Christina Hitchcock always assumed she would get married one day. But as years went by and it didn’t happen, she found herself trying to piece together a vision of life without marriage. Even though she’s now married, Hitchcock, who teaches theology at the University of Sioux Falls in South Dakota, wrote The Significance of Singleness: A Theological Vision for the Future of the Church to show how singleness is a valuable way of life that points us to true fulfillment in Christ. CT features editor Gina Dalfonzo spoke with Hitchcock about cultivating a renewed understanding of singleness for the whole church.
Why is the vision provided by singleness so important for the church?
Paul’s endorsement of singleness in 1 Corinthians 7 isn’t merely about having more missionaries, more martyrs, or more people with more time for the church. Singleness has theological significance because it tells us something important about who God is and what God is doing.
Among the things singleness signifies are the reality of the Resurrection and the priority of the church. Singleness is a sign of God’s future breaking into our present, a future characterized by radical, total dependence on God. Within this reality, we’re not related to anyone or anything in and of themselves, but all our relationships go through Jesus and outward. That is the vision of the future we see in the Resurrection, and I think that’s the reason Jesus promised a future in which people will neither marry nor be given in marriage (Matt. 22:30).
I’ve heard many Christians—members of what you call the Marriage Mandate Movement—argue that the church has to stay focused on marriage and family, because the wider culture is losing sight of their value. How do you respond?
The church is not about protecting the family. That is not its identity or its purpose. The church consists of people who believe that Jesus was raised from the dead and act as his witnesses in the world. How the world responds, of course, is ultimately outside of our hands. We trust the Holy Spirit to do his work. And so I think the church is off-base when it gets into a protective posture, even to protect something as good as the family.
Have you received any pushback as a married author writing about singleness?
I feel the most pushback, honestly, from inside myself. Sometimes I feel a little bit like a fraud—“I was single, and now I’m not, but I have all this wisdom I want to share about singleness!”
But singleness isn’t just a question for single people. Part of the problem is that married people often assume they don’t have to worry about singleness—or that their job is helping single people get married as quickly as possible. Nurturing, preserving, and encouraging single people—and receiving from them this gift of a theological vision—is important to the whole church. If marriage can present a theological picture of who God is and what God is doing for people, then singleness can do the same for married people.
In the book, you profile Macrina (a 4th-century nun), Perpetua (a 2nd-century martyr), and Lottie Moon (a 19th-century missionary to China) as examples of Christian women who remained faithful amid singleness. Why, specifically, did you chose Perpetua, who was married and a mother but ended up separated from her family?
Perpetua was not “single” in the contemporary sense. But I stuck with her because I felt it was important to recognize that singleness comes in different shapes and sizes. Some single people are widowed. Some are divorced. Some want to be single, and some don’t. Perpetua is an example of someone who has been married, who had a child, and yet at a key moment in her life, as far as we know, no husband is involved. Her singleness is different but no less real, and there are people in the church dealing with similar circumstances today.
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Source: Christianity Today