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.
Several months ago I had the opportunity to hang out with a group of men that included a Catholic priest. I could tell right away that this guy was just on fire for Jesus and we had a wide ranging conversation. This man was significantly older than me, had a great spirit about him and was in a role that really fit his sweet spot – ministering to college students.
But of course, as I write a blog about singleness, at one point I had to corner him at the end of the table and talk about celibacy and ask a lot of questions about how he viewed that. How could I not right?
I have a confession. For a long time, I thought the way to fix things was simply fix the men. In fact I remember a meeting where another guy and I were planning a men’s retreat. We said basically that if we could just fix the men, then the rest would fall in line.
This is the general consensus of a lot of evangelical leaders today. I’ve talked about this ad nauseam here. I’ve talked about blaming men, the man problem, the idea that if only men would ask women out, and on and on.
While I think that there are a few people waking up to this complete over simplification of the problems in our culture, it’s still rampant.
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.
In our culture we are constantly talking about how we identify. Not only that, but we know that whatever our answer is to that question, we will be judged by it. It has of course to do with who we are, what we do, or even what we believe. We are republican, democrat, conservative, liberal, American, black, white, male, female, gay, straight, feminist and on and on. In the Church identify ourselves and judge others as Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, fundamentalist, charismatic, Baptist, Calvinist, Lutheran and on and on. Heck in my town we identify people by their zip code, whether we live north or south of a street and what high school that someone went to. We can also identify ourselves and others by things that have happened to us, or that we’ve participated in or even what teams we root for.
Some of these are things that we are born into and others are things we choose or believe. But if we are in Christ none of these things are supposed to be our core identity. Meaning that they are not to be the first thing that defines us. This includes whether or not we are single or married.
Recently I attended a conference on healthy sexuality. It was very well done and the spirit of the event was super encouraging to say the least. Within the many different topics and conversations was of course the discussion of how a person who is attracted to the same sex should live out their life.
Now this wasn’t a conference where people were demanding that anyone live a certain way and it was all non-confrontational, but the general answer was that from a biblical perspective that person should not be engaged in a same sex sexual relationship. In other words they should live a celibate life.
In response to this, one person said, “So basically we are condemning them to a life of loneliness and isolation.” I’m quite sure that this person was far from the only one in the room thinking that way.