Monday, December 19, 2005

"Are you married?" 

I was asked this question by both of the churches where I recently interviewed. It wasn't really a surprise - I knew it was coming. The question has two subtext flavors to it. One: "Well, are you gay, then?" Two: "Oh Lord, how can we have a priest who wants to date?" But, I think the questions were asked in good nature, despite all that. I gave the same answer to each group. "No, I am not married." If they asked a follow up question, I responded, "Part of my dream for my future is to marry the woman of my dreams and raise a family with her, and I will pursue that dream." I think that's pretty fair. I think that's to be expected of anyone with that dream, regardless of whether they're a teacher, a doctor, a nurse, or a priest, or hold any other profession.

I recently came across this posting on a blog I read from time to time. It reminded me of a time when I had to go to a large, non-denomination mega church for a class project. It so happened that one of my group members was a young lady of my age. When we went to the newcomers area, they immediately welcomed us and asked how long we've been married. We laughed nervously and said that we weren't married. (Actually, I said that. They didn't deign to address the woman.) Then they looked at me with concern, obviously thinking "living in sin" and asked when we planned to get married. When I said we had no plans to get married, they almost physically recoiled. I kept going. "To each other. We're friends and classmates, not boyfriend/girlfriend." You could tell this concept had not entered their minds at all. Ben, over at the above linked website, is right in saying that the church doesn't really know how to deal with single people in their mid to late twenties, and anything over that age is really just right out. We need to learn how to do that. We need to learn how to respect people who are putting higher education and formation in a primary position in their life, and will focus on marriage and children later. For those who have managed to do both at one time, damn, you're just a better person than I am and I congratulate you on being able to do that. That's really and truly wonderful. But not everyone has that happen to them, and that's ok too. So, go read that posting I linked too, it's brief and worthwhile.



I get that from time to time too. I especially remember that was a rather feisty topic at my COM for my postulancy interview. A lot of people just cannot grasp the concept that God might actually call people to be single, or as you basically said, who has had the time for it yet?

If its a church/COM interview, I usually defuse the topic by saying that while I hope to find somebody someday, I would never date a parishioner because its a boatload of ethical problems, and if I do, you can fire me. If you lay it on the table in that way, they are usually pretty cool with it.

By Blogger The Archer of the Forest, at 11:39 AM  

It seems to me that so many are under a "cloud of suspicion" these past few years. I think the rule has become :If you're over 30 and not married to the opposite gender, then you're gay. This is ridiculously unfair and goes to show how homophobia has really affected the church.

I encountered the same thing when I was on a seach committee for our church's rector...it was not a happy situation as we debated and debated about wether to ask the candidate, "Are you gay?" We chose another person instead, though we all wanted the single person.

By Blogger K, at 12:22 PM  

Oh, yeah, they want you to be married, but stil spend all your time at the church like you were single, anyway.

(Sorry, sarcastic exaggeration for literary purposes, but still. . .)

By Blogger Emily, at 12:56 PM  

It hasn't happened here, and I don't remember it coming up during the interviews, but I often got this on an individual level after starting at my last job. People wantiing to know about any females in my life.

People wanting to know about females in Patrick's life, too. He is my best friend, and I guess I talked a little too much for some people's comfort about hiking with Patrick, going roller blading with Patrick. So after a while people would ask, "So, is Patrick seeing anyone?" Which in most cases I think translated into, "So, are you dating Patrick?" (This is the Patrick whose wedding I am doing in January, incidentally. Makes one chuckle.)

People also don't know how to deal with someone who isn't actively seeking a woman. I am content to be single for now. If and when God has someone in mind for me, we'll cross paths. But people don't understand why I'm not out dating anything that moves just so I can get married and start having kids.

By Anonymous Mark, at 3:23 PM  

"If and when God has someone in mind for me, we'll cross paths." - Mark

"For those who have managed to do both at one time, damn, you're just a better person than I am and I congratulate you on being able to do that." - Whitley

I think the first part kinda rules out the second, doesn't it? I'm certainly not a better person just because I'm married and getting higher education. The first quote really explains why I'm married now.

As an outsider (one not in the professional religion...profession), that's not something I've really ever thought too much about, but it's gotta get uncomfortable. And tiring. I can't imagine interviewing for a residency program where they care whether you're married (and, prior to the new residency work rules, they'd probably prefer you weren't so you'd work more).

Course, doctors aren't too particularly known for upholding the sanctity of marriage...it's scary how many people (and strangers, mostly!) ask Rebecca if she isn't worried about nurses and such (she's not and shouldn't be, for the record). Crazyness.

Anyway, tangent over.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:58 AM  

I guess COMs and churches aren't subject to the federal interviewing rules.

It also seems that there are many congregations out there who still aren't comfortable with gays (or women) as clergy.

I know it's not the same, but I remember being asked at several new student gatherings what year I was in at seminary, and the startled looks (one of which I believe was from Whitley) when I said that my wife was the student.

It's a little more obvious now that she wears a collar.

By Blogger Dawgdays, at 2:23 AM  

Book recommendation time: One Like Jesus: Conversations on the Single Life by Debra K. Farrington. She's one of the hottest stars in contemporary spirituality, an Episcopalian, and very cool. Check this one out, and don't forget her other books, either. They're all good.

It is sad, though, that I only have one related book to suggest. The Church really is doing a crummy job of supporting single people in their singleness. For example, when was the last time the "singles ministry" at the church wasn't aimed at pairing off its members? We've got to do better.

By Anonymous Micah, at 7:42 AM  

Wow, this thread sort of took on a life of its own here. This remark I made, "For those who have managed to do both at one time, damn, you're just a better person than I am and I congratulate you on being able to do that," didn't exactly come out right. It was made out of frustration at people who say things like, "well, look at so and so, they're your age and in grad school and they're married." I was not trying to insinuate that Hudd is a better person than I am. We all know that is not true. ;) After all, he cannot do the water snake dance, nor was he ever everything at once. I have accomplished both. And yes, I do admit to being surprised that Wes was not the seminarian but rather that his wife was. Part of that was because I didn't know he was connected to his wife in that they do not share the same last name, but part of it was surely not being exposed to a great deal of female clergy in my young life. That was among the many funny looks I probably gave people at the prosective student days event. As for what we've been saying abouts singles ministries and events in the church, yeah, we've done a poor job of handling that. But some coupling off seems to be the natural result of throwing a bunch of singles together in a social group over time. Many of those type of events are aimed at that end, but some are not and it happens anyway. I think that's a result of the mindset that most of us have, and that society has about marriage. I fall into that category. I want to be married one day. That day has just not yet come. But, I think it will, and I think Mark's right in saying that God will have something to do with it. God pulled people like Hudd and Rebecca together through Hell and high water, so I think God'll be able to find someone for me and me for someone. Heck, who knows, maybe I've already met them.


By Blogger Ryan, at 11:03 AM  

Well I can tell you this, I wouldn't have bothered to explain that we're classmates. But then, I'm just an ornery old man.

By Blogger Reverend Ref +, at 3:39 PM  

Should you eventually get married, you'll find those same people still poking around clumsily in your affairs: they'll start asking whether you are planning children, asking why you haven't yet had children, or if you plan to have more children, and if not why not, and so forth. As with the marriage question, they'll keep their motives close to their chest while always seeming to privately disparage whatever choices you make. So, it's good that you're getting practice now on dealing with this sort of intrusiveness.

By Blogger G. Brooke, at 8:24 AM  

the questions never ever stop. before i got engaged, it was "when are you going to settle down?" then, "when are you getting married?" I'm not even married yet, and it's "when are you gonna have kids? how many?"

you're probably better off with the marriage question, at least it's only intruding in your life and not some poor woman, too!

By Anonymous Melanie, at 9:31 AM  

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