We need to talk about singleness. As a broad generalisation, Protestant churches teach and emphasise marriage more than singleness. It’s a legacy of the historical over-reaction against the near-idolisation of celibacy that was prevalent in medieval Roman Catholicism. My fear is that evangelicals have made marriage into as much of an idol as the Church of Rome did singleness.
Marriage is considered the norm, singleness an unfortunate exception. It’s assumed that single people will be looking for marriage. Many in our churches are more than used to well-meaning Christian friends and family asking if there’s a nice young man or woman on the scene yet – or hearing of how often they pray that they’ll find someone and settle down.
We have ‘family fun days’ and ‘family worship’ – but we don't have ‘singles worship’. If ‘singles’ events are ever arranged for Christians, the unwritten expectation seems to be that they serve mainly as a forum for Christian courtship.
Preachers too can be guilty of making sermon illustrations and references which punctuate this disparity: married life is normal Christian life.
Single Christians know what it’s like to be sidelined, ignored, and misunderstood in the life and ministry of the church: the average Christian confession of faith will have a chapter that deals with marriage, but not one that deals with singleness. This betrays the fact that it’s not even on our radar as an option: godly marriage is taught, but not godly singleness.
Want to learn how to have a godly Christian marriage? There’s any number of books, blogs, and biographies to go to – or arrange pre-marital counselling with your pastor. Want to learn how to be a godly single? Pardon the pun, but in many of our churches you’re on your own.
What makes this bias even sillier is that almost every Christian will be single at some point in their life: we can be single by calling, preference, bereavement, or divorce. We can be single and aching for a partner. We can be single and very content.