Yesterday, Shasta’s Fog wrote a blog post about what it’s like to be single in a Mennonite community. It has since gone “Menno-viral” and stirred up some controversy.
This blog post is a response to that blog post. In my opinion, here’s why I think her article is important, and how I think it should be interpreted.
Note: This is my personal opinion. I am not “speaking for” the author in any way.
First: The article is important because it sheds light on an unexplored aspect of singleness.
What do you think of when you think about singleness?
I think of people shaking their heads, saying, “How can she still be single? She’s so kind/sweet/pretty. What’s wrong with all the men?”
I think of all those articles on singleness. Articles about finding your purpose in God and not in a husband, or about waiting for the right one, or about how men should man up and ask out the nice Christian girls.
We always frame the singleness discussion in a very specific way. We assume that the primary motivation for marriage is the inherent joy of having a loving life partner and the ability to start a family, and that the pain of singleness stems from a lack of those things.
Esther’s article was the first I’ve seen that said, essentially, “singleness is tough because single people are treated differently. It’s hard to be excluded from ‘the married club.'”
Second: The article should be viewed as a springboard for thought, and not be taken quite so literally.
If you took the article 100% literally, you may get the idea that married people have to tread on thin ice around single people in order to avoid offending them.
Conversely, you may get the idea that married people are completely rude and insensitive by virtue of being married.
Obviously, neither of these is true. If you are married and find yourself doing a couple of the things on the list, now might be a good time to stop. HOWEVER, we get that you’re busy, and don’t always know how to respond in “the right way.” We’re not constantly offended, and we give grace to people who have good intentions but are rude anyway.
We just want our perspective to be heard, too.
Which leads to the next point, which is…
Third: It’s more about the culture than about the specifics.
Being kind to single people is not about following a specific list. It’s not about inviting them to all the right parties and never asking them to babysit. It’s about including them and treating them like adults, which is going to look a bit different in every situation.
Culturally, we see people as somehow, magically becoming adults when they get married. When do people move from the youth Sunday school class to the adult Sunday school class? When do people get invited to go on the ladies’ retreat, or get asked to be on a committee?
This isn’t a uniquely Mennonite problem. If I had gotten married at age 19, I could have gotten financial aid for college independent of my parents’ income. As it is I had to wait until I was 24, even though when I started college I had already been on my own for a year and a half.
Many cultures, throughout many centuries, have made marriage a benchmark of adulthood. I’m not denying that marriage often forces people to grow up. However, it is important to remember that while this is a common cultural practice, it is not Biblical. As Esther pointed out, both Jesus and the apostle Paul were single, and the latter actively praised singleness in I Corinthians 7.
Please remember that single people are people too.
I welcome your comments, but please respect the fact that Esther is my friend, and will likely be reading this blog. If you feel the need to personally attack her, please do not do it on this blog.
Again: I am not speaking for the author in any way.