When I, as a single woman, first began thinking about singleness, I was thinking largely about the fact that marriage is so much the focus at many churches that singleness hardly ever enters the conversation. Churches direct so much energy and time and attention to helping form and foster good marriages and families. This is important work, but our focus on marriage and family has been to the detriment of good thinking about what it means to be single, to the point that singleness becomes maligned and that the church’s ability to witness to Jesus suffers as a result. This view among Christians mirrors what we think in culture at large. According to research done at the Pew Research Forum in 2010 and confirmed in the latest study in 2011, the rates of marriage are declining. Just over half (51 percent) of all adult Americans are married compared with 72 percent in 1960; rates among the youngest adult generation (age 20-34) are declining even more rapidly, down from 59 percent in 1960 to 20 percent today. Many scholars give several reasons for the decline: economic factors, education (people with more degrees wait longer to get married), an increasing societal norm to wait to marry, and caution due to high divorce rates in previous generations. At the time the study was published, news outlets loudly vaunted the statistics about decline, as they should.
These are important indicators of how Americans understand marriage and family, and they are important statistics to grapple with in thinking about Christian marriage and family, for Christians often (depending somewhat on denomination) have divorce rates that are equal to those of the general population. What does such a view of marriage mean for the variety of single adults? There are strong indications that it means marginalization of singleness in all its forms.
Copyright 2012, Wipf and Stock Publishers
Wipf and Stock Publishers
Bennett, Jana Marguerite, "Imposter Happiness or the Real Thing? Marriage, Singleness and the Beatitudes in the 21st Century" (2012). Religious Studies Faculty Publications. 106.