This year is shaping up to be among the best and worst for single voters, at least politically.
The race between Bush and Kerry is so close their campaigns are working overtime to exploit any advantages they may have within specific demographic groups. The Democrats, especially, have taken note of their potential windfall in single female voters.
According to Bella DePaulo, writing recently in the New York Times, roughly two-thirds of single women cast their ballots for Al Gore in the 2000 elections. But only 52% of these women bothered to vote (compared to 68% of married women). Democrat strategists figure that getting just a small chunk of the remaining 48% of single women to the polls could clinch the race for Kerry. Every election cycle, it seems the national media anoints a particular demographic as the most coveted and courted, and finally, after the seasons of the soccer moms and NASCAR dads, the single female is getting her day in the political sun.
But, as DePaulo noted, the sort of political sunshine the Democrats have shined on her has been, well, insulting. The way to the hearts of single females, the Democratic Party has decided, is through their panties. Underwear with slogans like "Kiss Bush Goodbye" have been available at nightclubs or at PantyWare parties, DePaulo reports, while at the same time a political pollster has opined that single women should think of going to the polls as "a hair appointment we would not miss."
The nearly universal assumption is that so-called ï¿½real lifeï¿½ only begins at the altar or in the delivery room.
Call it Kerry's Sex in the City campaign strategy, and DePaulo, rightly, decried it. But should anyone find it surprising? Isn't such an approach simply the political expression of what is a nearly universal assumption, that so-called "real life" only begins at the altar or in the delivery room?
When the enormously popular Friends television series ended, it wasn't because the characters were moving to different cities to pursue other opportunities for personal and career growth. Most of the friends parted ways to get married, or, if already married, to start families. The show was just reflecting the popular attitude that 'singleness' is merely a time of partying, fluff and shallownessï¿½a stopover before marriage and family. No wonder the Democrats put anti-Bush slogans on panties rather than on bumper stickers or coffee mugs.
Might singleness be lived with deeper goals in mind than having fun and accumulating stuff? You would never know it from reading or watching secular media. When DePaulo tried to articulate a list of more meaningful issues that might attract single females, she fell back on the argument that single women often have families these days and, anyway, single women want what everyone else wantsï¿½a list DePaulo defined as making a decent living, having affordable health care and enjoying retirement.
But Christianity doesn't share this narrow view of the purpose and meaning of human life, whether married or unmarried. Rather, Christianity calls Christians in all states of life to cooperate with God's grace in helping to build His Kingdom. Contrary to a popular bumper sticker, from Christianity's point of view the person who dies with the most toys stands a good chance of losing. But the man or woman who gives most freely and deeplyï¿½of their hearts, of their treasure, of their time and of their very selves, stands a greater chance of seeing God.
How? Well, in an as many ways as there are Christians. No one's life or circumstances are exactly alike and, in my experience at least, God has been very generous about tailoring opportunities to work in the Vineyard to the skills, time and interests of the individual workers.
For example, some of the most rewarding Vineyard work that I have personally found has been in being a Godfather. Its self-evident these days that parenting is tough, even for those couples who choose hope over experience on a daily basis, and manage to build strong marriages and families. Contemporary parents are often pressed for time, money, energy and other resources they need to rear and educate childrenï¿½and they frequently need help. The responsibility and honor I have accepted as the Godfather of a 2-1/2 year- old has become one of the biggest challenges and rewards of my life.
Might singleness be lived with deeper goals in mind than having fun and accumulating stuff?
But no matter what one does in life, whether married or single, the Christian view is that if we are part of the Body of Christ we no longer live for and to ourselves alone but as part of a Person whose work stretches far beyond ourselves. In this sense, the secular demarcation between single and married fades in the light of a common effort working under a shared leader and toward a common goal.
For the unmarried Christian, the ultimate keys to happiness are not whether we make a decent living, but how we spend and account for the money we do make; not whether we have affordable health care but what we do with the suffering we experience when we do fall ill; not whether we enjoy retirement but whether we ever retire at all, in this life at least, from the deeper vocation to which our baptisms call us.