Monday, August 25, 2014

On dating (hahaha)

So I finally got around to reading this post that was linked in my sidebar:

Of Course Courtship is Fundamentally Flawed

And I also read the post that she linked to in her post, saying, "The arguments in this article are so fundamentally flawed, one has to wonder what sort of homeschooling education produces this logic, or what social bubble spawned the idea that 'courtship dads' are more abusive than others."

I actually liked the post The Christian Pundit was refuting better than her own post.  I also think it is telling that Thomss Umstattd Jr. leaves his comments open while hers are closed. (Even though a lot of the comments are ridiculous; it still shows a graciousness of character to allow them.)

Here's my take:

Number one--Everybody is different.  You can't make a one-size-fits-all rule and demand that all relationships begin by following this prescription.  You just can't; it's stupid.  Yes.  Stupid is not too strong a word.

Number two--Who cares what you call it?  I'm sure those who make up the rules and write the lists have very definite definitions of "courtship" (which probably mostly means that people take steps to be honest and pure) and "dating" (which in those same rule writers' minds is something that oozes with sex and deceit and lack of constancy).  But that's just stupid too.  Nowhere is it written that every date is a dangerous encounter with a wicked person who wants to get all he (or she) can from you while promising nothing.  Many people are open, honest, friendly and pure as they go out for pizza and start to get to know each other... and they call it a date.

The point is this:  if you are a single young Christian rambling along through life, either actively or passively waiting to meet the life partner God may or may not have for you, you need to do several things:

1.  You need to remain morally pure.  No sex outside of marriage.
2.  You need to be honest, with yourself and with others.
3.  (and this should probably be #1 rather than #3) You need to trust in the sovereignty of God:
     > be patient,
     > do not panic and marry the wrong person out of desperation,
     > be at peace as a single person,
     > do not insist on forming your self-image around whether you do or do not have a romantic relationship in your life,
     > put the desire to serve God with your life above everything else.

There are corollaries to these, like talking to trustworthy advisers--parents or pastors or godly friends--and listening to what they have to say.  Like hedging your purity with safeguards.  Like being accountable to someone.

However, none of these corollaries should ever be hard and fast rules, because that is legalism.  Yes.  I do not like to throw around the word legalism.  Often people use it as a derogatory term for those who are concerned about obedience to the Lord.  Obedience to the Lord is not legalism.  Making up rules about how to "do" a relationship with the opposite sex is legalism.

Yes, you should honor and respect your parents, but no, you should not always "obey" them after you are an adult.  They shouldn't be demanding your obedience after you have become an adult, unless you have specific circumstances (e.g. Down's Syndrome) which would indicate that you need a lot more direction than the average person.  Parents must not hold the "I-am-your-mother/father-and-you-must-do-as-I-say" card as a tool for manipulation of adult children.

There comes a time in all of our lives when we are responsible for our own decisions.  Our parents must step back and let us fail sometimes -- or, if we are the parents, we need to step back and let our adult children learn directly from God, without us getting involved and trying buffer every lesson.  Everyone learns best that way.  And (get this) God is able to teach people all on His own.

Adult children can ask their parents for advice, but that is what it is: advice.  Not law.  One lady I know calls it "sharing wisdom."  Parents can share their wisdom forever, but there comes a time when they must recognize that it is no longer appropriate for them to make rules, demand cooperation or institute consequences.  Not appropriate.  (Unless there is physical abuse, in which case, by all means, somebody call the police.)

Whether you call it courtship, or whether you call it dating, it doesn't really matter.

You need to love and obey God. 

You need to have respect for the other person, and a willingness to serve and sacrifice.

You need to be ready to leave and cleave (and the way some families handle what they call courtship, this end goal is very severely hampered... but I've seen parents of children who "date" mess this up, too, so like I said, basing it all on a couple of terms is ridiculous).

You need to be self-controlled, faithful and pure.

The Bible is surprisingly silent on specifics sometimes, and I think this is because every person is different, every culture is different, every situation is different.  We like specifics because they are easy; they give us a checklist.  The harder work comes when we really have to think deeply about principles and how to apply them in our lives... but this is what we have to do.  We have to read the Bible, and think, and pray, and then obey.

And we need to avoid generalizing what worked for us into something that we think everyone else must do.  Like I said, we can "share wisdom."  But after we have, we need to leave room for the Holy Spirit to work directly in the other people's hearts and minds.  That's the only way their righteousness will ever count, anyway.


Gloria H. said...

You are so wise, Ruth! Well said.

ruth said...

Not very wise, Gloria. Anything I said that is right either came from painful experience or somehow from the Lord in spite of my foibles. Or perhaps those are one and the same.