Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Controversies of Organised Religion: The relationship between church and prolonged singleness

Disclaimer: My views in this series of articles around the controversies or organised religion seek to shed light on the issues that I have seen, heard about or experienced in my 29 year relationship with a variety of traditional and modern churches in Africa and the Western world. These are not the view of the church I currently attend and I have no formal qualification that makes me an authority. That however probably makes me the best person to talk about the issues as its the 'congregation members' many a time are the ones who are on the receiving end of the negative results of organised religion, so here goes! 
Oh and please feel free to comment and set me straight if I am wrong or support me if you agree or just share a different take on the issue at hand.
The cost of organised religion

This is a reflection on the article 'Does the black church keep black women single?' by By Liane Membis, CNN 

August 10, 2010 11:09 a.m. EDT.

My dearest friend Miss P sent me the article quoted above by Liane Membis yesterday requesting my views. I must admit my initial reaction to her was, 'hey that settles that! Ladies we are going out on the pull tonight! 6pm at Bar One, let the games begin!!!' This response was in jest mocking what I feel was incredible poor advice my Ms Membis at the end of her article where she suggests that women in this category, failing to find a husband in the church must rush out to the bars and clubs and football stadiums in search of a man...dare I say any man for that matter! 

Upon further serious reflection on the issues raised in the article of the church being unhelpful in the process of helping women to find love & marriage, of the serious shortage of men who are Christians and attend a church, the over reliance of this group on religious leaders and the standards a Christian woman sets; I must admit that she did have some valid points. Whilst I agree with Ms Davis (46yrs), the Christian single that was interviewed, that Church is not a dating agency and it is not the responsibility of the church to 'match make' and pair off people, there is a lot of involvement by the church in shaping the 'short-list' that women and indeed men adopt as a guide to choosing a mate. 

These are things that are preached on and discussed openly as well as taught in singles seminars / conferences and therefore there is a role the church has played in the percentages of singles in churches.

This raises the point touched on in the article about being 'evenly yoked'. Now the scripture this phrase comes from is 2 Corinthian 6:14 which states, "Do not be unevenly yoked with unbelievers...". I have heard this scripture ministered correctly in relation to joining yourself with those who are not of the faith. However I have also heard this being quoted in relation to fellow believers, in relation to their commitment, level of service and giving and attendance in comparison to my own for example and the advice given was not be weary of joining myself to one less committed than I because they do not do as much as I do in the church or give as much as I do or attend as much which then shrinks the pool of eligible men one can consider a life partner from. 

My opinion is that commitment, level of service and giving are all personal acts of worship to God and each gives and does as they are able so to discount someone because they do those things at a different level to you seems almost like one is being made to earn their 'spiritual' credentials in order to make themselves 'worthy' something that God himself does not require of us when He tells us to 'come as we are' and through relationship with Him we grow, evolve and develop. Teaching that people should look for the finished article makes it difficult for individuals to be open to give someone a chance who has the potential to develop into the person they want/need and that possibly the relationship would be the catalyst to propel that growth. 

What I will say I see as the main failing of the church on its single people is the issue of encouraging them to base their choice of life partner predominantly on religious standards such as attendance, involvement and giving.What this does is remove focus on things that are as critically important like intellectual stimulation through conversation, background, attraction, sense of humour, ultimate goals and ideals. If you are an ill match with an individual in every aspect aside from your faith, why would your even give them a second thought? Yet some churches would encourage such a match because the two people are equal in commitment and service.That I not only think is crazy but also contributes to the increasing divorce rate within the church. 

The other points touched on about women worshipping their pastors and making the the standard or giving them the place a suitor should have in their esteem is true for some but I feel it is the weak will few rather than the majority of single women who fall into this category. I say this because genuine churches do not promote such unhealthy dynamics in their congregations so I don't agree that its it is an issue worth note.

I must however address her solution to the singleness issue in churches, (particularly around the black women in America). Her solution basically boils down to compromising their ideals and values to get a man! Honestly is this the answer to singleness in church? Should all single women really go out to the pub, club and sports bar in search of a man like a hunter, hit him over the head and drag him back to church, force him to jump through hoops to satisfy her pastor then marry him????  Well this plan is flawed on two counts; 1. a man who doesn't go to church wont go to keep you happy once in marriage (he may do for a bit to get you but once' you're got', 'you're got'!!! In which case you might as well date the guy who sometimes comes to church of his own choice) 2. If you go to find a man in a pub, when he marries you, you cant complain when he is always at the pub! Why is it that it is always church women who are expected to lower their standards? I have not heart highly professional women being advised to go to the job centre or benefits office to find a husband so why should Christian women go to the pub?Better advice would be to advise these God fearing women to be friendly (that is something single church women are not generally) and open to the men that are in church, whether he comes once a week or to everything, don't judge a brothers love for God based on the stuff he does, I know loads of guys in church who do a lot bit are shady and those who don't do that much but love God. After all its a man after God's heart you are searching for not a man who mimics your pastors every move! 

My personal short list for a potential husband in no particular order is;

1. A man who adores me
2. A man who fears and loves God
3. A man who makes me laugh and smile more than I cry
4. A man who shares my love for people and has a humanitarian spirit
5. A passionate man with vision who inspires / encourages my creativity

Note: A good work ethic, love for his family and good old common sense goes without saying!

So maybe the real issue is in the selection process that these singles use to find a man rather than there being so much of a shortage that at 46yrs (Davis)  one should still be waiting!  Aside from a simple short list of requirements which does not exclude half the men in church, there is always the power of evangelism that can tip the balance of men in vs. men out of the church! So maybe what is needed is some good old fashioned street preaching outreaches and sharing of our faith with the men we come into contact with rather than dismissing them for not fitting into our overly cumbersome and unachievable 'long list' of requirements!

...Food for thought...

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