A few weeks ago, a reader asked me if I would write a post about anger at the Church and what to do with that so I thought I’d take a stab at it.
Let’s do two things by way of prologue.
Bitterness Is An Enemy and Not From God
I’ve written before about how as a single we can easily fall into the trap of bitterness. There are a lot of mad singles. I’ve been there. Believe me. There is an anguish. There can be a sense of entitlement. There is a sense of loss and we react to it. I’ve written before that we can be mad at God, mad at women, mad at other guys, and mad at ourselves. All of these are important things to consider and deal with. I believe that we are mostly mad at God. Really all of us at one time or another feel this. We can also be mad at The(a) Church which brings us to:
The Church in general and in particular within protestantism, has really messed this up.
I mean it’s not good. Where to begin? The don’t get it. And maybe worse, they don’t like it. We don’t honor or even teach about celibacy. We often don’t let singles into leadership. The church is in a defensive position on marriage, and is actually often unwittingly helping to hurt marriage in the process. The Church as a whole has created an idol out of marriage and family.
Rarely does a church address the singles in it’s midst (let alone the outside of it) and when it does, mostly what it does is tell us is what not to do, wait for the one, and then your questions of sexual prowess will magically be answered. Of course as a guy the church has told us it’s all our fault, and therefore we are all (men and women) set up to fail.
So basically most of the church’s answer to singleness is to offer spiritual platitudes, worry more that we might marry wrong that if we would marry at all, and never address any of the things that we go through – including have to walk into their doors all by ourselves. And that is just a brief warm up. So yeah, there is a lot to be mad about.
What Do We Do With It?
The real question isn’t are single people generally frustrated with the church. It’s not even should they be, because frankly they probably should be. The real question (and the one that the reader was wanting to know) is what do we do with it.
I think there are three choices really.
- Say screw the church and leave – if I get married think about coming back
- Go to church at least at some level, but not engage the battle. Maybe find a church that at least isn’t anti-single.
- Engage the church, forgive our leaders, earn the right to be heard, and then fight for what we know is right.
We all know option one is wrong, but it is an option. The problem here is that it hurts the church, and that really shouldn’t be our goal. Taking ourselves out of the equation won’t change the equation in our favor (or anyone else’s).
Option two is where a lot of people I know (and myself for a long time) seem to be at. It’s kind of a surrender really – this is just the way it is. That is easier in a lot of ways and I guess at least you are there.
But option three is where I think we need to be. So how do we do that? We need to do three things.
- Do our best to understand why it’s the way it is, and trust that most of it is not personal.
- Earn the right to have a voice.
- Exercise our voice in a way that can be heard.
Today, I want to tackle the first one and tomorrow I’ll write about the other two.
I’ve written a lot about this part before, but let’s sum up some thoughts that can help. We need to understand that the leaders of the church (most of the time) have the right heart, even if the wrong solutions. There are so many factors in play. Many in the church are looking around and watching the family fall apart. They see it and want to help. This is where all the family focus and effort comes into play. It’s why there are hundreds of Christian books on marriage and family. They are trying to rescue the family, which isn’t all bad. To their credit, I think these resources have helped a lot of families make it. That’s a good thing.
They also don’t want to see us hurt ourselves or others, which is why they constantly are worried about sex outside of marriage and all that goes with that. As I told an audience of singles at our church, the surest ways to get the pastor to stop talking about not having sex, would be if all of our singles would . . . stop having sex.
And finally as I’ve written about before, on a practical level most pastors and church leaders have never been single. They really don’t get it. It doesn’t mean they don’t care. They just literally don’t understand.
What knowing these things can do, if we can get past the bitterness, is allow us to forgive people for getting this wrong. I think we have to start there, because otherwise it’s just about us and that’s not enough. This whole thing is way bigger than just our own personal situation. It’s a real problem in the Church and we have a chance to help. More on that tomorrow.