A Christian community will seek to share the benefits and burdens of both family and single life. This is because Christianity knows that it is not good for man to be alone and that the deepest fulfillment and joys of this life are found in human relationships.
It is bad that Americans are increasingly living alone.
This is obvious, but there are dissenters. For example, Frank Bruni of The New York Times recently complained that his paper’s reporting on older Americans living alone framed this as a problem. He is, he admits, “half-kidding. Both articles were important. They rightly expressed concern for older Americans who don’t have the resources or the kind of extended family that I do.”
But while acknowledging that there may be a general problem, he nonetheless wanted to inform his readers of the potential “bliss” of living alone, which he says is found in living as one wishes, from bedtimes to noise to tidiness, with no demands beyond those of his dog. To those who might consider this “selfish and shallow,” he replies, “Don’t people who live in larger households have their own indulgences?” He contends, “Their domestic arrangements are as driven by personal desires as mine is. It’s just that they have different wants.”
But it is not so simple. The reality is that many people living alone would prefer not to, but our culture and economic structure are making it harder to form and sustain the family lives that most people want. Consequently, a lot of people give up — for many young people, a happy marriage and family life seem like something from an alien world, while for many of their elders, it seems like something that has been irretrievably passed by or lost.
This reveals the cruel relativism in Bruni’s suggestion that “personal desires” all have equal value — that wanting an uninterrupted morning routine is equivalent to wanting to raise a happy family. This is false. Some desires are nobler and more virtuous than others, and they ought to be encouraged. It is true that those of us who are married with children still have our indulgences (often too many), but the love and sacrifice at the core of a flourishing family life are not reducible to the level of fulfilling a personal whim precisely because it is directed toward willing the good of the other.