Is Singleness a Sin?
- Wednesday, August 11, 2004
In a moment of melodrama a couple years ago, I joked with a single friend that at times voices within Christendom have been so silent or so judgmental about singleness, that I suspected they thought the s-i-n at the beginning of the word was no mistake.
Now, unfortunately, one Christian leader has made that bit of humor-laced conspiracy theory a reality. At Joshua Harris's New Attitude Conference for singles this past January, Dr. Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, said:
"I'm going to speak of the sin I think besets this generation. It is the sin of delaying marriage as a lifestyle option among those who intend someday to get married, but they just haven't yet. This is a problem shared by men and women, but it's a problem primarily of men."
He cited many reasons he thinks this "failure to marry" is problematic, primarily the fact that there's now a big gap between sexual maturity and sexual fulfillment: "We've created this incredible span of time where sexual passion is ignited but there is no holy means for it to be fulfilled." For this reason, he encourages marriage at a young age: "If you're 17, 18, 19, 20, in your early 20s—what are you waiting for?"
He also spoke of the "holiness of marriage as the central crucible for adult-making" and of the ill of single women putting off wife- and motherhood to establish their careers. He urged the singles in attendance at that conference to make getting married their top priority. "What is the ultimate priority God has called us to?" Mohler asked. "In heaven, is the crucible of our saint-making going to have been through our jobs? I don't think so. The Scripture makes clear that it will be done largely through our marriages."
Joining this bandwagon, Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine of FamilyLife Today, a national radio broadcast of Campus Crusade's FamilyLife ministry, aired the tape of Dr. Mohler's talk. Afterward, the hosts voiced their absolute agreement with Mohler's message. Rainey added a personal anecdote about how excited he was when his sons popped the question to their respective wives, "because I knew life was about to begin in earnest."
I debated over whether or not to share all this. But it was when Dr. Mohler's broadcast went national on the radio, and was heralded by respected Christian leaders, that I had to chime in. If this one message is being championed and spread, I can only imagine that similar messages are being preached at churches and conferences nationwide, if not worldwide.
I appreciate Dr. Mohler—as well as Rainey and Lepine—pointing out some current troubling trends affecting singles and the state of marriage in our culture. It's good to have Christian leaders at their level addressing the sometimes-overlooked demographic of single people and the cultural and demographic forces affecting us. However, I take issue with the gross overgeneralizations they make about single people. Their comments make me wonder how many actual Christian singles they interact with on a regular basis, or whether they're basing their understanding of singles from viewing a few episodes of
Mohler seems to assume that all still-single women are such because we chose to climb the corporate ladder first, and that all still-single men are such because they first chose to sow their wild oats. But this simply isn't the reality of singleness I've witnessed and experienced. Now, I know I haven't met all the single Christian women out there, but I've certainly talked with quite a few at singles events and heard from literally thousands more through e-mails in response to this column. I'm sure there must be some Christian women somewhere who pursued a job/career to the exclusion of marriage, but I have yet to happen on even one. For the vast majority of us, a vocation is a way of finding an outlet for our God-given gifts, being a responsible member of society, and, most importantly, paying the rent.
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