1: Having an inordinate preoccupation with marital pursuits, sometimes at the cost of other Christian priorities, commonly seen in evangelicals.
2: A giddiness stemming from all things related to marriage.
In the frenzied pursuit of romance, Christians sometimes lose sight of the greatest commandments: to love God and to love others. Distracted by wedding bells and exuberant hopes for a happily-ever-after, Christians often forget the greater vision of Christs call to love.
What if God is less worked up about marriage than we are? With honesty and insight, Claire and Eli ask us to shift our thinking away from marriage or singleness and toward love and discipleship. Drawing from luminaries like Augustine, the Desert Fathers, and Bonhoeffer, they invite you to join their real-life exploration of love as they convincingly demonstrate why a love for God and for ones neighbor are to be our top priorities, whether we are single or married.
One didnt have to look far to find a marriage book in my parents house. Neat little tomes of marital wisdom in glossy paperback could be found stacked on shelves or strewn across tables. Usually they included beaming smiles, shining eyes, straight teeth, and two fit bodies, often sweatered, clasping each other.
There were nouns like fulfillment, intimacy, or satisfaction, phrases like finding the marriage youve dreamed of or the marriage youve always wanted, written in cursive, set next to dew-dropped fruit or feet poking out of clean white sheets in sunlit rooms.
In theory, these books belonged to my parents. In practice, I read them. And they turned over in our home in roughly six- to twelve-month cycles. My family would pick a new set of relational tips and terms, flowing down from my parents marriage, talk earnestly about them at the dinner table, put them into use for a season, and then gradually move on. Most of the books were helpful, I think. And yet as months and years rolled by, I began to feel a certain unease with each new title. I couldnt name it, but something was missing. Not that there was something wrong, per se, but rather that things felt partial, like I had heard only one side of a multisided topic.
The feeling was like a drop of dye in a glass of water, fanning out in wings of color. I jostled the glass, held it up to the light, and examined it. What was it? A hunch, not quite distinguishable, let alone something I
could put a name to.
The dye spread. The more I peered at it, the more it stood out. There was something there, but what?
There was marriage and my adult life. There were all the tips I had read in my parents books, all the marriage sermons I had heard from the pulpit, all my eagerness to fall in love, and all the relational quirks in my evangelical communities. In my upbringing I had learned an awful lot about marriageboth its blessings and challengesand yet still something was lacking.
As I peered into the glass, the feeling thickened into other topics and into a range of questions about love, self-denial, obedience, loneliness, solitude, and forgiveness.
They werent questions I asked for the sake of asking. The questions were personal. I wanted to know because I needed to know, because I had to know. I wanted to know for the sake of Claire and also for myself.
I cant say our story is one Im exactly proud of, although I cant help being fond of it. The story, which is true, works something like a photo negative to the other pages here, a set of inverted colors prior to full-coloured
The boy-meets-girl stuff happened long before the rest of this book came about, and perhaps could be read as our first attempt to make sense of that certain tension in our lives, the conflict between the story wed been told since childhood and the reality in which our relationship was growing. (Our pseudonyms, by the way, help this happen.) Interwoven with the story is what came after: the exploration of the issues we grappled with. Its sort of like boy-meets-girl-and-then-they-have-questions.
Claire will tell most of the story, but Ill chime in here and there. Keep an eye on the boy/girl figures at the beginning of each chapter to clue you in as to who is talking. (And if you can help it, we recommend not skipping the analytical bits to only read the parts about two people strolling around New York. Its all mixed together for a reason.)
The goal here isnt a simplistic yes or no to marriage overall, which would be both unhelpful and a bad idea. The goal is to ask if we missed something in our evangelical assumptions about marriage. What did marriage mean for discipleship? What did discipleship mean for marriage? If Christs love was the way others would know we are His (see John 13:35), what kind of love was it?
This book is the beginning of an answer. It is about growing up in a web of hyper-romance and sermons nudging us down the aisle. It is about how, as we get older, we rigidly define the qualities were seeking in a soul mate as we look past our neighbors, our brothers and sisters, and the least of these. It is about the observation that Christians dont approach romantic relationships all that differently from the way other folks do.
It is about our growing understanding that Gods plan includes more than hearts and flowers and a happy ending with rice flying in the air above a tuxedo and a white dress. This is not a book about marriage or singleness; this is a book about love.
ENDORSEMENTS FOR 'ALTARED':
A beautifully written, searingly honest, and deeply thoughtful exploration of one of the most important topics there is. Eric Metaxas, New York Times, best-selling author of Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy and Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery.
Perceptive, personal, and poignantly true, Altared is a must-read for young Christians hungering for a realistic, biblically rich take on love and marriage in the twenty-first century. Katelyn Beaty, editor, Christianity Today and Her.meneutics blog.
Altared tells us how certain unexamined notions about courtship and marriage (often framed as biblical) play out among young American evangelicals today. Fresh, funny, perceptive, it is animated above all by wonder at the reality of Gods love. John Wilson, editor, Books & Culture.
Altared is a wise, wry, questioning, affirmative, sober, and deeply encouraging storyand it does something nearly unique: It asks what our thinking about relationships and marriage might look like if it were governed by the biblical account of love. Not just the part about husband and wife, but love, in all its forms. This book is a sweet gift to the Church. Dr. Alan Jacobs, Clyde S. Kilby professor of English at Wheaton College.
This is the relationship book for a new generation of Christians. Altared gently but forcefully reexamines our Christian love affair with marriage and has the audacity to suggest that real love has little to do with looking for Mr. or Ms. Right. Dr. Christine Gardner, associate professor, Wheaton College, and author of Making Chastity Sexy: The Rhetoric of Evangelical Abstinence Campaigns.
A much needed wake-up calla plea for a paradigm shift in the way that we think of love, marriage, and ourselves as followers of Jesus. Eli and Claires story needs to be shared. Dr. Lucy Collins, professor of philosophy, ethics, and aesthetics.
A noble and necessary book, Altared does the hard work of mining the Bible and Christian luminaries like Augustine, Calvin, and Bonhoeffer for insights concerning dating, marriage and love, and then delivers that truth in hearty, yet practical ways. A great gift to the reader. Vito Aiuto, Welcome Wagon, senior pastor of Resurrection Presbyterian Church.
I was challenged, entertained, taught, and inspired. The way the authors intermix biography and good, honest story telling with the more pedagogical sections is really fun and effective. Basically, its dang good. Jamey Pappas, campus director, Campus Crusade, San Luis Obispo.
Now heres a strange thing: a well written, immensely thoughtful exploration of the meaning of marriage that challenges our obsession with it without devaluing it. This is a lovely and needed book that I hope everyone reads. Matthew Lee Anderson, author of Earthen Vessels.
Altared is a timely warning against making an idol out of marriage. In harmony (not eHarmony) with some of the best advice I ever received, this work tells readers how to pursue love, not marriage. Then see what happens. Highly recommended. Dr. David Naugle, chair and professor of philosophy, Dallas Baptist University, author of Reordered Love, Reordered Lives.
A real winner here. Very well and creatively written! Dr. Joseph H. Hellerman, professor, Talbot School of Theology, author of When the Church Was a Family: Recapturing Jesus Vision for Authentic Christian Community.
Altared by Claire & Eli was published by Waterbrook Multnomah in September 2012. The ISBN for Altared is 9780307730732.