When some of my gay friends talk about the struggles of living celibate lives, they are occasionally told by their more progressive friends that they should “just go get married.” I suspect that the speaker believes he is being compassionate, caring, and sympathetic. But he’s not. And neither are the churches who preach this simplistic message to gay Christians seeking to live celibate lives.
For a variety of reasons, many Christians (gay and straight) decide not to marry. Unfortunately, the unmarried life can be very isolating in our culture. Americans have a practice of treating marriage as the only (or at least the primary) means of intimacy and interdependency with significant and lasting obligations.
Unfortunately, this leads some churches to neglect their responsibilities to foster community among their members. The advice, “just go get married,” is often used (unintentionally) as a means of casting off what may be our responsibilities towards the well being of others. It’s a way of politely saying, “You wouldn’t be complaining to me if you had a spouse to complain to.”
We Christians should stop giving this advice to our single friends, and instead focus on loving them ourselves. If our friends are struggling in celibacy, we shouldn’t send them off to find a spouse. We should welcome them into our lives. And we should encourage them in the life they have chosen to live, rather than condescendingly implying that they’re naïve and burdensome.
Chris Damian recently graduated from the University of Notre Dame and is currently pursuing degrees in Law and Catholic Studies at the University of St. Thomas.