Are you engaged to be married? No.
On the night of Sept. 22, one brave student decided to paste a picture of the internet famous “grumpy cat” with a straightforward message under it: NO. The expression is typical of a student population that often feels pressured by the broader church culture’s emphasis on marriage as they watch these signs be put up around campus every year.
Dr. Lisa Vander Veer, Director of Counseling and Health Services, has found that many Olivet students begin to have anxiety about possibly not getting married starting in their junior year. This fear of singleness, for Olivet students, is a heavy one.
“I have had several people tell me that it’s their biggest fear to not find someone,” Veer said.
And it’s a fear that does not generally exist at non-Christian schools. “A lot of people I’ve talked to at public institutions are not even thinking about seriously dating, let alone getting married,” Veer said.
This marriage obsessed culture is not only annoying, it is destructive. The first danger is in how the marriage obsession causes the church to buy into our culture’s sex obsession. Students either feel like they can’t wait to get married to have sex or like God is making their attempts to be pure futile by not providing them with a spouse.
This issue raises another one: the church’s purity culture—tightly linked to our obsession about marriage. On Sept. 10, Natalie Floyd and Talli Moellering wrote a Relevant Magazine feature titled “The End of Purity Culture” about the dangers of the church’s purity culture.
The authors gave three truths to replace the lies fed to us by purity culture: expectations shouldn’t turn into entitlement, only God can satisfy our deepest needs, and our completeness doesn’t hinge on our marital status.
Marriage, sex, and a family are all gifts, not rights. If Christians choose to turn marriage into an idol, they will not only hurt their relationship with God but also destroy the gift or sacrament that is marriage.
Your need for love and companionship will never be fulfilled by one person. Only God can create something new in that void. Jehovah Jireh—the Lord will provide. He won’t provide you with everything that you want, but he will provide you with what you need (hint: all you need is God).
You cannot find wholeness in another human being. But you can be whole in Jesus Christ, now—at this very moment. Your identity cannot be found in anything but Jesus Christ. Nothing else can make you holy.
The recognition of the church’s marriage obsession has forced some people in the church to talk about “creating a space for singleness in the church” and how there are actually people “called into singleness.” But I think the terminology is wrong here. We are saved—whole and complete- -as singular beings. Since marriage is a gift, then we really ought to be “called into marriage.” With Paul’s exception of “burning with passion” and how many of us oversexualized Westerners struggle with lust, there may be a great deal of us who are actually called into marriage. Nonetheless, singleness, in the Christian walk, should be regarded as the status quo as opposed to the divinely inspired exception. Our purpose is completed by Christ’s work within us, not by our dreams about living a lifelong romantic fantasy that makes our fears of loneliness disappear.
–Nathan DiCamillo, Life and Culture Editor