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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Christian Courtship Part III: Aspects of the Movement that I am Leery of

This is part 3 of a series.
Part 1 is here.
Part 2 is here.
Part 4 is here.
Part 5 is here.
Part 6 is here

I believe that there is much value in many principles of the Courtship Movement.  We have put many aspects of Christian Courtship into practice  in our own home.  I believe that each family must consider carefully how they will go about the process of managing their children's transitions into adulthood, and that what is right for one family may not necessarily be right for another.  The following is only one mother's response to certain aspects of the courtship movement, and will likely be misunderstood if not read against the backdrop of the content of parts 1 and 2 of this series.

What I am leery of, in the Courtship Movement:

Let’s not Override a Biochemical System Designed by God
Eugen de Blaas, PD-OLD
I think that it is important to acknowledge that the person doing the marrying has an enormous stake in the choice of a marriage partner, and his/her feelings on the matter should not be overshadowed by those of the parent(s).  One of the reasons for this is biological.  Proponents of Theology of the Body (TOB) point out research that suggests that attraction is more than skin deep.  Women are drawn to men, by scent, whose DNA that is compatible with their own.  Some, mostly birth control advocates who are opposed to TOB, suggest that this is based in bad science.  My mom instincts tell me that there is something to it.   When parents have such a strong hand in the choosing of a child’s spouse that his/her physical attraction to the candidate is not a high priority issue, I am concerned.  I believe that God designed us the way he did for a reason, and I’m pretty sure that dad is not sniffing Johnny’s major histocompatibility complex genes.  Enough said.

"Judge Not", and, You’re Maybe not as Special as You Think You are.
Haynes King, PD-OLD
It also concerns me when an approach or cultural choice becomes so ingrained in the patterns of a group of Christians that people begin to function as if it is Biblically mandated, when it is not.  There is a difference between something that is Biblically sound, and something that is Biblically mandated.  I, (a former homeschooling parent and proponent of the general principles of the courtship movement), may be strapping on a bomb vest by writing this, but, look folks: Homeschooling is not the eleventh commandment, and I Kissed Dating Goodbye is not the 67th book of the Bible.  They are both very sound approaches, maybe even the best possible approaches for many families (my own included), but one would do well to avoid reaching a philosophical point where one begins to judge others who make different choices.  I see a tendency among, at least some, young people and their parents to assume a air of superiority or elitism connected to their courtship practices, and judgment of others who choose a different path.

"Emotional Purity" is not in Your Bible’s Concordance
click for license
The concept of “emotional purity” makes me twitch.  First and foremost, it is just not Biblical.  I am not suggesting that it is contrary to Biblical principles, but, unlike sexual purity, it is not a clear Biblical mandate.  When parents, and even churches, begin teaching kids that their hearts are somehow made impure, or incomplete, if they develop romantic feelings for a person whom they do not later marry, I think that we are potentially bordering on the unhealthy.  Also, as I see kids who were raised with this teaching growing up, I am seeing at least some of them: A) Feel guilty when they are attracted to a person of the complimentary sex, and/or B) Have an extreme reticence to move forward in pursuing any relationship when the time is right, because they have trained themselves to hit the emergency shut-off switch the moment they begin to perceive romantic feelings for someone.  We were designed to have feelings.  They are good.  They help guide us toward our future spouse.  When they come up at the wrong time in someone’s life (i.e.: when he/she is not positioned to pursue a relationship) they are best managed and dealt with…not squelched, stuffed down, denied, or regarded  as inconsistent with the will of God.  Besides, if we are going to be faithful in our relationship with our spouse, we’d best learn to appropriately manage feelings for persons of the complimentary sex to whom we are not married. 

Are We Creating Princess and Knight Expectations That Weren’t Even Realistic in the Middle Ages?
Photo: David Ball
I see a generation of young people in their late twenties who are, for the most part, the first heavy wave of young people raised with courtship principles, and, many of them are just not getting married.  This is surely a subjective assessment, but it seems consistent with my personal observations of the Christian community.  I fear that we have built the whole process up so much that they are waiting for a spouse to drop in their laps with a message from God rubber stamped on his/her forehead stating, “This is the one.”  Those, (perhaps), overinflated expectations, combined with the concept that they will be left impure, or at least incomplete in the heart department, if they experience any emotional attachment to the “wrong one”, has proven a bit of a double suppressant of any possibility that they will move forward in pursuing a romantic relationship.

I think that the concept of Biblical Courtship is, perhaps, one of the best things that has happened for Christian young people in a while.  However, I also believe that it is best lived out with a focus on principles and intentions rather than formulaic rules and constraints.  More to come...

For an additional discussion of this topic, I highly commend to you this post.
A post on the question of whether "emotional purity" is Biblical is here.

Linked with:

Handful of Heart MondaysWelcome Home Linkup @ Raising Arrows, Domestically Divine Tuesday @ Far Above Rubies, Teach me Tuesdays @ Growing Home, Encouraging One Another @ Deep Roots at Home, Homemaking Linkup @ Raising Homemakers, Women Living Well WednesdaysHomemaking Link-up @ A Wise Woman Builds her Home, Proverbs 31 Thursdays @ Raising Mighty Arrows, The Modest Mom

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  1. I think you are spot-on. I am a homeschooler and tried to generally use courtship rules with my daughters. They are very good concepts to guide us, but they should never be used as rules that must be followed or as akin to biblical commandments. Held loosely, they can be useful tools. Thanks for your take on this.

  2. I agree with what Lisa says. Always good to have a starting point. And, bravo to you for tackling such a hard subject. Very well, too, I must say.

  3. I am really enjoying this series. Found you via WFMW on Kristen's blog. My husband and I are youth pastors and have been talking a lot lately with our group about courtship. While we've not gone into the emotional purity discussions much, I agree that it is not specifically Biblical but to an extent has merit to protect our children from sharing too much too soon. I have a feeling from your writing that you're in contact with people a bit more conservative than those we live with in Costa Rica. Love that you share this!

    My favorite pro-courtship analogy is that of a new car lot. If you (or your daughter) is a new car, the owner of the lot (father) would never let a young man (suitor) test drive the car with no intentions of buying. Who would then want the car, if it had been test driven time and time again? The car would be worn out and jaded. Therefore, the car lot owner will turn the young man away, encouraging him with ways to mature and finance the car, if that is his real intention.

    Last comment (promise!): While it is difficult to gauge exactly how high courtship will raise our children's standards/expectations in a spouse, the healthiest thing a parent can do is model a Godly spouse within the family body so that each daughter will seek a man as loving as her father, and every son hope for a woman at least as respectful, doting, and kind as his mother.

  4. I honestly hadn't given this subject much thought. But I think I need to. When I get a few extra minutes, I will read your previous posts on the subject. Thank you so much for sharing your heart!

  5. I really object to the car lot (and other material) type illustrations. For one, it shows the woman as the only one whose purity is damaged, for another, it still sees her as an object. Somehow, it's not okay for a man to see her as an object to possess if he doesn't want to marry her, but this is what we teach her she is if she is to marry? This post is a great expository of this. This is not biblical, nor the teaching of the Church.

    I really like this on what to teach our children about sex.


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