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Singled Out: Why Celibacy Must Be Reinvented in Today's Church Paperback – June 1, 2009
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From the Back Cover
Christine Colon and Bonnie Field thought that by a certain age they would each be married. But they watched that age come and go--and still no walk down the aisle. In Singled Out, they reflect on their experience and that of an increasing number of Christians. From the secular world and the evangelical church, singles are bombarded with negative images of celibacy. Here, Colon and Field explore a deeper understanding of celibacy that affirms singles' decision to be sexually pure, acknowledges their struggles, and recognizes their importance in the church community.
"This book should be required reading for every adult Christian not yet (and perhaps never to be) married. Use it as an antidote to others' expectations for your life. I love how Colon and Field have resurrected St. Paul's teaching to the church in Corinth--that marriage, family, and singleness are all callings from God, and that ultimately, following Christ trumps them all."--Jon M. Sweeney, author of Cloister Talks: Learning from My Friends the Monks
"Finally--a whole book dedicated to redeeming and reclaiming celibacy for people aged 30 and beyond! Colon and Field offer a refreshing critique of stilted messages in the media and in our churches and call us to challenge assumptions that one needs to be married to be a happy, well-adjusted contributor to society. I recommend it to anyone (married or not) wanting to take singleness and celibacy seriously."--Lisa Graham McMinn, George Fox University, author of Sexuality and Holy Longing: Embracing Intimacy in a Broken World
"Colon and Field let the issue of abstinence graduate from the youth group and move on to the sanctuary and the bedroom, the pages of church history, and the screens of our current entertainment media. I'm so grateful they acknowledge that honest, intelligent conversation about singles and sexuality requires not just three simple words--'just say no,' 'true love waits'--but more words like those found on the 256 pages they've thoughtfully penned here."--Camerin Courtney, senior editor of Today's Christian Woman and author of Table for One
About the Author
Christine A. Colón (Ph.D., University of California at Davis) is associate professor of English at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. She has published articles in Women's Writing, Renascence, and Brontë Studies as well as in several volumes of collected essays. Bonnie E. Field is an educational consultant and curriculum specialist who lives in Dallas, Georgia. She has also taught English at Arizona College of the Bible and Wayland Baptist University.
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Essentially, the book is divided into two halves. In the first, Colon and Fields spell out the messages sent about celibacy, in the secular and sacred world. Where the secular world assumes that sex is an irresistible urge, so does the church - an assumption manifest whenever it urges singles to marry as early as possible. Where the secular world looks on those who are perpetually single as immature, so does the church, encouraging members to marry early so they can become more fully adult. Much as we evangelicals like to *think* our habits are taken from the Bible, the overlap between secular and sacred messages suggests this is not true. This is truly a problem. Yet Colon and Fields give credit where due, describing not only negative but also positive views of celibacy - one of these, interestingly, the idea that refraining from sex is a way to preserve the identity, withdrawing from the hive mind maintained by advertising, much of which is predicated on the idea that everyone is having sex.
Having made its case that the way the church talks about singleness is wrongheaded, in its second half the book suggests how these errors may be fixed. It points readers towards a few new sources, among them church history and traditions such as the story of the virgin martyrs (who show that the choice to refrain from sexual activity is a positive choice in its own right, something substantial more than a lack of being) and the medieval monks (who show that celibacy is often necessary in allowing one to pursue other callings - at that time, education). The book also outlines several positive, specific practices that both the church and singles need to adopt in order to help singles participate wholly in the body of Christ, and make this lifestyle a profitable one for the Christian community. Among these suggestions one of the most interesting is the authors' take on sex, which should be less a reminder not to have it than a discussion about how we may use our sexuality, being wholly man or wholly woman, for God.
Here's what I liked about the book: As an older single, I frequently feel out of place in my church community, and among other Christians. I also don't feel as though the books published on singleness and marriage have much to say. Colon's book gives voice to some of these frustrations, as well as validating celibacy as a positive lifestyle choice, something that I *choose*, not simply something I contentedly let happen to me. I have been frustrated when I've read about how singles are less mature than their married counterparts; I've felt sidelined by a church in which the couples and families look past the single people in their midst; I've felt unhappy when I've wondered whether there's something wrong with me, being nearly thirty and never married. Colon and Fields answer these questions, assuring readers like me that those who are celibate, as much as those who are married, enjoy life abundant - not perfect of course, because we live in a fallen world; but rich in grace, full of opportunities to know God and build relationships with fellow believers.
TL;DR: An excellent analysis of what's wrong with church discourse on singleness, as well as encouragement for how singles and church communities can respond appropriately to singleness. Invites readers to talk further about singles in the church today.
The book is really a start on a way forward with still quite a ways to go before God' family reflects the population and not primarily the nuclear family. I hope to read several of the books that the authors mentioned positively as I continue on the journey to be a healthy and whole over-40 single. There is more in the book about history, theology, and current experience than "what to do in the future", partly because honestly what God's family is called to be is something yet to be fully discovered and embraced.
There were a couple of sections of the book (both modern and historical) that I that would have benefited from being more concise.
The plusses of this book include: I was extremely impressed by the authors' research; it was extensive! I was impressed by their willingness to share the pain they have experienced at the hands of other Christians. This is quite a comprehensive book in 250 pages.
The minuses of this book are: They spend a little too long in lamenting what is wrong (wrong attitudes and behavior in churches toward singles) before getting to their proposed solutions, which doesn't come until the last third of the book, and was the part I was really interested in so that I can be a more loving Christian brother. And, I think they let Focus on the Family off a little too easy.
My prayer is that this book will be widely read and widely heeded by Christians who truly desire the church to be the place where all are welcomed into God's family and not shunned.
This book is mostly about sex which I wasn't anticipating but found to be helpful in understanding the issues that face singleness.
I found the end of the book to fall flatter than the opening. It could have been shorter toward the end as messages began to be repeated. The application and solution to the future of the church and singleness were general and relatively uncreative but well worth the read.