Marriage as Spiritual Failure

I work at a Christian university.

Which is another way of saying that I work at a marriage factory.

That's definitely the impression you get. Those of you who have attended conservative Christian universities will, I expect, remember the enormous social pressure to find a Christian spouse during your undergraduate studies.

You have four years. The clock starts now. Ready. Set. Go.

I'm not exaggerating. My students report that, from Day One on campus, they hear the refrain over and over: "You'll meet your future husband/wife here."

And many do. But this intense focus on marriage on Christian college campuses creates a really unhealthy atmosphere. Some students in the grip of "Ring by Spring" madness rush into bad relationships. But the main casualty is the student who graduates unmarried and feels like a failure, socially and spiritually.

And this problem persists into adulthood. Churches are downright evil to singles. They are treated as freaks. Spiritually incomplete and malformed. And generally marginalized, silenced and excluded by the family-centered focus of contemporary church life.

I just hate this. I hate it. It's one of the worst sins of contemporary Protestant Christianity (in America at least). So last week I went off on a bit of a rant in one of my classes.

"Hey," I started, "you know how ACU pushes you all to get married. How we can't stop talking about it?" Everyone nods and groans. "Well, I'm sure you're aware," I continued, "that the bible considers marriage to be a spiritual failure."

Peculiar looks all around.

"According to the bible, you get married if you can't meet the high calling of celibacy for the Kingdom of God. More, the Apostle Paul was right. A family, a mortgage, and a minivan does affect your ability to serve God, your ability be radically available to the winds of the Spirit. If you have a family you do struggle with divided loyalties. I know that for a fact."

"So here's the deal. We're all aware that the culture of ACU and the church is going to make you feel like a failure if you don't get married. That you'd be spiritually incomplete. But that's completely backwards, biblically speaking. It's those who get married who are the spiritual failures. Singleness is one of God's highest callings. You're the special ones, the spiritually elite, the best we have to offer."

That's what I said. Yes, it's over the top. But I felt it needed saying. If only as a corrective to message they get on campus and will get at church for the rest of their lives.

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104 thoughts on “Marriage as Spiritual Failure”

  1. so true. pressure continues after marriage... to have kids... own a home... kids accomplishments... career status... holidays. It's hard but resisting keeping up with the joneses can bring a lot of freedom.

  2. There is a strange notion in contemporary churches of "Gods plan for sexuality" taken to such lofty hights that it becomes another gospel. This is a gnostic gospel where Gods true nature is only understood by men performing as Christ as Christian husbands and fathers. Women as wives and mothers also read this gnostic gospel though in a diminished role. They are the church.

    I find it bizarre as it is strongest in reformed circles yet it is just a new limited priesthood instead of the priesthood of all believers. In Australia it has a powerful grip on our largest and wealthiest Anglican diocese. It's a true cult of marriage. Thanks for raising it.

  3. That message is needed on secular campuses with Christian groups as well. At Cornell, we referred to ourselves as "InterVarsity Wedding Fellowship". While said tongue in cheek, it did point to the fact that we needed to err more on the side of caution than assuming everyone should be engaged before graduation. Good word!

  4. Psychologists call this the social clock, how we compare ourselves to peers to gauge if we are "falling behind" on some social metric. And you're right, its a real power, and not a good one, in our lives.

  5. The pressure is even greater on those who feel called into church ministry but who are single. Albert Mohler posted an article about this some months back. As I recall, his take was basically that being a single minister would forever be a drag on your ministry. That it was God's greater will for ministers to be married and to have children. Sad.

  6. When I was divorced a Baptist Minister said to me that I'd now gone back 15 years as I'd have to, "start all over again..."
    Ho hum.

  7. Speaking of psychologists, do you know whether psychologists would consider it healthy (or even effective) to shame one group in order to provide a "corrective" to the shaming of another group?

    Obviously your larger point is, however, correct: singleness needs to be affirmed, especially on campuses like this. And not just affirmed, but supported--with concrete ways to make sure that singles don't see loneliness as their primary alternative to dating/ marriage. (I've heard, by the way, the Genesis 2 story told in a way that "getting married" is God's plan because it's "not good to be alone." People were genuinely surprised when I suggested that Jesus, unlike Adam, was single but not alone.)

  8. Another point I'd like to make, is that according to Jesus, marriage isn't even a part of the Kingdom of God! See Matthew 22:23-32.

  9. I met my wife in college (she jokingly--I think--says that she went to college to get her MRS) and I have no doubt that churches, universities, and campus fellowships all play a role in encouraging the climate you are describing.  However, thinking back on my own experience, I'm pretty sure I was obsessed with finding a mate all on my own; college (and campus fellowships in particular) are just very good means to this end.  In addition, I think college just happens to be the perfect storm: hormones are really starting to kick in (if they haven't already) and folks are starting to look ahead to a time of life when they will have the financial ability and leisure time necessary to start a family.  Moreover, the generally held (if not widely practiced) Christian taboo against premarital sex leaves marriage as the only viable option for dealing with sexual tension.

    All this is not to say that you are wrong about the advantages of celibacy over marriage, but, as they say, "youth is wasted on the young," and there are few young people who can coherently contemplate celibacy when they're up to their eyeballs in hormones and potential sexual/marriage partners.

  10. As an ACU alum, I can attest to this culture - and it drove me bananas. I did meet the man who would become my husband at ACU, but we both chafed at the "ring by spring" ideology - the idea that everyone needs to be forced into one mold, one schedule, one plan. We weren't ready to get married at graduation - and waiting a couple of years was good for us in a lot of ways. I also had many single friends at ACU who worried that they were "falling behind" - some of whom have spent years trying to overcome that mindset. Ugh.

    Richard, what does your wife think about the "marriage as spiritual failure" idea? :)

  11. Dead on! AT my college we openly joked (boys AND girls) that the gals were there to get there MRS degree. how sad that we let otherwise great things (I believe marriage is wonderful) get in the way of truly following God. Our institutions have set up so many "must do's" to be considered holy that Jesus not only does not hold as a standard but often speaks against.

    Thanks for sharing with them.

  12. As a Bible major, I found this especially true.  Not only was it an expectation, in many ways it was a career requirement!  When I graduated and started applying to ministry positions, I found that many churches in their job descriptions included the line, "married preferred."  I can understand that some churches are more comfortable with hiring someone who is married, particularly in a position like children's minister or youth minister, but I hope that they don't see it as a requirement and therefore pass over an otherwise very qualified candidate.  I know many people who are single and who are excellent ministers.

    Speaking for myself, I met my wife at ACU even though both of us were very content on graduating "ringless."  We both knew many "springers" and thought it was just plain cuckoo.  It's funny how God works, though...we got married three weeks after my wife's commencement ceremony!  

    One thing: I understand that you were using hyperbole in saying that marriage is a spiritual failure and were simply trying to get a point across, but I pray that no one were to believe that statement to such an extreme.  My wife is one of God's greatest blessings to me.  She helps me with my ministry as a source of advice and encouragement, and in the times of stress that this job brings, I can't think of what I would do without her.  I think that Paul's point is valid when he writes that a married man or woman's "interests are divided." (1 Corinthians 7)  As a single man, I might have decided to move next month to a remote, dangerous country to preach the message of Christ, but as a married man, that's simply not something I would ever do to my wife.  However, I don't see my marriage as a limitation or hindrance at all.

    The fact is, our God is doing great and powerful things in this world each and every one of His people, regardless of their status: rich or poor, prepared or inexperienced, minister or layperson, or even married or single.  Praise God because of this.

  13. While I would dispute the characterization of Paul's words as "marriage = failure" (you yourself said it was over-the-top), I remember what it was like in a Christian college, and I remember the pressure to marry the person I was dating (finally!) in my final year. While the year that followed was one of the darkest of my life (we broke up!), I'm so glad now that I instead married the person I was yet to meet for several years yet.

  14. That's a good point. There's a whole lot that could be said about this issue.

    For example, here's something I think about regarding this issue. Most students, like you and I, want to get married. So the pressure is also self-imposed. So if I don't get married (don't find Mr. or Mrs. Right) then in my own eyes I've failed.

    Okay, so in that instance have I been "called" to celibacy? I'll likely not see it that way and will continue to pursue marriage, perhaps for my whole life. Which means the feeling of completeness I'm searching for is never satisfied.

    The point being, without any formal structures helping people sort through calling and failure we just default to feelings of failure. In many Christian communities failure is the only theological category we have.

  15. I understand the use of hyperbole. I really do. However, for all of those who dogmatically insist that the Bible is clearly written and assessable to the average reader, I need to see if I understand this issue correctly.  According to the clear message in the Bible, God's highest "good" for us is celibacy and the resulting availability to the "winds of the Spirit".  And yet, most Christian schools, denominations, and churches throughout the world encourage marriage, family, and children.  Of course, if you choose this life, you will "fit in" to the Christian lifestyle more comfortably, and be less of a social outcast.  But your best bet is to go with The Kingdom of God, and thus remain celibate.

    If the Bible is so clear, why this glaring confusion?  How is it that Christian young people are so easily manipulated and pressured?  If marriage and family (and the requisite trappings) are clearly "a failure" according to the Bible, how could all these millions of Christians have failed to grasp this, such that they have completely institutionalized a major event in many, if not most lives? 

  16. Oh, I loved this! I specifically love how you were able to "vent" as it were, and then establish in a quick clause that yeah, it's over the top, but you felt it needed saying. I've been struggling with how to authentically process feelings like this while at the same time trying to keep perspective, and I think you did that brilliantly.

    As a gay Christian guy who attended a Christian university, I experienced all this only with added social pressure and guilt. Thank you for this post, and thank you for your corrective message, even if it was over the top. It was a breath of fresh air.

  17. Though, I think to Beck's point, this is more so because it is harder to go against the social pressures of a community or society than it is to simply deal with your hormones and choose a partner (though the latter are also very difficult to overcome as well). Being social creatures, social motivation seems to be one of the strongest external/internal influences upon a person. But that is a bit speculative, I think. Or I am, at least, unaware of research that says one way or the other. And to be fair, if youth is wasted on the young, then wisdom is squandered on the old.

  18. Some of the sting of my rant was mitigated by the fact that I was fully including myself (obviously) in the "failure" group. I did talk about a lot more stuff and did use your example of heading off to a dangerous mission field.

    Of course I don't feel that my marriage or any marriage is a "failure." And I doubt the students felt I was describing my own marriage as a "failure." I was just pointing them to Paul's texts where he posits a Kingdom ideal and then frames marriage as the thing you do if you can't meet that ideal. "Failure" is a word that could describe that. And I do think Paul kind of saw it that way. 

    In the end, I have all sorts of quibbles with Paul. This is among them. Still, it's worth pointing to these texts from time to time if they can provide a prophetic word to a dysfunctional culture.

  19. Jana, I don't think, has read the post yet.

    But I think she'd heartily agree: Marrying me was a failure! :-)

    But seriously, she and I talk all the time about how we chaff at how the singles are treated in church.

  20. I definitely agree that my "community" (and that includes me) could have done a better job of helping me sort through these issues.  I guess, between us, what we are saying is that it may not be enough for the Christian community to stop pushing marriage, but that we need to do a better job of encouraging and validating alternatives to marriage, if only for a season of life.

    BTW, your third paragraph reminds me of your recent post on homosexuality (and pacifism) and subsequent discussion.  I wonder if those who say that gays should be celibate for life (or engage in opposite-gender marriages) can be co-opted to help encourage celibacy among straight Christians?  They must have a good formula for making it a realistic and palatable alternative....

  21. As the mother of a college-age son, a parent's perspective is concern that that kind of "ring by spring" pressure translates into manipulations by "pre-wed" majors. Socializing is a part of the college experience, no question, but the hard-earned and scraped-together money is put out there to fund an education, not a matchmaking environment.

  22. Why this glaring confusion? That's a good question. I think the answer is partly historical. Charles Taylor in his beast (as in long and discursive) of a book A Secular Age talks a bit about this shift during the Reformation. During the Reformation there was a dismantling of the distinction between "spiritual elites" (e.g., priests, monastics) who were celibate and the laity who were not. During the Reformation the work of God became to be less associated with ecclesial activity than in the common, daily life of the laity, the life of work and the family. As a Protestant, I think this was a good and healthy corrective. But, like many correctives, it created its own set of problems.

  23. The tragedy for me was when a few years after college I began to experience divorce for the first time among my Christian peers who'd married young. This pressure in Christian culture you rightly identify seems to force quick action before some have developed the kind of virtue and emotional health helpful in making a marriage thrive. Not necessarily condemning young marriage nor divorce across the board; just saddened to see friends who probably weren't ready but acted anyway out of desperation, rashness, or a desire to fit the culture of which they were a part. Saddened by the deflation of that initial enthusiasm.

  24. Ooo...don't tell your spouse. When I tell my wife that we won't be married in Heaven (to playfully taunt, of course), I get punched in the shoulder.

  25. As a still-single, 26 year old ACU alum (gasp!) I want to thank you for this defense of our race. Although, in my personal experience, I will say that while at ACU I saw this kind of pressure more from the actual students, my own peers, than I did from faculty. I felt very encouraged by many faculty, especially in several Bible classes, on the importance and roles of of singles in the church. Once I left that environment, however, I realized just how absolutely isolated I felt, despite not wanting to be isolated. From the negative remarks from married friends about how self-involved single people are, to always being put in small groups with other singles despite not having anything else in common other than our marital status, the isolation is painful. And did I mention that I've experienced the exact same thing on the mission field? At missionary conferences or within my own congregation, its frustrating that one's marital status is the primary identifier. And, going back to the pressure that is put on couples at Christian universities, I graduated from ACU in 2007 and off the top of my head could name 10 couples who graduated with me or after me who got married and already divorced. The pressure isn't just sad, it's dangerous. Thank you again, Dr. Beck!

  26. "But, like many correctives, it created its own set of problems."

    Yes.  I would be interested in an entire essay or link from you (as a student of both theology and psychology) as to why that is.  It might help to better understand both religion and government.

    The only two conversation starters which have historically caused my eyes to glaze over and prevent me from hearing anything else after that are:  "According to the Bible", and, "I'm from the government, and I am here to help you".

  27. A couple of anecdotes. 2 of my closest friends who were married in undergrad recently filed for divorce. The Christian Home class they took while at Harding didn't prepare them for the fact that they had rushed into marriage without a solid relationship foundation between themselves or a local church. For myself, I have spent the 3.5 years since undergrad looking for a church home that accepts me as a single, introverted theatre technician (I explain I am a carpenter) that spends most of my time with unchurched, bar-hopping, sexually active colleagues. All I am looking for is spiritual support and formation.  But I have yet to find a way into the cliques of the happy, hyper-spiritual groups, especially when my job precludes me showing up for all extracurricular church activities. 

  28. Firstly,  I agree with your sentiment on the irrational pressure Christian colleges places on marriage now, do it DO IT WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!

    But, I don't see much Biblical support for marriage as a spiritual failure claim, hyperbole withstanding.

    Genesis takes great pains to illustrate God's design.  It points out repeatedly that, in all of the world, there wasn't a suitable companion for Adam. "It is not good that man should be alone" is not a very ambiguous statement. 

    Secondly,  the Apostle Paul's words have to be understood in the context of their culture. In their day, there wasn't even a concept of adult singleness.  It didn't have a social category outside of prostitution.  There were even laws that penalized widows if they did not remarry within a certain amount of time. 

    So Paul's famous words were really introducing a new paradigm: It's ok to not be married.  You're not less human. You can still please God. It's not innately sinful.

    He also was dealing realistically with the challenges of both forms of living.  The distractions and greater work required by married, and the greater temptation to be impure if you are single.  And, a lot of related to a culture where Christianity was despised/persecuted. 

    Tim Keller summed up Paul's teaching as this: "If you're single, don't be too eager to be married."

    I think each person should prayerfully consider the question.  Most people I know who disavow marriage, do so for purely selfish reasons: They don't want to answer to or serve anyone else.  That is antithetical to the Bible's teaching.  I have never met anyone whose motivation was ministry (but I agree that for some, this is their calling). 

    Likewise, no one should rush into marriage. 

    Finally, the Bible is pretty clear that marriage plays a key role in our sanctification. As a friend of mine opined, the magical part of marriage is what God does between two people in making them one. Not the fireworks, romance, chemistry.  That's just extra. 

    Just some unmarried, dating but uneager to be married thoughts,

  29. Could it be that our concept of 'calling' might be part of our problem here? The way that I often see it functioning, calling focuses upon private impressions of what God would like one to do, or, perhaps even worse, is a way of referring to what one would most like to do with one's life as if God's will merely existed to underwrite the American dream of self-realization. Where does the Bible say anything about calling being about a subjective sense of 'completeness', for instance? The biblical concept of calling seems to be far less concerned with the way that we feel about matters. Calling can be a violent assault upon our lives, or can be the undesired state - the thorn in the flesh - that even after prayer God just won't deliver us from, or provide us with a godly means of escape from. Calling can also often involve other people's recognition of gifts in us that we don't recognize ourselves, and the expectation that faithful communities place on us to exercise those gifts. For many of us, myself included, there are desirable alternatives to the life of celibacy and other callings open to us, but we know that they would involve sin or might otherwise compromise our focus upon core commitments. Struggling with the lot that God has given you at this time while being faithful in the position in which one finds oneself can be a form of commitment to calling.

  30. Totally agree. Where I live the theology of calling is totally hollowed out and ambiguous. On the topic of marriage the theology often looks like this: 1) Student wants to marry and fails to marry, 2) Someone then tells the student this means they are "called" to celibacy.

    Which is pretty bad theology. Calling, on my campus, is often just a euphemism for failure.

  31. YES! Thank you! I did not go to a Christian university but even the secular world pushes you to partner! PARTNER! WHY DO YOU NOT HAVE A PARTNER?!?! Get a partner or you're a failure!

  32. Yeah. And sorry for the sarcasm--I see from the discussion above that you don't think the "failure" label will bite those of your students who are (or will be) married.

    But I actually have plenty of friends for whom this reasoning does bite--friends who still see their sexuality as a weakness, friends who think they would be doing great(er) things for God if they hadn't gotten married and devoted themselves to loving wife and children, friends who think that God's way is about denying self (which they equate with singleness) rather than learning to live with other people (which they equate with marriage). Obviously, these categories require some rather careful deconstruction, which I'm sure you're doing.

    I think the whole "marriage is a failure" is a bad response to "singleness is a failure"--but I'm sure your actual message to your students is a much more nuanced theology of calling, of relationship, of community discernment. Keep up the good work.

  33. I'm not sure you're reading Paul right, by the way. I would say that the text frames marriage as one thing you do as you struggle to meet the Kingdom ideal, and singleness as another. The translation is, admittedly, a bit difficult. I still feel there's something funny about using something you don't actually think is true, but Paul might have said, as a prophetic corrective to something else. I'm not picking on your self-admitted "rant"; but I am really interested in whether the church ought to teach/ preach this "prophetic" reading of Paul (as Hauerwas, for example, does) or whether we should be searching for another, better alternative to "married is better."

  34. I'm a student at Oklahoma Christian, and maybe it's just among my group of friends, but people don't seem to be overly concerned about this. I've had one girlfriend here on campus and then had a brief something or other with another girl. Both claimed to not want to even think about marriage until they were older (one is married now though). That's the attitude I see among my non-christian peers as well. Everyone wants to wait until their late 20's to settle down.

    When you couple this with the fact that pre-marital sex is starting to become a lot less stigmatized among younger Christians, it looks more and more to me like the marriage culture may play less of a role in the future (at least on our campus anyway).

    I think it's very hard to remain truly celibate in our culture. Even if one can abstain from sex with other people, pornography is readily available and other forms of sexually suggestive material are present everywhere in advertising, music, movies, and other media. It'd take a very spiritually strong person to not allow all of that stuff to affect them. Also I think that our culture lacks a certain amount of intimacy in relationships with family and friends, that people hope to attain through a relationship with a significant other (which places a lot of pressure on that significant other!). 

    My mother used to ask me a lot about my dating life last semester. I think she's worried I'll leave college without anybody, but she's stopped hounding me now. I think she's accepted that I'm just hopeless. :P

  35. Sarcasm is fine. I"m just excited and honored to have a faculty member from ACU's GST reading the blog. My sense is that they tend to avoid this space...and you are no doubt discovering why.

  36. Paul outright says that celibacy is superior to marriage. He commends his readers to emulate him in singleness and says that marriage is an acceptable choice for those who just can't hack it as celibate individuals. There is no mention of whether Jesus was married and the tradition has generally assumed he was celibate also. He clearly says that marriage doesn't play a role in the Kingdom, so at best it is a temporary arrangement.

    Yes there are other voices in the Bible that are more pro-marriage, but you are soft-pedaling most of the New Testament here. Dr. Beck is right.

  37. Greg Boyd preached on this very topic last week. Pretty much makes the same point as this post. Anyone interested in a more thorough examination ought to check it out.

  38. Not sure that it's necessarily 'failure'...that leads one into a concept that celibacy is a superior spiritual state which in turn can lead to all sorts of abuses...just look at the Catholic church's historical teaching on this.  

    But marriage and singlehood are certainly a different kinds of life, each with their own challenges.  Neither is perfect.  Neither is always easy.  

    But I get your point...we should stop telling our young people to look at marriage as the idealistic state.  I know more of a few people from my time at a Christian school who wish they had heard would have maybe stopped some dumb marriages.  

  39. Marriage is not a "spiritual failure" by the Bible's standards. That is going too far to make a point. Do you say this just to be provocative? Jesus and Paul were celibate because both had extremely special callings (key word), but probably the other apostles were not and the general early Christian community was not. And of course, marriage was a bedrock value of the Israelite/Jewish culture since time immemorial. It is not be treated lightly. The marriage model goes all the way back to the Pentateuch and Adam and Eve, and Jesus actually took the strict view in denouncing divorce (Matt 19), citing Genesis 2:24.

    Would you say a man having long hair or a woman having short hair is a "spiritual failure"? Paul wrote about that too.

  40. I met my wife at ACU. Well, the first one anyway.

    I served for a while as a sort of lay leader/minister of sorts for the singles group at my post-college church. There were two things that stuck with me. One, nearly every prayer included a request for guidance in finding a spouse. And two, as I was divorced, I was off-limits for dating. The exceptions were other divorcees and the woman who told me that given her age (she was 31 at the time) she didn't really have much choice about the man she'd meet having been married.

    I recall there being a movement with Christian singles culture in the nineties where it was assumed that if you were single you weren't supposed to get married or date anyone. Just find a ministry and have that be your life. It was kind of a big deal in the DFW area circa 1997-98.

  41. I appreciate your attempt, however, you fail to grasp why this was written. The point being, that the first command implies the union of two people becoming one. For the sake of this argument we'll call that marriage. So at one point in time, the beginning of man and woman, God considered this to be the fulfillment of part of what God designed us for.  I can not agree therefore that in acting on Gods command I have been a "spiritual failure".  I understand what Paul said but as William Barclay once said "I don't give damn what Paul thinks". If you take Gen 1:28 as a command from God (and you have little reason not to) then this is not spiritual failure. Furthermore, your argument being that there exists a large number of people does nothing to negate the commands of God. Because by your logic if Adam and Eve, after Cain and Able stopped well then that would have fulfilled the command- they multiplied! The command was not just to them.
    ...but really where else are young people going to find like minded young Christian men and women, who actually take a belief in God seriously.
    "One of the good things that come of being married is that there is one
    face which you can still see the same through all the shadows which
    years have gathered and heaped upon it. No, I have a better way of
    putting it: there is one face whose final beauty you can see the more
    clearly as the bloom of youth departs, and the loveliness of wisdom and
    the beauty of holiness take its place." ~George MacDonald, Parish
    Papers, p. 209.

  42. In Orthodoxy, the states of marriage and celibacy (whether simply as an umarried person, or as a vowed monastic) are both honorable and seen as paths of asceticism, the process of self-denial so that Christ may increase in us.  In practice, monastics are often looked at as "having the edge" in this, but this is not the teaching of the church.  Anyone who is really trying to love a spouse understands just how much self-denial is involved; marriage does offer a kind of fulfillment, but you get it as a result, not as the goal, and most people don't understand this.

    In my parish (and I have experience with only this one) there's what seems to me to be a larger than usual percentage of unmarried people:  a few are not married because they are socially awkward and somewhat immature; at least one (that I know of) is a same-sex-attracted celibate; a few are divorced; one couple is in long-term separation; one couple seemed to be headed for marriage, but now the guy has turned his attention to an attractive divorcee.  Some of these situations are publicly painful, but nobody really bats an eye at any of it.  We all struggle with whatever we struggle with, and we are all called to love and forgive one another and help one another in the process of ultimate healing (salvation/theosis).  That's the goal, anyhow, and it's stated overtly.

    Of course, as with any group of people we don't live up to the goal.  One of the things I love about Orthodoxy is that we actually admit that, quite often, and people are encouraged to actually face up to it - not to be browbeaten with our sin, because God has forgiven everyone - but to take advantage of all the opportunities we have in life for metanoia - dropping our own agendas (N.T. Wright) and taking the action of turning, turning, turning back to God (this is the O. definition of "repentance" - much closer to the Hebrew shuv than the English/Latin idea of feeling deeply sorry).

    On a separate but somewhat related note, Richard, have you read Jenell Paris' "The End of Sexual Identity"?  If so, what did you think of it?


  43. Hi Richard

    May I make an observation about a few of your recent posts?

    I'll take that as a yes.

    Would it be fair to say that you've been asking lots of categorical questions recently?

    Are critics of the LGBT community OK or not OK?
    Is pacifism or direct action the correct response to injustice?
    Is marriage any better than celibacy?

    Would it also be fair to say that your M.O. in addressing these questions is broadly iconoclastic in the straw man tradition - to stand up and then knock down the received wisdom of the culture you're a part of?  To point out the strengths of the unheard voice?  To challenge our assumptions?

    All great stuff as far as it goes.

    What I keep wondering through all this (and have tried to hint at in various posts) is this:

    Are these questions that God is asking about us?

    The big danger, it seems to me, in getting the questions wrong, is that polarisation is the inevitable result.  One of the things that takes my breath away about the Jesus of the gospels (and the one of my experience) was his ability to answer the wrong question with the right one.

    Which of us will sit at your right hand?
    Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar?
    Should we stone this woman?

    They'd all make great People's Front of Judea blog posts (or is it the Judean People's Front?)

    But the divine response is a refusal to play ball - to discern the real question - the still, small voice amongst the tumult and shouts vying for attention.

    My question - and it is posed out of deep respect and love for this blog and its author, as I hope you know by now - is: are we asking the right questions?

    "What are the right questions then?" I hear you ask.

    That's a pretty good one for starters, right there.

  44. I graduated from ACU in '04. I remember the "ring by spring" atmosphere well. I graduated without a spouse, and I definitely remember feeling pressure while there to find someone. But I also fell in love with the adventure of single life that most of my college friends didn't get to experience. I moved to a new state, made new friends, and struggled with things that only a few of my friends could understand. In other words, I got to experience my 20s. 

    Is it possible to meet the right person at college? Absolutely. Is it just as likely that you'll enter a toxic relationship built on fear that lasts way too long and does almost irreparable damage to both parties? Absolutely. Just ask my friends who got divorced at 22, or the man who spent five undergraduate years in a passive-aggressive relationship fueled largely by both parties' suspicion that breaking up at 21 means never finding anyone ever again. Yes, that's idiotic logic, but that's the kind of thinking that comes easily to a 21-year-old raised in the C of C and attending a conservative Christian school. There's a real terror of the unknown there.

    I met the woman who'd be my wife in my own way, on our own time. And it couldn't have been better.

  45. I have been asking a lot of categorical questions. And those tend to come across as provocative "bombs." I do try to space those out a bit (for example, between posts about the skull in my office office). But sometimes these post cluster. For no particular reason. Just the stuff rumbling through my head when I sit down to type. All told, however, the questions I'm asking come out of a soft space; thinking about how people are hurt and trying to ask questions about the things doing the hurting. In this post it's great empathy for the plight of singles in churches and students who feel like freaks if they don't graduate with an engagement ring.

    For the most part, my pique comes from my compassion. I want to make those who are not seen, seen.

  46. I did a documentary series on this as a project last semester at ACU. I interviewed six seniors about their opinions on the marriage culture that exists at a Christian university.

  47. Mary, I graduated from a Christian college as a single and remained so for another five years. Although my experience differs from yours in that regard, I can empathize with your desire to punch would-be matchmakers in the teeth. The pressure I felt didn't come from friends--most of my friends were fellow pariahs of the adult church world in the singles group--but from married folks older than us that couldn't understand how we could be in our mid-20s and be single. Their well-meaning comments only exacerbated the pressure (and sense of failure) many of us had placed on ourselves to find a spouse. I remember at least twice in the singles class covering lesson series on "marriage preparation" and whenever we were finally encouraged to attend the Sunday morning adult class--imagine that--it was focused on being a better husbands and wives.

    Several of us eventually spoke to our preacher about our frustration with feeling like second-class citizens. He was sympathetic to our plight but seemed surprised that we felt that way. He assured us no one intended making us feel uncomfortable. And I didn't think they did either. And that's what's scary. Marrying and having kids has nearly become a central tenet in many Protestant churches.

  48. I'm not sure what I'm discovering. I will say that the conversation seems to move a bit quickly for me--I'm still interested in something that was said a day or two ago, and that's ancient news in blog-world. For much the same reason, I don't get to really interrogate the claims and assumptions (where precisely is Paul supposed to say that marriage is failure? what do those verses mean? etc. etc.) because people say their say and move on.

  49. > But the main casualty is the student who graduates unmarried and feels like a failure, socially and spiritually.

    Given the divorce rate among evangelicals, I'd dispute the characterization of this as the "main casualty".

  50. Outward appearances aside, why is it that no two Christians can agree conclusively about anything that the Bible says?

  51. Thanks for bringing this up, Richard. I've been wondering why we idolize marriage... commenter Tony speaks the truth when he calls this another gospel.

    Of course, as you say, it exists in churches, not just Christian colleges -- though it's especially epidemic there.

    Yesterday I read a post by Kevin DeYoung that just serves to feed into this whole thing:


  52. Somehow your post here reminds me of 1 Timothy. People always quote 1 Timothy 2:12 and say that women have no leadership role in church, but to me they are just speaking out of context and neglecting the audience to whom Paul was speaking. I don't agree that the bible teaches marriage as spiritual failure, but I don't think this is what Richard is talking about here neither. 

  53. At least two Christians I know agree that Jesus is the son of God, was crucified, died, raised on the third day and now sits at the right hand of the throne of majesty.  All this other stuff is somewhat less important than that.

  54. Richard, I've never read your blog before, and this is some introduction! But here I go anyway...
    I've just begun my 40th year on this fair planet, am single, and have recently completed my 4th stint at post-secondary education - admittedly, not all of them at Christian universities, but I've been around the church long enough to recognise what you're talking about.
    What I find puzzling in your post is what you have called an expression of compassion for the unseen: that anyone would think I would feel less of a failure because I can point a finger at the married camp and label them as (biblical) failures instead...?! It's a bit like kinderrgarted all over again. If I can prove I've passed and you've failed, then we've kissed the problem better. I don't think so. I wouldn't mind kissing the problem better, actually. But not by causing those who have married to consider themselves as less-than, flunked, drop-outs, incapable, unsuccessful...

  55. Richard, I've never read your blog before, and this is some introduction! But here I go anyway...
    I've just begun my 40th year on this fair planet, am single, and have recently completed my 4th stint at post-secondary education - admittedly, not all of them at Christian universities, but I've been around the church long enough to recognise what you're talking about.
    What I find puzzling in your post is what you have called an expression of compassion for the unseen: that anyone would think I would feel less of a failure because I can point a finger at the married camp and label them as (biblical) failures instead...?! It's a bit like kinderrgarted all over again. If I can prove I've passed and you've failed, then we've kissed the problem better. I don't think so. I wouldn't mind kissing the problem better, actually. But not by causing those who have married to consider themselves as less-than, flunked, drop-outs, incapable, unsuccessful...

  56. Thanks for your response, Richard.  Just to be clear, I love the SUBJECTS of your questions, the values behind them and the honesty and the pique, too - I'm just wondering about (and hopefully encouraging wider reflection upon) the intended and unintended consequences of different ways of framing those questions.  I trust you enough to leave this with you.  Heartfelt thanks, as always, for the time and thought you put into keeping us all coming back.

  57. Hi, Angela,

    As a person who has had a disability all his life, your comments speak to the very heart of every comment I post here.  Although the author cannot seem to understand your extremely important point, I think there is at least one other here who does.  The progressive mindset would impose their own brand of "compassion" on whatever group, and never see how demeaning and counter-productive this is.  I believe this exact impulse is the cause of the financial bankruptcy of western societies.

    Still -- I must give Richard the benefit of the doubt, because I do believe his heart is in the right place.

  58. Yes -- I knew someone would mention this.  I could even argue this one fact, but won't.  "All this other stuff", however, is the nuts & bolts of the Faith.  No little thing, and I think quite important.  The matter is the most important a person can contemplate -- life and death -- and it is strange that there is never any consensus on what is real and what is not.

  59. Hi Sam
    May I butt in?
    I think I get where you're coming from and understand a little of why it's so important to you. I agree with you about the little stuff being important and also share your frustration about the lack of unity.
    But I think I see this diversity as the inevitable medium of the search for truth and authenticity. As such I want to celebrate the diversity rather than rail against it (I didn't always feel this way). I think, for me, the important question for each of us is: "Do you want to be healed (=set free by truth and love)?" (Sorry to mix these two ideas - I realise they have other resonances for you.) Or do we just want to tell people why they're wrong?  Are we in the conversation to learn or to put people straight?  
    I find the metaphor of the hub and spokes of a wheel helpful: it doesn’t matter what our starting point is, so long as we’re heading the same way.  That way, we’re on a journey of reconciliation.

  60. I always wondered if Paul had seen down the pike a couple thousand years, that Corinthians passage would have been there or said what it did. But that's rather presumptuous, I reckon. Yours is a kind and compassionate declaration....obviously out of step with the "culture," but that's what you do so well, ask questions, challenge accepted norms, and ruffle feathers. It's not that you don't value marriage and families but that we need to value and honor singles and singleness more. Peter and Paul got lots of stuff done. One was single. One was married.

  61. I remember complaining to a colleague--when I had a nursling, a part time position as priest in charge of a small parish, and several committee obligations--that Paul had something right about that celibacy thing.  As usual, what you write here is so true. . . .

  62. Oh and BTW, as a self-confessed statistics geek, you may like to know why your categorical posts cluster - not for 'no particular reaon' as you claim, oh no, but because such events follow the Poisson distribution.  That's why if you ask in a school or church assembly who has a birthday today, you usually get no-one or a whole buch of people putting their hands up, or, as we say with sad resignation in England, 'you wait all day for a bus, and then three come along at once.'

  63. "Wake, thou that sleepest; rise up from the dead,
    And Christ will give thee light."  I do not know
    What sleep is, what is death, or what is light;
    But I am waked enough to feel a woe,
    To rise and leave death.  Stumbling through the night,
    To my dim lattice, O calling Christ! I go,
    And out into the dark look for thy star-crowned head.

    'A Book of Strife in the Form of the Diary of an Old Soul' - George MacDonald (Reading for November 5th)

  64. As much as I agree with the overall spirit of this post, which obviously connects to a deep sentiment felt on a widespread basis among single Christ-followers, to label those who are married as "spiritual failures" isn't just "over the top" - it's a misinterpretation of Paul's opinions and words regarding the nature of marriage.  if one thinks about that line of logic for more than a minute and takes into account Paul's other treatments of marriage (though admittedly sparse), I think it's hardly fair or an accurate portrayal to say "biblically, marriage is for spiritual failures" - that's the easy, sensational response to lamentable, and equally unbiblical view (that marriage is for the spiritual elite and therefore single people are "spiritual failures"). using sensationalism as a means of getting a highly contested point across only to land on the other extreme of the issue, though emotionally attractive in the short run, really misses the mark on a great opportunity to open up a conversation that seeks to land somewhere in the middle with a range of views and opinions in between - one that doesn't alienate the opposite party.  why does either the married believer or the single believer have to be a spiritual failure?  i hardly think Paul is presenting that argument.  once again, in no way do i disagree with your point, but i have some issues with the way its proved using Paul while ignoring Paul's Ephesians 5 analogy of marriage as the physical likeness of the union between Christ and His Church - which i think can hardly be viewed as spiritually deficient. 

  65. Richard, provocative and thought inducing.  It would seem that you are leaning counter trend in order to expose the middle ground.  To that, I applaud.  But I would say that it is not an indictment of the church but of humanity in general. We desire those around us to find mates and, well, mate. If nothing else but for the propagation of the species. It is good for us, in general, for people to couple. 

    So when Paul, himself a provocateur at times, tells us that single-hood is the lauded state, he asks us to rebel against our very nature.  This he concedes is not easily done by explaining that most of us can not overcome the desire to procreate - nor should we.

    Thanks for stirring the pot.  It has been fun reading the comments.

  66. As a single person in his late 20's, and a graduate of a small protestant christian university where the ethos was very similar, I definitely appreciate your insisting to your students that "singleness" is far from a familiar, and that the overwhelming pressure to find a spouse during college detracts from so much else that you could be studying, experiencing, dreaming about, working through, etc...

    But I would like to push things a bit further about the either/or construction (i.e., either marriage or celibacy-singleness). I would like to suggest that it is not just a little bit sado-masochistic to tell people that if they don't get married that they have foregone the intimacy and pleasures of a healthy relationship (for a higher good, no doubt, but that doesn't comfort you so much when you're lonely!). Another way to say this is that I see, in a lot of married peoples defenses of "singleness," a blind eye being turned toward what they are really asking and suggesting.

    I'm not much interested in "higher callings," personally. It's just that I don't let my life be ruled by the conventional pressures of finding a spouse. Again; praising "singleness" is only helpful and healthy if there is some kind of real live community which is willing to, and capable of supporting those (us) folks. Otherwise, I think, it is just asking too much, and from a position that turns a blind eye to what is really being suggested.

    In lieu of that kind of community I think there must be a theological middle ground carved out - for us, other, failures who are too "weak" to take on the high demands of being a spiritual "elite," but strong enough to withstand the temptation to marry just out of loneliness, or because it's what is expected, etc.

  67. “Doing the will of God leaves me no time for disputing about His plans.”

    George MacDonald

  68. Andrew why do you think Richard is using a straw man component to the argument? I sometimes think that when a controversial issue is addressed for discussion, someone has to evoke "straw man" as if to shut down the discussion to some extent. This is an issue that the church needs to deal with. If they are going to demonize gay men and women, then shouldn't they demonize those who don't conform?  Paul's view of marriage seems a bit self-righteous to me in one way. Another way of looking at might be that since he expected the end to come at any moment, he didn't see any point in marriage, as I assume he was familiar with Jesus' view that it's not very important an issue. So long as you are in a relationship and are going to give in to the flesh, at least you won't be sinning.  However, I find this thought rather vague. The early Christians (both Jewish and pagan?) were familiar with the rituals that consecrated marriage.  Were the Jewish rites adhered to, or did were their new rites instituted?  Did the ritual matter? Did the Roman empire need to be involved in a civic sense? Who provided the license?
    I think we're asking the right questions. One could be, are those who decide to remain single in the church also being held to a standard of celibacy, too? And, is being single/celibate not brought up because we are all too weak in the flesh and risk sinning more that we might imagine?

    I'd like to see as aggressive a campaign for or against singleness/celibacy in the church as their is against all forms of sexual immorality.  We can take it a step further too and decide what married couples can or can't do in their bedroom.

  69. Hi Matteo

    Many thanks for your thoughtful comments.  I think you're moving in the direction I'm trying to hint at.  Your questions move us away from quantitative (or categorical) considerations and towards qualitative ones, although I'm not sure I like the sound of "deciding" what married couples "can or can't do".

    Similar considerations might be to do with:

    power inequalities in relationships and how they are mediated
    the politics of who gets to decide what is sin and what isn't
    the values behind our personal relationships

    and so on.

    One of the things I'm learning from MacDonald is to take these reflections and apply them to my own relationship with God.  For example, today's reading from his lectionary runs thus:

    There are those who come to me, and write, and send,
    Whom I would love, giving good things to all,
    But friend - that name I cannot on them spend;
    'Tis from the centre of self-love they call
    For cherishing - for which they first must know
    How to be still, and take the seat that's low:
    When, Lord, shall I be fit - when wilt thou call me friend?

    Blessings on your day

  70. Andrew, I delight in the MacDonald gems that you bring to the discussions. Having read his biography, it would seem his family dealt with this issue of singleness vs marriage as well. His oldest daughter's hand was sought by a "gentleman" who had no real means of supporting her, and he insisted that she give up her acting career after marrying him. For these reasons, she opted to remain single, with her father's full support, a very unusual scenario in the 19th century, when daughters were married off to get them off the parents' hands. Especially in families that struggled against poverty, as the MacDonalds did.

  71. I came across your article through a friend and wanted to share an article of mine with a similar discussion.

    Here is part one of the article:
    And here is part two:

  72. So many GM books, so little time!!!  Is that the Michael Phillips biography?  I think I'm getting a bit obsessed, but every fresh book I start contains so many new gems and wonderful characters.  Whenever I finish one, I always find I want to begin another one!  And all for free from Amazon or Gutenberg.

    Thanks for the story of his daughter.  MacDonald's timelessness evidences the quality of his writing, I think.  Some of his references to contemporary science and anthropology etc. can date him, but otherwise, I'm constantly amazed at how relevant, and, indeed, prophetic he sounds.

    I'm so grateful to you and Richard for the introduction.  You have enriched my life more than you'll know.


  73. Speaking as a casualty of the Christian "matchmaking machine", I cannot agree more about the unhealthy culture we have, regarding marriage & singleness.  THANK you!

  74. Andrew, you enrich all of us here in the E.T. community. The biography I read was titled George MacDonald and His Wife, by their eldest son, Dr. Greville MacDonald. The account of the father's life by his son is indeed rich, and confirms that the life MacDonald lived was by no means easy, plagued with poverty, illness and death, and that his theology was forged in the fires among mean, harsh Christians, yet like Christ among the Pharisees, he remained cheerful, loving, hopeful, generous and full of faith.
    I so agree about his timelessness. And he understands the plight of those who lose faith because of the harshness of so-called Christians. A nugget from my current reading:
    "But for those who have lost a 'faith' they once adhered to in their youth, for my part I would rather disbelieve with them than have what they have lost. For I would rather have no God than the God whom they suppose me to believe in, and therefore must be the God in whom they imagined they believed in the days of their ignorance. That those were the days of their ignorance, I do not doubt; but are these the days of their knowledge? The time will come when they will see deeper into their own hearts than now, and will be humbled, like many other men, by what they see."

  75. That is such a great quote, Patricia.  I get so much from your and Andrew's posts.  What book does it come from?

  76. This was a lot of comments to read! Obviously a popular topic. Here's my tuppence worth
    I think we're quick to over-spiritualize singleness as a 'calling'. I'm not single because I'm 'called' to be single, I'm just single. Frankly, when I see the broken marriages of friends, the screaming offspring, the mountain of Stuff, I go home to my quiet flat and all is very well with my soul.
    I think a lot of pressure towards marriage comes from those who feel most comfortable with themselves when everyone around them is just like them, as it affirms their choices (this is especially so if they are unhappily married). I know empty nester women or women from broken marriages who have no idea who they are indepedently of their roles.
    I agree with the comment below that it's not necessary to demonize marriage in order to make singleness seem better 'I'm a victim!' 'No, I'm a victim!'), but I think the shock tactics are useful to counteract the opposite extreme view in campuses like yours and mine. SOOO many stories of almost-children diving into marriages that go very badly, but of course for some it works.
    And let's not forget that adoption counts as 'multiplying'.
    Emma, late-thirties, with sole possession of the remote control

  77. Thanks, Patricia.  I have not read any MacDonald at this point, but from what you, Richard, and Andrew have said, it would seem I should.  Your quote in particular seemed apropos to me.

    I have great difficulty writing for my back-water blog.  One reason why I am so in awe of people like Richard, doing this every day.  I often wonder how on earth he finds the time to do this AND also teach classes every day.

  78. Sam, I think you would find great comfort and unmitigated truth in MacDonald. I've seen that you've written several times about Lewis. MacDonald was the one Lewis credits as his theological master, as well as the one who "baptized" his imagination as a youth. Perhaps reading some MacDonald and posting your impressions about it would give us some space to further converse. Like you and me, he saw much that was abusive in churchianity, and wrote without apology about it.

    "But athiests do not concern me half so much as the worse dishonesty and greater injustice found in the great defenders - lay and cleric - of religious opinions. If God were like many of those who would fancy themselves his apostles, the universe would be but a vast hell. Their tongues roar with the fires of hell against their brothers. ... And such treatment of one toward another is often to blame for unbelief. It is the vile falsehood and miserable unreality of Christians, their faithlessness to their Master, their love of their own wretched sects, their worldliness and unchristianity, their placing doctrines above obedience, their talking and not doing, that has to answer, I suspect, for the greater portion of atheism's existence." G. MacDonald

    As you can see, he doesn't mince words.
    Richard is a bit daunting in his achievements. But your voice matters too.
    Blessings, Patricia

  79. Hello Jon,
    That's just it ... 10 men with the best of intentions can study/read/pray their heart out and beyond Jesus being God, the Son of God, crucified/died/resurrected, sits at the right hand of the Father, Holy Spirit is God, etc, you can't even get them to agree on what it takes to become saved or stay saved.  With the allegation of eternal torment in the balance for every human being God bothered to create, that's not trivial.

    Gary Y.

  80. Love that quote. Good to remember when you are misinterpreting Genesis, expressing a complete disinterest in Paul, and trying to act holier than those who actually try to understand the Bible. Keep doing God's will and let others do the disputing.

  81. A very interesting way of looking at marriage. However I think the way you tried to challenge your students perspective of marriage is quite a provocative one. Anyway, I also think that marriage become a 'burden' not only for Christian youth but for most youth from other religions and cultures. In Indonesia, where I come from, when you got 'marriage' you entered another new burden, 'to have kids'.

  82. Lots of interesting comments about a subject that interests me deeply (my particular interest is how the church narrative shapes and affects sexual formation and practices). I agree that contemporary spiritual/ecclesial discourse places singles as outsiders in ways that place shame and failure upon those who do not achieve the church's expectations of marriage and parenthood in appropriate timing. I'm grateful that this blog continues to empower outsiders of communities, even our own churches.

    Let me play a little devil's advocate. As I'm reading this and thinking about Paul's discourse on singlehood in 1 Corinthians, I'm haunted by Gary Thomas, who in "Sacred Marriage" describes marriage as one of the greatest, most difficult ministry opportunities we face. If we operate under the assumption that involvement in God's kingdom revolves around relationships--it seems that this blog does that--what greater practice can we have than committing ourselves to one person and saying to our spouses "Even though you know the worst, most ugly parts of me, you still choose me daily and I do likewise."

    If I may critique the Paul (yikes), he seems to create a dichotomy between single and married (1 Corinthians 7:32-35). I'm not a biblical scholar, so I don't have the exegetical background as to what Paul is really addressing to the Corinthian church. But I'm curious if that dichotomy is necessary. Am I really taking attention away from God when I spend an evening in deep, honest conversation with my wife, or for that matter the less serious times in which we share meals and laugh and enjoy each others' company, or am I worshiping and honoring God through the actions I take in my marriage? At my marriage's best, are my interests really divided? (Of course, there are times when my marriage is not at its best and they are divided, but I have a feeling that if I were single, I would find ways to divide my interest between God and those other things.)

    I hope this comment doesn't come across as valuing marriage over singlehood. I hope that regardless our relationship status, we will all be able to find relationships (sexual or otherwise) in which we can practice the hospitality and kindness that God shows his creation.

  83. I recently found your blog and have really enjoyed reading your posts.
    Being one of those who left ACU having been a bridesmaid in seven weddings and single as could be, I experienced moments of despair at not having found a mate.  I felt particularly alone in depressing singles groups where we seemed to be an afterthought amongst the array of groups that rarely mixed outside of worship.  I said many times in my single life that the Church of Christ didn't know how to deal with single people.  We are taught to remain chaste until marriage but now that young people are marrying later and later, the church is still catching up.  I was 29 when I met and married a former ACU student.  In the eyes of the world, I was young.  In the ACU culture, I was pushing old maid-hood.  I love the Church of Christ but my hope is that this tradition learns how to move from a culture focused on marriage to one focused on our communal and individual relationships with God whether we are married or single.Having said that, I also bristle against your comments that those who are married are the spiritual failures. I realize that your comments were as you said, 'over the top' and meant to counteract the 'ring before spring' culture that is certainly palpable. But I believe marriage is one way that God teaches us about redemption, iron sharpening iron, submitting to another daily.  Certainly marriage brings with it extra ties and responsibilities that take our minds off of God but sometimes those things, like the routine of dishes or the nursing of a baby, are spiritual disciplines in themselves, a kind of liturgy that teaches me about finding contentment in between the mundane moments of life.  

    Speaking from experience, singlehood and married life both have their challenges and opportunities for service in God's kingdom. Without grace, we are all spiritual failures. What needs to be most urgently addressed, particularly at ACU, is the desperation about one's relationship status that leads to hasty and unhealthy relationships and marriages. And perhaps that was precisely what you were trying to accomplish in your class.

  84. I  admit that I am not a religious person but I know what are things that will make a marriage work out. It's just that there are people who easily fall into temptation due to shallow reasons such as boredom and insecurity. These are probably the lamest excuses why partners / spouses cheat.

    cheating partners

  85. Wayno:

    I couldn't agree with you more, though mine would be inverted in priority and I'd add a 4th C:
    Thanks so much for sharing. I believe my own marriage would have been saved, too, if these had been catered for.


  86. On the contrary, marriage is as profound a mystery as the Risen Christ.  To ALL the gift of celibacy is NOT given.  It is up to the person to discern whether it has.

    God forbid they discern wrongly, either way.  The results will be clear:  too much capacity for detachment in marriage or too little capacity for detachment as a celibate.

    This article is literally why it is better to rely on Christian Tradition to inform you about the authentic nature of reality than it is to rely on random, and modern, readers of the book everyone wants to call the "Bible."  Thankfully, the "authority" of individual persons is not what Christians need be reliant upon for a correct understanding of the Word of God.

    Marriage is not spiritual failure.  Read the surviving work (mostly homiletic) of St. John Chrysostom.  He was a much more thorough, and human, scholar of Scripture than anyone alive today.

    There is a place for all things in God.

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