It is not good for man to be alone — single?
Have you come across Time magazine’s recent ‘calculator’ which works out the (median) average age of your Facebook friends who are married?
Time magazine diagnosed I am almost a year ‘overdue’ to be married.
And, as you know, the internet never lies.
I was not too surprised by the diagnosis that I am ‘overdue’, that I am some kind of exception to the Christian ‘norm’.
I wonder if you — if there are people reading this, and indeed if they’re single (assuming single Christians still exist) — feel that ‘single’ is more than a ‘relationship status’ that you put on Facebook, as if it is some kind of label or identity — or even some kind of curse. I am not a Bible scholar so I am not going to try and do any exegetical moves here to make a case for or against singleness; but I’d like to share a little ‘existentialist’ thought experiment (or indeed an ‘existential crisis’) I had on valentines day ‘s, on how singleness has sometimes been exceptionalised in Christian culture. [Do pardon my terrible existentialist puns.]
Do you ever feel at church that you’re more defined by your singleness than by being in Christ? More identified as single than Christian? As if the single Christian is a lesser Christian or even one with a lesser state of being?
For example, at congregational intercession at my home church, it seems like the norm that it would be a married couple leading the intercessory prayer — almost as if the single lay people weren’t really part of the congregation, or at least if they were lesser congregation members with lesser being, less fulfilled lives.
Do you ever feel as if you can’t really fully understand the Gospel unless you’re married?
There is of course obviously theological topics like the blessing of marriage pointing to the relationship between Christ and the Church as His bride.
But even in the regular church service, when sermon illustrations seem to revolve round the married life, whether interactions between husband and wife, or parents and children, how is the unmarried single person supposed to relate to this?
I guess there is the view that all of us, being born, are after all products of some kind of family structure, some kind of coupling. So we are by nature a product of non-singleness, and somehow ought to have an understanding of what it means to be non-single — or to transcend singleness, at least in imagination. (Of course, such a view might be more problematic with issues like pastoring single parents or orphans.)
Being and Singleness.
At the same time, I think, we are all born single, all by nature single.
We all die single too, as Heidegger speaks of death as one’s ‘ownmost, non-relational possibility’, that ‘death is just one’s own’ that no one else could existentially experience in place of us: We all die our own death as an individual, single, not as a couple. Not dissimilar to Job’s statement ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return’ (Job 1:21a), we may even say:
Single I came from my mother’s womb, and single shall I return.
In this sense, we are all single — I guess, even for the ‘married’, in this existentialistic view.
The Banality of Single(ness)?
But perhaps because of the commonality of singleness, that it has become banal.
After all, you don’t see people putting up ‘life events’ on Facebook, celebrating that they are ‘still single’, or people congratulating people for ‘staying’ single.
Precisely because we are ‘all single’, that being-single is a given, there is nothing special to be single, nothing worth celebrating about singleness. And thus the privilege and celebration of the married, the couples, the family, as they all build a network of loving relationships on top of their ‘single’ existence.
Indeed, if this was truly the case, that singleness is banal — and the most common and universal state of existence, why does it seem — at least in the Christian communities and cultures with which I’m familiar — that the married or the families are not the exceptions, but instead those who are single qua unmarried? Why should I feel that the single people are the exceptions, some kind of lesser beings, in a church or Christian community?
Some say singleness is a gift, that it is given from God.
But is it just (regarded as) some kind of banal ‘cheap grace’ that is common to all, that is taken for granted, that one can (and should) always build on top of which with the additional and fulfilling blessings of marriage?