I threw this out on twitter and got more feedback than on anything I’ve ever tweeted before. So one thinks there might be a few things to ponder here.
The responses fitted into two broad groups, those who thought it wasn’t really an issue, and those who wanted the church to stop being so sympathetic and patronising.
But maybe we conflate the church with the church leadership, or the church staff, or the officially organised and sanctioned programmes of the church.
Because the church doing something about it is you and me deciding to help people get together. Or encourage people struggling with relationships. Or discipling people to help them not find their identity in being someone’s girlfriend – or having that girl on your arm. The girls blame it on there being too few guys, and the guys say there’s too many girls. (seriously, they do.)
And I’ve heard enough sermons with the intentional brief asides that challenge guys to man up and ask girls out. And I’ve had enough conversations with girls frustrated with guys not asking them out, and with guys daunted by the prospect, or dizzied by indecision.
The core criticism seems to be that the church treats married people as the norm, and single people as those who are waiting for the right person to come along. Thrown into this mix are those with the specific calling to be single, which we are told to remember to affirm as a gift from God andSt Pauland John Stott are cited as our exemplars.
This description lets two groups of people off the hook and leaves the people out side these mutually exclusive groups rather stranded. If you’re married then you’re ok, if you want to be single, you’re affirmed. If you are single and pretty desperate not to be you’re kind of in trouble.
You are in trouble because the church doesn’t know what to tell you. Should they tell you that marriage is an ideal that you strive for? Of counsel that singleness is a wonderful calling?
We’re not very good at living in a place where things don’t add up. We’re unable to handle the ideal of one thing, the gift of another, and the role of God in redeeming humankind and working in each of our lives at all times.
We want it simple. We want someone else to do something about it. But we also want our independence. So we like the idea of speed dating in the church. Of semi arranged marriages avoiding the social awkwardness of dating, and well, removing the risk element from it all.
But that’s the fastest post I’ve ever written, so I haven’t really thought this through. What are your thoughts? Is there such a thing as a singleness problem, and if so, is it in the number of single people or the way in which they’re treated?
Please tell me.