Thursday, January 7, 2010

The ZigZag Café

We will be convening here at the ZigZag café, Suisse, on Thursdays for conversation and dialogue. I invite you to stop by every Thursday for the question of the day. Your thoughts and participation are most welcome. Pull up a stool, avec un café, un thé, ou un chocolat chaud, et un croissant, and join in here on Thursday at the ZZ café.

For today:

Do you think there is too much pressure put on single people in churches to get married and if so, why?

13 comments:

Nita said...

Hi, Greg! Happy New Year!
I thought your thoughts on Covenant as both unilateral and bilateral made my day. I tend to get quite discouraged every now and then when I see so many contradictions and shortcomings all over, including myself. "YHWH’s love, liberation, and identification of a people" turns out to be a great call to start anew, to get back on the right track of grace. The covenant keeps calling me back to Adon Olam, Lord of the Universe, as I listen to the voice of Being and respond to the suffering of others.
Cheers
Nita

Greg said...

Nita, Happy New Year to you too.
So good to hear that Covenant struck a chord that resonates in your life for the sake of YHWH, for yourself, and for others.

In spite of your sometimes being discouraged about contradictions and shortcomings, which by the way I share in with you, thanks for your encouragement about these thoughts.

Lukas und Céline Kuhs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lukas und Céline Kuhs said...

There sometimes seems to be too much pressure. I guess it is trying - in a bad way - to convince them, that marriage would be better for them. There exist reasons though, why they rest single. I think the reasons must be battled and not the consequence (being single).

I, myself, do think that there are too much singles! God did not create men to be alone/single. Paul seems to have another opinion *g*, but I believe that he speaks of other circumstances...

Why do people put too much pressure?
My take is: porneio is a capital crime (if not THE sin). -> Help others not to have sex outside marriage...

Lukas

Greg said...

Lukas,
Thanks. Good thoughts. The pressure is often put on singles for the wrong reasons as if being married was a higher spiritual status or something like that.

Seems like Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 is dealing with a false perception of spirituality that viewed marriage, or sex within it, as a detriment to the spiritual life. He wants to affirm that celibacy is a gift and therefore not a requirement. Of course to have the gift of celibacy is not the same as being single. In then end, I think, Paul says it doesn't matter to God whether you're single, celibate, or married because none of these determine one's spirituality. By the way, I don't think Paul deals with marriage in this chapter until verse 25. Earlier he is addressing the married or once married.

Rhett & Valerie said...

Hey Greg,

I wonder if the felt pressure that many singles experience is a by-product of a church desperately trying to equip families to conduct their relationships toward each other in a redemptive way. And I think it's right that churches have a focus on the family (I'm not trying to use that phrase as a double entendre). So many personal issues are "family of origin issues."

Unfortunately, when a church body is so focused on programs and scheduling, what often happens is that single adults are left out of the group's concept of families or familial integration, depriving both them and the nuclear family units in the churches of a richer Christian experience of hospitality and inclusion. So there's pressure to get married and start your own family unit, though the movtives there are often ambiguous and confusing.

The marriage pressure also comes from a culture obsessed with sex and romance, often detached from any conception of children or future generations. It's very confusing.

I personally see some promising ideas in family-integrated churches (where the children aren't shuffled off to Sunday school during the service and there isn't a special singles group), and churches where relationships are nourshied in every respect (this often involves an emphasis on hospitality).

Just some beginning thoughts. :)

-Valerie

Greg said...

Valerie,
Thanks. Some very good beginning thoughts. I like the idea of family integrated churches - no special groups and a focus on nurturing people where they are through open hospitality to all regardless of status. Maybe we can do better and work towards diminishing the pressure so that people are not unduly herded in one direction or the other with respect to marriage.

renea mac said...

Val, I really appreciate your thoughts on this. I'm with you. The proliferation of demographically segregated congregations is a problem, and it's unfortunate that the way many churches aim to guide their people toward redemptive home is with, as you say, programs and classes "for young families” (not that these should be removed entirely per se).

I also agree that the church must have a focus on the family, but the efforts which derive from that focus can only be roundly redemptive when under the umbrella of a focus on the Family. Because while you're right, and studies show, that much of the angels and demons of a person's life can be traced back to his or her family/home life and upbringing; part of how huge God's redemptive work and grace is the way the Spirit turns those stats on their heads through his Church, the family to the orphan, the home to the homeless.

We must equip our families, but not at the cost of couples without children and unmarried adults. And so, perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps we shouldn’t have a focus on families and another on singles... and another on divorced singles and another on aging adults and another on... even if they all overlap and intersect; though possibly if they intertwine. But I wonder if the hospitality you insightfully point to levels the social-status quo in such a way that no multi-focus is necessary, and results in learning how to live redemptive lives more wholly.

Part of living spirituality is being characterized by compassion. And if compassion is the ability not just to walk in but to actually fit in someone else’s shoes, then we’d best be sure we don’t organize ourselves by size like shoes in a shoe store, which might be a good way to shop but not a good way to live.

Another thought: What if we identified so much with Christ and our role in the Body that we didn’t even really see ourselves as primarily defined as single, married, family, empty nest...? The truth is (and I’m not trying to say that I understand everything it means to be Gal 2:20) I don’t think of myself primarily as a single person, but simply as a person; not as a female person (writer, thinker, teacher), but as a person; not as a white person... I still am all those things, but it’s the relation that comes first. We can’t be distinct if we aren’t related; we can’t be members if we aren’t a Body.

Lukas und Céline Kuhs said...

Excellent, Renea!!! Thanks!

Greg said...

Renea,
Thanks for your helpful thoughts. I especially like your counter of your own direction, thinking out loud, and the refiguring that goes with it. And the last paragraph is very well put. Being in community with God is primarily about personhood in these matters, not status, and the rest, whatever it may be, unfolds out of that.

Joy said...

Hi Greg,

Joy here...you know the one who got Jenny to "borrow" your family photo from your desk? My sincere apologies. I blame it on the altitude. (-:

Loved this question and one that I think about often. What has been said already is very insightful so I just wanted to add one more thought along the line of what you mentioned regarding: singleness not being the same as the gift of celibacy.

Because the church has tried to encourage people towards marriage, when we don't get married at age 21, we may feel like we have failed. I hear pastors say that if we aren't married, its because God has more to teach us.

Where do we find that in scripture?

So little Betty who got married and pregnant before she was legal to drink has somehow spiritually arrived and I haven't?

That can create a feeling of shame.

To cover up that feeling of shame, I think it's easy for one to grab onto Paul's teaching or assuming we have the "gift" of celibacy.

The problem becomes that we begin to deny what many of us have been given: the desire for marriage.

This denial is often an understandable mode of self preservation.

I have started to wonder...do you think its possible that due to the brokenness of man, those of us who desire to be married may just have to "suffer in our singleness?"

Some may not see singleness as suffering, since as Paul said, we can do so much in this time and space of life.

But for those longing to be married, I feel like it is a more authentic place to be in to admit you don't have the "gift of celibacy" but desire marriage, with the reality that it might just not happen when and how we think it should.

I think that can free us up to "give thanks" for things not happening according to our plan as oppose to forcing ourselves into a box that God may not have put us in.

(I see definite repercussions in the extreme delay of marriage due to choice or selfishness, but that's another topic...(-:)

Greg said...

Joy,
Thanks. You make some very pertinent observations and pose an excellent question, going some way to helpfully respond to it yourself.

I think I would say that there may be many things that we desire, including marriage, but because these desires are not met doesn't seem to me to be suffering - maybe unfulfillment is closer to the actuality? Let's say, unfulfilled is both a general state and can also apply to some specific desires and neither the general, nor some of the specifics, will be fulfilled until we see God face to face.

We definitely need to be freed up to admit the truth that if we desire to be married, yet are not, we don't have the gift of celibacy. Excellent suggestion for moving in the direction of authenticity.

Perhaps we can learn contentment in being single and even give thanks for it, as we still long to be married. Sometimes marriage, because it's such a big specific, can turn into an idol that is given primacy, and therefore robs God of his rightful place.

Karen Miller said...

Wanted to get your thoughts. I am writing a book and starting a website on helping single Christian's move to marriage. How much effort around Paul time in the early Christian was there around helping people people married.