Monday, February 12, 2007

Matzko McCarthy on Singleness Part II

Here is the second and last entry concerning singleness from David Matzko McCarthy's book "The Good Life: Genuine Christianity for the Middle-Class." In the weeks to come, I will be posting writings from other Christian writers and thinkers, so stay tuned.

If singleness is a state of life in its own right, sex within marriage begins to look different. In our culture of sexual access, sex is a basic drive and image of vitality and the "fullness of life." In an economy driven by producing more desire, sexual desire corresponds to a need to desire more and more. Sex becomes an image of economic excess and loose attachments, which give opportunity for restlessness and freedom. Sexual desire requires a kind of nomadic existence, where desire pushes us to imagine having what we do not yet have and living in a world that is not yet our own. The Christian life represents an entirely different kind of homelessness, where we accept hospitality as a gift and settle into a place. Christian singleness and marriage alike form an alternative. In each, we are called to resist self-serving habits, to give ourselves over to the needs of others, and to be critical of our own desires. We are called, even in marriage, to submit sexual desire to our greater desire for friendship with God, spouse, and neighbor.

If sex is a representative image of cultural excess and detachment, then singleness within the church is the contrasting image. We should accept that it is a mark against our faithfulness when we lack the kind of communities that can sustain the single life as one that is rich in friendship, intimacy, purpose, and love. In sexual matters, as well as marriage and family, we have before us the adventure of community and the gift of God's hospitality. When we are open to God's bounty, we are not able to follow Jesus alone. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. We are brothers and sisters before we are married or single. Before we are husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, we are gathered as God's friends. (pg. 61-62)


thekid said...

I really like this quote Gordon - especially the part about our different kind of homelessness and God's hospitality. I was trying to get at this a little bit in a previous comment where I think I mentioned living expectantly and hopefully waiting to see what God is doing.

Then the italicized text is also really important. It makes me think about the great times I had with the gals who lived on N. Princeton Circle. We were definitely gathered together as "God's friends".

Somehow I think that we have failed to see the richness of life that single people can have. Maybe this is part of the result of elevating the nuclear family as the ideal. Many times I have considered the life of Sue Anne for instance and I am just in awe of how it brims over with richness. Indeed it is different from my life's richness with three sons and a husband among other things but it's no less rich and it is, as I said, awe inspiring to me.

Peace be with you.

Gordon Hackman said...

Hey sis,

Thanks for commenting. I too like the notion of homelessness and hospitality precisely because it presents an alternative to the entitlement view that says that I must and should have everything I think I want and life is a tragedy if I don't get it. It offers the possibility of genuine hope.

As for the italicized text, I italicized it precisely because I think it is such a powerful indictment of so much of the evangelical church and its lack of faithfulness. I agree with your suggestion that our churches have placed too much emphasis on the nuclear family to the exclusion and detriment not only of single people, but also of the larger vision of what the church is and should be, the first family of the believer.

In this regard, I really appreciate your pointing out the life of Sue Anne as a great example of what McCarthy is trying to say. It is interesting to me when I think about the fact that Sue Anne is not an evangelical. I wonder if, at least in part, the reason her life has been so rich and full is because she has never been consigned to a community which either implicitly or explicitly excludes her or simply doesn't know what to do with her because she is single. Many evangelical singles find themselves trapped in such communities and it is no wonder they view their singleness as an inherently miserable state. The irony here is that the current anti-singleness crowd assumes that the problem is singleness rather than the unfaithfulness of our churches, and rather than calling for the kinds of changes in the evangelical church that would make it a place where singles could have the kind of rich, full life someone like Sue Anne has, instead prescribe precisely more of the same thing that already makes life so miserable for evangelical singles, only they are militant and doctrinaire about it. So, of course, many evangelical singles will continue to be miserable and to view their singleness as a necessarily miserable state.