Is singleness a sin?

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Last August, Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, gave a speech ("The Mystery of Marriage") to a singles conference in which he suggested that there is something sinful about young Christians delaying marriage. He lays much of the blame at the feet of Christian men who seem to prefer an extended adolescence to shouldering the burdens of adulthood. The speech drew praise, criticism, and ridicule. (Mohler wrote two columns about the speech -- part 1 and part 2. You can find audio of the speech itsef here.)

Mohler's speech has generated a lot of discussion about Christians, churches, and singleness. It also seems to have brought to the surface a lot of frustration among Christian singles, both men and women, as you'll see if you'll follow the "Continue reading" link below.

Michael Spencer has written a lengthy and thoughtful post, partly in response to Mohler, but looking at the bigger picture:

This debate is a small part of what I see as a major evolution within evangelicalism; an evolution toward overemphasizing marriage at the expense of much that is Biblical, good, healthy, balanced and normal in human and Christian experience. From the best of motives, some bad fruit is appearing.

Spencer presents six ways that churches can overemphasize marriage, elaborating on each point:

  1. Saying that delaying marriage is bad is overemphasizing marriage.
  2. We overemphasize marriage when we say only "spiritually gifted" singles are truly in God's will.
  3. It is an overemphasis of marriage when marriage is automatically called a "priority" for the unmarried Christian.
  4. We overemphasize marriage when those who are not married are out of the "center" of the Christian community, thus violating clear implications of the ministry of Jesus.
  5. We overemphasize marriage when a gospel of "salvation by marriage and family values" is confused with the Biblical Gospel.
  6. Finally, there is an overemphasis on marriage when normal experiences not leading up to marriage are viewed, at best, as worthless, and at worst, evil. [This refers to the dating v. courtship debate.]

The comments on his post are thought-provoking, too. Frustrated single Christian women, if you're wondering where the frustrated single Christian men are, I think I've found the motherlode. I can feel Ken's pain:

In my church, teenage girls with their families seem to disappear into this parallel universe, returning as twentysomethings with husband and kids. I was never able to find the portal between the universes (where they went in the meantime), and I am now too old to be in the running if I could find it.

It would help if all you 30/40/50-something single women "waiting for your ovaries to turn to dust" would let us guys know you're available and realize we're mortals. Not only not perfect, were probably as messed up as you are....

I'm no spiritual giant. I'm not perfect. I'm just an aging nerd with a hyperactive brain who got blindsided by the sexual revolution and whose "dating" experience is a string of rejections. ...

I was a fast-tracked kid genius, and geniuses take a lot longer than average to "grow up" where their personalities catch up with the rest of them; at 50 I'm about where the average guy would be at 30 or so, but with 20 extra years of scars. Now that I'm finally psychologically reaching adulthood, all I have to look forward to is qualifying for the Senior Discount at Denny's and running from the cancer-Langoliers. Alone.

John H of Confessing Evangelical writes about the negative effects of a "buyers' market" for single Christian men:

Some men in this position - by no means all, before anyone reading this takes offence - do not seem to understand the pressures that single Christian women are under, and in some cases this leads to some pretty shoddy treatment. The couple start dating; they seem to be growing closer; maybe they even start kissing; and then, just as the woman is thinking this might finally be "it", all of a sudden Blokey decides that "the Lord is not leading me into marriage at present", and drops her. And then does the same thing again, and again, and again, leaving a trail of emotional and spiritual wreckage in his wake.

Last week, TulipGirl wrote about the strong emphasis on marriage and family and how that affects the church's treatment of single Christian women:

The back home movement in GNAP* [Generic North American Protestantism] has, in some ways, excluded single women. I appreciate the emphasis on valuing woman as mothers and wives.

However, Iíve seen such a strong desire to rebuild the family and give honor to mothers, that those who are not married especially (but also those who are married but do not have children) are in a sort of limbo. There is talk (and action) of single women remaining with their family of origin and ministering from there. And though no one would actually say it--and in fact, would vehemently deny it--the message often communicate is that a womanís worth comes only from marriage and bearing children. That a woman is not complete without these things.

This attitude seems to go against our wholeness being found in Christ, being part of the Church as a whole, and our worth as Christís Bride.

3 Comments

Ron said:

Jeez Louise, I can hardly stand to read all this navel-gazing.

My advice to single men: Lighten up, quit acting like holier-than-thou horndogs, drop the overeagerness, stop being pathetic, and quit worrying so darned much. If it takes until your mid-30s to find the right one and get married, so be it.

The minute I stopped caring so darned much, the more my true personality came out and the dates I got.

Class assignment: Watch "The Tao of Steve" until you get it. There are many, many truths in that film.

Dodo David said:

Singleness sinful? Depressing? Yes. Sinful? No.

One reason why Christian men stay single for so long is that it takes time for them to reach the socio-economic status that attracts mates.

Single Christian women may claim to place God first in their lives. Yet, when it comes to dating, the women look for men who will give them the socio-economic status that they desire.

Because Christian women do such a thing, they will date and marry non-Christian men if the men can provide the desired socio-economic status.

Thus, single Christian women seem to disappear into a parallel universe. They disappear into a universe that has non-Christian men with the desired worldly wealth.

suzie said:

I don't know how many times I have been told (by married Christian women) that the Lord is my husband. They take that verse in Isaiah 54 and make an entire theology out of it. I never heard the first part of Isaiah 54 cited to a childless couple.."rejoice, oh barren one" or that the Lord is their baby.
Most of the Christian women's retreats focus on marriage...(hmmm..do Christian women even believe in careers?)...Deborah judged Israel. The lady in Proverbs 31 was a business women. She gave food to her maidens and that indicates to me that she didn't clean her own house. No wonder she was interesting enough to write about.
so..my circumstance of being single and Christian is a heck of a lot more interesting..I would say...instead of going to a single's group in church, start a group for professionals with advanced college degrees....

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on March 14, 2005 10:12 PM.

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