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.
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.
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.
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.
A few months ago I wrote a post about the idea that if you desire marriage and don’t feel called to Celibacy for the Kingdom that you don’t need to be content with your singleness.
In that previous post I shared where I think this idea comes from: 1. People thinking that if you aren’t looking for someone that’s when you find the one (spiritual platitude reasoning) and 2. Well meaning people who are misinterpreting what Paul says in Philippians 4.
I suggested that Paul never tells anyone to be content with their current status, but instead calls them to be content in Jesus regardless of their status. Paul is speaking against anxiousness, desperation and striving; not for laziness, feigning feelings or lack of growth in life.
The overall point was that it’s ok not to be content with where you life is.
But today, what I want to talk about is the other part. If we are discontent with where we are, perhaps single and wanting marriage, how do we be content in Jesus. How do we not be anxious, desperate and striving. How do we find joy and peace that surpasses understanding when we don’t like our current status or context.