone didn’t choose me.  But I had choice many different times.

That is not to say that everyone who is unmarried had that choice.  Obviously a widow didn’t choose to have their spouse die.  Divorce can be a choice, and most often is, but if the person divorces you, that might not be your choice.  But again those are different contexts from not being married yet. So I guess in that sense you could be a victim.

Finally, most single people are working at or at least hoping for a time when they are not single.  Do the same people who are single now want to give up this supposed marital privilege when they get married?

Frankly the only people who can claim singlism are the people who are gifted, called or forced into celibacy.  So perhaps we should call it celibacism.  That’s not quite a catchy though.

I acknowledge that we have a problem with how we deal with singles.  We really should change many of our laws because honestly, we should want to treat people fairly regardless of marital status.  This should be especially true in the Church where the Church family should trump the nuclear one.  But playing the victim and equating singleness to race is for sure not the way to go about it.  Instead we need to actually deal with what marriage is and help people walk in each of the contexts of singleness.  Our problem is more in how we view the whole thing.

What’s crazy is there is still time for the Church to lead here.  Now that would be a movement worth getting behind. #Crazy #Leadership #Biblical

11 thoughts on “Don’t Be A Singlist

  1. I’m Bella DePaulo, the “single lady” you referenced. I’m single and I always will be – I choose to live single. It is how I live my best, most authentic, most meaningful life. (I’m single at heart.) ALL single people are targets of singlism. There are more than 1,000 federal laws that benefit and protect only those people who are legally married. The laws don’t care if you want to be single or don’t. That’s not social justice, and those laws were an important part of the case that was made for same-sex marriage. People of all sexual orientations who are single are still left out of those benefits and protections. Please don’t tell me I’m playing the victim card. I’m playing the social justice card. Everyone should be.
    You can read more about singlism here (including a section on singlism in religion), I have invited people to write about ways singles are treated unfairly in different religions, and their articles, as well as a few of mine, are here,

    • To be clear I agree there are all sorts of legal problems. I agree with a lot of what you say. But I’m tired of all the isms. It’s for sure part of the reason for same-sex marriage. Frankly the government should get out of the marriage business all together in my opinion. You may not be playing the victim card, but a whole lot of people are. And our spiritual platitudes make it even worse.

      By the way we need to do a much better job of honoring the lifestyle you’ve chosen. As I’ve written about here constantly, the celibate lifestyle needs to be honored in the Church and we have no plan. This is why I think we have to separate out the word single. It’s just too big of a catch all and get’s treated as if everyone is the same. They’re not. And from a Christian world view they are for sure not. Or at least shouldn’t be.

  2. “marital privilege — the unearned advantages that benefit those who are married”?

    Unearned? Fat chance! I work at being married.

    Still — Christian romance novels. Ouch!

      • Do you get to keep those benefits if you don’t stay married? I think that’s what JND was referring to. I thought the same thing as I was reading that line. For example, if your spouse divorces you against your will, or dies, you lose some of those benefits, right?

    • I work hard at being celibate. Every bit as hard as marriage nowadays and all I get from Christians is mockery and condescension. When the world does it it’s bad enough. If the Bible didn’t command church attendance I wouldn’t go since nobody wants me there.

      Celibacy was thrust on me at age 20 from a botched medical procedure that permanently damaged my nervous system. There have been some luscious temptations to sin. Despite my “waiting” no decent marriage proposals materialized.

      And internet dating is horrible! When a woman passes the big 40 she’s worthless. All she’s good for is a cheap substitute for hookers between “real dates.” Christian websites are no different.

      My wonderful Christian sister is a God-fearing woman and campus minister. At 32 she’s still single because she’s disabled and wears long leg braces.

      If you’re disabled no Christian will want to date you. Unless you’re famous like Joni Erickson Tada. And even she barely made it before she was too old.

  3. I think I’m personally looking for compassion more than equal treatment (under the church) but I also suspect many of our lawmakers are church goers who if they were able to develop a level of compassion for their unmarried brothers and sisters, would make a greater effort to see that we are treated more equally under the law. The biggest problem is when married people in the church don’t think they’re doing anything wrong, and in some cases, think they are doing right by marginalizing us regardless of the reasons why any one of us is single. I don’t know what else to call that but discrimination.

    • It’s discrimination. And compassion is a great word. Or maybe understanding both of my plight and in general. When it comes to the church I think it comes from a lot of different places. Ignorance, bad theology, and arrogance to mention just a few. Also, many times it comes from good intentions which makes it even more weird.

      Under the law we need a whole new plan.

      But this is also why we need to redefine it and not lump all unmarried people together. To me in the church that is step one. In the law the only way I see is for the government to get out of it completely.

    • Also at the risk of going off-topic, I think when we express our frustrations about the church, sometimes that is interpreted as asking for equal treatment so that the church is putting in the same money and resources to support singles as they do for marriage and families. Or sometimes a frustration expressed about being single is interpreted as having no awareness or compassion for those who are struggling with marriage or family issues. At least that’s what people tend to jump to when all you’re asking for is a prayer or for people to be nice. I don’t think I’m asking for too much and I get extremely frustrated when I’m treated like a spoiled brat for asking for a little. On the other hand, as someone who wants to be married, I don’t want to spend a lot of time focused on the problems I have with being single in general, but if there is a way I can make my experience better, I will speak up.

      Good, thoughtful post as usual.

      • If they weren’t married you might wonder if they were selfish. But all married people are spiritually superior, wiser, more mature, and harder working. We know cause all those married people at Focus On the Family have stats to prove it!

        I usually avoid anything but casual handshakes with all the smug marrieds at church. They don’t care about me or how I feel at all. As long as I say everything is fine they’ll allow me to quietly exist on the fringes–especially since I attend with my elderly parents. Married people who count!

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