In all the talk about alternative life-styles, both the secular and religious communities have overlooked one alternative. It is one of two and a half choices offered to the non-Christian and one of two choices offered to the Christian. Yet it is rarely presented as a serious alternative or taken as such. What I am talking about is Celibacy, remaining single.

Society has made the terms “marriage” and “erotic love” synonymous with “happiness.” Books, magazines, television, movies, commercials, and songs all proclaim the message: “You’re nobody till somebody loves you.” No one ever asks, “Will you marry?” It is assumed that everyone will marry unless some sort of unfortunate circumstances dictate otherwise. We will all marry unless forced to remain single. “Celibacy”—even the word itself seems strange, abnormal. It sounds medieval and regressive, certainly not contemporary and fun.

The non-Christian community has chosen to broaden its alternative in this area by offering what I consider to be only half a choice: erotic love without commitment, or what is known as “living together.” It’s not much of an alternative. There is no duty to be loving, or understanding, or kind, or more concerned with giving than getting. If a partner has lost his desirability, he is to be discarded; in the machine age, trade-ins can be a part of every area of life.

Failure to present celibacy as a real alternative has had some undesirable consequences. First, for the most part those who do not marry consider themselves failures. Those around them also consider them failures. The unmarried wear the brand of rejection. Many “adjust”; those ...

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