I’m not sure that I am the right person to be writing about a subject like this, given both my concern for as great a deal of objectivity as is possible as well as the fact that this particular subject strikes me very personally and very seriously, but as it is a subject that needs to be addressed and one that I do not see addressed by others, I feel it necessary to speak about to defend myself and those people (especially within the Church of God) who share my situation and face the same sort of dilemma I do when it comes to the stigmatization that results from being seen as the dreaded bachelor (a state that seems to start affecting people around the age of 30, as I have found to my chagrin). What I do not wish to do is throw anyone under the bus (as is often and corruptly done by others to me and those who share my state), but rather I would wish to examine the dilemmas as the base of this stigmatization to show the paradoxical treatment and doublespeak that is at the core of these problems, so that they may be dealt with openly and honestly, without hypocrisy.
To be honest, there are few people who are singles (men or women) who want to remain that way indefinitely. Most of us (myself definitely included) wish to leave that status and enjoy, for the rest of our lives, the love of a husband or wife. Many of us (myself included) wish to rear up godly children and lead godly families. This longing is natural and proper, and one that a majority of people get to enjoy. But yet it has to be justified for those of us who are single (particularly for a long time), given that this longing has not been fulfilled. Some people, in order to defend God from the implied accusation that He causes suffering by giving us a longing that He does not fulfill, or to defend our broken institutions from judgment in their own role in the problems that single people face, decide that the best way of dealing with the obvious problem of singleness is to attack the character and personality of the people who are single, a group that makes an easy target and scapegoat given our own marginal status within the congregation.
I am no stranger to false accusations, and I do not need to go into personal detail here, except to say that singles (like myself) are often placed in a position where false accusation thrives and is encouraged as people seek to explain how someone is single and resort to speculations on their character and even sexuality as a way of explaining it to their satisfaction without regard to asking us, or even better minding their own business. Singles, especially single men, are placed in an untenable position given the existence of two poles of a dilemma, one of them springing from our cultural adherence to traditional norms of gender behavior and the other springing from our unconscious acceptance of worldly standards of behavior that are in contradiction to each other. On the one hand, single men are told that they have to be more manly and pursue women, not relying on women to make the first move. While I am a shy and somewhat gallant fellow when it comes to such matters, I definitely make my interest obvious and plain, as is my responsibility as a man. On the other hand, though, any act of gallantry or politeness can be seen and judged as being aggressive and threatening by those who are worldly and critical, which means that unless a single man is dealing with a godly woman who is not fearful (and given the dangers of this world and the unjust suffering many young women have faced from the violence of men, that can be difficult to find) there is no behavior that would be considered manly that could also not be considered threatening. This is a serious problem, especially for those of us who make extreme efforts not to take advantage of others or not to attempt to coerce others into gratifying our longings and desires.
There are quite a few men in this particular dilemma (and I myself am one) who are neither emasculated wimps with no ambition or drive nor are we potential rapists looking to take advantage of young ladies for our own selfish and ungodly lusts. On the contrary, we all take heroic steps to prepare ourselves for success in life in the face of very unfriendly circumstances, serve our communities and congregations with our talents and enthusiasm, and very openly desire to leave our status when God wills it, hopefully to good marriages and the challenges of raising godly families in this wicked age. Our longings are not unjust or selfish, for everyone who is married with families has shared these longings and seen their fulfillment. There are a wide variety of reasons why people struggle to find loving relationships–personal history, the divided state of the church (and the resulting scarcity of potential partners for those of us who want to marry within the faith), and so on. Admitting these problems, and the larger failure of the church culture to provide for the needs of some of its brethren needs to be admitted, openly faced, and dealt with in a manner that does not attack single people.
It is far easier, in the face of serious cultural problems that may demand painful reflection and change, to blame people rather than to tackle those problems, but it is unjust to do so. We do need to admit that the divisiveness and conflict-ridden nature of our culture has directly harmed the ability of people (especially those in Generation X and older) to find suitable partners. The fact that we divide over political reasons and have over and over again been forced to pick sides in the quarrels of others has made matters very difficult for many of us. This difficulty needs to be owned up to by those who are largely responsible for it, and whose fortunate situation in their own young adulthood shielded them from the far more difficult situation faced now by those who are single and who desire godly marriage. The vast majority of my relationships have been long distance (and I am not alone in that) as a result of the scattering we have suffered. We would do better to encourage our singles, not through well-meaning but empty platitudes, not through the “tough love” of false accusations and slander of our character and motives, but through honest education and encouragement of our desires for love and the comforts of a godly family in these evil and difficult times. Life is hard enough when one does not have to carry the burden of slander and shame on top of the difficulties of living a productive and righteous life. And quite frankly, we need all the help we can get.