Review Of “The Dating Manifesto” By Lisa Anderson


The Dating Manifesto – A Drama Free Plan For Pursuing Marriage With Purpose. There’s been a lot written lately on the “marriage mandate” and this title suggests more of the same. You may be asking, “But John, why would you even read such a book if you have chosen a life of celibacy?” Good question. But the answer is quite simple: From a social standpoint, I am just as single as my neighbor who divorced his fourth wife last year. I’m an unknown quantity. My ring finger is just as empty as anybody else’s. So whether I like it or not, I am lumped in with the single and dating/pursuing crowd. I get all the same questions. Does Protestant theology make room for people who are neither married or looking for marriage? Not that I’m aware of. Anderson’s book didn’t make any room either. I read her biography first, which proved to be more of a puzzle. She’s 43 years old, never married, and is director of young adults for Focus on the Family and manages their web site. I was curious to see if she would even say anything about the celibate gift. As expected, it didn’t take her long to get the exclusionary clause out of the way for those “pretty rare” people who are called to singleness.  From page 48:

“Paul had great things to say about those who are called to singleness, or celibate service. It’s a unique calling and one that should be celebrated. But it’s pretty rare, and those who are called to it generally know who they are. They should be comfortable with that calling. Those who are truly called to a life of celibate service generally don’t struggle overwhelmingly with their sex drive nor do they feel any sense of being less in God’s eyes.”

Celibate service?  I must have missed that verse in the Bible.  Married folks don’t serve God?   The other 241 pages was the dating manifesto. Let’s take a look at some of her assumptions.  Celibate lives “should be celebrated”?  Where is that being done?  “It’s pretty rare?” How many does she know?  “They should be comfortable with that calling?” I can’t find that in the Bible.  But then again, this is the 21st century and comfort is to be expected.  “They don’t struggle overwhelmingly with their sex drive”?  Oh, what torture that would be!  Oh sweet Jesus, please spare their poor miserable lives!   Maybe it’s just me, but I find it very odd that churches and religious organizations put a lot of effort into identifying those who have chosen marriage (heterosexual or homosexual), but put absolutely no effort into identifying those who have chosen celibacy. I guess most people are like Miss Anderson and think we generally know who we are. Why, of course! The Celibacy Club is meeting for brunch next Saturday evening! I need to get those invitations out. The truth is, a lot of people are trying to discern if they have the gift of celibacy and they really don’t know who they are. And the church is no help. At times, it seemed that the author was actually apologizing on behalf of all singles for being single. At other times, she lifted marriage up to such lofty heights I was wondering, “how could this be a book about singleness?” Here’s an excerpt from page 188:

“But staying connected to married friends is crucial. So is honoring their marriages. About eight years ago, I decided I would do everything within my power to honor and protect my friends’ marriages. This has a number of different faces. It means babysitting so my friends can get a night out together or finish their Christmas shopping or address an issue that’s becoming a problem in their relationship. It means building up my married friends verbally and publicly, both in front of each other and in front of our mutual friends and acquaintances. Saying what people are doing right in their marriages can go a lot further than dragging out the tired ball-and-chain metaphor in all its forms. It means praying for my friends’ marriages and refusing to gossip about their issues. It’s not participating in spousal gripe sessions. It’s not joking about marriage or lending credence to those who do. It’s vocally reaffirming God’s heart for marriage, as well as the people whom he’s blessed with it. Your single season is the best time to start preparing for your own marriage.”

Babysitting? It sounds like she’s been taken advantage of in her own church. Honoring marriages? I’d say there’s plenty of that going around. Building up my married friends verbally and publicly? I see people do that every single day of my life – whether it’s in the grocery store, post office, or in church. I wonder what she’s done to build up her celibate friends? You know, those people who have chosen not to marry or have sex. Saying what people are doing right in their marriages? Who is saying what people are doing right in their celibate lives? I can count the number I know on one hand. It’s not joking about marriage? Actually, I hear more joking about singleness and being condemned to loneliness than I do about marriage. It’s vocally reaffirming God’s heart for marriage? So, God doesn’t have a heart for celibacy?

In my opinion, The Dating Manifesto is just one in a long line of how to get married books. There’s nothing deeper here than a pink twinkie covered in chocolate syrup. It does seem that she has high standards when it comes to premarital sex and marriage and I commend her for that. But her book, like most books for Christian singles, does not present celibacy as a real alternative, other than to say there are not many of us. That is so . . . encouraging. Oh yes, let’s see, it’s right here in 1 Corinthians 7: “People with the celibate gift are pretty rare. So ye therefore assume everybody is either married or has a dating manifesto.” The Bible never says everybody should be dating and getting married. It never says anything about the numbers of people who should be married and the number who should be celibate. That is strictly the world’s assumptions and cannot be taken as scriptural. The only dating manifesto that exists is in the minds of those who idolize marriage and family and are not willing to discern if marriage or celibacy is right for them. I’d like to hear what Apostle Paul would say if Miss Anderson told him he had a “dating manifesto.”

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