So. Where are they?
All the single Christian men. Because they sure aren’t swarming around our churches.
In a recent article for Crosswalk.com entitled “Where Are All the Healthy Christian Men?” singles ministry consultant Kris Swiatocho writes that the question has become “one of the biggest and most asked” by women as she visits churches across the country.
The Bible enshrines love, marriage, and family as good gifts from God, and they form the basic building blocks of a healthy society. So why are they as difficult to come by as they seem to be? The longer we’re single – especially for women – the more it feels like a competition just to find a suitable suitor. And even then, single guys don’t seem to know what courtship is anymore. If women wait too long, or fear they’re not marketing themselves effectively, or feel they’re doing all the work in a courtship situation, they secretly fret about looking more and more like Hildegard Hamhocker, of Tumbleweed’s comic strip infamy.
And how many of those single guys out there resemble the one Hildegard Hamhocker is constantly trying to cajole into matrimony – good ol’ Tumbleweeds himself? For every woman who’s insulted at the caricature of Hildegard, how do you think single men feel being caricatured by the affable yet listless cowboy, a dude without a ranch? Not exactly the type of winner over which the Hamhocker clan back home could place confidence.
Of course, a lot of women end up marrying guys who are more fascinated with adventure and striking it rich than serving as a temperate, accessible spiritual leader of the home. For all of the eligible Christian women out there still searching for a mate, how many Christian women with a mate wish he’d spend more time with her and their family, instead of running around trying to re-capture his youth, or climb career ladders?
Maybe some single women think they’d be willing to risk having those types of problems, but if being married is an end unto itself, perhaps the atrociously low rate of matrimonial contentment in North America – even in supposedly Christ-worshipping marriages – can be a potent dose of reality. Singlehood may be a burden, but so can wedlock.
Of all the frustrations Hildegard Hamhocker may have faced in the Wild West, the lack of single men wasn’t one of them. It was the lack of morally upright men that she faced. And that male moral conundrum is still a problem for single women today. However, another issue complicates matters, and that’s the fact that in North America, there are simply more women than men. Then, to make matrimonial matters even worse, there are more women than men in church.
Actually, the church’s history of gender imbalance is an old problem. Back at the turn of the 20th Century, for example, famed Seattle minister Mark Matthews was known for lamenting from the pulpit that “Christianity was failing to attract sufficient numbers of men.”
For Matthews and the ladies of his church, one of their dilemmas was Seattle’s economy, which thrived on forestry and fishing. Unfortunately for Christ-following women, those two industries attracted a lot of men who fancied themselves as rugged individualists, and patrons of a brand of masculinity that bristled at a profile of conformity to any type of religion. How much of that mentality still exists today in our modern world
Consider, too, how patriarchal many societies have been where Christianity has flourished. Churches have historically been one of the few places where women have been able to find the affirmation, respectability, and empowerment that men have been able to claim from business and politics. Feminists today like to deride Christianity as anti-woman, but history proves just how liberating the Gospel is for both genders. It’s just that men have traditionally had avenues other than church in which they’ve convinced themselves they can thrive.
Then too, some experts wonder if the family-centric programming sponsored by most churches helps discourage young men from maintaining their attendance after graduating from high school or college. They may return to the church after they marry, with children whom they want catechized according to their own religious background. But even churches with robust singles programming can’t seem to replenish their stock of marriageable single men fast enough.
Others wonder if perhaps the ubiquity of online pornography is keeping otherwise eligible men from seeking a spouse, let alone attending church. Masturbation and erotic digital imagery have quietly become widespread in our society, and doctors have begun diagnosing erectile dysfunction in teenage boys who are abusing their sexuality with the help of such artificial stimulation.
Indeed, even as deviant sexuality and technology represent the newest culprits in the eligible single male dilemma, our Great Recession may also shoulder some of the blame. For example, employment prospects for many recent college graduates have proved so bad, 45% of them have returned home to live with their parents. Others have massive college debts. Add to that the offshoring of not only manufacturing jobs, but also white-collar legal and accounting jobs, and it’s possible that guys are already stressed about competing against women for what few jobs are still out there.
Even in a two-income marriage, our society has traditionally expected the husband to be at least as financially productive as his wife, but that metric is changing, too. Among younger families with children, 15% of wives now out-earn their husbands, a figure that has been increasing for decades, and may discourage men more than they’ll admit.
So… should a single Christian woman who suspects she may be earning more than the closest possible eligible guy in church quit her job? Should single Christian women lower any of their standards just to fall within the threshold some eligible guy at church might be willing to accept?
Maybe those aren’t the best ways to phrase these questions. Instead, ask yourselves: Upon what standards are my spousal expectations based? Am I relying more on worldly goals than God’s? Is money really a fixation for me? What about race and ethnicity, and am I willing to marry somebody who won’t look like anybody else in my family?
Undoubtedly, for many single Christian women, especially if you’re regular visitors to Crosswalk.com, you’ve already asked yourselves these questions, haven’t you? And you’ve likely come to some Biblical answers for them, and you’re still wondering: where are all the men?
Well, some men simply won’t be interested in the things of Christ, like you are. Some are woefully immature and satisfied with inferior substitutes for genuine love and God-honoring sex. Some are scared that they won’t be able to provide financially for you and whatever family the two of you may have. Other men, like some women, have been called by God to singlehood for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with you. And then there are those men that God never created, since in His sovereignty, He’s allowing more women than men to populate our part of His world.
So please don’t take it personally.
Where are all the single men? Pray that they’re right where God intends for them to be, and that you are, too.
From his smorgasboard of church experience, ranging from the Christian and Missionary Alliance to the Presbyterian Church in America, Tim Laitinen brings a range of observations to his perspective on how we Americans worship, fellowship, and minister among our communities of faith. As a one-time employee of a Bible church in suburban Fort Worth, Texas and a former volunteer director of the contemporary Christian music ministry at New York City's legendary Calvary Baptist, he's seen our church culture from the inside out. You can read about his unique viewpoints at o-l-i.blogspot.com.
Publication date: December 19, 2013