One of the problems in our culture when it comes to singleness is that the word single is too broad. It means far too many things. As I’ve stated before here, this is especially a problem in Christian culture because there are varying scriptural instructions for different groups of unmarried people. There are at least the following biblical examples of marital status: The married, the divorced, the widowed, those not yet married, those celibate by birth, those celibate because of the fall of man and those who are called and choose Celibacy for the Kingdom. Needless to say, all of these are different.
But in our culture we have added a group that amazingly I’ve never directly addressed here at the blog. That is those couples that live in cohabitation.
When I was in high school and college, one of the things that I battled with constantly was the idea that I wasn’t “good enough”. I battled this in almost every area of my life. I saw myself as decent, but not great at pretty much everything. The things that I did care about (sports for example) I worked my tail off to become great. But I never saw myself as arriving at greatness.
Nowhere was this more true than with the opposite sex. I was constantly in the friend zone with the girls that I liked. I thought I was physically not attractive enough. Later I thought I wasn’t making enough money. The list goes on. One of my go to thoughts was, “I’m just not good enough.”
In my last few posts I’ve been talking about how we publicly shame men, even the good ones, from the pulpit and on the internet. Note that I’m talking here about how Christian men shame other men. This doesn’t include all the other people doing it.
Before I say any more, I want to say that I’m not bringing all this up to play some sort of men are the victim card. I’m mainly bringing it up because it’s not effective in any way. Frankly its part of the reason guys don’t go to church. (There are other reasons, but that’s for a different day).
Today I want to venture deeper into the other side of this whole deal. How does the way that Christian men call out good men impact Christian women. While I’ll touch on some ways it affects marriages, my main focus will be for the unmarried.
I’ve shared a lot of things on here about what I’ve seen done wrong in how we talk to/about men – single and married. Let me share about one of the best events I’ve ever been to and why it stood out.
A group held a special event a couple of years ago in a community near me. They hosted a “Father’s Night”. They invited the people from the community to come to the school auditorium to honor some fathers from the community. They first had three very different speakers talk about fatherhood and what it means. Then, get this, they actually honored some fathers with fatherhood awards.
The other day I saw a post on social media as a message to married men. This message was in line with most Christian messaging to men that I’ve seen over and over. The basic message of most of these types of posts are:
You will know how well you are loving your wife by how she feels (does she feel loved, supported, empowered etc)
You are to be a servant leader not a manipulator or ruler. In other words you’re not in charge.
Be willing to be wrong even if you’re not really wrong. Her truth is the best truth.
Selective reading of Ephesians 5 focusing on how you should love your wife (which is correct however that’s not all that Ephesians 5 says).
I have spent a lot of time here railing against what I have called the Church’s Nuclear Family Idol. What I’m realizing is that there are a lot of people in certain corners of the church that are railing against that idol but in a different way. Therefore I feel the need to clarify two things – 1. What I’m speaking against and what I’m not and 2. What is the rightful place of the nuclear family in the church.
In my last post we discussed the utter fiction of what I’m calling Reformed Romance. The idea and mindset where we take the secular culture’s idea of romance and chivalry and combine it with Calvinism.**
Today I want to talk about some of the price we are paying for this. I can’t cover it all in detail as that would be more of a book than a blog post. But there is a cost to getting all of this wrong, not only for those of us in the western Christian culture but also for the rest of world that we live in.
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?
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:
Many years ago when I was driving through Colorado Springs I saw a bumper sticker directed at Focus on the Family that said, “Focus On Your Own Family”. I thought it was sort of funny but I didn’t really give it a lot of thought. But the phrase sort of stayed with me. Whenever I’d see something from Focus I’d think about that sticker and smile.
But in thinking about it, this might actually be a good idea. Now to be clear, before I start, I like a lot of what Focus the organization does.* I’m not picking on them here. However, the Church’s focus on the nuclear family is a huge problem with far, far reaching implications.