"Ah, not to be cut off," wrote the poet Rainer Maria Rilke in words that communicate the longing to know your place in the whole—or words that scratch the fear that there really is no place for you at all.
Single adults over the age of 30 know this sentiment well, and it's the driving reason authors Christine Colón and Bonnie Field believe celibacy must be reinvented in today's church, as they put forth in Singled Out (Brazos Press). As present or erstwhile English professors, Colón and Field unravel the cultural messages that inform our common response to the word celibacy. The deliberate pace they take in exploring the topic—as researchers who care for the church—is what sets their book apart.
Colón and Field begin from their own experience. By their mid-30s, both women realized that the youthful resonance and implied promise of their "true love waits" pledge cards had worn off, and that the early church fathers' discussions of celibacy were too often laced with a fear of women and an unhealthy repression of the body.
Among the population of American singles (46 percent of adults), many are likely cohabiting, while others are openly promiscuous. But is the only evangelical response to marry the first available friend of the opposite sex? What theological assumptions would suggest that solution? And what would a positive discussion of celibacy look like?
The authors begin by taking us on a rollicking ride through the messages about marriage, sex, and celibacy—both positive and negative—that issue from secular media and the church. They then turn our attention to Scripture, theology, and church tradition, all of which suggest that Jesus' singleness is a lens through which he displayed ...