Secular View, Scriptural Standards

02_Alexander_Unhooked_JNReview by Dick Alexander

Unhooked Generation: The Truth about Why We’re Still Single
By Jillian Straus

Hyperion, 2007

Have you noticed Americans are waiting longer to marry than past generations? And have you noticed a growing number don’t marry at all? So did Jillian Straus, because she was one of them.

With matchmaking websites, speed dating, and shelves of relationship books, why can’t today’s young adults find the love relationships they’re looking for, and make them last? Straus, a former producer for Oprah, interviewed more than 100 single men and women thirtysomethings, and wove their stories with her own observations into a readable, insightful, and extremely useful interpretation of a critical cultural issue.

Straus’s book is not written from a biblical perspective, but that’s a strength. Preachers and teachers of Scripture routinely say the commands of the Bible are given for our good. Unhooked Generation, without intending to do so, explains why that’s true as it gives relational guidance that is largely consistent with Scripture, but derived from sociological observation.

Straus’s question about relationships is not, what’s right? but rather, what works? She notes today’s young adults crave connection and long for intimacy, but too few find it. Setting the direction for the book, she says, “I realized everything I learned in the culture about how to find and sustain a relationship was wrong.” Her work isn’t preachy—it’s an insider’s reading of the fallacies of our culture’s views of courtship, marriage, and sex, and some ideas about how to fix that.

Straus is a keen observer and interpreter of culture. An opening salvo lists “The Seven Evil Influences” that stand in the way of finding a lasting love relationship:

1. The Cult of I

2. Multiple Choice Culture

3. The Divorce Effect

4. The Inadvertent Effects of Feminism

5. The “Why Suffer” Mentality

6. The Celebrity Standard

7. The Fallout from the Marriage Delay.

Many Christian readers will find themselves nodding assent to much of what Straus writes.

If there’s a weakness in the above list, it’s that it omits what could be called the “Fall in Love” fallacy. Many Christians, influenced by C.S. Lewis’s writing on kinds of love, understand love as more than a feeling. Straus sees falling in love as a goal.

In a culture where premarital sex is accepted as normal, and even desirable, to grow a relationship, Straus writes about its danger. Some are simply promiscuous in relationships—a path loaded with its own devastation. She addresses a different issue, serial monogamy, which is having a series of unmarried relationships involving sexual intimacy. She concludes that serial monogamy leaves scar tissue on the heart, making the possibility of forming a lasting relationship more difficult with each time around the wheel.

The Bible teaches premarital sex is opposed to the will of God; Straus provides a rationale for “why” God would say this.

Many Christians live in a world (bubble?) far removed from the urban Gen-X culture. But that culture is fast becoming the relational norm. For Christian readers, Straus’s “Unhooked Dictionary” can be an abrupt awakening to the commoditization of relationships. The definitions of terms like “bling ultimatum,” “booty call,” “friends with benefits,” and “recycling” give a window into the world of today’s urban young adult relational culture.

While Unhooked Generation is a critique of culture, it’s not negative—it’s filled with hope. Straus’s goal is to help readers find lasting love relationships. And while her conclusions do not include Bible verses, in most cases her observations align with biblical truth and confirm from experience that following it “works”—ignoring it doesn’t.

I mark up books as I read. The pages of my copy of Unhooked Generation contain underlines, asterisks, stars, and “greats!” For those who preach and teach on relationships, it is a mother lode of insight and illustrations. For those who just want to under-stand our culture better, it’s a readable guide to a critical issue.

 

Dick Alexander serves as international consultant with CMF International.

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