Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The End of Courtship and the Beginning of the "Christian Dating"

First of all, let me just say that this article is not about  whether dating is good or bad or whether courtship is the only "right" way for relationships to be conducted.

I have well informed friends and thanks to their Facebook feeds, I keep myself relatively abreast of some of the major articles in the world (sometimes a little later than others, like this one).

One that popped up today was this article here.  About dating.  Not just dating but an actual date.

Do I sound sarcastic?  Because I kind of am. Because let me just get this out there: REALLY?!  We need a communications doctor to tell us that you should probably get your butt off the sofa and make an effort...there are fundamental problems here that probably won't work in this particular post.

Let's start at the beginning.  Dr. Kammerzelt starts by laying down two ground rules: a date should matter and a date should be brave.  While I do not necessarily disagree with these rules, I think they over simplify what it looks like to navigate the treacherous waters of relationships in a Christian community.  Of my friends from high school (a group of eight of us), none of us found our significant others the same way.  One of the girls even had her husband picked out for her by her father.  That is probably my biggest problem with this article.  It assumes that dating is 1) difficult and 2) that Christians don't know how to do it.

I would argue that Christians are just plain bad at relationships for the same reason that unbelievers are: we are inherently sinful and selfish beings who have to fight ourselves to put someone else's concerns before our own.

Now, I also concede that dating is not a walk in the park.  I absolutely understand that.  But doesn't this deficiency in dating suggest a larger problem?  If our young people do not know that dating requires a level of commitment that is apparently unknown, then where did we lose that?  Where did we lose sight of the fact that to love is to hurt, to be vulnerable?  Maybe our young people read the fun stuff from C.S. Lewis but not the hard stuff.  One of his more academic books, The Four Loves, suggests very poignantly that:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket - safe, dark, motionless, airless - it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

In our personal spiritual lives, we have the easy jobs.  Christ died for us, lived a perfect life for us, and saves us for Himself.  In our outward facing spiritual interactions, it is harder.  We are tasked with taking those free and merciful gifts and expressing them in flawed and fallen ways to other flawed and fallen human beings.  

And it is hard.  

Part of the reason for the title of this post is because I think that the concept of courtship is something we are losing.  In some of the more archaic understandings, men had to jump through hoops to win the approval of families and therefore the hand of the fair maiden.  While that is a romantic idea, I think the 21st century demands some slightly different adjustments to the model.  Wouldn't it be great if courtship was two sided?  I say this because marriage is two sided - both husband and wife have to work at communication and intimacy.  So why isn't pre-marriage approached with the same mentality?  Whatever you want to call it (dating, courtship, betrothal, etc.), the lost of art of love true love is that we have forgotten that loving and being loved is to be hurt or to hurt.  

This ended up being a bit longer winded than I thought it would be.  But I guess when it comes down to it, I am discouraged that Christians have to be told that we ought to emulate Christ in all things.  Romance, work, friendships.  And not because Christ did all these things a certain way but because Christ is inherently logical, patient, and unconditionally loving.  

When did we forget that reason, patience, and love are all sides of the same coin?  Christ loved us all the way to the cross.  Why can't we love another human being enough to make a habit of meaningful communication?

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