Cultures are often defined by the conflicts and debates that exist within themselves. One great example of this is the cultural conversations inbetween Christians over how one engages others in a romantic relationship. There are those who are all for the idea of Modern Dating, while there are others who lean towards ye olde idea of Courtship. This conversation has been going on for many years, and has changed the lives of many Christians,.But it has also hurt many as well. So, the question is sparked; how do Christians handle dating? What has been the benefits and downsides to both sides? How can the Christian community work together to explore this important conversation?
First off, What is the main perspective in the Christian circle about dating? In the late 90s, author Joshua Harris published his book I Kissed Dating Goodbye, which started a wave of books and speakers who encouraged teens to wait to date until they were ready for marriage. This concept wasn’t entirely new. However, Harris caused many to
“ look beyond our Western culture’s dominant paradigm for developing serial intimate relationships (namely, the process of “dating”) and instead commit to “purposeful singleness.” -Rob Marus, Kissing Nonsense Goodbye
This idea has been the core of this conversation. After 13 years of being published, this book has changed many a life. The book’s emphasis on attitude instead of rules has made it the pinnacle of Christian Dating literature. But like every idea out there, it would be misused.
The general idea that all proponents of this Christian Dating conversation agree on is romantic relationships with limits, as well as being happy as a single, as God ordains. The problem is in the details. Most of the material we can find on dating attempts to make a set of do’s and don’ts. This is the problem with so many other systems. Humanity loves systems. It’s easier to follow a plan than to “discern” a situation according to principles you have been taught. This arena allows for a lot of doubt in the mind of young singles. They can either fail within a certain “system” or they can feel as though they are thrown around as they invest, and are rejected. World Mag did a fantastic piece on this recently. They recorded that the theology of marriage is not the issue. Many Christian students see Marriage as essential, and as honoring to God. What they find a problem with is how to get there. A great example of this is Benjamin Barber, who had only brothers. He stated that he”thought boys and girls could be friends.” But it didn’t take long for him to develop an attachment to a girl that turned out badly: “(he) got hurt. (people) need to be careful and conscious or that will happen.” This emotional conflict is a constant. It is a historical event that most people will go through. It is all part of seeking your “Happily Ever After”. But how are Christians supposed to handle this? What can be done?
One of the keys to this conversation is acknowledging that that there is no one system that will solve all dating problems. This is because the dating rules are often based on one’s own experience, or a collection of experiences. This makes it very subjective. A great example of this is in the story of the “Good Christian Girl”. She read all of the material, listened to “the knowing ones” and acted accordingly. However, these solutions never brought her closer to marriage. They only kept her moving along the path that “the knowing ones” saw in the short-term. But all of these short-term solutions only added up the years, and kept her working and thinking instead of actually searching it out for herself. One of the things that will be constant in the romantic relationships is that there will still be heartbreak, and there will be mistakes, no matter what. This is because of the corrupted nature of reality. Relationships are not perfect representations of what God wants for all of us.
In order to understand and live accordingly, the populace must master wisdom. The Greek philosopher Horace once said that “wisdom is not wisdom if it is only derived from books”. If one can both judge a situation, and avoid the pitfalls of the system, then they will be on the path. They will be able to make decisions for themselves that will help them move towards their loved one. Them Most important idea returns to Harris’ simple explanation during an interview of “ It’s not about courtship rules or structures; it’s your attitude.” Our heart determines how we act and react. And if we focus on our relationship with God over romance, then I think that will hopefully relieve some problems. However, nothing can guide or fix your romantic relationship more than you or God. Not even Josh Harris.