More black women single; church possibly to blame
March 13, 2011 at 10:03 p.m.
Updated March 12, 2011 at 9:13 p.m.
Melanie White is determined to be married by the time she turns 50.
The 44-year-old bank teller and mother of two has already given her long-distance boyfriend of three years the ultimatum - get married or move on.
"I'm almost at that half-a century mark. I'm wondering if I will I ever get married," said White. "All I can do is pray about it and put it in God's hands."
For White, who still considers herself to be single, the marriage will be her first, if it does come to fruition.
White is just one of a growing number of black women who are over 30 and still single.
A recent Yale study found 42 percent of African-American women remain unmarried, compared to only 23 percent of Caucasian women.
Deborrah Cooper, a relationship and dating advice columnist for the San Francisco Examiner, recently made claims on her popular blog, SurvivingDating.com, that predominantly black protestant churches, such as African Methodist, Pentecostal, and certain denominations of Evangelical and Baptist churches account for why so many black women are still single.
One controversial blog post in particular titled "The Black Church: How Black Churches Keep African-American Women Single and Lonely" attracted national attention for its claims that stringent beliefs established by the black church hinder black women in their search for love.
"An examination of any congregation of the average Black church shows that single black females fill the pews," Cooper wrote. "Black women go to church week after week, hearing over and over again the message that they should be seeking a God-fearing man. Sisters in church are instructed by their pastor that there should be no room in their lives for a man without faith in the Lord."
Cooper, who is black and claims not to be strictly religious, continued, "Black women should abandon black churches and focus more on themselves, their needs and those of their children than those of black men or a religion which black men use to castigate and control an entire race of women."
Cooper's argument is one that is seemingly supported by statistics.
While 90 percent of black Americans expressed an "absolutely certain belief in God," men were still significantly more likely than women to claim no religious affiliation, according to The PEW Center's U.S. Religious Landscape Survey.
Additional survey data showed that 62 percent of black Americans reportedly interpret scripture literally true word for word.
Those men who are single and in the church do not necessarily present good dating options either, according to Cooper's blog.
She described many of the single black men in church as being elderly reformed players, closeted homosexuals, opportunistic players or losers working on a 12-step program.
White, who is a Christian, said excluding her current beau, it has been hard to find a good, single Christian man who was open to marriage.
Admittedly, White said she has limited her dating pool to black Baptist men.
"I need someone who is a child of God, has been saved and has accepted God as the head of their life because He's definitely the head of mine," she said.
These dating criteria are something that Lydia Hobbs can relate to.
Hobbs, a 42-year-old mother of three, said a difference in religious beliefs is what led to her divorce from her husband of 11 years in 2004.
"Christianity is the most important aspect in a relationship, because I'm a Christian" said Hobbs. "I was married to a non-Christian. Religion was not a main focus in his life. It was not important that he went to church or set moral standards for our children."
Since getting back into the dating scene, Hobbs said anyone she considers dating must be Christian, have a job, do volunteer work, have a good personality and be attractive.
"I would like to look at him in the face," she chuckled.
Hobbs said being a good Christian does not entail meeting a scripture reading quota or attending church services a certain number times a week.
"I just need someone who would not be afraid to pray with me," she said.
"Many single women are in church for women's groups, Bible study twice a week, some special committee meetings, singles ministry, fellowshipping through the community and attending service all day on Sunday. When exactly is it that this single black woman would have time for a man in her life?" Cooper asked in her blog. "In reality, she doesn't."
Despite their strong beliefs that God will provide them with a husband, many women remain bothered by the statistics, which are not in their favor.
"The guys I meet only want one thing. I'm not ready for all that," said Dessielene Anujulu, 23. "I just pray that I don't get to be 30 and still single."
"It's disappointing, because who wants to be sitting on their front porch when they are 60 or 70 years old alone?" said Hobbs. "I like to talk, so I want an adult male to talk to."
For The Rev. Fred Hobbs, pastor of Mt. Nebo Baptist Church, the question of how to go about finding love as a single Christian is one he is often asked.
The frequency of the question led him to respond through a sermon series titled "Purpose-Dive Life."
"I would hope faith plays an important role in dating," said The Rev. Hobbs, who estimated the single to married ratio in his church to be 2:1 and 3:1 including young adults between the ages of 18 to 35. "As you choose a mate in the will of God, then you will end up choosing someone who is compatible and meets your needs."
Although he advocates that Christians date other Christians, he reminds those who are single and ready to mingle that church is not meant to serve as just a place to find a date.
"Everyone who goes to church and professes to be a Christian is not a Christian," said Hobbs. "All women in the church are not focused on Christianity. Some are just there looking ."
The Rev. Hobbs also reminds singles that marriage is not for everyone.
"God said he wants us to be happy. Being happy doesn't necessarily mean being married. Being happy means being in the will he has for our lives," he said. "Some people are just not happy being married, and if they are content with that, then that's fine."
With the odds of ever getting married against her, White continues to hold out hope that things will work out with her current beau, saving her from having to go back into the dating pool.
"Hopefully, we'll end up making that move in the next two or three years," said White. "If not, then whenever God sees fit."