I started writing this post in response to Deborrah Cooper’s article, “The Black Church: How Black Churches Keep African American Women Single and Lonely,” back in June when I first read it. Since it was clear that Ms. Cooper lacked even the tiniest grasp on what it meant to be a Christian, I thought I’d write a response. I wrote several drafts — all of which were dripping with disdain. Since there was nothing in those drafts that showed I knew what it meant to be a Christian, either — no love or compassion at all for Cooper — I let it go, and I hoped that this would just go away.
It didn’t. Like skinny jeans and heels, “concern” over the plight of Black women’s dating lives seems to be the trend that just won’t end in the mainstream media — for some reason unbeknownst to me. In any event, CNN mainstreamed Cooper’s rant against the Black church which consisted of an analysis of a Pew Research Center poll on African Americans and religion. Cooper concluded that: “Going to church for single Black women is a waste of time.” She wrote:
What Do The PEW Study Results Mean For Single Black Women?
They mean that:
- Following the tenets of organized religion is not going to get you anywhere because men are generally not religious.
- Going to church is not getting you the husband you seek.
- Going to church is not making you more attractive and interesting to men.
- Going to church is not where you are going to find eligible bachelors to date.
- Going to church is not going to teach you to be fiscally responsible, investment savvy, or empower you to achieve greatness as a woman.
- Going to church is not going to broaden your horizons, make you more tolerant and accepting of all God’s children, nor is it going to encourage you to be free of the chains of patriarchy and oppression of your feminine energy.
Depressing! But Cooper also proposed some alternatives to church-going for Black women:
My suggestion is that you get off your knees, stop paying so much attention to what your Pastor says and open your eyes to the world around you. There are millions of really great guys out here that would love you to the depths of your soul and stand by you. There are many single men that will happily honor your spirit and desire to leave your mark on the world. However, he may not EVER set foot in a church, read the Bible or even pray; and he certainly may not be Black.
Do those things make him a bad person, unworthy of your attention or love? I don’t think so.
I don’t know where to begin to address what’s wrong with Cooper’s statements, (the most offensive of which seem to have been removed from her original post). So, I’m just going to speak directly to any Christian woman who happens to agree with her / has concluded that church-going has totally ruined your dating life: CHURCH IS NOT ABOUT YOU, BOO.
As Christians we know — but, in our human nature, often forget, or perhaps don’t fully understand — that we were created for one purpose, and one purpose alone: the worship and praise of God. It is our sole obligation to give God praise with our lives, with our talents, with our words, and with our deeds. Attending church is just another avenue in which to do just that. We come together to worship God solely for being an awesome, all-powerful, all-knowing God who is able to supply every single need we have. We also come to praise God for the things He has done specifically in our lives and the lives of people we know.
I’d like to take this time to confess. For a part of my *ahem* “confused” years, I had a relationship with a man (whom I refer to as “Black” on this blog) who was not a Christian. It was a disaster. (Please pick up my book, The Diva Monologues in 2011, and be thoroughly amused, humiliated, and reborn along with me )I was placed in this man’s life to minister to him about Christ — instead, I got distracted by muscles, skin, teeth, and politics.
This relationship damaged my very soul –not because of anything he did, mind you, but because my focus became saturated by this man. My goal was no longer to please God, I just wanted to be appealing to Black — and later on, I was willing to settle for even just being palatable to him. (It was a very sad, desperate time in life.) Yes, I knew that God commanded that we be “equally-yoked” with our partner, but Black was just so wonderful (hindsight: -_-) and I began to question just how seriously I had to take the whole equally-yoked command. And I also justified my disobedience to God by saying that Black would one day become a Christian anyway and then I’d feel dumb for having “given up” on him. Besides my willingness to follow this man off of a cliff, I had no clue as to why God desired us to be equally-yoked in the first place.
And then a dangerous situation arose that compelled me to pray for this man’s safety and health. I have never prayed for an individual more or harder in my entire life. Somewhere, in the midst of my praying for him, I realized that this was something he could never do for me, even if he did return my love (which, he did not, by the way. But, I digress). The point is that in going through that situation with Black, I finally saw what God wanted for me and how much I was missing by settling for less than that. I saw that God is not trying to “punish” us, or “limit our options” by requiring that we be equally-yoked, He just knows what I didn’t want to see at the time: that we can never reach our potential being partnered with a person who is not chasing a relationship, a daily communication with Christ. Does this make Black a “bad person,” for not doing this, as Cooper suggests Christian women believe? Of course not. What it does, though, is make Black not MY person. (This took me a VERY long time to see. This is a revelation 2 years in the making!!! Y’all have to read the book, because y’all just do not understand how far God has brought me!)
Through that situation,I realized that I want a man who can go to my God on my behalf and intercede for me in prayer. I want a man who is not ashamed or afraid to get on his knees and pray for my soul, for my heart to change if I’m being too stubborn and going against the will of God, for my growth in Christ, for the fulfillment of the purpose that God created me for.
I want a man who understands that there is no life outside of Christ, but within Him, there is everything; that knows that there is great abundance in Christ that has absolutely nothing to do with wealth, or power, or prestige — these meaningless attributes that ultimately fade — but a man who is just satisfied solely by being an ingredient in God’s happiness, like Christ lived His life solely to be an ingredient in God’s happiness.
Just imagine: Christ loved us so much that He allowed himself to be beaten, tortured, and murdered in OUR place — so that the sins we commit in this world — every lie, every hateful act, every spiteful word, every hurtful deed we’ve ever committed — wouldn’t condemn us to being beaten, tortured, and slain, but that we could have everlasting life in Heaven with God, instead.
Imagine a man who loves you so much that he is willing to lay his life down for yours, no matter how many times you break his heart and no matter what you did in your past to deserve death, and no matter how other people have condemned you; a man who loves you so deeply, solely because you are a child of God whom God loves, and not because of what you’ve accomplished, how you look, how you cook, or anything else that you can do for him; a man who loves you so much that nothing you have done or can do can make him take his love away from you. And not just if you are willing to love him back. This kind of love is just freely yours, no strings attached, it is there for us to accept whenever we are ready to accept it. This is what Christ’s love for us looks like. And, more importantly, this is what Christ’s love for God the Father looks like:
Even in Christ’s most painful hour — the night before He was to be wrongfully convicted and heinously executed by the very people He loved and came to save — Christ gave Himself completely over to God’s will because He knew that through His obedience to the will of God that many people would be saved. Saving us from our sins would make God truly happy. As a result of Christ’s love and devotion to God the Father and His perfect will, God looked down upon Christ and said, “This is my son, in whom I am well-pleased.” And that was enough for Christ. He didn’t need us to love Him back, to accept Him, to change our minds about our sins, to be grateful to Him for His sacrifice for us because He had the validation and confirmation of God — He did what He came to this earth to do, and all the other great things that happened as a result of His life were wonderful additions that also made God happy.
Now, imagine a man with no concept of Christ, with no concept of His love and what pure love looks like, no concept of the peace, joy, and completion that comes from living a life solely to please God — and see what you are missing. Settle for less, if you so choose.
But, as I’ve been told and I truly believe: A man who won’t break God’s heart, won’t break yours, either. Oh! To have a man whose soul desire is to make God happy! Makes me want to take a lap around the church (I see you, Mount Olive Baptist; you know what I’m talking about!)
The purity, beauty, love, and perfect peace that this spiritual connection to another person through Christ brings us cannot be manufactured nor substituted. There is no movie-theater love, lust, or sex that can even reach the same stratosphere as the purity of an intimate relationship that is engulfed by the Holy Spirit and ordained by God. Settling for less than what God can provide — and wants to provide for us — is really just dissatisfying and heart-breakingly sad. ANY church that is teaching you otherwise, FLEE from it!
I get that this is a lot to swallow. This is difficult to understand for people like Ms. Cooper. This is difficult to understand for folks who do not yet know Christ or understand His ways or what kind of transformations He has the ability to bring about in our lives. This is difficult for Christians to understand, and requires God transforming our hearts and stirring a revolution in our minds that redirects our focus solely on Him and giving Him praise on a daily basis. As I ‘ve mentioned several times on this site, a podcast of J.R. Vassar’s sermon “Freedom from the Fear of Man” is my daily meditation, and reminds me that I need to be praying for God’s happiness to be the sole desire of my heart — every.single.day.
It took me two years of lowliness, of wallowing in myself, my relationship mistakes, and my sullied reputation, to get to the point where I would be receptive to this revelation that God’s pure love and His perfect will should be my sole desire. But, praise God! I am here now. Sometimes it takes a breakdown — and even God breaking us down — to realize that IT IS NOT ABOUT US: the key to our wholeness, freedom, and satisfaction is to just be consumed with Him.
So, if you are Single & Sad & Lonely — and Christian, it’s a sign that your heart has not yet been consumed by Christ. You have to die to receive the pure love that Christ is offering you, meaning that you have to die to yourself. You have to give up your desires and your ambitions, and ask God to radically transform your heart, thoughts, and deeds to be solely focused on Him and not yourself. (As you can see, following your will and your desires, and your ambitions has kept you — Single & Sad & Lonely.) You will otherwise be perpetually unhappy and dissatisfied — never quite fulfilled, always needing something that you just can’t quite explain. And everything that you try to fill that void with — men, career, beauty, children — everything will fail to give you the complete happiness that you desire and that God wants you to have.
Instead, as the Word commands us, you must: “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.”
Does this guarantee you will be married before you turn 30? Clearly, not. Does this mean you should get lost in Christ and be consumed by His love for you until such time as your real knight and shining armor comes along and starts paying you attention? Girl, be for real.
No, I’m serious — be for real. Be for real about your commitment to Christ and to your sole purpose of worshiping God with your lives and your whole heart. Be for real about meditating on God, reading and studying His word, entering into fellowship with other Christians who can help you on your journey to knowing Him and His purpose for you. Be for real about not living in sin anymore. Be for real about asking God to make your sole desire be for God to say this about you: “This is my child, with whom I am well-pleased.” Go out into this world and spread the love of Jesus to every soul you meet, using the talent and purpose God created you with. And watch how He will fulfill you like you’ve never been fulfilled. And see Him open up windows and pour you out blessings you don’t have room enough to receive.
So, Ms. Cooper, the man you mention that “may not EVER set foot in a church, read the Bible or even pray”; that man who can love me as much as he is able to love —outside of Christ; that man who will “happily honor your spirit and desire to leave your mark on the world,” but doesn’t understand why my spirit is married to Christ and that my desire to fulfill my purpose is solely for God’s happiness; that man who isn’t also seeking these things for himself — that man is a bridge to nowhere for me.
I’d rather have Jesus. And I pray that one day you’ll understand why.
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