September 23, 2009

Marriage and the Single Christian

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , at 12:23 pm by Editorial Team

In our ever-increasing desire to grow the church in a culturally marketable fashion, once again we’ve created another avenue of segregation which is harmful to the body. Scripture reminds us that we are one body, where there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free.

And yet it is evident in the way we run our churches, we’ve bought into the myth of segregation as an appropriate method for church expansion. Black and white churches, age-level Bible classes, male and female classes. The larger the church, the higher likelihood of segregation.

The idea of segregation has often suggested the notion of inequality. Jews were the firstfruits of God’s salvation. Males were of a higher social status than females. Blacks were inferior to whites. And of course, none of this should be true in the church because of a God who breaks down those walls and unites people to a mission beyond those differences.

The issue of marriage is no exception. Most churches segregate people based on marital status. If you’re single, you’re relegated to the “singles ministry.” The singles ministry is truly a covert ministry to group all the youthful, single people of the church together in hopes that they will find one another and become like the rest of the church. Of course no one will make this assertion, but that’s the assumption. And of course, there is nothing for the single people above 30, who must often slink into oblivion for lack of finding a mate.

Our culture, and now our church, often sees single people as somehow deficient, as incomplete, as needing a spouse. There is little done to celebrate the single person, to recognize and accept them into the community for who they are. We don’t actively encourage or discuss the life of being single, except in relation to finding a mate. It is no wonder many single people are left with a feeling that finding a mate should be their top priority in life.

We do celebrate marriage, and we have classes, seminars, and all kinds of events for those who are married. But we don’t do any of that for single people – it’s probably better that we don’t, lest it succumb to the same flaws of the “singles ministry.” Don’t misinterpret: I agree that marriage presents a unique set of challenges (and crises), and due to high divorce rates, we clearly need to do something encourage and strengthen those who are married. But perhaps we’re not doing it the right way. Perhaps the single people should be included in these discussions about marriage to offer perspective and service. We too often assume that those who are on the outside have no perspective on the inside. Maybe single people should be consultants, adjudicators, as well.

I agree that there are occasionally times when married couples may need to get together to have their intimate discussions about marriage. However, like the split-sex devotionals of childhood, these marital cohorts are incredibly overused. One can go to marriage seminar after seminar and never resolve marital issues. But if they were brought before a diverse community, of both singles and marrieds, they would find the support and guidance necessary to resolve the issues.

Let’s make marriage less of an insider thing. Let’s reopen the discussion. Let’ stop assuming the rift between those who are single and married – that somehow there is a chasm of understanding between the two. God has brought us together in community, where these divisions should not segregate the community.

But finally, let me return to the idea of singleness. Let’s redevelop a respect and a value for the single people in our churches. Let’s stop seeing them as unmarried, and somehow deficient or incomplete, and find ways to talk about and honor those who are single, whether they are single for only a time or a lifetime. Our culture places enough obsession on the dating/marriage scene. It’s time we put an end to the rift between the single Christian and the married Christian. For there is neither married nor single, only that which Christ has united into one body.

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3 Comments »

  1. Justin said,

    A freaking men Daniel. It makes me I’ll to hear language in church that excludes those who are not married…. And most married folk never notice it.

    Seems like it’s well past time for our churches to start addressing how thier cultural assumptions affect their community of faith, but until there are leaders that make it a priority, singles homosexuals the poor non whites and the different will continually be relegated to second class status. It’s time for the church to be the church and show the world what real love real justice and real life looks like.

  2. Kaye Dacus said,

    I’m so happy to find that I’m not the only one out here talking about what it’s like to be a single person over the age of 30 trying to find a place in the increasingly single-phobic Christian culture we find ourselves in these days. What most churches cannot seem to accept is that more than 40% of Americans are unmarried. But at most churches, singles usually represent less than 10% of the membership/attendees—because with the way the church is structured (segregated—thanks for putting it in that terminology), there is really no room for anyone who doesn’t fit the church’s standard of “normal”: married with children.

    I totally agree with the idea that we need to stop having so much of the teaching at churches focusing on “enrich your marriage” and “focus on YOUR family.” But it’s been going on for so long that if a single person goes to what’s supposed to be a “mixed” Bible study group and shares that they’re lonely or that their heart’s desire is to be married someday, every married person in the room turns around and either offers some lame platitudes about how we should feel blessed to be single (because, obviously God wants us that way for a reason) or they start griping about how hard being married is and that singles have it so easy and therefore we should shut up and be grateful to be alone.

    It’s a double-edged sword. Before singles and marrieds can effectively commingle and grow spiritually together, there needs to be a re-education to break marrieds of their knee-jerk reactions based on prejudices and stereotypes, as well as a re-education for singles to not be resentful or defensive when those pieces of well-meaning (but still hurtful) advice are given. But in order to do the re-educating, we all need to be together, working at understanding each other. It’s definitely a conundrum.

  3. Very interesting post. I too have noticed that churches tend to segregate people according to their marital status and there is a clear hierarchy favoring the married. This tends to alienate those who are single and happy and would like to remain so. Churches I hope will be less exclusionary.


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