Sunday, October 03, 2004

unwrapping the gift of celibacy part ii

this is posted with permission of the writer. she is a single woman in the church who wanted to remain anonymous. i begged her to allow me to post it because i believe her initial gut response is truly what the church needs to face. this is a bigger problem than anyone wants to admit, what are we in the kingdom going to do about it?

Hey Bobbie -

Read your post on celibacy, and have a few thoughts I wasn't sure I wanted to post in public. First, I think you're right about how the church treats single people - particularly large-ish, suburban, evangelical type churches- as if singles aren't really adults. I don't really need someone to manage my social life for me, which seems to be what most "singles" groups are geared toward. Really, you grow out of wanting to go out and do things in groups of 27.

I've never gone to a church with a "singles group." , and I'm not particularly interested in starting now. I wish more churches viewed single people as an integral part of the church body, rather than a group that needs to be segregated out.

Having said that though, I don't find discussions about the "gift of celibacy" terribly helpful unless they include the following things:

1. The vast majority don't have the "gift of celibacy" in the sense of wanting to be single - which you said. Some things about being single are good - more freedom, learning to be comfortable with being alone - but the no sex bit? That blows - it really, really does - and the prevailing evangelical subculture does a lousy job of recognizing that, particularly with women. The church is very uncomfortable with women as sexual beings. Sex is something that is done to us, not something we do. There seems to be this idea that only men want to have sex, that we're into relationships and emotional connection, but are never just straight up horny.

My single friends and I in our 30's have talked about this - we're at our sexual peak, after all - and most married people don't understand that and talk about how sex isn't all that big a deal. Well, that's because they're getting some. It's not that I think that marriage is one long sex fest, but living in a state of more or less continual sexual frustration with no end to that in sight really really really sucks, and the emphasis on "waiting" because married sex is going to be so great just sounds mean after a while, like "here's this really fantastic thing that you are never going to have."

2. Those books that say that if you are just into Jesus enough you'll be satisfied being single are crap. I'm not exactly waiting around for my prince to come - I live my life and so do my friends. I've done a lot of interesting things, and my life has meaning outside of a husband. But that ache is still there most days, and I wish the church gave me more freedom to be open about that pain, without trying to solve it. At this point in my life, not being married really hurts, and it touches on some very painful things in my life, and that's not a sign of insufficient spirituality. Not having children is a big f*cking deal, and we should be allowed to grieve that, just as a couple who wants to have children and can't is allowed to grieve.

3 At my age, there's not as much celibacy among Christian singles as popularly supposed - and that's among those who still buy the "no sex outside of marriage" party line, at least in public. I know a lot who did real well with that until their late 20's, and then it's time for Plan B. The church is still telling me the same thing it did when I was 16, so I've grown out of that.

At some point, you have to figure out a way to explore your sexuality, unless you're just going to repress it. For most of us from a Christian background, we would like the whole Christian marriage thing. That's Plan A, and the evangelical establishment is comparing sex outside of marriage to Plan A. If those were my two choices, then I'll go with Plan A. But those aren't my choices right now - My choices are between sex outside of marriage and no sex at all (and probably not much dating either, given the Christian dating pool).

That feels like a very different choice. Lots of people choose the sex option out of discouragement, frustration, pain, or because what the church has to say just doesn't make sense any more. There's not a framework to even talk about that, and many men and women who are trying to do the right thing have an enormous sense of shame and guilt about their sexuality. It's simply not a safe topic for open and honest discussion.

please think about this, respond and learn. i am learning that unmarried people can go 40 days without being touched - by anyone! i know they don't need my pity or sympathy, they need my action. this is the beginning of my action. i really think this needs to be addressed. how can the church really make a difference here?

you can read part one here.

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