Have you ever gone into the Christian Fiction section in a bookstore. It’s sort of unbelievable. First of all, I still have not figured out what exactly counts as Christian fiction. Why do we have our own section – why can’t it just be in the fiction section but written by Christians? Is there a Jewish fiction section?? The truth is that we have our own section because we want it, and we are the only people that would possibly read it.
But the most disturbing thing about the Christian fiction section is the focus on what can best be described as Christian romance novels. It’s incredible. I would wager that close to 70% of the books in this section fit that category. Probably more. More amazing is that of those romance novels, probably 80% are either western or amish. Talk about a limited audience.
We’re in obvious need of better literature but that isn’t why I bring this all up. I bring it up because rather than lead in what love, marriage, and singleness looks like (let alone what good literature looks like) we in western Christian culture have adopted what the world says and then arranged our theology and practices to accommodate it. The impact of this runs much deeper than we realize and impacts not only Christians but everyone else.
We have made romance the thing. We don’t say that directly of course. We’re more “holy” than that. Instead we couch it in what I call Reformed Romance. This is where we sort of combine secular romance and shaky Calvinism.
Today I want to talk about the second of the three groups of people that Jesus talks about in Matthew 19 who are unable to marry. You can see the general overview from the initial post here. But as a quick refresher, Jesus said that there were three ways that a person could end up a eunuch (unable to marry). The first was that they were born that way (physically or mentally unable to marry). The second was those that were made that way by man (which I am suggesting can include those that end up there because of the fall of man). The third, which we will discussed in the previous post, are those that choose celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom.
Today I want to focus on the second group, those that because of the fall of man, because of sin, end up celibate.
One of the things we are taught in Christian culture or at least the evangelical/protestant version of it, is that in every area of life we should ask what does the bible say about it? In other words if I have a question in a certain context, I can look to the bible to find the answer to that question. This is because not only is the bible inspired, inerrant, and authoritative, it is also sufficient.
This is supposed to work on all moral issues obviously, but the idea here is that it also works for everything else. The bible is the “road map” that we are to follow. It is God’s instruction to us. In it is everything we need. Some will go so far to say that not only is a way to hear God’s voice, but it is the only way.
Now this works pretty well on a lot of moral issues. It can even work when you think about how we as people are supposed to treat each other. However, we can sort of start to run into some problems in certain contexts of life.
A few posts ago I wrote about that the fact that holiness is not THE point of marriage. Without rehashing all of that here, the main points were:
We often act as if there is not joy in marriage and that happiness isn’t even part of it, which is super counter productive to our culture at this time.
We’ve sort of created a context in which marriage is the answer to our supposed uncontrollable desire for sex. In other words we all desire sex, can’t control that desire, and therefore the only “holy” answer to that is marriage. This is theologically bad and practically creates all kinds of conundrums in our current culture.
But this raises many other questions not least of which is: what then makes you holy? Or maybe in this context a more exact question would be, when it comes to sexual desire, what is the path to holiness?
Carrie Underwood accidentally stirred the the twitter pot recently when in an interview with Redbook she said that at 35 she may have missed her chance to have a big family. This was of course one answer to one question in the interview but people jumped on it.
Now Carrie wasn’t trying to say that no one over 35 can have a kid. She also went on to say that they have talked about adoption and they do a lot to help kids which she enjoys. But that wasn’t good enough for many who insist that there are no limits to fertility.
I bring this up because I think we need to be honest about where our culture is at. Especially as we navigate singleness, marriage and children.
One of the recent trends in that I see in much of Christian culture is the idea that marriage makes you holy or that the point of marriage is holiness. In fact, as you look back over the last few decades (if not centuries in Protestantism), you see some groups state that it is the path to holiness.
Some of this was a reaction to celibacy for the kingdom previously being seen as more holy than the domestic life. But I see this idea of marriage as the path to holiness all of the time and frankly it’s not helpful as it views the whole frame in the wrong way.
Here are a couple of ways that this plays out in our culture:
One of the things I used to hear all the time when I was a in my twenties and single was the idea that I needed to be “content” with my singleness.
Now there were at least two origins that this thought came from. Some were espousing this advice because, “it’s when you’re not looking that you find someone”. In other words if you were content and not striving to get married, you would be more likely to find someone to marry. Just typing that makes me laugh.