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Kissing Courtship Goodbye

June 22, 2013

I have been planning on writing this post for a long time, but personal events have made this post much more necessary.  I am posting this without names, and I am altering some of the details ever so slightly.  I am doing this because I do not want anyone mentioned in my post to be identified and humiliated.  That is not my intent.  

When I was a teenager, the courtship hit the Evangelical churches with a vengeance.  Specifically, it was through a book called I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris.  That book was everywhere.  I was a part of the Evangelical Christian community, although not totally integrated into it, and even for me it seemed as though this book was inescapable.  If I opened a Christian magazine, it was there.  If I went to a youth group meeting, it was there.  There was no escape from it!

I was planning on doing a focus on everything that is wrong with this book ,but I discovered this review from gortexgrrl on Amazon. com

Excellent Review of I Kissed Dating Goodbye

This review is fantastic.  It’s so fantastic, that I find I have little to add.

But I would like to add a few things.

1 The legalistic virgin reward

One thing that this book, and others like it imply, is that “If you follow the rules, God will reward you with the person of your dreams!”  For many conservative evangelical Christians, this means “If you stay a virgin until marriage, God will give you a virgin!”  This is simply bad theology.  Very bad theology.  And it leads to a lot of bad feelings.  I have spent time lurking on message boards where I have seen young men shouting, “I want a virgin, damn it!”  Nice guys.  But at the same time, it’s not entirely their fault that they feel the way they do.  They were told by religious leaders that God had promised each of them a virgin, and if they stayed chaste, then they would receive a virgin as payment.  These men feel defrauded.

2 The guilt for boy crazy women

The teaching about “guarding your heart” really translates into “suppress your interest in guys.”  I’m not just talking about sexual interests, I’m talking about romantic interest in general.  Many teenage girls who bought into this idea tried to cover up romantic interest in the men around them, and looked down on the flirts who were “boy crazy.”  These teenage girls ended up shocked and dismayed in their 20’s when they discovered that lo and behold, the boy crazy girls were the ones who ended up married!  Not only have these girls been subjected to unneeded guilt, they sabotaged their efforts to get what they wanted.

3 Hurt cannot be avoided

Joshua Harris admits that he was prompted to write this book after breaking up with his longtime girlfriend.  In his book, he looks at the pain of broken relationships and decides that this pain must be avoided at all costs.  He also promises that his courtship method prevents this pain.

Does this really happen?

A few days ago, I discovered that a high school friend of mine has become engaged.  Again.  He was engaged about a year ago, after meeting a woman only a few times.  She was a good friend’s sister.  They conversed online, and met a few times in person.  They became engaged in a mere matter of months.  A couple of months later, their engagement ended.  Now, they did not date for an extended period of time and then break up; rather, they became engaged very quickly and then ended their engagement.  Following the courtship model did not save them from emotional pain of a relationship ending.  Rather, it added public embarrassment to their emotional pain.

In the same way, I had a friend whose brother married last year after a very short courtship and a very short engagement.  After marriage, he discovered that they had very different attitudes about marriage, gender roles, and birth control, among other issues.  He expressed his frustration and confusion to his sister that he had no idea that she felt the way she did about key issues.  Time will tell whether their marriage will survive and be happy.

It turns out that following a courtship model does not save a person from hurt.  This becomes more obvious as a person grows older, and I am not simply talking about romantic attachments.  The older a person gets, the more opportunity they have to lose friends and family members, either through moving away or through death.

In a way, I am glad that I read this book and saw the hype around it.  It was the hype around it, and the promotion of it, that helped me to realize that Evangelicalism was not merely wrong, but most likely irreparably wrong.

But even so, for the sake of my friends, it is time, past time, to kiss courtship goodbye.

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