If you are single, this message is for you. If you’re married, this message is for you. I believe that we all need to confront the state of single life today in Christian people, both as marrieds and as singles. We must examine the messages we’re sending and what we can do as a Church to make life more fulfilling for young people confronting singleness.
What I want to say to you singles is hard to hear, but it needs to be said up front. The truth is that we’ve let you down. Worse still, the solutions to the problems you face won’t be resolved in your generation. The hope, though, is that you’ll be the ones who help the Church do a better job managing this issue in the generations that come after you.
Everyone is single at some point. I was single till I was 33. In a sex-soaked culture that perpetually whispers lies about the true nature of sex, that’s almost an eternity to be single. My body may have made it to my wedding night in one piece, but what our pornographic culture did to my mind is shameful. I think most Christian men know what I mean.
I understand how hard it is to block out the siren call of a pornographic culture like ours. Singles are sent an unending stream of lustful thoughts by the American entertainment culture, the mainstream media, and even our schools and universities. Where we Christians have let singles down in the Church is that we send a purity message that is almost impossible to bear in a society hellbent on countering every word of it. We’ve laid upon the shoulders of today’s singles a very heavy cross.
As I mentioned in several of my posts, including the recent “The Problem of Porn,” if Christians are to be all God desires us to be we’ve got to start thinking counter-culturally. Many of the problems we face today are ingrained in the very fiber of our culture and we Christians have bought into that culture without understanding the consequences of our actions. If we’re to lighten the heavy cross we’ve put on the backs of single Christians, we’ve got to start radically thinking outside the box.
Many of the most intractable issues in addressing singleness are bound up in several other problems that are in themselves difficult to unwind. But Christ is Victor and I believe that if we’re honest and carefully unpack these problems, start talking about them, and most of all praying to see God’s way, perhaps the next generation will be spared what today’s singles must bear. That way of preparation is highly involved, so please bear with me in what may seem like the completely off-subject reasoning that follows.
One of the principle lies we’ve bought into is the way we think about a young person’s life after high school. Our society has made college mandatory, but I believe that a day is soon coming when college costs will be beyond what Christian parents can reasonably handle (especially if those parents acknowledge that they need to slow down their hectic lives and consider work that keeps them near home, even if it makes less money.) It’s not unreasonable to think that a college education at a good school will soon run a quarter million dollars for four years. With our culture now claiming that graduate school is a virtual necessity in the global economy, education costs become even more prohibitive.
I mentioned in my post on pornography that six-year olds have become burnouts due to parents filling their schedules to ensure the kids will get into the best schools by having a “schooling résumé” loaded with one expensive, esoteric learning or sports experience after another. Pollster George Barna has even found that Christian parents care more about their children’s educational futures than they do that their children know Jesus deeply and intimately. This simply cannot continue.
We Christians need to start talking about alternatives to college and grad school. We need to consider setting up trade schools and intensive apprenticeship programs (like those in some European nations) that will teach our children highly desirable skills, especially for jobs that cannot easily be taken outside the United States. We also must find a way to keep our children from assuming the survival of the fittest mentality that permeates today’s work environment.
We must own up to the reality that colleges today, even Christian ones, have become little more than a means to cheap, commitment-less sex with a degree on top. If high school is hard to get through in one piece, then college is impossible. I went to a Christian college; parents, it is no safety net.
There was a tiny chapel on my campus where I would pray. It wasn’t particularly popular, so I was usually alone at the time of day I would frequent it. On the altar of that chapel was a student prayer journal. I used to pray for the students who left requests. The primary request was for God to forgive a student who had sinned sexually while enrolled at the college. (The second most requested prayer played into that: young women who were ashamed of torturing themselves through various eating disorders in order to supposedly stay desirable to the men on campus.)
At secular universities, the situation is even more dire. Hookups—commitment-less sexual encounters with acquaintances and virtual strangers—are now the norm for most collegians. Anymore, almost no one makes it out of college a virgin, even the Christian kids who take abstinence pledges.
One reason for this failure is we parents from the day our kids are born have done a terrible job instilling in them a complete Christian worldview. Not just a moral code, but an ability to rationally think like real Christians. In our culture, Darwinian worldviews dominate, even among Christians. We’re living every day in survival of the fittest mode. And because we are repeatedly told that we’re little more than accidents of nature, especially by college professors, we begin to think that our morality is based on fairy tales. Given that we already believe that education is more important than faith in Christ, as Barna noted, it’s a short trip to this kind of pitiful reasoning.
And so the solution begins:
- We need to train our children in a comprehensive Christian worldview.
- We need to start developing alternative means of post-secondary education.
But these two are not enough. Truth is, people are simply waiting too long to marry. Part of this is because Christians are caught up in the materialism of our times; we look identical to the perishing world around us, especially in America. Finding alternative means of living, alternative Christian communities that reduce the need for every family to duplicate the goods of every other family, can provide us with ways to step off the treadmill and start living less as rugged individuals and more like the Body of Christ. Learning to live with less and to be more dependent on each other will help us weather the tough times that may be coming for those who claim the name of Christ. (For a more developed view on this, I’ve blogged extensively here.)
The expectation that a young person will wade through the sexual minefield of college, then spend several years as a single while building up a career, is an increasing difficult burden for unmarried Christians struggling in our pornographic culture. The apostle Paul said that it is better to marry than to burn, yet we expect young Christians to spend almost ten years (on average today) on fire before they finally settle down. Is it any wonder that they fail in this, or that sexually transmitted diseases afflict half the people in this country—and almost as many in the Christian community? Who would wish that on their child?
I believe that long before young people graduate from high school, we older Christians should work harder to bring couples together at an earlier age. If the expectation of being away at college is removed, this becomes possible. If we consider doing more to help young people pick suitable mates, they could be married even while they are working in the alternative trade schooling and apprenticeship programs we are developing. Yes, this flies in the face of how our culture tells people they must find a mate, but I believe that young people will see through the cultural lies if we build in them a proper world view. If we set an expectation that young teens get teaching in our churches on what it means to be married, setup “manhood” and “womanhood” classes and restore traditional rites of passage within the church, and start setting a foundation and expectation of maturity at a younger age, we can make this possible.
- We need to prepare our children to live with less.
- We need to teach our children what true community living is and build those communities.
- We need to train our children to conduct themselves in a mature, godly, marriageable manner at a younger age.
Key to this is the acknowledgment that our generation is responsible for the generation that comes after us. To my generation I say, It’s time to grow up and look beyond ourselves. If people in our churches look only after their own kids, none of this will work. I believe that each man and each woman in a church must not only ensure the spiritual growth and maturity of his or her own children, but the children of every other family in the church. (Even nature teaches us this truth; herd animals will gang together to encircle and protect the young against predators, even those young that are not physically their own.) I can’t ignore my church neighbor’s child. Nor can you. Sadly, we in the church have spent too much time living out our rugged individualism to care about this crucial truth. We look at the troublesome young people in our churches and say, “Someone else’s problem.” We couldn’t be more wrong.
I believe that if we start developing these five areas
- Training our children in a comprehensive Christian worldview.
- Developing alternative means of post-secondary education.
- Preparing our children to live with less.
- Teaching our children what true community living is and building those communities.
- Training our children to conduct themselves in a mature, godly, marriageable manner at a younger age.
we can make headway against the poisonous sexual lies of our culture and stem the relational heartache that afflicts too many of our kids. Even for the already married, these life changes would eventually cut our divorce rates, too.
If these sound like radical ideas, they are. But radical ideas are needed. The current solutions we’ve erected simply do not work; we’re literally handing our children unprepared into the hands of the Enemy.
To today’s singles I can only say hang in there. I walked the same, difficult path you’re now on because no one in my era was willing to face the truth. I know how rough it is out there. Singleness is a gift and most people don’t possess it in our culture, so it’s hard being single today. (If you want to write me, I will pray for you and read your stories.) It may sound simplistic, but stay true to the Lord. Find folks who are willing to make you a part of their family. Watch how they live and learn from them. Don’t let Christian singles groups be your only outlet for godly relationships. Maybe even stay away from them altogether if they only cause you more problems. Ask the Lord to make you a desirable marriage partner and be willing to listen to Him when he tells you things you may not want to hear about yourself, especially concerning what you may need to alter in your life. Keep yourself busy, for idle hands are the devil’s tools. Devote this time to the Lord while you have it; when you eventually have a family of your own, you won’t have the the kinds of opportunities to serve Him that you have now. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day; don’t worry about tomorrow. And if you’re spending all your time looking for a mate, stop; God has a way of surprising you with a mate when when you cease your earnest searching and let Him be in charge of this part of your life. Most of all, singles, lend us your time, your stories and your hard-learned lessons in the area of sexual purity so we can help the next generation avoid all the hell you and I have been needlessly put through.
I had hoped to develop more on this, but I’ve already gone too long. Thanks for staying with me. Let me know what you think and let’s see if we can make this a reality.
God bless you all.