But in Scripture, church history, and singles’ own accounts of their lives, it’s usually not a good thing, either.
Is it a sin to be single?
To a modern ear, the question can sound bizarre—but in many circles of Christianity, especially online, the question of whether young people (especially young women, as in a recent viral TikTok video) are engaged in sinful behavior by being single into their late 20s or 30s is earnestly asked and debated. Yet in other circles, a diametrically different question is asked: Could it be a blessing to be single? Doesn’t Paul say he wishes that everyone could be unmarried as he was (1 Cor. 7:7–8)?
The proximate cause of the debate within Christianity about singleness is not mysterious: The share of people ages 18–35 who are married has fallen from 59 percent in 1978 to 29 percent in 2018. Marriage is coming later in life or not at all, so there are a lot more single adults in society and in many churches. Because marital status is strongly associated with political and religious views (single people are generally more liberal and less religious), many conservative Christians see in the rise of singleness a plausible source of the general turn away from faith in American life.
But for Christian single adults, the story is quite different. Most Christian singles do desire to marry someday; in a survey of regularly church-attending single women under 35, my consulting firm found that the average desired family size was 2.7 children, versus just 2 children for never-attending single women or 2.8 for regularly attending married women. Christian singles have about the same family aspirations as their married peers. They are unmarried not mostly because of a lack of desire but because of factors not strictly within their control: family and churches who discouraged hasty and young marriage, …