Last week, the Independent reported the results of a survey published by online dating site, Christian Connection.
The survey of more than 2,700 churchgoing singles found that they feel lonely and isolated; that they didn’t feel part of the family; that they were ignored or inadequate; and that there were few activities aimed at those aged between 30 and 60 for those without a partner.
Damning for the church, you might conclude, given the majority of all households in the UK are now single person households.
But, I query the premise.
Given that the research was conducted on behalf of an online dating site, it’s not massively surprising that the answers came back that people feel lonely. Surely part of their loneliness is what drives them to use a dating website in the first place.
What about single people who go to church who aren’t online – are they lonely too? And people who are married and feel isolated and lonely? How do we survey them?
Did the single people who answered feel isolated and lonely just inside the walls of the church, or in general? Do they walk through the heavy wooden studded doors of their local parish church every week and suddenly feel overwhelmed by a sense of sadness and solitude? Because if they do, why are they still going? Or is it that they feel that way all the time – at work, in clubs and bars, out with their friends, when they’re with their families? Is the truth that they feel it’s the church’s job to fix their lonely and single state?
As far as I see it, Jesus never promised anyone a partner. If he did, no one wrote it down. Upsettingly he did at one point say he’d come to separate people from their parents and their spouses and their children. What do we make of that?
‘But I want to be happy,’ the 2,700-odd respondents to the survey might wail. ‘And God wants me to be happy doesn’t he?’
‘Happy,’ he’s quoted as saying ‘are the poor, the meek, the persecuted…’ Not the usual things you’d associate with contentment.
He never says, ‘Happy are those who are married.’ And I do get it. Sometimes the church does give off the vibe that you’d be better off if you were married, and it probably ought to do something about it. Honestly, I don’t think one is better than the other. Unmarried I get to travel and take all kinds of risks with my work that I could never do if I had a husband or children to consider. I get to be completely selfish in my decision-making. And I’m sure there are immeasurable benefits to being married and getting to share the burden of making decisions, of working and absorbing risk.
I’m single and I go to church. I really don’t go to church to find a life partner – there are better looking, less guache and more interesting men outside of the church. I go to church because I want to know more about God and I want to look after the poor with a bunch of other people who feel the same way about them as I do.
So if you’re on Christian Connection and you go to church, and you’re dead set on blaming someone for your single status, go figure out who’s responsible:
The church’s job is to help us love God and the poor better than we do at the moment.
Christian Connection’s job is to find you a life partner.
Maybe it’s time to change websites…