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.

First, the church is in constant reaction mode and almost never in leadership mode.  There are numerous reasons for this including insulating ourselves and living in fear of everyone else’s opinion.  We want everyone to like us – and come to our events.

Secondly, we come late to every fight.  Now in fairness – we almost always get there – just not usually first, or when the problem starts.  So bottom line, we react to what is going on around us too late, and then fight the battle that we should have fought earlier.

There are sooooooooo many examples of this in the last 50-60 years.  Marriage is one – I don’t remember the protests when no fault divorce was being ratified state by state across the country.  I don’t remember bakers not doing third weddings?  But now we want to take a stand on marriage.  Here’s one happening right now.  We are now in the last decade or two really figuring out that we ought to do poor urban ministry – heck we should even all move there.  But the next wave – it’s already coming – is called the rural poor.** I’m not seeing a bunch of hip young believers heading out there to “live among” the people.  That’s probably a little harsh.  But the point is valid.

What made me think of this is a recent sermon series from a church about family.  I’ve talked a ton here about the the churches nuclear family idol.  To this particular church’s credit while they did talk about the nuclear family, they started and clarified that the church is a family and we have many different family make ups.

But regardless it was their series description that got my attention and that I want to discuss today.  The first part of that read something like this: Our families are in crisis, marriages are crumbling, kids are hurting . . . .Rediscover how the family (read nuclear) can be transformational.

I’m not picking on this church today.  But this is a great example of the problem.

For starters, the idea that families are crumbling is only sort of true.  Actually most marriages aren’t in crisis.  The divorce rate is actually going down slightly for first time marriages.  Even better news is that the idea that divorce is rampant among practicing believers is not true at all.  The funny thing about this is that the church probably should take some credit here.  But instead of pointing to the success of their marriages, they are reacting to the sky that was falling 25 years ago.

The reality is that the boomers caused the divorce rate to skyrocket. They’re still doing it actually – now they are leading an all time rise in “gray divorce“.  But the new problem, the one going on right now, is not divorce – it’s lack of marriage.  It’s the fact that people aren’t getting married.  The new “family” problem is not “My parents got divorced”.  It’s literally that “My parents were never married”.

You see while people aren’t getting married (or divorced – as much) they are still having sex, living together, and having kids (sometimes alone on purpose – future post).  40% of the kids born in the U.S. today are born out of wedlock.  Don’t look for that number to drop.

Basically what we are doing is telling all the people who probably won’t get divorced, how not to get divorced.  I guess that’s good.  It’s for sure easier.

The problem we are facing now is different.  Why aren’t people getting married?  We have to be willing to actually look at the real answers to that.  Why aren’t they at church?  66% of the people that don’t go to church are unmarried.  We have to be willing to deal with the real reasons for that.

If we want to go make a difference in culture we have to figure out how to talk to single people.  We have to stop being the church for the family and start being the church that is a family. We need to stop looking to save the family and start trying to save the people.  If we do that, the family part will take care of itself.

 

** For free – Read that link and ask – where’s the church in this story?  We should be going there now.

 

Should You Fear Divorce?

Divorce has become a regular part of our culture.  Many of us come from divorced homes and there is a huge fear of getting married and then getting divorced.

This affects unmarried people in a variety of ways.  It raises all sorts of questions. Questions about what is a biblical divorce or when it is it ok to remarry or even date a divorced person (or as a divorced person, can I remarry etc.).  There are some clear and some unclear answers to many of these and I plan to actually get into some of that at a later time (I’ve avoided it for about as long as I can).  But today I want to help us deal with fear of divorce.

As Christians we want to make sure that we don’t end up in that situation which is good. We want to choose well in a spouse with the intent of never getting divorced.  But I think we have bought into some lies that cause us to be more afraid than we need to be.  We want to avoid divorce but we don’t need to allow fear of divorce to affect our ability to get married to begin with.

So let’s clear some things up.

Let’s talk about the statistic everyone knows that says that 50% of marriages end in divorce. That is big time scary.  That’s half.  But that statistic is not quite what it seems in several ways.

For starters, that is not a first marriage statistic.  According to the census, 41% of first marriages, 60% of second marriages and 73% of third marriages end in divorce.  The point here is that the real number of first marriages ending in divorce is less than half and falling. Granted part of that is because WAY less people are getting married.

People who wait to marry until after age 25 (which is almost everybody at this point) are less likely to get divorced.  Attending college makes you 13% less likely.  Basically if you live in the U.S., your parents are married, you have a college degree and you are 26, your chance of divorce is actually pretty slim.

Still scared?  Well then be an active follower of Jesus.  One of the completely false ideas is that Christians divorce at the same rate as everyone else.  I’ve always balked at this stat – even though it makes for a really dramatic sermon.  But when you dig behind the numbers you get a completely different idea.

This is why the word Christian can be such a mess.  Think about online dating for a second.  When you join a site like Match.com, you have to pick a religion.  A lot of people will pick “Christian Other” for example.  What does that even mean?  This is why when I was online dating I put Jesus in my profile, because I knew just saying Christian didn’t mean anything.

Here are some real numbers to encourage you.  An active Conservative Protestant has a 35% less chance of divorce.  An active Catholic has a 31% less chance.  (Interestingly a nominal Catholic has a 5% less chance while a nominal Protestant has a 20% higher rate of divorce than a non-relgious person).

Here are a couple of other random statistics to keep in mind that may mess with your head.

  • In the past, men cheated more than women.  But in recent years that has changed.  In one study 23% of men and 19% of women had “cheated”
  • Men might need to be more afraid than women.  Women file 2/3s of all divorces.  In some no fault divorce states that number rises to 70% and among college educated couples in those states women file 90% of the time.
  • If you think practice makes perfect, think again.  Living together can increase the chance of divorce by as much as 40%.  More sexual partners (especially for the woman) greatly increases the chance of divorce.

So what the heck does all of this mean? 

First and foremost fear of divorce should not drive us as Christians.  It’s not that it can’t happen to us or that we should take it lightly.  But we need to understand that the odds shift dramatically in our favor.

Secondly, and maybe more importantly, we have the chance to set ourselves up to not get divorced.  Now am I saying that you should only marry a person that comes from a two parent home, is over 25, has a college degree and has never slept with anyone?  No that’s not really what I’m saying.  What I’m saying is that we can do things ourselves and make choices that matter.

The person you control is you.  You choose who to marry (I have a blog coming on some of the important things to look for in that choice).  You also choose how you live your life both now and when you get married.  You have the choice once you are married to stay married.

Even if you’ve already messed up some of the above examples you can repent and change.  You are for sure not disqualified from having a great marriage because of any of that.  God’s grace is bigger than that.  But it would make sense if you are on any of those bad paths to do an about face if you want to end up in a Godly, stable marriage.

How afraid of divorce are you?  What is that based on?  Are you setting yourself up to be in a good situation?

Links to Stats from this post 

Overall divorce stats

“Christian” divorce stats

Women Divorce Stats

Cheating Study

Sexual partner divorce stats

You Will Spend Eternity Unmarried – But What About Now?

A few years ago I’d had sort of an interesting run where I’d been in a relationship that ended about a few months earlier.  I had been on some dates with various people and was sort of tired of it all.  But I was also doing a lot of random ministry and enjoying it.  I told a friend at that time that I was considering once again if maybe I should just stay single. I wasn’t mad about it (believe me I’d been there), I was just looking realistically at my situation and thinking it wasn’t all bad. The truth was that I had asked God about this several times.  What was cool about that time period is I was really ok hearing whatever from God.  If God wanted me to remain unmarried I was ok with that.

As an aside – one of the keys to hearing God is being willing to hear anything.  I need to be willing to hear yes and no.  That is what being surrendered to him means.  “God I will do what you want – whatever that is.”  When you are in that posture it makes it much easier to really see what He is calling you to.  I’m not suggesting that is easy, just saying it’s true.

But as I prayed it never felt like God was calling me to that.  It just never felt right to say I was called to celibacy and to remain unmarried – even when I wanted it to.

One of the great failures of the church is that we do basically no teaching on this calling.  In protestant culture we don’t really even offer it as an option.  I’m not sure why we are so afraid of it.  I’ve had pastors say from the pulpit essentially, “we don’t know anything about this, so we are going to skip it.”  I’ve mentioned before that at my church we have a position on every other angle – dating, marriage, divorce, remarriage, sexual ethics, homosexuality – but not celibacy or being unmarried.  And our church has at least 40% unmarried people.  Do you think it’s possible that someone in there might need that teaching?

Part of it is that we have made marriage/family an idol in the church.  But I think part of it is that now for generations no one has taught on it, so people are just lost.

Let’s be clear about a couple of things.

You are created and born unmarried.  Even Adam and Eve were created unmarried. There is no soulmate.  Your number one relationship regardless of marital status is with Jesus.  At the resurrection, regardless of what happened in your life here, you will be unmarried.  You will spend eternity unmarried.

The question is what are you called to here and now?  I know it’s really only one scripture but I think Jesus actually lays it out pretty well in Matthew 19.

The pharisees have tried to trap Jesus with a question about divorce.  Jesus answers that by raising the bar to the point where basically divorce is almost always wrong. A person can’t just get divorced.  The disciples freak out and say essentially, “that’s too hard”.

Jesus then says that the gift of marriage isn’t for everyone. It’s at this point that Jesus offers some thoughts on celibacy.  Most translations use the term eunuchs but I think it applies. (for a couple of interesting versions, check out The Message and the JB Phillips)

Jesus basically says that there are three groups of people that are called to celibacy (notice they are not called to dating forever, sleeping around etc.).

There are first of all those who are born that way.  They are born with the “gift” so to speak. Maybe it’s physical.  Maybe they for whatever reason have just never really felt the drive for marriage, maybe even for sex.  In other words there are those who have been created to live a life unmarried.

Secondly there are those who have been made that way by men.  These might be people who have never been asked to be married or have been rejected.  Maybe they’ve been physically injured or have a mental illness.

You see here’s the deal, we live in a fallen world.  I know that hurts.  But there will be some people who don’t have the gift or the calling to remain unmarried who nonetheless, because of sin, woundedness (their own, others’, the world’s) don’t get married.  There are earthly consequences to sin – both our own and others.  This is one reason we need to punt the family idol.  You could do a lot right and still not have one.  We Have To Get This.

Finally there are those who have chosen celibacy for the kingdom.  We have choice.  If we get married, we choose that.  Both marriage and celibacy are a gift and a choice.  Jesus is saying that some choose to dedicate themselves to a work that means not being married. They choose it.

One of the big problems is that we have lumped all unmarried people into one category – single.  But in the scripture there are the not married yet, the married, the divorced, the widowed and then these three – those who are unmarried because they were born with a different gift, those that are unmarried because of a fallen world, and those that are unmarried because they choose to forgo that gift and follow a different calling.

The question is of course where are you on this list.  Are you willing to hear that answer? Are we willing to walk with people to help them figure it out?

I’m not pretending to be exactly right about all of this.  But I do know we HAVE to have the conversation.

Men And The C Word

One of the things that people would sometimes “challenge” me in as I entered my mid thirties as an unmarried person was the idea of commitment.  In other words they would say things like, “Do you think you are afraid of commitment?” or “Marriage is about commitment, you know?”, or, “our friend Justin has some commitment issues when it comes to women”.  Ah the C word.

Now I get it and it’s probably fair to ask this question if you don’t know me.  But I always had a problem with it because in general it didn’t wash with me.  First off, I’m a pretty committed person in general.  I’ve always been committed to my work, friends, projects, the game I’m playing that day.  No one would look at my life and say, “Justin usually bails on stuff.”

It seems to get tossed out a lot in our culture (both secular and Christian) that men in general are fearful of or unable to commit to women and marriage. I kind of disagree, in general.

There a lot of factors at play here, so let’s take a look.

First of all, I would agree that we live in a world in which people are often less “committed” to things.  This is mainly because we have more choice than ever before. Most people don’t stay with the same company they started out with.  We have more freedom to move and travel.  We have a zillion channels and now the internet.  Heck, people change churches and friend groups at least every four or five years.  So yeah, people are less committed in general.

We also have more choices in dating.  As my father once said, “Back 100 years ago when a pretty girl came to town, you married that girl, because she might be the only one you ever met.”  In other words there wasn’t the comparison game that we all play now.  There weren’t pictures of models everywhere.  There weren’t thousands of romance novels and Lifetime specials.  Women had even less options. You can feel that this is good or bad, but it is for sure true.

The second factor is that we have separated sex from marriage.  So if you don’t need commitment in order to have your sexual desire met, then why have commitment. When you start separating sex (let alone living together, child rearing, etc) from the context of marriage, then you automatically take away from marriage – both for the single and the married (more on this soon).

Neither of those factors have to do with fear of commitment.  They have to do with the choice to not be committed.

Now fear of marriage and divorce are real factors that create fear of commitment.  That’s no doubt a big factor.

But to be honest, I think the whole fear of commitment thing is a bit overblown and frankly it gets used against single men way to often.  I don’t believe that men are any more or less likely to be committed than women.  A lot of this comes from the false notion that women are morally superior to men which is a whole other conversation.

But let’s back this whole thing up one more step.

First you have to actually have someone available that you want to commit to. For much of my single years I didn’t have that.  As I’ve admitted several different times here, much of that was my fault.  I went a long time not working on becoming the man I needed to be in this area.  I had no idea about how female attraction worked.  I did a lot wrong.  No doubt.  But along with that, when you are a Christian trying to follow Jesus you are working with a small target – that is women you are attracted to that also want to follow Jesus.

This is a gigantic factor.  It’s a bigger factor in singleness than fear of commitment.  Finding someone to be committed to can be a big problem.  Knowing how to go get that person is also a problem.  We should spend more time here and less time beating people over the head with commitment.

Which brings me to the final couple of points I want to make about commitment.

Assuming that I am committed to Jesus, and I’m not called to celibacy, I need to be committed to the idea, and pursuit of marriage.  That does NOT mean marry anyone.  It doesn’t even mean that you have to know if you can marry someone before you ask them out.  But it means having the end in mind.  It means not dating the person that I know I won’t marry just because it’s comfortable or easy, not doing things that will hurt your marriage opportunities, and learning how to interact well with the opposite sex so you have a chance if you do meet someone you might want to marry.

It also means that I need to move away from looking for someone that meets all my needs, start looking for someone that I am willing to be committed to and who I believe would be committed to me.  More on that soon.

Are you a committed person?  Are you stuck in consumer dating?  What are you committed to when it comes to dating and marriage?

The Marriage Is Hard Movement

The other day over lunch a young friend said, “I think it’s the trendy thing in the Christian world to make sure that everyone knows that marriage is hard.”  Haha – Amen.  For sure in the hipster Christian world it is.  In fact it’s so trendy that if your marriage isn’t “hard” then you aren’t cool, must not get it, and are probably heading for disaster.  Man we have over thought this thing.

To begin with it seems sort of counter productive to keep telling this to a group of people (those aged 18-29) that aren’t getting married.  Only 20% of them are married.  So if the goal is to warn people – well then – good job!  Seems to be working.  No one is rushing into marriage.  In fact they are rushing away from it.

As the divorce rate rose in the late 20th century, the Church rightly reacted to re-estabish marriage as a covenant and not just a contract.  They wanted people to make sure they knew it was permanent and that even when it’s hard you hang in there – because less and less people were.  All good so far.

But I believe as an unintended consequence we’ve now got a Christian culture that has made an agreement with the enemy by accident.  They’ve made marriage out to be harder than singleness.  The words Marriage and Hard are now interchangeable in Christian culture.

It doesn’t help that a lot of this generation’s pastors bringing this message are generally kind of joyless to begin with. (For free – one thing the New-Calvinists and Emergent Church leaders have in common – They’re both mad).  These people want to make sure that everyone gets the seriousness of marriage, which is great.  But if we let that steal the joy of marriage then both the married and unmarried are screwed.

On top of this our generation whines a lot.  I’m a part of it.  Think about it.  My job is hard, my school is hard, singleness is hard, times are hard.  Everything seems to be hard and everyone wants to make sure you know that they are suffering just as much as you. Hardness is a badge of honor.  Joy isn’t even on the radar.  I’m dead serious.  There’s a spirit of complaining that is rampant in our world. Can you picture your grandparents sitting around talking about how hard any of those things are?

We spend more time complaining than doing something about it.  How many men’s “accountability” groups are really “share your problems” groups.  “Yeah Bro, that’s tough.” is about as much help as we offer each other.  We’re all about empathy and understanding, which are important.  But at some point, it’s time to actually deal with your stuff, not just have a great premium beer while talking about it.

Marriage is hard because dealing with our sin and woundedness is hard – and marriage forces the issue more than any other relationship.  But marriage isn’t the problem.  We are.  We don’t need to be afraid of marriage – we need to deal with our crap.

Over the years I’ve walked with a lot of people in tough marital situations.  What usually happens is this.  I listen to a guy for about half an hour pour out all that is wrong with his wife.  Then I ask a couple of questions.  And the next thing you know I’m saying something to the effect of, “This is really about you.  You need to deal with . . . ”

Now sometimes a guy has been sinned against or his wife is really going through something horrible and I’m not negating that type of thing.  But about 90% of the time when a guy says to me that marriage is hard what he really means is, “I don’t want to –  face this wound, deal with this sin, make this change or grow up in this way.”

The truth is that in the long run, marriage is not “harder” than singleness.  All research I’ve ever seen (almost all secular) says that married people are happier, have more and better sex, make more money, live longer and impact society more.  It’s a societal foundation. That’s not to say that being single is “wrong”.  Some are called to celibacy and some are single for other reasons.  My point is that a whole lot of this trendy “marriage is hard” stuff is more about sounding deep than actually dealing with deep stuff.

Maybe most importantly, we need to realize that hard and bad are not synonyms – even if our comfort culture tells us they are.  In the kingdom, hardness and joy are not opposites.  That fact is part of our witness.  But we lose our witness if we leave out the joy part.  Read that again.

As singles looking to be married we need to walk a line here.  We need to realize that marriage is not sex and romance on demand and it certainly won’t solve all of our problems. But we need to not give into the lie that it’s so hard that we probably can’t do it.  Don’t resign to it being bad.  It also would be good to start dealing with our sin and woundedness now.

I’d encourage married folks to think about what you mean when you say it’s hard.  What’s the point you’re really making?  Why are you making it?  As a warning?  As an excuse? Are you dealing with what is specifically making it hard right now?

Is Marriage Under Attack?

There’s a lot of talk these days in the Christian community that marriage is under attack. The idea is that marriage is no longer seen as valuable or as a lifelong commitment.  I’ve heard it stated that young people don’t see it as important.

I can see how people come to this conclusion.  We are all well versed in the numbers. 50% of marriages end in divorce.  A third of first time marriages are over within 10 years. But, the divorce rate has actually dropped steadily for the last couple of decades. (That doesn’t make it good, but it’s not going up).  (This is also in spite of the fact that no fault divorce has been legal in 48 states since 1983).

But one of the biggest reasons the divorce rate is going down is that people aren’t getting married to begin with.  Only 51% of all people in the U.S. are married at all.  Only 20% of those aged 18-29 have ever been married.  That number is down from 60% 40 years ago. Catch that number again – 80% of adults 30 and under have never been married.

But here’s the part that should have everyone freaking out.  A lot of singles seem to not care about getting married.  They seem to be saying do whatever you want.  We haven’t quit having sex or even living with other people and having kids.  This is where the numbers are just astounding.  41% of women aged 15-44 have cohabited.  The number of cohabiting unmarried partners increased 88% from 1990 to 2007.  Most startling of all, since the late 1980’s more women in the U.S. give birth to their first child out of wedlock than as a married person.  Read that last line again!

So everyone is dong what every generation has done. . . except get married.

That is not Biblical singleness.  Let me assure you that when the Bible talks about singleness it is not talking about living with someone and having a kid or two.

But here is where I think we are missing it. I’ve met literally thousands of people currently age 15-35.  I don’t actually think young singles are devaluing marriage.  In fact, a recent survey found that 84% of women and 82% of men said that marriage was somewhat or very important.  Only 5% said that it wasn’t important at all.

The problem is they have no idea how to do singleness and most don’t know how to get married. Many are scared crapless of marriage or better stated they are scared of divorce and bad marriages.  People like the idea of marriage, they just don’t know how to do it.

Marriage is under attack but not in the way we think.  The problem isn’t that people don’t want it.

I think we need a new strategy.  We need to quit defending marriage, and start helping people figure out how to get married.  This is going to take a lot more than slogans and rhetoric.  We are going to have to get messy.  We are going to have to actually go after these people.

First we have to help define what marriage really is.  We need a right theology and practice of marriage.  This is one thing that the Church is doing very, very well.  There has been a huge movement in the last 20 years to talk about marriage in a new way with an emphasis on covenant and commitment.  We have gotten much more real about how hard that can be.  We’ve become more practical and real in our sermons and books.  We’ve stepped up Christian marriage counseling.  I’ve been hard on the Church here and there so I want to give due credit here.  The Church truly is fighting for the married.  Not perfectly of course but they have changed.

But we also have to figure out how to help the unmarried.  We have to step into the mess, not just send out conflicting and confusing spiritual platitudes.  Instead of trying to convince people that marriage is right, we have to help them become right for marriage.  We have to help them face fear, be it fear of commitment, fear of failing, fear of rejection, fear of divorce, fear of choosing wrong, fear of being let down, fear of how hard it is, or fear that they’ve already disqualified themselves.

That requires reaching out to them.  Want to change the culture?  Change how we do singleness.  Want to help people not have sex outside of marriage?  Want to deal with homosexuality, abortion and porn in a new way, and help young single people navigate this stuff?  Then help these young single people understand the theology of celibacy and marriage.  Help them pursue one or the other. Don’t just call out their sin, help them face their fear, hurt, and wounds. We need some sermons and books on this.  We need Christian singles counseling – dead serious.

Right now, over all, we are not winning.  But it isn’t because young singles don’t want to be married.  We are helping married people stay married.  It’s time to help single people get married.

How The Church Is Helping Kill Marriage

When I was right out of college I attended a conference with several people I looked up to and their spouses.  They did an incredible job of including me which was a real blessing as we went to meetings and theme parks.  One vivid memory was hanging out with a couple of the guys in the hot tub at the resort when all of a sudden one guy said, “Hey Justin, sorry bro, but I’m gonna go have some sex with my wife.”  To which I said, “No apology needed, go now!”  We both laughed.

It was one of my first times being around a bunch of married Christian people and it was inspiring.  We joked with the guys about how every one of them had married up (which was for sure true!).  I saw how they were a team and yet each couple was completely different in how that looked day to day.  It was awesome.  And it made me want to be married.

We need more of this, and a lot less of what the Church has fallen into over the last 20 years.

God bless the Christian culture in this country but man we tend to overreact.  We have been reacting to decline of the family for some time now.  But in a attempt to save marriage, we are actually often adding to it’s demise.

We somehow believe that if we can make every marriage a good one from the beginning, then all will be well.  But, in a culture that is already hesitant to get married, we have often made them more hesitant.

For starters we have attempted to kill the marriage idol. This is the idea that if I get married then everything will be ok.  It is centered on romance and getting my needs met.  It puts unrealistic expectations on the marriage.  So we tell people how marriage is not about romance.  We spend an inordinate amount of time from the pulpit and in books talking about how hard marriage is.

While this is true, it needs to be balanced out. Where’s the joy?  Where’s the fun?  What if pastors stood up in the pulpit and said, “Sex with my wife is awesome!”  If the Church is so concerned that everyone get married, we should quit accidentally talking everyone out of it.

The second thing we’ve done is create an impossible standard for getting married.  We lift up Ephesians 5 and of course the Proverbs 31 woman. Holy smokes!  Who lives this out perfectly?  Can you even be an Ephesians 5 guy if you aren’t married?  We basically have said, “Whatever you do, don’t settle.  You’re looking for a strong, spiritual person, equally yoked to you, who has it all together and is a perfect grown up.  Don’t settle!”

Along with this is the idea that it used to be easier to find this.  Really?!  COME ON!  Let’s talk about Biblical marriage.  You married who your parents picked for you – if you were lucky.  You had to stay in your caste.  They didn’t typically do a spiritual maturity test first. What a joke.  Have these people read the Bible?

In the “religious right” church there is even this idea that somehow there is a previous magical time where everyone in America was a Jesus follower.  Although I’m not quite sure, I think this is the supposed to be the 1950’s.  Just because everyone went to church and didn’t get divorced doesn’t make it “right”.  The revisionist history needs to end.

Finally, we have completely over spiritualized the entire thing.  If I’m single it means that I just need to be patient and do right because God has a plan.  He will “bring me someone when the time is right.”  Keep praying.  Keep waiting on God.  This sort of “help you sleep at night theology” is killing us.  It makes God the “Great Withholder” and leaves us waiting for our Christian Soulmate that isn’t coming.

Now obviously I’m not suggesting we soft sell marriage or tell people to just go out and marry whoever.  But if we are going to help the next generation we need to stop trying to scare people away from the wrong marriage.  They are already terrified.  They already know marriage is hard – they need to know it is good.  They need to know about the joy of true oneness, the benefits of being in it with someone.  They need to be told about the intimacy available with being with one person for a lifetime more than they need to know about the cost of a one night stand.  They need to be invited to something more awesome. They need to know that they need to pursue it, not just wait on it.

Most of all, they need to see it because most of them haven’t.  We need to give them hope of what it can be, not just tell them what it isn’t.