Today I want to revisit the idea of the “gift” of singleness. I was reminded of how messed up our theology of singleness seems to be by this post at Relevant.
Now to be fair, the author says some good things so I want to point those out. He rightly says that the Church is too focused on marriage as the only path. He also rightly implies that the Church is terrible at dealing with single people. And he even goes so far as to say that not everyone will or even should get married. Amen!
However, the problem here is that he links the gift of singleness to all people that are not married. This idea is rampant and it’s bad. It’s terrible theology, and it leads to confusion. Now I’ve written about this a ton, but like I said, we need to keep revisiting this.
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.
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.
In my last post, we began a discussion based on Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 19. In that Scripture Jesus discusses three groups of people that are eunuchs (unable to marry). There are those that are born that way (either physically or mentally unable to marry), those that are made that way by men (which I’m suggesting includes those made that way by the fall of man) and those who choose of their own volition to remain celibate for the sake of the Kingdom of God. Today I want to focus on this last group.
Before we go any further it is important to realize how completely revolutionary this entire conversation would have sounded to the disciples who were listening.
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.
So there’s a new song out by Marshmallow and Anne-Marie (No I had not heard of them either) called Friends. It’s all over pop radio right now. The song and video encapsulate what we call the Friend zone. In fact it is often called the Friend Zone Anthem.
Now I’ve written extensively about the friend zone and avoiding it here at the blog for years. (Some posts are linked below). But I haven’t written on it in a while and I know that there are a lot of people, especially younger guys, who find themselves in these situations.