Thursday, January 19, 2006

I'd turn them into newts if I could

My friends need to stage an intervention with me. I need someone to set the parental controls of my computers to not allow me to view Every few weeks, they post another single-is-sin article and I start foaming at the mouth. I just turned down the chance to attend a reunion of a group of people I used to be involved with, a singles' group of sorts at a church. The odd thing about this group was that the couple who led it were in the single-is-sin camp. I'm still trying to figure out why they thought they were called to minister to singles. Their passions might have been put to better use in matchmaking. I wouldn't mind seeing some of my old friends, but I just can't shake the feeling that I would hear a little 'tsk-tsk, there's one of our failures' as I entered the room.

Now, this is far from the first article Boundless has posted on this topic. But as I read this article today, I literally gasped. I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes from that classic Cinderella-hooker movie Pretty Woman. Julia Roberts goes to the powder room to floss and Richard Gere barges in thinking she's doing drugs. He says, "I'm sorry. It's just, well, not many people surprise me anymore." Roberts' character responds with, "Yeah? Well, you're lucky; most of them shock the hell out of me." I guess I should be more blase about this, but I couldn't help being shocked. Here's what got me:

" are often reduced to extolling singleness, much like a witch having the grace to drown to prove innocence.”

I'm sorry, did you just call me a witch? Are you KIDDING ME???

I would have stayed mad if the author hadn't made such a laughable gaff just a few paragraphs later. Right after calling singles "wayward and askew," the author supports her premise with a small, out of context quote by a distinguished, respected, learned Christian author: C.S. Lewis. Who [ahem] I can't help but point out, remained a bachelor until the ripe old age of 58. The scalliwag!

The author didn't just need a good editor on this piece (who should have pointed out the hypocritcal use of a Lewis quote); she needed a good theology teacher. There is nothing in scripture that says being single is a sin. If there were, we'd have to go back to the theology drawing board, because our gentle, sinless Savior was Himself a singleton. He didn't preach any sermons on the virtues of marriage or scold any of His single followers. In fact, truth be told He just doesn't really talk about it at all, one way or the other. It seems to be pretty much a non-issue.

Of course, one of the favorite passages of the single-is-sin crowd is that old Garden of Eden command to "be fruitful and multiply." The problem with extrapolating that into single-is-sin is that the command is never repeated in the New Testament under the new covenant of grace, and bearing fruit is defined in a New Testament sense as either producing good works or evangelizing and discipling. It's a classic case of unfolding revelation and layers of meaning. The New Testament certainly doesn't prohibit marrying, and in fact there is a specific injunction not to prohibit people from marrying. But neither does it prohibit singleness.

The author of the Boundless article relies mostly on historical precedent to support her thesis. If the Puritans did it, it must be okay. The Puritans are in great vogue now in evangelical circles, and indeed there is much we can learn from their earnest attempts to follow God. But they were not without their flaws; they were, after all, human. The trouble isn't, as the author of the Boundless article wrote, that we somehow believe we know better than the generations before us; the trouble is that we too often let cultural norms define our idea of spirituality rather than the other way around.

The best book I've ever read on the topic of singleness is written by my dear friend Lori Smith. Lori's book, to this day, remains one of the few (if not the only) books for singles that looks at the topic from a biblical perspective. Rather than lamenting her unmarried state, dishing advice for how to catch a man, or coming up with pithy cute "you go girl" cheerleading sessions, Lori pulled out the Book and looked to see what the One who created us has to say about not being married. I'm tempted to mail a carton full of her books to Boundless and ask them to distribute them to all their contributing writers.

Lori did for singleness what I hope to do for being a child of divorce: look at the topic from God's perspective. I can't claim to know the mind of God, but I can read and share with you the things He revealed for all times in Scripture. Together we can grow closer to Him and become the women and men He wants us to be. Warts and all.


Lori said...

Whoo-hoo! You go, girl. Very well said. You put into words what I could not have attempted at this point.

Lewis never believed in following things simply because they were old, he simply stressed that we shouldn't throw things out immediately because they are old, or hail them as truth immediately because they're new.

One other thing... Martin Luther vociferously defended and supported marriage because the emphasis for so long had been on celibacy and monasteries as the way to true service of God. He was reacting to the culture around him.

I think the Boundless position may be culturally induced as well -- a reaction to the devolution and devaluation of marriage. But the pendulum has swung way too far in the other direction. Sheesh, sheesh, sheesh...

(And thank you for the kind words about the book!)



Anonymous said...

Well, I just read the Boundless article (first time ever to their site) and I think you should start getting that box of Lori's books ready to go!