November 8, 2015

Single Teens Shouldn't Care About Marriage Sermons

To the teens who have just read "Why Should Teen Girls Care About Marriage Sermons?":

I have one helpful addition to the advice you were given - forget absolutely everything you were ever told on the subject. I've been you. I've sat through sermon after sermon on the subject of marriage. I know exactly what's expected of me in my gender role in a marriage relationship. There's just one hiccup. I'm still single and I'm approaching thirty. You've been told that it's the boy's job to pursue girls and it's the boy's job to initiate relationships. you've been told that it's the girls job to be pursued and it's the girl's job to respond to relationships. Take a good look around - odds are, girls outnumber the guys. More often than not, girls get that message while guys do not. Perhaps a helpful metaphor is that you're the second leg of the marathon and you've been told to wait for the person to hand you the baton before you can start running, the problem is that the guys with the batons haven't started running the race. They're not pursuing and you're left waiting and waiting and waiting. The guys who don't go to church don't know they're supposed to pursue the girls because nobody ever told them.

I always thought that the idea that you can be 'prepared' for marriage to be a flawed one anyway. Every relationship between two people is different. Both sets of your grandparents have different relationships. All of your aunts and uncles have different relationships with their spouses, don't they? And all the couples at church - their relationships are different as well. Do you know anyone whose relationship is identical to that of another couple? The course your marriage will be shaped by two people: you and your spouse. The form your marriage takes is up to you two, what you were taught might play into that, but reality will have it's impact as well. Disease, accidents, natural disasters, regular events in the course of your marriage will demand that you rise to the challenge together. You might take turns at being stay-at-home parents and take turns at being the breadwinner, or you might both be the breadwinner who can hire some help or either or both of you will be unemployed; who knows? There's no one formula for a successful marriage; even Christians who try their best to follow the teachings of complementarianism have found themselves filing for divorce; so even Christian haven't found one that works for everybody at all times. You cannot, by yourself, plan and prepare for your marriage anymore than you can follow a recipe without all of the ingredients or read a book without all of the pages.

Besides, marriage isn't for everyone. Complementarianism ignores that reality by continuing to preach the message that no matter who you are, you're going to be married, no matter how poorly suited you are to the reality of marriage. To that end, it offers some of the worst dating advice that is hardly complementary. If young women should only date the men who they would want to submit to, then should young men only date women they would want to submit to them? If the men are to be the spiritual leaders, then should women date only spiritually superior men? With so many top-notch single women who are spiritual champions in their own right, even more spiritual young men are in short supply - particularly in the teenage and high school years. Yet again, single Christian women outnumber single Christian men and when spiritual leadership is thrown into the mix, potential husbands are limited for the ladies. That doesn't even consider things like chemistry - it's doesn't even make the list. These teachings always make it sound like marriage is like an acting role in which a wife can be swapped out for another and a husband can be swapped out for another so long as they get their lines right, they don't have to actually be people who have fallen in love so long as they make it look like they have. Sort of like the arranged marriages of old:

Victoria Everglot: Hildegard, what if Victor and I don't like each other?

Maudeline Everglot: Hmpf! As if that has anything to do with marriage. Do you suppose your father and I "like" each other?

Victoria Everglot: Surely you must, a little.

Maudeline Everglot, Finnis Everglot: Of course not! 

It's probable that you'll be one of the legions of single Christians who are like me - have lived in a prolonged single status or been mostly single for a long time. Complementarianism has no helpful advice for you. It says that your highest calling is to be a spouse and a parent. When you are neither, then you don't exist in an ideal state. Your are half of a whole, a portion or a piece of something greater that is missing something. You are less than you should be. You could be the most successful person in your class, but if you aren't married, then it means nothing. You could be the least successful person in your class, but if you aren't married then you're an abysmal failure. This 'marriage or else' attitude is a dream-killing soul-destroying one that marginalizes everyone who isn't married.

Jesus never demanded that all of his followers be married; in fact, singleness was uplifted as the viable alternative to marriage. 1 Corinthians 7 puts it this way; "I  would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord." Paul the single guy is letting the believers know that they're not disappointing God if they get married, but they're also not disappointing God if they remain single. He actually preferred singleness so that he could devote everything to God. Sadly, Complementarianism denies that singleness is the accepted alternative to marriage, one which God does not condemn. Which means that Christianity's single-minded mission to marry off everyone is doing a lot of damage and leaving a lot of destruction when ill-matched couples decide to divorce. The church failed to recognize that it should have allowed the two people to live in singleness and it pressured them to live in a way that did not fit their personalities. Then it blamed them for sinning against God's design. God has more than one design - and it's high time that we taught believers about the other one.

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