But here’s my problem with Burk’s feminist straw man. I’ve known just as many Christian singles who have shared with me the same lament as Wurtzel’s, even down to the specifics.
I’m not sure who Dan Edelen is, but a friend sent me a link to one of his recent blog posts. He read Denny Burk’s recent blog post critiquing feminism and noticed that many of the same laments that Elizabeth Wurtzel has as an older feminist are common to older, Christian singles. Dan’s blog is very pointed and, at least to this older single, close to the heart of the issue.
If I were the keynote speaker at a Christian conference on marriage and family and said that I believe that the proper order of importance in my life, from most important to less important, is
- My children
I would get a hearty round of Amens.
But if I said that I believe that this order and the words above from Jesus and other Bible authors say that I must also consider the following prioritized order
- Family of God
- My nuclear family
I would predict dead silence. Or close to it.
This hypothetical situation is an easy one to envision. The more conservative the crowd, the more deafening the silence would be. Sadly, as a conservative, Reformed Baptist, the people I would find most commonality with theologically would also likely be the ones to view me, as an older single man, with the most suspicion. Consider this…
A man over 50 years of age visits your church. He seems devout, perhaps a bit too much so, and he talks about loving God, perhaps a bit too much. But for all his talk of love, he is unmarried and seems to want to stay that way. And while he is a great preacher, he dresses a bit frumpy and doesn’t seem to care for his personal appearance the way you think he should. He unnerves you because you can’t figure him out. You wonder about motives. Why is he single? What’s the story there? Really, he was never married? You begin to wonder about how safe your kids are around that man.
What if I told you that this was the Apostle Paul?
Those questions are asked of all older Christian singles. The assumption is that if you’re older and still single, something must be wrong. You are, at best, pitiable and, at worst, dangerous. The greatest scandal is that some, as Dan says, “seem to want to stay that way.” Most married Christians and conservative Christian culture as a whole are uncomfortable with singles because they equate marriage with happiness and holiness. The discomfort from married couples, the questions and suspicions, and the constant, usually unconscious equation of marriage with “the dream” all create an atmosphere that is uncomfortable for older Christian singles, marginalizing what is becoming a larger and larger portion of the general population.
Dan poses a question that churches must answer, not just in theory, but in practical ways.
Really, Church, just what are we offering better to singles with regard to community than what the broken world offers?
If we are to be faithful ministers to those within our walls and if we are going to have a powerful Gospel witness to the world around us, we must learn to do life together, to build other-worldly Christian community, to really love one another.
By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. – John 13:35
PS: My good friend Jared Jenkins has also written a short piece, reacting to both Denny and Dan, and drawing on his experience among the Mormon community in Salt Lake City to offer Christians a more Gospel-centered view of the church and family.