On July 1, the New York Times published an article by Claire Cain Miller, “It’s Not Just Mike Pence. Americans Are Wary of Being Alone With the Opposite Sex.”
Based upon a poll conducted by Morning Consult in May 2017, 5,300 registered voters were interviewed without regard to marital status or sexual orientation. Ms. Miller’s opening statement, “Men and women still don’t seem to have figured out how to work or socialize together….For many, it is better simply to avoid each other.” Some interviewees depicted the workplace as a fraught atmosphere in which they fear harassment, or being accused of it.
Many men and women are wary of a range of one-on-one situations, the poll found. Around a quarter think private work meetings with colleagues of the opposite sex are inappropriate. Nearly two-thirds say people should take extra caution around members of the opposite sex at work. A majority of women, and nearly half of men, say it’s unacceptable to have dinner or drinks alone with someone of the opposite sex other than their spouse.
In general, women were slightly more likely to say one-on-one interactions were inappropriate. So were Republicans, people who lived in rural areas, people who lived in the South or Midwest, people with less than a college education and people who were very religious, particularly evangelical Christians.
Although the poll asked about interactions at work, how does that play out for other institutions in our lives like the church or our local Rotary Club? And if we limit ourselves to one-on-one meetings with only our spouse, how does that play out for those of us who find ourselves single, either by choice or by situations such as divorce or death? Can we not serve on a committee or ministry, avoiding the possibility of having a private lunch with a member of the opposite sex?
I previously wrote about singles in the U.S.: The U.S. Census Bureau recently posted updated information from their Households by Type surveys. In 1940, 24% of households were led by the unmarried; in 1970 that had grown to 30%. The decades since have shown dramatic increases in “singles”: 1980 with 40%, 1990 with 44%, and 2000 with 47%. In 2010, it was 50-50, and in the 2015 survey 52% of U.S. households are led by “singles”.
With 52% of U.S. households led by singles, how do we find our place in the church?
We must look past the male/female aspect of our humanity and recognize everyone as a child of God. It is when we start seeing others through God’s eyes that we begin to live fully into our lives. We are no longer bound by secular divisions and we can freely serve God with others in a loving, Spirit-filled community. One of my first interactions at St. George’s was to volunteer to be on the newcomer committee and the chair (a male) invited me to lunch to review the committee responsibilities. I didn’t think twice about accepting his invitation.
In December 2015, Wesley Hill, Ph.D. spoke at my church: For many of us who are single, it is hard to find our “place” in the church since our institutions have a tendency to glorify marriage and children. Often “singles groups” are not much more than glorified dating centers, hoping to match up eligible singles with each other so that they too can become the “married with children.”
Recently, we’ve formed a new Missional Community at my church for singles over the age of 40. Many of us have never been married, and others find that in this particular season of their lives they are single, through divorce or death. It doesn’t matter if we are male or female, married or single, God has a calling for each of us in his kingdom. We aren’t a dating center, instead our Missional Community’s purpose is to help each of us find our calling in serving others. And we should feel free to serve with all of God’s children.
Blessings, my friend,