The Three Eunuchs

One of the things we have to do is our Christian culture and language is rescue the idea of Celibacy.  I’ve tried to write quite a bit about this in the past but I realize that we need to talk about it even more.  The good news is that more people are talking about it.  The bad news is that a lot of us don’t realize what we are talking about including most of our “leaders”.  We are going to need a more full theological and biblical understanding if we are going to lead in this conversation.

Most people tend to start in 1 Corinthians 7 where Paul talks about marriage, celibacy and the gifts.  But I believe a better place to start is Matthew 19 where Jesus discusses the three eunuchs.

Continue reading

The Church Is Fighting Yesterdays Battle

Right now there is a lot of reporting out there about the American Evangelical culture and it’s impending doom.  While I think that reports of it’s death have been greatly exaggerated, it should lead to a lot of reflection in all sorts of contexts.

As I watch it unfold and watch the church interact with the culture in several ways and in many different contexts I see a couple of things that we have to get past.  These things play out in all sorts of different ways, but of particular interest here in the space, is in relation to singleness.

Here are two major problems (not that there aren’t more – as well as many good things) that I see over and over again in different cultural exchanges.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

A “Big” Christian Singles Problem We’re Ignoring

In the late 1960’s 60% of those 19-29 were married.  That number now is only 20%. That’s a whole different ballgame.  Half of America is unmarried.

There are a whole lot of reasons for this.  We’ve talked about it many times here in one way or another.  Lack of ability to interact with the opposite sex, fulfilling sexual desire outside of marriage, creating false spiritual platitudes, and over spiritualizing the whole thing, just to name a few.

But there is one thing that I haven’t talked about here.  And this is going to probably make some people uncomfortable and possibly even mad.  But to not talk about it at all, seems to me to be a cop out and if you read here at all, you know I’m not usually willing to do that.  So here goes.

I think one of the unnamed reasons we have less marriage comes from one of the sins and addictions that we don’t like to talk about in the Church.  That is our bad relationship with food and the sin of gluttony.

Continue reading

Is He Gay?

About 20 years ago on a random cold night I was hanging out with my brother and sister. We had planned to go to a movie but got snowed out. So we settled for a snack at a nearby McDonald’s and as so often happens when you actually stop and share a meal, a real conversation broke out.

My sister was dating a guy and it was heading to marriage.  As we were talking somehow my sister brought up that they were not going to kiss until they got married.  My brother and I both must have had some sort of astounded look on our faces as she quickly said, “It was his call actually.”  My brother and I both looked at her and one of us jokingly said, “Is he gay?”

Now it’s not my intention today to get into homosexuality per se.  Not because I’m afraid of that conversation (in fact I have a lot of thoughts about that), but because that isn’t the point of this post.  Neither is my point really about the decision my brother-in-law made. I’ve talked about kissing before, but almost oddly I’ve never really done a post on “how far is too far” in the two years I’ve been writing here.  I have a post on fleeing sexual immorality coming soon.

What I want to talk about today though is how we think of single men who are living virtuously.

Our current culture obviously thinks everyone should sleep with anyone.  But our evangelical culture is different, they think everyone is sleeping with anyone and even they find it weird when they aren’t.  The funny thing is, the Church’s answer to singleness is “Don’t Have Sex” but when someone doesn’t, it shocks even them.

We have a totally warped view of Christian men.  It starts with the assumption that we are all (all men including Christians) driven primarily by lust.  In a sense the message is that the truest thing about us is that we, if not held in check, will have sex.

But when a man, actually lives a virtuous life then he’s sort of weird.  And if he does it into his 30’s then he is really different.  Between what our culture says, and how we handle it as evangelicals, it’s no wonder that eventually men become what we tell them they are.

The older you get as a man, if you stay a virgin, the more you are viewed as, well, different.

This plays out in a lot of different ways.

Take for example a man who may be called to celibacy.  Since we have no teaching on celibacy and what it is, (and I mean absolutely none as in nada, as in I’ve never in 23 years of church heard one sermon, attended one seminar, men’s retreat, heard a podcast, or read one book), we view those called to it as “different”.  We think for example that a man called to celibacy is someone who, because he has “the gift”, doesn’t struggle with wanting to be with women.  And wait. . . you know who else doesn’t struggle with that . . . men who are attracted to men. . . hmmmm.

The reality is that men, especially early on in their call to celibacy, might very well be very attracted to women.  It’s just not their call to get married.  But we have no reference point for that.  Because we don’t, we don’t know how to encourage them, and we certainly don’t know how to help a man determine if he is called to it.

Now a lot of this can be in our own heads, but it’s not only there.  I’ve led a ministry that reaches out to high school kids for almost 20 years.  When I was younger and single I never thought about it.  But as I reached my early thirties, it creeped into my head, “I wonder what people think when I as a single 33 year old talk to a group of high school girls, or for that matter guys?”  In our environment I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who thought it.

The problem is that when we see a thirty plus year old single guy, we want to put them into a neat little category.  Here are a few

First we assume sin

  • He is a player who won’t settle down.
  • He is struggling with secret sin – porn, habitual masturbation and the like

If he is virtuous in actions then

  • He is really nice guy who doesn’t have what it takes with women
  • He is too focussed on work/ministry.
  • He lives with his parents and or plays video games all night
  • He is attracted to men

Now any of those could of course be true.  But should we really assume any of them? Should our only answers to singles be based on that assumption?

I want to say a lot more about this in the coming days.  But we need to change two major assumptions.

  1. Just because a person is celibate does not mean they are not “attracted” to women and
  2. Men are not inherently controlled by lust

If we don’t change these two, at the end of the day we are actually pushing single men towards them.

So church let me ask you this.  When you see a 35 year old single, never married man, what first comes into your head?

The Danger Of Church Dating

One of the things that people used to ask me all the time about my “search” for a wife was something to the effect of, “Have you tried at Church?  I mean there are all sorts of women there.  Are you asking them out?”

What makes this an even better question in my case is that throughout my 30’s I attended a church of the hot chick.  In other words I attended a church in which there were lots of single people, many of whom were attractive.  In fact many people go there partly because of this.  I mean what better place to meet someone than a 2000 person church where singles are actually welcomed right?  Well sort of.

Here’s the thing about “Christian” dating – it’s never simple.  It’s a huge disadvantage really.

For starters, it can be hard to figure out the approach etiquette at church.  I mean the “talk to them in the lobby” thing has some value, but our lobby was small and the window to approach was short. But that is nothing compared to the mind games you have to play.

In the church as a guy, if you never approach anyone then you are obviously passive, and not a real Christian leader.  But if you approach too many people you are “that guy”.  And here’s the best part about that.  There are two “that guys”.  The one who approaches and gets shot down by everyone and the one who is successful in the approach but then decides he doesn’t want a second date (or third, or fourth, or doesn’t want to marry that girl).  In a hurry you become either the creeper or the player.  Welcome to dating in the church as a guy.

To top it off, you get to be called out by the pastor.  “Men just need to man up and initiate.” As someone in a class I was teaching a couple of weeks ago said, “You need to ‘man up’. But only once.” Truth!

Here’s the reality.  In our church culture, the church can be one of the least safe places to ask someone out.

Think about it.  If I go to a bar, for example, I approach a girl, she says no, I move on. There’s a good chance she won’t be there in a week.  Or I just go to a different bar if I want.  Grocery store, book store, mall, your waitress, and certainly online – all way safer. Less blowback and less expectations.  Heck the only thing more dangerous than church might be work. . . maybe.

There a lot of reasons for this.  I won’t even try to cover them all, but here are a few (I’ll have more to say about some of these later).

It starts with the general idea in evangelical culture that women are basically innocent and men are basically lustful or immature.  You don’t hear many sermons about it being time to woman up.  There is not space in this post to get into this but think about it for any length of time and you see it.

In church the expectation is marriage.  This isn’t all bad.  It should be the ultimate goal of dating.  But it shouldn’t be the goal of the first date.  If a guy approaches a woman, she shouldn’t have to answer if she wants to marry him, just if she wants coffee.  At the same time, for the love of all things, a few dates does not a marriage make.  No other context creates this type of pressure.

If it goes bad, you still have to go to church there.  In other words, I like my church.  If I ask someone out, she’ll still be there next week.  What if she says no?  What if she says yes? What if we kiss and then break up?  What if I then ask someone else out?  No matter what happens this is both people’s place of worship.

It only takes one scorn woman to mess with your reputation.  Choose wisely.

I know this much – I always hesitated to ask out anyone from church.

This needs to change.  Here are a few quick thoughts on how.

First off we need to get in our heads that both men and women are good and bad. Men need more than the three categories of creeper, player, and perfect.

Second men and women need to show each other this grace thing we all talk so much about.  I remember once I asked out this woman from church.  She said yes, and then changed her mind to no.  I was frustrated and we had a bit of a rough exchange. I then realized she was into someone else.  I walked up to her the next Sunday and simply said, “Hey, are we good?”  She said yes and you know what we were.  Revolutionary I know.

Third and maybe most important.  If the leaders of a church are going to tell men that they need to “man up”, then they better dang well have their back when they do.  The male leadership of the church need to be able to stand up to women, not just stand up for them.  I’ve been blessed to have seen this done well at my church several times.  It’s huge. There’s a time to call out both the creeper and the player, but there is also time to stand up for the guy and tell the woman to let it go.

What about you?  What would make the church a safer place to pursue women?  What is your church’s culture of dating?  Does it make you want to pursue or scare you off? How would you change it?

Are You Good In Bed?

Earlier this week I shared about three questions that all men wrestle with in some way.  “Are you good looking or not?” “What is the worst thing you’ve ever done?” and “Do you have a small or big penis?” All of us have answered these questions in our head, but almost no one has answered them out loud – at least not in any meaningful way.

And yet how we answer them affects many aspects of our lives, none more so than how we interact with women.  This is because all of these answers affect the core confidence we need that in order to pursue, attract, and eventually love a woman.

These questions have to do with three areas of our life – our self image, our shame, and our sexual prowess.  I’ve written a lot about our self image, and I wrote this week about our shame.  Today I want to talk about the third question.  So buckle up men.

The issue of having confidence sexually is gigantic in how we feel about ourselves as men and therefore how we interact with women.

First, let’s just admit that this is true.  Men are about performance.  This is why everywhere you turn you see sexual enhancement drugs, workouts, and techniques.  A man’s greatest fear is failure.  As Eldrege says, every man is asking, “Do I have what it takes?”  No where is this more true, or more scary and vulnerable, than sex.  Nowhere!

Every guy is asking the question do I have what it takes to be good sexually with a woman. In simple terms – “Am I Good In Bed?”  Every Guy.  Our answers are all jacked up.

Most of us began to have the question answered when we were very young.  There are so many factors.  Do you have a father that even broaches the subject?  What happens in the boys restroom in elementary school?  What are you comparing yourself to?  The guy next to you?  The guy who developed before you?  The guy in the porn video? (Average age a male sees internet porn for the first time is now 11).  It can also be affected by our view of sex, abuse, being emasculated by peers or parents or both.

Sometimes the answer is that we are “small” and that we don’t have what it takes.  Often we get no answer at all.  Almost never do we get a positive answer in the right way.

So we of course go and try to answer it.  We might dominate women or become extremely sexual to prove our prowess.  This is the guy who lives for sex and is always out to, “get some”.  We might seek to control the answer by fantasizing or looking at porn.  But this usually just brings about shame, and can undermine the question once again.

And in the Christian culture, for the most part, we are told to bury it, kill it, or starve it.  In fact, we are told basically, “Don’t look, don’t touch, don’t explore, but don’t worry you’ll magically know what to do when you get married.”  It’s like there is supposed to be a Christian switch when it comes to sexual prowess.  Don’t have any, and then man up and have it.  Really?!

It seems to me that most Christian guys end up in one of two camps.  Be a Christian but have sex anyway which leads to the obvious problems.  Or, we go without touch, without intimacy and therefore end up freaking out when we get to it. Sex becomes this taboo thing. We end up having fear and passivity around women, especially a woman we are really attracted to.  We don’t know what to do, partly because we aren’t sure we could do it – as in literally “do it”.

We live in a culture in which the average guy gets married at  28-29 years old.  What that means is that in the Church we are asking a guy to go about 15 years of his life (during the most crucial time when he is answering all of his life’s questions – including this one – for the first time) to not have sex.  My contention is this:  We can ask him to not have sex, but we CAN NOT ask him to not have an answer to this question.  Because he WILL answer it.

While this affects how we interact with women, its much bigger than that.  This answer affects how I do other things in my life.  It affects how I relate to other men, how I relate to my own body and self image and even how I interact at work and play.  This question matters.  I would submit that even if I’m called to celibacy in the kingdom, I’d still better have an answer to this question. It’s crucial no matter what.

In my next post I’m going to take a stab at what I think the Christian community can do to help guys answer it.  But before we can get help, we need to check what our answer is to the question right now.

Do you have what it takes to be good sexually with a woman?  Where does that answer come from? How have you tried to answer it?