Just Friends?

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When I made the choice to remain as I am, one of the things that comforted me was the thought that I could claim all girls as my girlfriends. Then I could spend all the time I wanted with any of them and wouldn’t have to worry about neglecting a wife or children. For that matter, I could call up anybody anytime, man or woman, if I wanted to talk. The only problem is that men and women can’t be friends anymore. The fastest way I know of to ensure that a single woman will not speak to me again is to ask her to be my friend. Even faster, tell her that I don’t plan on getting married and that I plan on staying single. The simple reason is because we live in a world that worships marriage and family. Sex has become the be-all and end-all of human existence. With their fertile years slipping by, many women blame men, the world, and God himself. The only men they are willing to be friends with are potential suitors. Everybody else is a waste of time. That may sound like a logical plan of action. But it’s not biblical. All of us are called to love our neighbor as ourselves. We’re also told in the Bible that whatever we do for one of the least of these, we do it to God.

Over the last 30 years, I’ve watched how men and women relate to each other change drastically. It all coincides with the increasing use of the internet and other digital technologies for communication. The “friend” on a Facebook friend list is a far cry from a real friend from the 70s. This was brought home to me recently when I went to my 35-year high school reunion. What a feeling to be in a room with real friends I’ve known for many years, several of them since first grade. Since I never dated in high school, sex was never part of the picture with any of them. But I think I know them better than any other group of people in my life. To know someone today though requires sex, and I think it’s the one thing that makes me feel out of place. Men are expected to either be having sex on a regular basis with a wife or looking for someone to have sex with, preferably with a woman. But I think churches today accept homosexuals more than they do people looking for spouses or those called to celibacy. Friends? That requires too much self control. And most churches will tell you that for men that’s just not possible. They will point you to their pornography addiction groups, unwanted sexual behavior groups, sexual addiction recovery groups, substance abuse groups, same sex attraction groups, accountability support groups, etc. Women might find a body image support group. But if a single man and woman sit together, they automatically have a romantic interest in each other. The gossip line of the church will have them having sex before lunch is finished.

Taking sex off the table is just not possible for single women either because their biological clocks are running out. They’ve invested in their education, careers, houses, etc. Now they want their baby. And they want it now! If they don’t see an acceptable prenuptial package deal, most won’t even tell a guy hello. Friends just waste time. Does that sound Christian? Not to me. It actually is one more thing that gives the church a black eye. Single men – be careful whom you sit with in church. The grapevine may have you dating her before you get home. Of course, it could be a church where two “sit downs” are required for dating. And daddy could be watching from any pew. When a society reaches the point where they can’t confer adulthood on young adults and the differences between dating and courting become a theological issue, they’ve reached a point of sex worship.

With all the talk of “just friends,” I often think, “what else do I need?” And then I have to remind myself of how the world views my alternative celibate life, whether they know that’s what I’ve chosen or not. First, I have to be careful with the word celibacy because, for many people, it only means one thing – being gay and trying to live without sex. These family-only churches know of no other Christian lifestyle but family. The only way their preachers and leaders can relate to the word “single” is from a youth perspective. They’re experts on youth. They represent potential tithes for the church. They know how to do is prepare them for marriage and tell them to wait; because if they get married, they can give more money to the church. “Get close to God and he’ll bring you the right one.” When I feel like nobody in the church knows who I am, I have to remember that they really don’t me because they don’t know what celibacy is, that the days of honest friendships are long gone – and that the church only knows how to date, court, have sex, and kiss babies. There is so much more of me to get to know. My art, photography, short stories, mentoring, etc. It would really be easier for me to make up a story of how my wife died and left me to live as a widower for all these years. Then there would be no questions asked. “So sorry John. Let us know if there’s anything we can do.” They might bring me a donut.  Let us remind ourselves that there is nothing eternal about marriage, family, sex, and children. For me, that means the lifestyle of celibacy I have chosen on earth is the same one I will spend eternity with.

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