Does Church Keep Black Women Single? - 1

So say feminists, apparently.

CNN reports that an orthographically-challenged relationship advice columnist named Deborrah Cooper claims that Christian beliefs are keeping devout Christian women single and lonely.

Cooper, who is black and says she is not strictly religious, argues that rigid beliefs constructed by the black church are blinding black women in their search for love.

A Yale University study showed that 42% of of African-American women in the United States were unmarried.  CNN quoted Cooper as saying:

"Black women are interpreting the scriptures too literally. They want a man to which they are 'equally yoked' -- a man that goes to church five times a week and every Sunday just like they do," Cooper said in a recent interview.

"If they meet a black man that is not in church, they are automatically eliminated as a potential suitor. This is just limiting their dating pool."

The CNN article presents the view that women limit their chances for marriage when they follow Christian teachings about the sort of people with whom to associate.  This would seem to be a truism: after all, isn't it fairly common for religions to teach that you should hang out with other people who believe the same way that you do?  One wouldn't expect to hear a preacher of any stripe commending single ladies to chase after Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens.

A much more interesting question is: practically speaking, what difference does it make?  During the Presidential campaign, Mr. Obama declared that he never head his pastor Jeremiah Wright say anything negative about America in 20 years attending his Chicago church.  Most Americans have never so much as set foot in Wright's church, yet millions of them are more familiar with his anti-American views than his own most famous parishioner.

We can infer that lots of American Christians don't pay much attention to whatever's coming out of their preacher's mouth, much less what the Bible might say about dating, but what if a woman actually decides that she wants to follow Christian teaching in her life?  If she regards the Bible as commands from God, how are she and her husband commanded to conduct themselves?

What the Bible Expects from Men

The Bible teaches that a husband is supposed to provide for his wife:

But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

- I Timothy 5:8

Is it wrong for a woman to expect her husband to provide for her so that she can take care of their home and their children?  Is it wrong for a woman to decide that she wants to be a keeper at home?  Given that a large proportion of black men are in no position to obey this passage or have no desire to support anyone, not even themselves, is it unreasonable for black ladies to exclude them from their dating pool?

Marry to Get; Marry to Give

Today, many people seem to marry in order to get something from their spouses, whether that be money, sex, companionship, status, or something else.  In its rawest form, that doesn't work well, as neither men nor women like to be taken advantage of - society looks down on "gold-diggers" and "gigolos."

The traditional romantic idea is that someone should marry to give to their mate.  You can't float your own boat in marriage; the only one who can float your boat is your spouse.

Throughout Western culture, the expectation has for centuries been that a man should be ready to give his life to save his wife; we all know the Birkenhead Drill of "Women and children first!" heard as the Titanic went down.  God doesn't generally expect a man to die for his wife, but God expects a man to live his life one day at a time to support, nourish, honor, cherish, and serve her.

In passages that could alternatively cheer or quail the hearts of feminists, the Bible teaches that a wife is an undeserved gift of God:

Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favor of the LORD.

- Proverbs 18:22

What's wrong with a devout, Bible-following woman expecting to be treated as the undeserved, gracious gift from God her holy book says she's supposed to be?  That sort of attitude is actually good for her husband: being treated as God's gift makes any woman happy, and the happier she is, the happier she can make her husband.

Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labor which thou takest under the sun.

- Ecclesiastes 9:9

Suppose a woman believes that God intends her to be His gift to her husband.  Should she settle for a man who doesn't see her as God's gift to him?  Suppose she believes that the Bible teaches that husband and wife shoud belong to each other and be faithful to each other.  Should she settle for a man who insists on straying or on devouring pornography?

What if she's really thought about what God told Eve after Eve had eaten the forbidden fruit?

Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

- Genesis 3:16

Suppose that she believes that God multiplies sorrow to women by giving them more sensitive emotions than men have.  Shouldn't she want a man who'll speak gently to her, try not to hurt her feelings, and stop doing things that hurt?

Realistic women recognize that if a woman has a man in her life, she'll seek to please him.  A man needn't command to rule a woman, her desire to do things his way often suffices.  Shouldn't she want a man who appreciates her trying to make him happy and praises her for it?

As a practical matter, a woman can't please a man unless he's willing to talk to her enough for her to learn what makes him happy.  It helps a lot if he's willing to spend the effort to learn what makes her happy, of course.

What's a Woman To Do?

The Economist explained the black woman's dilemma by pointing out that the mass incarceration of black men reduces the pool of eligible mates:

IMAGINE that the world consists of 20 men and 20 women, all of them heterosexual and in search of a mate. Since the numbers are even, everyone can find a partner. But what happens if you take away one man? You might not think this would make much difference. You would be wrong, argues Tim Harford, a British economist, in a book called "The Logic of Life". With 20 women pursuing 19 men, one woman faces the prospect of spinsterhood. So she ups her game. Perhaps she dresses more seductively. Perhaps she makes an extra effort to be obliging. Somehow or other, she "steals" a man from one of her fellow women. That newly single woman then ups her game, too, to steal a man from someone else. A chain reaction ensues. Before long, every woman has to try harder, and every man can relax a little. [emphasis added]

Not unsurprisingly, most women of any color or religion are reluctant to date ex-convicts.  This makes a difference when one black man in three can expect to spend time behind bars at some point in his life.

Ex-convicts aside, what if a Christian woman wants to be treated as God's gift to her husband?  She can't really up her game in the sense in which the Economist means it:

When there are six women chasing one man, "It's like, what are you going to do extra, to get his attention?" Some women offer sex on the first date, she [an unmarried black doctor] says, which makes life harder for those who prefer to combine romance with commitment.

Since it appears that most women think in terms of having uncommitted sex or in paying more of the bills to up her game and stand out from the crowd, a woman who wants to be treated as a treasure as opposed to a disposable toy has to declare herself.

Before accepting a date, she could say, gently but firmly, "Before you spend any money on me, you should know that I'm looking for a husband.  I'm not looking for fun; I want to get married.  I'm not saying you have to agree to marry me before we go out at all, but I want you to agree that the purpose of being together is to decide whether you and I should get married.  God made me to be a treasure for some man.  If you aren't that man, fine, we can part friends, but I'm not a toy.  I don't want a man to play with me; I want a man to stay with me."

As Ms Cooper points out, this attitude is going to limit the pool of potential suitors pretty harshly, but a woman needs only one man.

Why Marry At All?

Every man knows in his heart that a woman can give him a taste of the joys of heaven right here on earth; that's why men pursue women so strongly.  Every man also knows that most men who get involved with women end up with the punishments of hell rather than the joys of heaven; that makes men reluctant to commit themselves.  That reluctance to grow up and commit is really what a woman's fighting - how can she convince a man that she'll bring him joy instead of the sorrow most men receive?

Given that a man knows the down-side of letting himself fall in love with a woman, stating up front that she wants to be God's treasure for her husband ought to get any serious man's attention because if she's telling the truth, he'll receive the joys he expects.  Unless she's had a chance to talk to a savvy older women, she won't know exactly what it means to be a man's treasure, but every man knows exactly what it means.

If a man isn't interested in a woman who wants to be God's treasure for him, she's better off not getting involved with him at all.  Experience shows that it is better to stay single than to enter into a miserable relationship which is doomed to failure from the start.

Anyone with the slightest familiarity with the wretched misery of the modern dating scene, to say nothing of today's astronomical divorce rate, will know to take any advice from modern dating columnists with a very, very heavy dose of salt.  The church has it right - marriage works well when a man nourishes, cherishes, and serves his wife as God's undeserved gift to him and she acts like God's gift to him.  Anything less simply doesn't seem to work.

Fortunately, women don't need to find dozens of eligible men - or men dozens of women, for that matter.  All it takes is one, as long as it's the right one.

Perhaps what Ms. Cooper needs is a little more patience, something else that her more devout sisters probably hear about in church from time to time.

The next article in this series goes a little deeper into what the Bible requires of married people.  The article after that discusses how such memes serve society or tear it down.

Lee Tydings is a guest writer for  Read other articles by Lee Tydings or other articles on Society.
Reader Comments
Excellent article, Lee!

Three cheers for the (real) black churches for imparting good morals to their congregations.
August 27, 2010 10:29 AM
Good article, but when you say "Every man knows in his heart that a women can give him a taste of heaven right here on earth" I think you're wrong. I'm assuming your talking about sexual pleasure, which is a wonderful earthly thing but highly doubtful to be present (or anythinig remotely like it) in the afterlife. In that existance "Joy" is hopefully far beyond any physical "feelings" we've ever experienced...
August 27, 2010 11:15 AM
Let's see what a real expert says:

"...churchgoing is as powerful a force for entry into marriage among African Americans as it is for whites. Most striking, FFCW analyses indicate that the current gap between White and Black marriage rates would be even larger were it not for the fact that African Americans attend church at higher rates than whites."

-W. Bradford Wilcox, Religion, Race, and Relationships in Urban America
August 27, 2010 12:19 PM
A couple months ago there was an NPR story on a black woman that has made a career out of giving seminars on why black women should date out side of their race (not exclusively but as an option).

Apparently many Black women often see it as a terrible thing to date someone who isn't black. Black men however do not have a similar feeling. This also would decrease the available pool of mates.
August 28, 2010 7:11 AM
It's even harder in New Orleans

In New Orleans, Black Churches Face a Long, Slow Return
Black churches in the Lower Ninth Ward have struggled to reopen, and those that have draw only a fraction of the parishioners from before the storm.
August 28, 2010 10:50 AM
Finding a good husband is not difficult for attractive women of any race. Overall, however, white women are more attractive than black women and this is why so many black men prefer white women. Why black women would prefer black men is a mystery.
August 30, 2010 1:01 PM

Pretty good article. The only part that I disagree with is where you said Deb needs patience. She has more men than she can handle. Never personalize your writing when you don't know anything personal about the person you are talking about. You lose credibility. Just because you disagree with something the author wrote, its always best to stick to the subject matter not attack the person that wrote it.

Anyway, since this interested you, I wanted to tell you about Deb's book which is due out next week on the black church called THE BLACK CHURCH - WHERE WOMEN PRAY AND MEN PREY. Website is for more information.

May 24, 2012 11:16 PM

@Candace - could Deb get us a review copy of her book? We do book reviews from time to time.

May 25, 2012 7:54 AM

@Rob - sorry, I overlooked your comment until recently. I wasn't speaking solely of sexual pleasure. From talking to lots of women and men, I believe that if a man creates a situation such that a woman is happy to belong to him, she will think of all kinds of ways to make him happy that would never occur to him. Having a woman strive to take care of him and make him rejoice in being married to her is the greatest reward a man can find this side of salvation.

For that to work, of course, he has to meet her needs. For a woman, having a man delight in dedicating his life to taking care of her and opening his heart to her when she needs to talk gives her pretty much the same joy he receives from her delighting in making him happy

December 3, 2014 7:40 PM

The Washington Post is saying the same thing. It takes time for the MSM to catch up with Scragged:

August 27, 2015 7:53 PM
Add Your Comment...
4000 characters remaining
Loading question...