Rethinking Singleness

At last, a breath of fresh air. In this weeks’ article review we have a single pastor commenting on the Church’s perception of singles. I found the article refreshingly honest and yet gracious, hence worthy of a response.

The author Karina Kreminski addresses “8 ways to rethink the conversation about singleness” and I would like to highlight a few of these in today’s blog. I won’t touch on them all, but feel free to read her article here if you are interested.

Karina makes a salient point about the emphasis on marriage in Christian teaching. Many a time I have heard Christian teaching on healthy relationships, however this has been focused on dating and marital relationships. While such teaching is needed, it risks isolating the single person if other relationships are excluded from church teaching.

For example, I would love to hear sound Biblical teaching on healthy friendships, healthy collegial relationships and healthy Church familial relationships. I reckon we could do with more teaching on how to relate to one another as we serve alongside in ministry, how volunteers and paid staff in church can relate to one another, and how to relate to one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Another worthy point raised in the article relates to social norms and ideals held around the notion of family. The dominant story – and by that, I mean the one that seems to dominate our culture – is one of getting married, raising kids and enjoying grandchildren. I wonder about the implications for those who fall outside this dominant story.

Those who cannot or choose not to have kids lie within society’s minority. Many people who are divorced or widowed still have children. Being childfree is sometimes stigmatized as much as being single.

I for one would like to hear more of our countercultural, alternate stories as a society. I want to hear about those who choose not to get on the reproduction bandwagon. I desire to know of those who remain single and how they have experienced society’s dominant story. I would love to consider how we as a church can be more inclusive of the marginalized.

The article touches on several myths of singles. There is the myth that singles want to be left alone; the myth that marriage has always been the Christian norm; the myth of singles having unfathomable free time; and the myth of singles being inherently selfish as a reason or consequence of their singleness.

These myths are proven false through exceptions and experience. I know many singles who pursue friendship and connection, take the initiative in serving and are frequently over-committed due to the perception of “having the time to do it.”

It is unfair to expect the single community to serve the remainder. Just because one does not have family does not mean that one does not have commitments on one’s time. Similarly, just because one lives alone does not make one oblivious to the needs of others.

Finally I would like to echo Karina’s point about the nuclear family. The concept of the nuclear family was a device invented in the 1950s; it had never existed before then. It came about after World War II when women discovered that they liked working and had ambitions beyond the home. The nuclear family was devised in order to guilt women into staying home with their children.

In other words, the nuclear family is a myth. There is no need to belong to a nuclear family or to create one for the sake of being “normal.” I admire singles who do not get swept away by social pressure to marry and have kids just because everyone expects it. Of course, if you do it because it is a desire of your heart and/or God is leading you in that direction, then by all means.

True community means no-one is marginalized. It means we make an effort to include everyone, not just those who share in the dominant story. It means we don’t impose our values on others or assume negative things about them because of their marital status.

Let us prayerfully consider how we can rethink singleness so that we may be truly unified.

For Karina’s full article, click here.

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