“Animal House” with Crosses?

After years of single life in New York City, Dawn Eden knows how to study the crowd at a social event. She knows how to let her gaze wander from man to man, while a voice in her head whispers, "That one's handsome," "That one's with someone," "That one's too old," "That one's got a wedding ring," "That one looks too interested in the man he's speaking to."

Eden heard that voice a lot during her years as a rock-music writer, back when she knew the music scene, knew the hot musicians and knew the score — in every sense of that word. Then she converted to Christianity and her beliefs about love and marriage turned upside down.

The irony, said Eden, is that many clergy seem to think it would be a good thing if singles kept playing the spot-the-hot-date game in church. "I am not an expert in church singles groups because I am not a connoisseur of them," said Eden, author of a controversial book entitled The Thrill of the Chaste. The title betrays her work as an award-winning tabloid headline writer, as does the book's pushy subtitle, "Finding Fulfillment While Keeping Your Clothes On."

While doing online research into the Christian singles scene, Eden found a New York group that was promoting an "Extreme Charity Pub Crawl." Then there was the ski-retreat invitation that told young believers to prepare for fellowship in the hot tub. This isn't what singles need from churches , said Eden, 38, who currently works as an editor at the New York Daily News.

 "My church life got so much better the minute I stopped trying to look for someone to date at Mass," she said. "I mean, it isn't a good thing if people learn to look each other over at church the same way they look each other over in a bar."

This is not the kind of woman whose work usually shows up on shelves in Christian bookstores. Dawn Eden Goldstein was reading the Bible by the time she was in second grade, witchcraft books by fifth grade, had her bat mitzvah at 13 and wandered into agnosticism shortly thereafter. Later, her encyclopedic knowledge of '60s pop landed her a steady stream of jobs writing album liner notes and magazine profiles.

Then, in 1996, a rocker introduced her to the books of the Christian apologist and journalist G.K. Chesterton. It took time for Eden's grasp of the New Testament to trump her knowledge of the Kama Sutra, but one thing led to another and she eventually became a modest, chaste, but hip Roman Catholic.

Changing her lifestyle was hard, she writes in her book, because she "had dutifully followed the Cosmo rule, which is also the Sex and the City rule and really the Universal Single-Person Rule in our secular age: 'Sex should push the relationship.' This rule can also be expressed as, 'We'll talk about it in bed.'"

The logic of this doctrine convinces many women that men can be forced into lasting commitments "through the persuasive force of your physical affection. It forces you to follow a set of Darwinian social rules — dressing and acting a certain way to outperform other women competing for mates." In the end, said Eden, she realized that her strutting self-confidence wasn't real and that "you can't transform a pair of $14.99 Fayva slingbacks into a pair of $600 Manolo stilettos with a mere coat of paint."

If church leaders truly want to reach out to women and men who are looking for an alternative to that lifestyle, said Eden, they must realize that the last thing single adults need is a singles ministry that turns "your church basement into a sort of 'Animal House' with crosses." What congregations should do is rally single adults around worship, prayer, books, the arts and service to others, she said. Then friendships and relationships can develop out of activities that strengthen the faith of those that choose to participate.

"You really don't have to dumb things down for us," said Eden. "There are plenty of ways for single adults to get less church if that is what they really want. Why not talk to some of your young adults and ask them what they really want. They may want more church — more faith — not less."

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  • Guest

    I believe Ms. Eden is right on!!! When I was single and on the look out for a good man, I would be scoping men out in Mass. It wasn't until I got involved in active ministry in the Church and started focusing on my own spiritual growth that I found the man I was to marry. And I found him at Mass!!!! It was a friendship that blossomed into something more and I knew he loved me for me and not for what I could give him. At the time, there were no singles group that I could attend to grow in faith, so I began helping with Life Teen in my parish. My now husband was searching for something more also and just happened upon our Life Teen Mass. He was hooked and began to get involved. We became friends and the rest is history.

  • Guest

    I know she's right on the mark.  I remember thinking that way (trying to influence men into commitment) in college.  Unfortunately for the great deal of young ladies in our society today, the so-called "feminine mystique" is actually women abandoning their femininity and trying to be like men.  This isn't fulfilling…..it's frustrating! Why should men get married now-a-days?  They can get all the uncommited sex they want for free.  It's really sad and I do fear for my children.  I hope this book is widely read.

  • Guest

    Unfortunately, a lot of Catholic singles events are dreary exercises to be endured and left as soon as is politely possible. "Animal House" would be a welcome change from some of them. Unfortunately, I personally can't think of a way to improve them.

  • Guest

    To be honest, I am a little tired of Ms Eden and her opinions.  I stumbled on her website a year or two ago, and she is a good writer.  But I don't want to keep reading about her torrid life.  Fill your mind with what is good and holy.  How long will this 'fling' with Christianity last?  Seems very egotistical.  And as far as I know, at least at one time, she had not actually ever watched SATC.  As for Church – I'd like to hear more from women (and men) who met in good holy ways.  YOung adult groups are great, they just need to be focused on God, and they need supervision / guidance.  That's what the CHURCH is for.

  • Guest

    I think Eden's dead-on about the wisdom of Cosmo, but in my experience with church singles ministries (Protestant and Catholic), the problem is precisely the opposite: churches go out of their way to reassure young adults that their ministries are "not meet markets," to the point that I (and other Christian single friends) got the impression that even thinking about meeting a potential date at a YA ministry would be, like, abusing the occasion somehow.Sealed "We want you to marry a nice Catholic, but don't even think about meeting him/her at a Catholic church or ministry." Riiiiiight.