Saturday, May 12, 2007

Loves Me, Loves Me Not

Loves Me, Loves Me Not by Laura A. Smit, 2005, Baker Academic

The subtitle of this book is The Ethics of Unrequited Love,, which I thought was an interesting topic for a book. First, because nobody really talks about the topic within the Christian community, and second because that is pretty much the only kind of love I have had the privilege to know. I was therefore expecting a long discussion about how unrequited love arises, how to respond to it, and so forth. While these discussions do take place, there is a second aspect to the book that is somewhat radical.

Specifically, the author takes on the modern Protestant church for its "idolatry of the family," as evidenced by the fact that unmarried people are considered freaks at worst within the church, and harmless but odd at best. The author posits that New Testament teachings show that the unmarried life, which can be fully focused on God, rather than focused at least partially on a spouse, is the new standard for Christians. Jesus was unmarried. Paul was unmarried. Paul even wrote that he felt that being unmarried was a preferable state to being married, though he had nothing against marriage, per se. The author also notes that Jesus told the Pharisess that in heaven there will be no marriage. Therefore, the author posits that the modern church is in a time between the Old Testament times, when everyone was married for societal benefits, and the New Jerusalem times, when nobody will be married. Therefore, some of God's Children in this age will be called to marriage, but some will be called to be NOT married. Mainstream (and even fringe) Protestant and Evangelical churches don't take this approach, often seeing unmarried people as objects of pity or concern, rather than as independent adults of equal value in Christ's Kingdom.

Another aspect of this theory is that an unmarried Christian should consider their singleness to be their default state of existence, and if an opportunity for a romantic relationship arises, the relationship bears the burden of proof, and its pursuit needs to be justified. This is opposed to the general attitude of modern American culture, which posits that being in a relationship is the default condition, and if you choose to stay out of a romantic relationships you need to defend that position as being abnormal. I am with the author all the way on this aspect of her theory, as I have always felt this to be the proper way to approach life.

This is a very deep book, and will likely require a re-reading down the road to make sure that I am properly understanding it. I did find all of it useful, though, and I would recommend it to pretty much anyone in the modern Christian church, whether married or not, as this book is starting a debate that really needs to happen.


Christopher said...

Great post! I like your comment:
Specifically, the author takes on the modern Protestant church for its "idolatry of the family"
In addition to your point that this perspective marginalizes those that aren't married, it also describes the emphasis Protestant pulpits place on how Christianity can help with family relationships. "God wants to save your marriage! Ten steps to becoming a better parent! Date your spouse the Godly way! How to love...[insert relationship here] better."
Sure, that's all well and good, but the Bible talks peanuts about how to have a good family life compared to other major issues--loving your neighbor, serving the poor, and being holy.
It's almost like the American evangelical church is telling us how God can serve our families rather than how we all can serve God and others.

Pru's Corner said...

I'm so glad to know that all sorts of people are reading this well-timed account of a celibate's life in the church. And by celibate, I mean those who live the life God has called them to...and incidentally, I think the married can also have this.

I also say a big Amen to Christopher's last paragraph. I picked up a book (which one of my roommates was reading) called "For Women Only" and it basically was all about how women can a)keep their men from straying and b)make them feel better about themselves. But only God can heal those wounds...

Thanks for enjoying the book and for reviewing it. May the Lord bless your service to His church.

Pru's Corner said...

by the way, my point about that women's book was that i've set out to read it and blog about a different address than this comment but certainly i'll put a link at my site. i am initially appalled by the idea of the book but in order to justify my opinion, i'm reading the whole thing. would enjoy your opinion as I write.