I am currently going through a series on modern Evangelicalism’s view of singleness, marriage, and the family. You can view the first post in this series here.
Last time I gave a brief overview of the series. My conclusion is that the Church has wrongly viewed itself as a voluntary association whose ultimate allegiance is at times to the nuclear family, headed by a married couple. I say “at times” because there are other times when family is not the ultimate, but instead is replaced by the State, the Market, or pure individuality.
Instead I propose that our ultimate allegiance is to God, in Christ, through the fellowship of the Church, by the Spirit of God. All that we are, all of our purpose, all that we do, must orient around Christ. When this happens our view on singleness, marriage, and the family, drastically changes. Continuing the series today, I look at a few stories on how the Church views family, and how this makes a difference.
Valentine’s day, 2010: It was a Sunday and I was at church.
Had it been earlier in my life I would have avoided the service that day out of immaturity. Church and holidays never seemed to go well in my mind. Usually there is some kind of mix of Christian and secular values that leave me feeling… discouraged.
That Valentine’s day wasn’t too different from what I expected: the service was entirely about marriage. As a single person — one who had not gone on a date in over six years — it was incredibly alienating. The service had a special musical number between a husband-wife duet, and two testimonies from couples about the joy of matrimony. The end was the worst though: the statistics my pastor and his wife gave as a sermon on marriage. (This was the only time I had ever seen the pastor’s wife share in one of his sermons.) They reported on how a certain percentage of married people reported themselves as happy, while a lower percentage of singles reported being happy; how marriage can more than double a couples’ lifetime earnings; how marriage is a health benefit for those in it. I felt sick at the end of the service. Here I was single, and feeling awful because I seemingly couldn’t be happy, would be poor, and might have less years to live because I was an unmarried person.
That is my own personal story on the church’s presentation of marriage and family. Think about these other stories:
-In 2005 mega-churches across the US decided to not hold worship services because Christmas fell on a Sunday that year. They reasoned that this closure would allow families to celebrate at home. I wasn’t alone that Christmas, but I can imagine how other singles felt about not having a place to go for Christmas worship and fellowship.
-Friends of mine attended a church where an entire three entire months were given to a sermon series on “Superheroes”. Who were the superheroes that would be discuss Ed? Husbands and wives, responsible parents, and wholesome kids. My single friends had zero ways to relate to this series. They were unmarried, away from their families, and living with adult roommates. They had no capes in their closets.
- I’ve known several pastors who have been resistant to scheduling events outside of those Sunday or Wednesday because, “people have date nights, family-time, sports meets, etc. and the church can’t trespass on that time”.
The above stories and examples reveal something about the Church and American Evangelicals: what is expected is a lot of reliable, married, family life (because that is supposedly what we as people primarily need and should be doing), and “going to church” once or twice a week for a couples hours. And if certain people can’t relate to the above priorities then…???
As we will see in the next couple posts, part of the problem here is that this idealistic family is no longer a reality for a majority of Americans. Another is our definition of family and the Church, that places kinship above fellowship. Look for those posts soon.