I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Breaking the Marriage Idol: Reconstructing Our Cultural and Spiritual Norms was written by Kutter Callaway. In his book, Callaway (a married father) says how marriage should not be the norm, or determine what it means to be a faithful disciple of Christ.
Breaking the Marriage Idol has a solid (and humorous) start. In the beginning, Callaway discusses how Disney, pop songs (using Taylor Swift for example), the Bachelor(ette), and purity culture have influenced not just society’s views, but the church’s views of love and marriage. He then explores singleness and marriage in the Old and New Testaments (and uses Ephesians 5 for a brief and honestly poor argument for egalitarianism out of the blue).
The sixth chapter was written by a celibate same-sex attracted man, Joshua Beckett, and sadly this was the shortest chapter. The chapter on marriage was much longer and in depth.
In the chapter titled “Bone of My Bones and Flesh of My Flesh”, Callaway mentions how there might not have been marriage in Eden. He says how in Genesis 2:24, the language is still ‘ish (man) and ‘ishshah (woman), not husband and wife. He then says:
“This doesn’t mean that we can say with certainty that these first humans were not married, or that they did not eventually become or at least function as husband and wife. It just means that the text doesn’t give us any indication one way or the other. So to suggest that this “flesh of my flesh” moment between the man and the woman is the institution of a wedding ceremony or that it is the clear evidence that marriage is divinely blessed as humanity’s highest ideal is to be guilty of overinterpreting the text.
Interestingly, though, what we do know is that they don’t consummate their relationship until after they have left the Garden. This too is an argument from silence because the narrative simply does not provide us with many details, but it appears that Adam and Eve did not come to “know” each other (in the “biblical sense”) until after they are exiled (Gen 4:1).” (page 115)
Implying that there was no marriage in Eden is a little odd, I’ll admit… But before you go off thinking that Adam and Eve not having sex is wrong, Matt Slick of CARM has a page on it (here) basically saying we don’t know how long they were in the garden.
In a rare encouraging part, Callaway says singles play an important part in the church.
“Peter and the “other apostles” were married, which is to be expected given their particular cultural context (1 Cor. 9:5). But many of those who followed Jesus during his life and after his resurrection were single, and they too held a place of honor within the community. Some had not yet married (such as Philip’s daughter in Acts 21:8-9), while others were single either because of a divorce or the death of a spouse (such as Anna the prophetess in Lk 2:36:40). And single people like Nympha were held in high regard for hosting gatherings of the Christian community (Col. 4:15-16). In other words, both married and single Christians were considered necessary and integral parts of the Christian community. As a consequence, the community itself was understood to be the primary location for cultivating and sustaining the life and practices of both single and married Christians.” (page 144)
Overall, I think this book fell a bit flat and was repetitive at times. I knew by the title it would mostly be a criticism of our culture and the church’s view of marriage, but I was hoping for more.
I think Sam Allberry (single SSA priest) wrote a more in-depth book on singleness that’s great for singles and married folks called 7 Myths About Singleness. Allberry answers common questions, and as a single celibate man, he understands the struggles we go through and can give practical solid advice. And, while it’s more directed towards women, The Heart of Singleness by Andrea Trevenna (single and celibate) is a very short and encouraging read that actually equips readers to find satisfaction in Christ.
After reading this book, I posted polls on Instagram. Here are the results.
Do you think you idolize marriage?
Yes 43% |No 57%
Can you honestly say you would be happy if you never got married?
Yes 35% | No 65%
Do you think getting married will cure certain desires?
Yes 41% | No 59%
Is marriage one of your top goals in life?
Yes 41% | No 59%
Do you think singles are important in the Church?
Yes 97% | No 3%
Do you think our culture has corrupted love?
Yes 91% | No 9%
Are you happy being single?
Do you struggle with being single?
Yes 61% | No 39%
Do you feel like your church has adequately equipped and encouraged you?
Yes 42% | No 58%