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Is ‘The Group’ Part of the Problem?

I was having lunch the other day with a friend of mine. He lamented that his involvement in his current Group — you know, an informal, mixed-gender group of young, single adults — was getting him nowhere. Well, not nowhere. It’s certainly provided him some close companions. But he’s no closer to being married than he was when he began hanging out with The Group.

I suggested to my friend something I’ve been thinking about for a while now: that perhaps The Group itself — not his group of friends, per se, but the concept, the social phenomenon of groups of relatively close male and female friends — is the problem.

That’s not to say that involvement in The Group can’t be, for various reasons, socially and spiritually productive. But what if it’s the case, I asked him, that assembling with one another, as we young people have a tendency to do, has the effect, however unintentional, of actually inoculating us against the drive to marry?

Think about it, I said: Why would a guy commit to any one young lady when he can get so much attention, and different kinds and qualities of attention, from so many young ladies? This girl thinks he’s funny; that girl cooks well; this other young lady likes having intellectual conversations, just like he does. When it comes to the sexual side of things, a typical Christian guy might not be sleeping around, but he’s likely (as Tim Challies reminds us in “Sexual Detox II: Breaking Free“) dabbling now and again in pornography. So our stereotypical, hypothetical Christian guy is regularly receiving female attention and sexual gratification.

A little bit like marriage.

And the girls aren’t not complicit in the inoculating effects of The Group. The typical young lady, though she could choose not to participate in The Group, and is likely very aware that The Group isn’t getting her any closer to marriage, is fearful of extricating herself from The Group because she doesn’t know in what other context she’s going to meet eligible Christian young men. And if she’s honest, she likes that there are guys around who, in addition to paying her some attention every now and again, are available to fix things around her house and change the occasional flat tire — not that she couldn’t do those things herself, because biblical femininity is not about being weak and needy. But still, a little help is nice. So she receives positive male attention and the feeling of being protected.

A little bit like marriage — a low-grade dose of of marriage that, again, effectively inoculates us against our God-given desire to couple up.

OK, so I understand that in the above conversation I committed myself to some generalizations. Know that I’m the first to advocate that social phenomena like The Group are invariably more complicated and mysterious than they first appear. And The Group’s effects aren’t entirely, or even primarily, negative. Also, it’s obviously the case that ceasing being a member of The Group is no panacea.

But is any of this true? Could one of the reasons for protracted singleness within the Christian subculture be that the script so many of us are following is necessarily biased against the very thing we seek?

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