A week doesn’t seem to go by without the definition of marriage taking on yet another ‘Doctor Who-like’ transformation and turning itself into something unexpected. This week it was the turn of ‘sologamy’ - my first encounter of it anyway (apparently it’s been around for a few years now). It isn’t as you might think, the decision to NOT be married (such as the Apostle Paul alluded to in 1 Corinthians 7:7 “Sometimes I wish everyone were single like me—a simpler life in many ways! But celibacy is not for everyone any more than marriage is.”), but ‘sologamy’ is a new term meaning, getting married to MYSELF (polygamy: ‘multiple spouses’, monogamy: ‘one spouse’, sologamy: ‘married to myself’).
What happens at a sologamy ceremony?
Now if this was April 1st I wouldn’t blame you for assuming that this was a prank, but not at all, this is a real practice that is growing in popularity, and also known as ‘self-marriage’. Let me explain how it works: There is a wedding service with vows, a dress (sologamy is currently mainly a female movement), a cake, flowers, bridesmaids and a photographer. All the trappings of a traditional marriage in fact, apart from one vital ingredient: the groom (or marriage partner). So what does ‘the bride’ actually do and say at this ‘wedding’?
Now this is where it gets interesting because this sologamy ceremony is all about ‘self love’ and ‘self acceptance’. The idea behind these solitary public vows is that they go along the lines of, “I promise to love and respect myself”, or “to chase my dreams”, or “to never compromise on what I hold dear” and also include statements like, “I forgive myself for calling myself useless and ugly, and I will never do it again”.
As you love yourself
In principle these are all positive things to say and do. Jesus did actually say, “love your neighbour as you love yourself”*, so having a healthy value and respect for ourselves is a key to being able to love others properly. Many Christians could learn a thing or two about the power behind the phrase “As you love yourself”. The erroneous struggle with ‘the old nature of the flesh’ (erroneous because this is supposed to be a pre-salvation state of living by the law instead of the Spirit - see Romans 7:21-25) that leads so many into a schizophrenic cycle of self-hatred. But self-hatred is a diabolical thing and is often accompanied by mental and personality disorders that manifest in all kinds of social ills. If declaring your intention to look after your own healthy interests and stop believing damaging lies about yourself is going to help you value and love others then that’s a good thing isn’t it? I’d say, “Go for it!”
Leaving the ’we’ out of wedding
What I think is deeply ironic is ratifying this act of self affirmation with a marriage term like ‘sologamy’ and parodying a wedding ceremony to achieve it. I can’t help thinking that combining this declaration with something that resembles a wedding celebration is making more of a statement about the absent party than is perhaps intended. At the heart of marriage is relationship. It’s no surprise then to find that one of the original motivations behind the concept of sologamy came from a jilted fiancé. The resulting solo ceremony was really staged as a massive snub to the offending partner.
Let’s face it, the wedding industry is already worth a whopping £10 Billion a year in the UK alone (the average spend on a wedding celebration is currently reckoned at £24,000). So you can expect the hoteliers, florists, cake and dress makers to be getting behind the promotion of sologamy weddings pretty enthusiastically. The sad thing is that, judging by the storms stirred up over the definition of marriage over recent years, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see ‘sologamy marriage’ becoming enshrined in some dreamt up law and ‘progressive’ churches lining up to perform them.
From a social point of view the manifestation of sologamy speaks of the need for personal authenticity and affirmation - especially it seems, for women. And that’s why it’s being embraced and promoted by some who identify as feminists - because it’s seen as an act of female empowerment.
Affirmation and acceptance
So as we reflect on this recent phenomenon what are we to think? What if you got invited to a sologamy ceremony, would you go? It’s all too easy to criticise the actions of others (and usually unprofitable) so let’s ask why this is manifesting now, in our time, and what can we learn from it?
Firstly I’d say that we need to be better at affirming and accepting those who are single (some are under ridiculous pressure from peers to find ‘Mr Right’ and ‘settle down’). There’s no doubt that the marriage ceremony is one of the few social rights of passage that still remains in our modern culture. Perhaps this is why the wedding celebration is so often disproportionately expensive. We need to have other expressions of social acceptance and celebration that affirm individuals for who they are, make them feel valued and belong. Sure there are academic awards and industry awards but very little that is based on family and belonging. I believe this sologamy phenomenon is simply filling the void that society has left empty.
In my experience, speaking out blessing and encouragement to (or over) someone is an incredibly powerful thing (particularly the promises and redemptive words of God). People are so dry and thirsty for affirmation and acceptance that simply looking them in the eye and declaring that they are loved and valued can quickly evoke an emotional response. Faithful, loving and trusting relationships should not be reserved for marriage only, we need to get better at celebrating one another.
And secondly I believe there is a warning message here for the church. In Revelation 3 Jesus stands at the door of a city church (In this case Laodicea) and knocks to be let in. If Jesus is the groom and the church is the bride then clearly there is something going on here akin to sologamy. The rebuke to those keeping Jesus waiting on the threshold is often associated with our affluent western lifestyles – ‘you say you have prospered but you don’t value the things of God’ – ‘you are neither hot nor cold’. But to those who humble themselves and open the door there is a wedding supper.
At the end of Revelation we see the Lord Jesus as the Groom returning for his beloved bride, the church, who has been purified by his shed blood (Revelation 19). Perhaps the phenomenon of sologamy should be a timely reminder for the church that she should never be tempted to give up on her expected groom and ‘go solo’- opting for an empty kind of “churchianity” (see my article ‘The atheist church’) instead of an authentic Christ-centered Christianity.
Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.” Revelation 19:9
Foot note:• As with all Bible verses, context is everything - the second greatest commandment only works in the context of the first: a passionate and faith filled respect and love for God. Ultimately it has to be the Lord who accepts and affirms us. So when we set about putting our own interests first or ‘looking after number one’ we’re not really doing so at all unless it’s in the context of right relationship with God and then with others. Otherwise we are making ourselves into ‘god’ and, well we know where that leads...
About the author:
Rob Cresswell has been in active church and ministry leadership for over 15 years and is a gifted communicator. Along with his wife Aliss he partners in pioneering ministries which seek to engage with the unchurched and demonstrate the Kingdom of God. He has a heart to help train and equip believers into their callings. He is the author of 'The Threefold Miracle Mandate' and 'The Believers Guide to Survival'.