Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Goodbye Dating, Hello … well, you read it

posted by Scot McKnight

Gina Dalfonzo created a story of a young Christian woman’s struggle with living out the dating advice of Christian circles … from waiting to not dating to not being able to find a date to dating and then marrying a non-Christian guy. The tossings and turnings of her life stands out. One of the more remarkable elements of this story in the changing perception among Christians of her status. Her story raises a serious issue: 

What did you learn about dating? What are the “official” Christian teachings on this today? What went wrong? What went right? 

Who has a story to tell? 
Here’s a clip of the opening of Dalfonzo’s piece.

Once there was a good Christian girl who dreamed of growing up, getting married, and having children. She read all the right books and did all the right things. She read about how she was a princess in God’s sight and how he wanted the very best for her. She committed herself to sexual purity, to high standards, and to waiting for the good Christian man that God was going to bring her.

Just as she was getting old enough to start dating, however, she noticed something. Some of the popular Christian books were talking about not dating at all, and just being friends, until God had made it clear that the guy she liked was exactly the right one for her…….



Advertisement
Comments read comments(52)
post a comment
Kenny Johnson

posted July 20, 2010 at 2:03 pm


I became a Christian when the dating (or no dating) books in Christian circles were popular (I Kissed Dating Goodbye, etc). I remember attending a small group where we went through one of these books and it was terrible. While some of the advice wasn’t necessarily bad on its own, put together as a formula for correct dating just seemed completely unrealistic to a bunch of social 20-somethings. The advice ran the gamut from never talking about deeply personal issues with someone of the opposite sex to waiting up to 3 days to consummate your marriage. I remember one girl in our group commenting, “3 days…??? How about 3 minutes?”
I think some of these books did offer some helpful advice that could help Christian couple remain sexually pure — such as not being completely alone with each other, etc.
My wife and I were friends first. Neither of us were virgins, but we did remain chaste while we dated and were engaged. I do think our friendship helped us form a more healthy romantic relationship. In fact we only dated a very short time before I asked for her hand, because had already known each other as friends for years.



report abuse
 

Your Name

posted July 20, 2010 at 2:13 pm


25, single male, never dated, never kissed, followed the advice of Joshua Harris religiously since high school, no female friends at the moment, want a wife and family, no idea when my story will begin.



report abuse
 

Travis Greene

posted July 20, 2010 at 2:13 pm


Although I was aware of the “no-dating”, courtship culture when I was growing up, and it was discussed, it certainly wasn’t some kind of rule. Folks dated.
I only really have two criticisms of my evangelical subculture in that respect:
1. Heavy emphasis on virginity as a state rather than chastity as a continual virtue. This can lead to focusing on technicalities (does oral sex count? etc) and can unwittingly convince folks that, once you’ve lost your virginity, there’s no point in sexual restraint. It’s an unfortunate all or nothing view that doesn’t help young people navigate these difficult waters.
2. The “one”. There is a usually implicit theology of marriage that God picked out, before time, a special someone for each person to marry. The primary point of dating relationships is then to find this one person, which is the primary hurdle you have to jump over to get to marriage. If you find the one, you are set for life. If you don’t, well, good luck. Frequent allusions to Ruth and Boaz aside, this thinking is based much more on contemporary Western culture, romantic comedies/fairytales, and wishful thinking than on anything the Bible says or the church has taught about marriage.



report abuse
 

Travis Greene

posted July 20, 2010 at 2:20 pm


Kenny @ 1, “waiting up to 3 days to consummate your marriage”
Is that really in a book somewhere? I guess it might be a counterpoint to the common practice of building up wedding-night sex to ridiculous, impossible-to-meet expectations. Nothing puts you in the mood like the most physically and emotionally exhausting day of your life, coupled with insane pressure to have a mind-blowing experience. There’s a “Stuff Christians Like” post on this topic that I can’t seem to find.



report abuse
 

YourName

posted July 20, 2010 at 2:27 pm


The entire Christian marriage thing is a mystery to me. My wife and I weren’t Christians when we got married and 20 years later our marriage is still strong. I did not look at it as a sacrament or God-ordained relationship, and don’t recall even thinking about God at all. My vow was to my wife and it was for life. I think far too many (younger) couples get married thinking God is going to solve all their problems or confer some special blessing when they ought to be dealing in the reality of here-and-now and making it work.
And I suppose that includes the sex-before-marriage thing. I have a teenage daughter, so this hits close to home, but I think it would be a mistake not to have sex before you decide to get married. That is not theology but simply, again, reality in determining compatibility.
I have known some 30 year old virgins saving themselves for marriage, and it’s kind of sad, actually. Sex is a wonderful, loving, intimate thing. It ought not to be casual but neither would I classify any of the sex I had before I was married as bad, evil, and sinful. To call it that really demeans a loving relationship.



report abuse
 

Jonathan

posted July 20, 2010 at 2:30 pm


The implicit message that being married is the only moral parameter for Christian sexuality still blows my mind. As though there aren’t any married people who have disastrously immoral sexual relationships.
As a teen, the Christian sub-culture continually sabotaged and undermined my dating relationships with messages about purity and the “one person” ordained by God’s providence out there somewhere for me to marry, etc. I now view pretty much all the sub-cultural talk about sexuality in evangelicalism with unrestrained suspicion. Most of what I encountered I now think is moralizing puritanism masquerading as Christian sexual ethics.
JPII’s Theology of the Body helped heal some of that. Nonetheless, I find its application in catholic sexual ethics largely reactionary and superstitious.
Pardon my ire. It’s a subject that hits close to home.



report abuse
 

James-Michael Smith

posted July 20, 2010 at 2:48 pm


Here’s the beginning of a story of my experience (the rest is at the link below):
“A while back some friends and I were out at dinner and the conversation eventually turned to dating. All kinds of topics were being discussed (passionately!) and the conversation seemed to fall along gender lines with the common denominator being that all involved had been hurt in relationships in the past. At some point, a man at a table behind me heard one of my friends say that he didn’t date because he felt it was pointless. When he heard this, this guy came over to our table and began to lecture on how “unbiblical” dating was and that he had been married for 14 years and had a 13 year old daughter and that dating wasn’t an option for her. He said that courting was what God wants us to do and that dating is part of society’s lies that Christians have bought into.
Now this isn’t the first time I’ve heard this approach by any means. Anyone who’s read the uber-annoying “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” by Joshua Harris* will immediately recognize this line of argument. (If Harris isn’t hardcore enough for any of you, you can go a step further into crazyland and read “Her Hand in Marriage” by Douglas Wilson.) So while the argument wasn’t anything new, for some reason it kept kicking around in my head the rest of the night and the more I thought about it, the more annoyed I became. Out of respect and not wanting to cause unnecessary division, I didn’t say anything when the guy at the restaurant was going on about dating being unbiblical. However, I should have asked him a few questions about many of the points he was making.” Cont’d. at http://www.examiner.com/x-8276-Methodist-Examiner~y2009m5d5-The-Bible-and-dating



report abuse
 

April Karli

posted July 20, 2010 at 2:55 pm


Travis — I can’t find that post either. It’s the first chapter of Acuff’s book, so maybe it’s not available on SCL site anymore? Hilarious. “Ranking Honeymoon Sex as Slightly Higher than the Second Coming of Christ.”
I am married, and I did marry someone who was a friend first. However, i was heavily influenced by the culture you’re talking about. In my opinion, Lauren Winner is one of the best writers and speakers about dating with a Christian perspective. http://www.laurenwinner.net



report abuse
 

Jinny

posted July 20, 2010 at 3:01 pm


I’m a seminary student, single, never married (yet). I don’t believe in the idea of ‘the one.’ I think all humans have the capacity to be compatible with one another. All relationships take work.
This idea of there being a only and only – forever, undermines the idea that all humans need companionship – Gen. 2 shows that we were built for fellowship. If the widow or widower wrong for getting remarried? No, Jesus tells the Sadducees that they were wrong in thinking the resurrection included marriage (Luke 20:27 ff). In 1 Cor 7, Paul urges people to remarry if they can’t control their physical desires.
To a woman like myself, there is more than one type of intimacy – i.e. physical and emotional. Yes, sex is excellent for building the marital bond, but so is sharing one’s hopes and fears. This idea that you must be fantastically compatible physically before you get married – it’s a fantasy, too. I think couples should treat learning about each other’s wants and needs physically like the learning about one another’s personalities – it takes time, through communication. Attraction isn’t purely physical (a person’s character, personality, humor, etc. can be attractive).
Theologically, we are taught that married makes 1 flesh of a couple. It’s a truth that shouldn’t be ignored. Sex is an intimacy that shouldn’t be treated lightly.
As someone who did have the choice of sexual intimacy taken away when I was young, I don’t treat sex lightly. Intimacy ought be a gift carefully given.



report abuse
 

Fish

posted July 20, 2010 at 3:37 pm


The idea of not dating blows me away. We are trying to encourage my daughter to date rather than going from nothing to full-blown boyfriend and girlfriend without any intermediate stop. We’re telling her it’s OK to go to the movie with a boy one night and then do something else with a different boy on another night. When you jump straight into going steady, you can make big mistakes. It is not like it’s time for a life-long commitment. She is young and there are lots of fish in the sea.



report abuse
 

Sarah

posted July 20, 2010 at 4:02 pm


This link is to a very well written article on this topic from Relevant Magazine. I highly recommend it! This is a topic that those of us from that generation should talk more about!!



report abuse
 

Bill

posted July 20, 2010 at 4:43 pm


While not necessarily an advocate for the whole dating/not dating, courtship, etc. formulas for this area, I am stunned by the inability to come up with a better understanding of intimacy and faith and community. Lauren Winner’s book is excellent in this area as well as Matzko-McCarthy’s text. Having been ministering for 10 plus years in a divorce recovery program, I cannot tell you how many of the divorcing/newly divorced people seek the new relationship/sexual encounter as soon as possible. How have we confused intimacy and relationship with sex (regardless of whether it is the traditional understanding or some variant of foreplay). How many relationships have been forged on the foundation of a physical compatibility only to either have to work extremely hard to keep the relationship moving when that spontaneous passion (do we label it romance within Christian circles because it sounds safer and more acceptable?) wanes or simply walk away from the relationship (or more of a disaster, step out into an affair because it brings with it the thrill of that not forgotten spontaneous passion).



report abuse
 

preachinjesus

posted July 20, 2010 at 5:27 pm


I was a freshman in college with Brother Harris released his book. Pause that, I was a freshman at a significantly large evangelical college in Virginia when Brother Harris released his book. It made my college years…well…difficult…
The contemporary teaching to high school and college students about dating is creating a dangerous vacuum for younger evangelicals when they get out of college. Most of my friends who pledged celibacy, who read Harris, who kissed whatever goodbye for Jesus as a cosmic boyfriend/girlfriend (whatever that means) have gone through relationships where they failed to maintain those pledges. They have been deeply harmed as a result. Now I don’t blame Harris or his kind for this. (I do blame their terrible hermeneutic and lack of a robust sexual ethic.)
As the church we need to realize we haven’t been having the right conversation with young people for the last fifteen years. We talk about the stigmas, the standards, and the spirituality behind dating but never address it realistically and practically. As a man who was able, by God’s grace, to wait until he was married for sex, it is not an easy journey. Until we realize that the vast majority current crop of evangelicals in the 20s is more likely to either have had or are having inappropriate sexual relationships before they are married it won’t change our teaching.
We need to address the issue maturely and reasonably. We need to uphold the standards of Scripture and be honest about the issues.
Harris’ books should be burned if for no other reason than they created a standard that he couldn’t even uphold. We should encourage our teens and twenties to date and be pure. Learn about who they should become and also teach them that that goal of dating isn’t to be married. It is learn about ourselves.
Until then, we’re just treading water while the hurricane draws nearer.
peace, love, and keep Jesus First
PJ



report abuse
 

Scot McKnight

posted July 20, 2010 at 5:29 pm


Brother PJ, we don’t burn books as the way to deal with ideas we disagree with. Instead, we write better and more compelling ones.



report abuse
 

Rob

posted July 20, 2010 at 5:30 pm


I think the Matzko-McCarthy text might be what separates the two negative responses towards not dating. In his book he gives a biblical account for what marriage ought to be for, serving the community. In so doing he sheds light into the dark places that the church has forgotten about in terms of what we are being called towards, including the virtue of chastity within the Christian context. We have allowed other narratives to dictate our understanding of the virtues of marriage and therefore don’t have any compelling response as to why we ought to live differently. I think we need to remind ourselves of the places and purpose of sex, intimacy, and marriage in the Christian Church in order to find appropriate way to really have this discussion. Certainly to take the approach that God is about fulfilling my desires to have intimacy, particularly sexually, is a misunderstanding of God’s work in the world and an inappropriate view of marriage, other human beings, and love. This allows us to say that the “I kissed dating good buy” narrative might be insufficient for the Christian life. We also need to remember that all of our life belongs to God. So, finding ways to honor God as we get to know others, welcome strangers, develop intimate relationship, and possibly discover our call towards marriage or singleness is a significant part of developing our capacity to trust God in an area we have relegated to our own preferences.



report abuse
 

kevin s.

posted July 20, 2010 at 5:47 pm


The “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” paradigm was a product of a seeker-based movement appealing to those who hit puberty between 1975-1982, and who had a very difficult time having friendly relationships with women. This teaching seems much less relevant to Gen X’ers, who regularly embrace women as friends, and are often timid to the point of dishonesty about their feelings for them.
I do think dating should be reserved for the purpose of finding a spouse. Our culture is too quick to make matches, and too slow to make commitments.
However, the “courtship” paradigm seems to be an amalgam of biblical teaching and Hollywood romance. There is no such thing as “the one”. The Bible says nothing about “the one”. If you want to be married, find someone who will marry you, and believe God together. That’s what the Bible says.
We need a happy medium. We should be slow to romantically engage, and quick to make a commitment once we have done so. To do otherwise is to invite sexual promiscuity, which is not only flatly wrong, but destructive to relationships. Anyone who thinks it is cool to have sex outside of marriage is not obeying God, period.
That is an important consideration, but it should not lead to women passively waiting for men to approach them, nor should it lead men to create unnecessary friendships with women they want to, um, marry. Any additional provision is simply legalism, which inherently leads to hypocrisy.
Also, for a chaste couple, wedding night sex is awesome. Yeah, the day is stressful. That’s what champagne is for. Do right, and God will reward you.



report abuse
 

Jonathan

posted July 20, 2010 at 6:04 pm


Kevin,
…with totally awesome sex and a legitimate buzz?



report abuse
 

Jennifer

posted July 20, 2010 at 6:10 pm


I want to add another angle to this discussion. While the Harris book brought some differing viewpoints for courtship and dating, when a person is in college and beyond, they are ADULTS and should begin reading for themselves rather than swallowing hook, line and sinker this archaic concept from Harris. I hear some victim mentality in that these 20 somethings are blaming Harris for their own choicees to do the “kiss dating goodbye” thing rather than finding a dating and relationship pattern that is sensible and godly.



report abuse
 

Erin

posted July 20, 2010 at 6:29 pm


Hmmm, no wonder this is such a confusing subject!
I don’t remember a lot of conversations about dating when I was growing up. For sure, the “no sex til marriage” was drilled into me, but other than that–nope, don’t remember anything. Perhaps that is why I married a person who turned out to be a selfish adulterer. After being married for almost 7 years, I have now been single for almost 3. And boy, am I confused.
I honestly do not know, at this point, if it is okay for me to initiate a friendship with a man I might be interested in getting to know better. So far, I have not initiated anything with anyone of the opposite sex. Also, I desire to be pure and am afraid that the guys I meet won’t have that same desire and I think that fear pervades the aura of “me”. Could that be? Or am I making it up? I don’t know! Figuring it out could drive me crazy.
Dating is weird now. Especially in Colorado. And especially for 30-somethings. I think that guys here like the mountains more than the girls who live near them and they’re really not thinking about marriage.
So what’s a girl to do? I’m almost to the point where I’m ready to talk myself into WANTING to be single for the rest of my wonderful life.
After what I’ve been through, I have no unrealistic expectations of marriage. But I do desire deep, intimate relationship. And I desire to live a godly life. I’d also like to date. But so far, dating has either disappointed meor eluded me.



report abuse
 

J.L. Schafer

posted July 20, 2010 at 6:43 pm


We Christians can criticize dating all we want, but in its heyday, it was *the* socially accepted pathway to American marriage. The implicit rules of dating were sometimes broken, but they were well understood and provided a degree of protection to keep vulnerable young people from getting hurt. Today, the debate in Christian circles for or against dating is essentially moot, because (at least on many college campuses) dating has become virtually nonexistent, replaced by sexual activity accompanied by too little commitment (hooking up, friends with benefits) or too much commitment (joined-at-the-hip relationships). Young people in the church need healthy, socially prescribed pathways to marriage, which the older generation and society at large have failed to create. I blogged about this last year at http://seed.pennstateubf.org/category/relationships/



report abuse
 

Rhonda

posted July 20, 2010 at 7:05 pm


I am a firm believer in waiting to have sex until after marriage. Courtship is a time to begin to create a relationship through which God can accomplish His purposes and be glorified. Couples who are spiritually intimate before marriage are well on their way to having meaningful, long relationships. One way couples can develop an intimate relationship is by having a common goal to wait until marriage to have sex. Waiting can be very difficult. If a couple prayerfully works together to resist this very real temptation through their courtship they will have laid a foundation to prayerfully work together when other challenges come up during marriage.



report abuse
 

Steve D

posted July 20, 2010 at 7:52 pm


I was married by the time Harris wrote his first book. Recently, I read through it as was not impressed. He pushes the idea that teens should only invest time in people who they think are marriageable. What a poor way to create relationships!
The average age of marriage is going up while the average age of puberty is going down. That leaves a mighty big squeeze on those who wish to remain chaste. The church is doing nothing to address this problem except maybe cold showers and saltpeter.



report abuse
 

Peter J. Walker - EmergingChristian.com

posted July 20, 2010 at 8:20 pm


Oh wow is this good – right to the core of my own upbringing.
@Jennifer’s comment (#18)
I hear you on the whole victim mentality, but I think that’s exactly what we are raised to do. Young Evangelicals aren’t taught to question authority, we’re taught to fall in line. I liked the idea of being a “rebel against rebellion,” by swallowing everything that came with Evangelical culture.
Now, as a 31-year-old, my parents in their 50s are still where I was at 20, and where Dalfonzo was: no one has given them permission to think outside the echochamber, so like good faithful Christians, they remain caged. I love my parents, so I can (and am) regularly frustrated with their worldviews, but they’re doing exactly what they’ve been taught by Christian leaders they respected.
@Rhonda (#21)
I think waiting till marriage for sex is a wonderful ideal. But it’s just that: an ideal. Unfortunately, sometimes idealism leads us to reject common sense and do all sorts of dysfunctional, unhealthy things to maintain the fantasy of the ideal. I don’t mean to sound trite or sarcastic. My wife and I waited till we were married – I was 26 years old. But the emotional effort we put into NOT having sex nearly destroyed us as sexual beings. It’s taken 5 years of marriage to really start to dig ourselves out and rediscover ourselves outside of shame and self-repression.
I’m not saying the unhealthy way we “saved ourselves” is the only way. I’m sure there are healthier ways. But most of the young people I know, who did what we did, are in the same boat.
I would venture that the price of waiting – at least for us – was more costly than the outcome. I know young Christians who saved themselves a lot of heartache by being monogamously sexually active before marriage. That’s a hornet’s nest too.
I guess I just want to emphasize that waiting isn’t a magic pill for marital health, and having sex early isn’t marital suicide. We live in a complicated sexual culture, and there is so much gray area…
Thanks for the food for thought.
Peter



report abuse
 

Kenny Johnson

posted July 20, 2010 at 8:28 pm


@kevin s.
I Kissed Dating Goodbye was written by someone who was born in 1974, so I imagine it was written for the Gen X and the Gen Y generations.
And from my experience, it was accepted by many in that generation. I certainly saw some people embrace it — and others who were quite happy with dating.



report abuse
 

Jeff

posted July 20, 2010 at 10:14 pm


The paradigm of “dating” that was prevalent in the Evangelical subculture in the 80s/90s was largely destructive, self-centered and soul-less. Anything that challenged that and articulated another way forward that was at least an attempt to be thoughtful, purposeful and Christian was a good idea. It’s easy to caricature Harris. It’s far more difficult to carve out a useful path through these issues. It’s tempting to think that many of Harris’ critics aren’t raising teenage children. But, perhaps that’s a caricature as well….



report abuse
 

Steve240

posted July 20, 2010 at 11:20 pm


You might find my blog of interest where I critique Josh Harris’s book.
http://www.ikdg.wordpress.com
I Kissed Dating Goodbye: Wisdom or Foolishness?
Unfortunately Josh Harris is quick to point out the problems with dating but reluctant to share any of the problems with his approach.
Hope this helps.



report abuse
 

Christine

posted July 21, 2010 at 12:59 am


Peter, #23 – Your post seems so honest about the challenges that came into your marriage because you waited to have sex. So what would you recommend to a daughter, hypothetical or not, about having sex before marriage and reconciling that with Scripture? Thanks for your thoughts.



report abuse
 

Kristin

posted July 21, 2010 at 9:14 am


The biggest disservice the church is doing regarding dating and marriage is treating unmarried people in the church like second class citizens and asserting they are not complete until they get married.
No wonder there is so much obsession with how to date.



report abuse
 

Amanda

posted July 21, 2010 at 9:15 am


I’m 27, recently married, and never had a “boyfriend” until I was 25. I grew up attending evangelical youth groups (anyone remember “True Love Waits”?), went to a prominent evangelical college, and then attended seminary. So I think I’m qualified to say… Christian dating/cross-gender relationship culture is just plain awkward! Granted, not any worse than the surrounding culture… but still. I have known young men and women to be so worried about “guarding their heart” that they cannot even enjoy a casual date because they are afraid they might be “leading him on,” or building attachment without first knowing the answer to the question, “is she the one?” So, rather than being able to enjoy getting to know another person and seeing what happens, young men and women either 1) are too paralyzed to initiate a relationship because they aren’t sure (in advance, mind you) that it’s God’s will for them to date, or 2) constantly waffling in their relationships, going back and forth between, “He’s the one,” or “I’m not sure he’s the one.”
Another complicating factor is that healthy relationships do not always follow the same pattern! When we prescribe certain methods (like courtship) or lay down rules such as “you should know each other for at least 3 years before you get married” — which might actually be wise things to follow in some cases — and claim them as the only Biblical way, we forget that God works differently in different people’s lives! For one person, God might have a certain person in mind, whom he’ll bring along at the right time (this is what happened with my husband and me, much to my surprise). Another person might meet someone with whom they are compatible through proactive means such as an online dating sight. The point is, God can use different strategies to accomplish his purposes. In my experience, we spend too much time trying to figure out the “one way” to conduct relationships and not enough time discerning where God might already be working in our lives.



report abuse
 

Erin

posted July 21, 2010 at 10:20 am


@Kristin (28) This is true, I was just remembering this recently. Before I got married 10 years ago, I felt like an outsider at my church. Then the strangest thing happened: when we got back from our honeymoon and went to church, a few married couples invited us to go out to dinner with them afterward! I swear, they had uttered just a few words to us before we were married. And after that, it’s like everyone acknowledged us and the only reason I could think of was that we were married. Well, I’m single again and I haven’t really felt like an outsider, but that could be because I’m more assertive in meeting people at church than I used to be.
@Amanda (29) You wrote:
I have known young men and women to be so worried about “guarding their heart” that they cannot even enjoy a casual date because they are afraid they might be “leading him on,” or building attachment without first knowing the answer to the question, “is she the one?”
and I realized that is what has happened to me! This was not true for me right after my divorce, but after a couple of hurtful dating experiences, I definitely started guarding my heart out of what I thought was a desire for purity.
This is kind of making me want to date non-Christians for awhile just to see if it helps me loosen up a bit!



report abuse
 

Anon

posted July 21, 2010 at 10:22 am


I feel sorry for all the pain expressed here. Where is the benefit that comes from it? Christian marriages don’t last any longer or are any stronger than secular marriages, from what I see.
I think this is a care of where Christians get it wrong. Just because the ancient Hebrews were obsessed with sex does not mean that God is obsessed with sex.
My takeaway is that I’m glad I’m not raising my daughter with a Christian mentality when it comes to dating and marriage. I think the secular approach is better, frankly. The idea that dating is bad is simply wrong. The idea that you can keep teenagers from having sex is proven wrong by thousands of years of history. It’s the standard joke:
Q: What do you call a father whose daughter has had abstinence-only education?
A: Grandpa



report abuse
 

Amanda

posted July 21, 2010 at 11:30 am


In response to Anon (#31):
I have to disagree with you — our culture is FAR more obsessed with sex than either the ancient Hebrews or God himself! I don’t think the way Christians approach relationships and dating is any more disfunctional than the secular approach — they are both just dysfunctional in different ways. I am thankful that I waited (yes, 27 years) to have sex, even though it was hard (especially when I was engaged!). I am also thankful that my now-husband and I were able to talk openly about sexual issues, and that I was able to enter marriage as an eagerly-sexual being. My upbringing led me to repress my sexuality for many years, but on the positive side, I was able to enter into marriage without the sexual “baggage” of having had former partners.
So the solution is NOT to simply embrace the secular approach! The church, and individual Christians too, needs to find a balance, and I am thankful for writers such as Lauren Winner who are actively seeking to help us re-discover true sexuality.



report abuse
 

Anon

posted July 21, 2010 at 12:26 pm


You make a good point about our society’s obsession with sex. And not just the media. It gets a lot more attention in modern Christian circles than it does in the Bible, to your point.
But where is the evidence that the Christian approach to dating, sex and marriage is better?
I mean, in this Southern state, there’s a church on every corner and “what church do you attend?” is a very common question when you meet someone knew. It’s a very conservative, Bible-based, Christian environment and yet we lead the US in teenage pregnancies and divorce, while more secular, liberal states have better records at least in these two key metrics.
I think when sex is the ultimate forbidden fruit and teens are told that God commands them to wait until marriage, many times what you end up with is no birth control and marriages at too early an age for those who can’t resist their hormones. Perhaps God made teenagers so horny to teach them self-discipline, but it also feels a little like expecting people who were born gay to not commit that sin for the rest of their lives. We expect a certain class of people to deny themselves while the rest of us don’t have to.



report abuse
 

Eric

posted July 21, 2010 at 12:57 pm


I think the marriage age plays a big role in this debate. It used to be that marriage happened by about 15. Now getting married at 25 is considered young. we expect kids to grow up go to college, get established… and then settle down and get married. It’s awfully hard to expect late teens and twenty somethings to abstain from sex until marriage, when marriage isn’t supposed to happen until you are almost thirty. This is a problem with the whole “soul mate” mentality, that there is one person whom you are supposed to marry, and you have to wait until you have that “feeling” before you get married.
The best advice I ever got was that love is a choice. So marriage becomes more than just the consummation of a feeling, but a commitment to put someone else’s needs above your own. Dating is about finding someone that you can make that commitment to, and choosing to love them.



report abuse
 

Amanda

posted July 21, 2010 at 1:05 pm


Anon –
Oh, I make NO excuses for the way the church and Christians commonly handle dating, sex, etc. However, i DO believe that the way God intends for us to handle sex and sexuality is far, far, FAR better than the way the secular world handles it. My point is that rather than throw out the Christian approach altogether, we should instead try to recapture a TRUE approach to sexuality — and that’s something that American churches and secular society have both missed.
I would recommend to you Lauren Winner’s book, “Real Sex.”
Also, one result of our society’s preoccupation with sex is that we are simply appalled at the thought of waiting, or self-discipline. On all sides, we’re told that it is our right to have sex whenever, with whomever — that our sexuality trumps every other aspect of our identity. But we are not JUST sexual beings! We need balance. So, if we rediscover that sexuality is ONE, very important part of what it means to be human, and if we come to believe that sex isn’t JUST a physical act, but one with spiritual and emotional implications, we might be better able to grasp that waiting to have sex is not the end of the world, but rather something God created for our good and the good of others.



report abuse
 

Anon

posted July 21, 2010 at 1:19 pm


All I want is not to have a pregnant kid. Everything else is secondary. We don’t talk about God to my kid when we talk about sex, we talk about real-life consequences.
A lady who works at my church raised a fine Christian boy, who then went off to college. He meets a girl, she gets pregnant, they have to drop out of college and move back home. The end result is two people working crappy minimum-wage jobs with no insurance and a new baby, rather than two college graduates who may or may not ended up married and who definitely would not have a baby at age 19.
I can’t blame all that on a Christian mindset, but neither can I say it had no effect. This lesson had far more effect on my kid than 100 sermons or books. She wants to attend an Ivy League school. Well, that isn’t happening if she’s preggers.



report abuse
 

Kristen

posted July 21, 2010 at 1:32 pm


Whenever I come across these conversations, I remember my mother (who got married in the mid-70s) saying that she felt perfectly free to — AND DID — go on dates with all sorts of people up until the time she got engaged. Then it was my father only. But up until she had a ring on her finger, it was perfectly normal for someone else to call her up and invite her out and for her to accept. Including in the very weeks before the engagement, when obviously things were pretty serious with one guy in particular.
(We are a churchgoing family but with no connection whatsoever to the evangelical subculture.)
This is absolutely unfathomable to me. I cannot imagine wanting to do that.
But my generation (again, churchgoing but not evangelical) swung to the opposite extreme. I knew from the time we were about ten that “going with someone” was a one-at-a-time affair, and that, say, skating hand-in-hand at the elementary school’s night at the roller rink required “forsaking all others” until one of you wished to “dump” the other.
As much as I might like to blame Josh Harris for all ills, this would have been about 1985 so I feel that we must let him off the hook here.
I cannot imagine my mother’s system. Though after 35+ years of a stable and happy marriage it did seem to work out! But something seems screwy with the one I grew up with as well.
Captcha: tough possum



report abuse
 

muse

posted July 21, 2010 at 6:15 pm


I think when you understand that marriage is about Christ and the church, you understand why God tells to remain chaste until marriage. Having said that, I remained chaste until marriage and I regret it. In my generation, marriage became all about sex without guilt, not about love or God’s will or anything like that. Unfortunately, when my husband and I had been married less than a year, he met his soul mate. So fear that he (or she) may not be the right one is legitimate fear. Had I had sex with him before we married, I might have understood what a selfish, cruel, abusive man I was about to marry and had the courage not to walk down the aisle.



report abuse
 

Gina Dalfonzo

posted July 21, 2010 at 11:37 pm


Can the article’s author weigh in here? :-) I just want to say that, as messed up as the Christian dating scene is, I’m still not advocating the secular way. I’ve been abstinent all my life and I still have my sanity . . . more or less. ;-) Seriously, I’m not one bit sorry for living that way — quite the contrary. I believe that obedience to God’s standard is the right way to go, in this area as in all other areas. Amanda puts it very well.



report abuse
 

Peter J Walker - EmergingChristian.com

posted July 22, 2010 at 2:38 am


Christine, thank you, and great question. Tough question. To be honest, I’m not sure. I know that over several years of youth ministry at a large pentecostal church, the biggest frustration from both middle schoolers and high schoolers – from Christian families, and non-Christian ones – was that no Christian adults were willing to have honest conversations about sexuality. Parents, youth pastors, friends’ parents, youth volunteers and mentors – everyone wanted to live happily in a false reality where none of the kids were sexually active. Even the virgin kids were frustrated and disgusted with the feign-ignorance.
I’m not a father yet, but my hope is that I could find away to affirm the potential health (physical and emotional) of abstinence… but I hope I would be willing to tell even my own daughter that if she chose to have sex, she would still be loved by God and by her mother and I, and that shame does not come from God. Truly, there is a certain undertone of misogyny in the way fathers and churches communicate “ownership” or “authority” over a young woman’s body. It is an absolute double standard (even as we encourage young men to remain abstinent…) – a woman can be “violated.” Once the damage is done, she has lost something that – culturally – inherently – contributes to her “value.”
As I reaffirm and reassure my daughter of her value and my unconditional love and acceptance, I would hope to be consistent, deliberate and relentless in my efforts to build her up as a confident, independent, self-realized woman who does not need a man (or sexual affirmation) to validate her identity or self-worth.
… so no, I don’t have answers. Only aspirations. Thanks Christine!



report abuse
 

kevin s.

posted July 22, 2010 at 3:50 am


“I hear you on the whole victim mentality, but I think that’s exactly what we are raised to do. Young Evangelicals aren’t taught to question authority, we’re taught to fall in line.”
I disagree with this. We are certainly taught, but any bible-based church asks its members to consult the scriptures. Intelligent people can contend with intelligent teachin.
“Now, as a 31-year-old, my parents in their 50s are still where I was at 20, and where Dalfonzo was: no one has given them permission to think outside the echochamber, so like good faithful Christians, they remain caged.”
Okay, I wasn’t going to comment on this, but is there a louder echo chamber in the world than the emergent church? Does anyone question anyone else withing that movement?
“I think waiting till marriage for sex is a wonderful ideal. But it’s just that: an ideal.”
It’s also a command.
“My wife and I waited till we were married – I was 26 years old. But the emotional effort we put into NOT having sex nearly destroyed us as sexual beings.”
This is absurd. In what way did abstaining from sex “destroy” you, and how will that be different from the way in which abstaining from sex with other people destroys you? Because that temptation will certainly arise. Or is that just another “ideal”?
“I guess I just want to emphasize that waiting isn’t a magic pill for marital health, and having sex early isn’t marital suicide.”
Nobody has argued that it is. Obedience has more than one realm, and if you don’t believe that obedience is important, you have no chance of having a healthy marriage. Self-sacrifice isn’t simply adherence to a moral code, it is the celebration of that code, because it is from God.
What I just wrote might nauseate you. After all, you have constructed a world of gray-areas and rebellions against rebellions, and you are comfortable in that world. But so long as you attribute shame to the mere act of obeying God, whose commands are, frankly, utterly reasonable, you become ashamed of God.
If that is the case, then there is nothing he can do to make you happy in any relationship. You will spend the rest of your life digging out of holes in your marriage, until it ends, and it will.
Captcha: Utopian as
We live in a complicated sexual culture, and there is so much gray area…”
Thanks for the food for thought.
Read more: http://blog.beliefnet.com/jesuscreed/2010/07/goodbye-dating-hello-well-you_comments.html#ixzz0uOVTtLSx



report abuse
 

YourName

posted July 22, 2010 at 10:35 am


“….marriage is about Christ and the church”
Marriage existed before Christianity and it is found globally. Christianity has no particular claim on marriage, and as far as I see, Christian marriages do not stand out as being better than atheist marriages or Buddhist marriages or Islamic marriages.
If one claims the Bible as the authority over marriage, one must also explain how people who do not follow the Bible end up in happy, stable, loving marriages. I know married gay people who seem to have just as solid a marriage as any Christian couple.
In the U.S. marriage is really an intrusion of church into the business of the state. If Christians want a God-based ceremony, fine, but making all marriages fall under the umbrella of Christian rules is over-reaching.



report abuse
 

Erin

posted July 22, 2010 at 11:32 am


So, I’m going to take a risk here and point out something I feel is critical to this conversation…
Many of you have commented that Christians have not done a good job of answering single people’s questions about dating and sex and you have critiqued this missing message and stated how you would do it differently. Yet, not one of you has addressed my posts in which I have been honest about my confusion in dating as a Christian woman. I have read a lot of philosophical, theological, and hopeful posts, but not one personal interaction. I hope this doesn’t come across as needy, because that is not where I’m coming from. I’m only hoping to point out that this is the issue. Someone takes a risk and shares her questions/confusion about this topic and is met with a broad idea of what is the “right” way to date and how the evangelical church has gotten it oh-so-very wrong in the past.
Well, there you have it. My honest reaction.



report abuse
 

Fish

posted July 22, 2010 at 12:45 pm


Erin,
I’m not a woman but to your original point, why would you guard your heart and only date Christian men?
If my wife had only dated Christian men, she would have never dated me. Trust and follow your heart. God might be leading you in a new direction.
Blessings on your journey.



report abuse
 

kevin s.

posted July 22, 2010 at 1:23 pm


@Erin
Not even Harris would argue that you shouldn’t initiate contact with members of the opposite sex. If the men you like are into the mountains, consider hiking as a hobby.
If your desire is to be pure, and the men in your church don’t respect that, you might want to find a church where men have respect for God’s law, and for a woman’s purity. However, there seems to be a strong possibility that you are projecting your insecurities on someone else.
Beyond that, while I think the notion of “the one” is gibberish, finding someone compatible takes time nonetheless.



report abuse
 

Gina Dalfonzo

posted July 22, 2010 at 1:44 pm


Erin, for what it’s worth, you have my sympathy and my understanding. I get confused too. It’s part of the reason I wrote the article.
Nonetheless, as I wrote in my bio line, I would not recommend dating a non-Christian. I’m not saying that there aren’t a lot of fine, upstanding, moral non-Christians. That’s not the issue. The issue is obedience to God’s Word, and finding someone who’s compatible on a spiritual level and capable of providing spiritual leadership in the home.



report abuse
 

Scot McKnight

posted July 22, 2010 at 2:02 pm


Erin,
You are right; you were vulnerable and it probably got a little too close to home for some and a little mystifying for others, and no one stepped up to say anything directly to you. Blogs can be like that, as you may well know, esp one as intellectual as this one.
But here’s what went through my head when I read your comments:
1. I’m sorry about what happened. Devastating to you and your family, I’m sure.
2. Yes, it’s terribly confusing because, in part, you followed the system and the script and got burned. This will no doubt make you esp guarded in future relationships. Which is just fine as far as I’m concerned. You’ll enter such relationships more gently and take more care at each step than will others. Furthermore, you’ll be alert at a level most won’t be and can’t be.
3. My biggest advice is two-fold: find a good church and find a good mentor. Ours is a youth culture and with that comes the lack of pursuit of wisdom. Older folks, someone you can trust and tell all to, can help you navigate each step of the way in your relationships.
4. Stay in touch constantly with your mentor about the new relationships.
How’s that for a start?



report abuse
 

muse

posted July 22, 2010 at 2:15 pm


I agree – it is all about obedience. Certainly we can be forgiven if we do not obey. That is still not a good enough reason to be disobedient to God. – and yes, I am “emotionally stuffy.”



report abuse
 

Erin

posted July 22, 2010 at 3:43 pm


@Fish: Because my relationship with Christ is everything to me and if I can’t share my love for that relationship with someone else, I just don’t see the point in dating them. But, you know, if God has other plans for me, I’m sure he’ll make them known.
@Kevin: Yep, pretty sure there’s a good possiblity I’m projecting my fears and insecurities onto the guys I date. And I actually decided a couple of days ago that I might need to find a new church that is attracting more like-minded individuals.
@Gina: You’re right and I don’t think I’d ever follow through with that thought I had. In retrospect, it makes no sense at all. And I appreciated your article. I do find that my friends-most married, some single-all have an opinion about how I date and influence how I think about dating.
@Scot: I’m more familiar with very touchy-feely blogs; they’d probably make most of your readers feel very uncomfortable. :) And yes! I think you’re totally right, I need a mentor. I’ve been in ministry/church leadership for so long and am a part of a young church where I’m struggling to find anyone who’s older and has the wisdom I’m looking for. Went to New Denver Church on Sunday and LOVED it. Talked with Norton and Stephen a little while and Jackson loved hanging out with Jason in children’s church. Definitely my kind of church and a place that seems to attract people who are fervently seeking God’s truth and intentional community. So many thanks for the recommendation, the timing was perfect.
Thanks for the feedback, folks!



report abuse
 

Steve240

posted July 25, 2010 at 8:45 pm


You might enjoy my blog where I also critique Josh Harris’s book:
http://www.ikdg.wordpress.com
“I Kissed Dating Goodbye: Wisdom or Foolishness?”
Unfortunately Josh Harris is quick to point out the defects of dating but won’t admit the problems and defects with his approach. Even at his own church he acknowledged a number of problems but doesn’t share them on his website.



report abuse
 

Ryan R

posted July 29, 2010 at 12:14 am


I know I’m late in joining the conversation, but I just returned from 8 days of camping.
I?m going to hazard a guess that I?m one of the younger people to comment, a 22 year old male and recent college graduate, and so perhaps I?ll have a good story to share.
Also, as a heads up, this comment will be more ?touchy-feely,? as Erin said, but I?ll digress into the abstract, so don?t fret.
I was a young teenager (middle-school?) during the height of the ?I Kissed Dating Goodbye? craze. Although no particular standard for dating was forced on me, I felt like waiting to date was the option my elders preferred, and the fact that no older Christian man introduced me to romance and taught me how to attract and pursue women in a godly way. So, I decided to wait to date. Looking back, I made my decision because of a few factors: I thought dating in high-school was silly, I didn?t think Christians should date unless ready or looking (or something?) for marriage, and I knew I was lacking in the social skills department because of my more introverted personality.
Just because I decided to not date in high school (whether a good decision or not) did not mean that I had sworn off dating altogether, and I knew deep down that one day I would need to be ready to pursue a woman. But, as other people have already stated, Evangelical Christians twisted all discussions of romance into arguments about systems, structures, formulas, standards, and timing. I did not have any guidance on building character, how to gain confidence, approaching and attracting women, and how to navigate a real relationship when one starts. Eventually, in high school, I turned to the magazine ?Men?s Health? to be my mentor. Now, I would like to state that Men?s Health had some very good content on health, fitness, fashion, finance, monogamous relationships, and more (at least when I was reading it). But, there was also a lot of content that wasn?t quite appropriate for my age, at least not for a Christian.
In college I felt like I was now old enough to date (kinda arbitrary, I know), but I didn?t know what to do. I read the webzine http://www.Boundless.org for a while, published by Focus on the Family, but that didn?t help much since it was itself dazed from the heated arguments on the subject. I was part of a Christian student group on campus, but in that group, romance was, for lack of a better word, awkward. Different people had different views on dating, most likely fallout from all the above mentioned arguments in the Evangelical world. At that time, most of the guys in the group were nerdy and most of the girls were not. This mixture created some strange dynamics, particularly noticeable to me was how the rest of the guys seemed to be in the same position as me: at a lost in romance.
I eventually dated this great girl, a fellow student leader in the fellowship, for almost three years- most of college and a little after. But our relationship lacked many of the signs and hallmarks of actual dating (one of the stated reasons she ended it). We seemed to just have fallen into this relationship without any of the dance, if you allow the metaphor. I attribute that lack of doing the steps in the dance of romance mostly to the above stated problems- my complete lack of mentorship and initiation into romance by Christians and Evangelicalism and the storm-tossed state of dating in romance in Evangelical Christianity (ok, and probably my lack of courage to attempt the dance stuff while still ignorant).
In the short time since that very painful break-up, I have gone back to a non-Christian source for tutoring on this subject- Dr. Paul Dobransky, a psychiatrist and entrepreneur who specializes in dating and relationships (see here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Dobransky). This brings me into an entirely separate, but very related, discussion of the relationship between Christianity and the social science of Psychology (I think Christians have a lot to learn). Anyway, Dr Paul has taught me a lot of good stuff that only a specialized professional can, but he is no replacement for discipleship and mentoring through the Church. In case you were worried, I don? plan on staking my future on online instruction from a non-Christian psychiatrist; I plan on digging into my church, getting into a small group, serving, ministering, and etc, as I also try to find a career path.
I could go into Scot?s others questions, but I think my story is sufficient and my comment already long.



report abuse
 

Pingback: Lolo Jones – You’re a What? « evangelicalmonkblog

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the beliefnet.com terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to beliefnet.com and may be used by beliefnet.com in accordance with the agreements.



Previous Posts

More Blogs To Enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting Jesus Creed. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here are some other blogs you may also enjoy: Red Letters with Tom Davis Recent prayer post on Prayables Most Recent Inspiration blog post Happy Reading!  

posted 11:15:58am Aug. 16, 2012 | read full post »

Our Common Prayerbook 30 - 3
Psalm 30 thanks God (vv. 1-3, 11-12) and exhorts others to thank God (vv. 4-5). Both emerge from the concrete reality of David's own experience. Here is what that experience looks like:Step one: David was set on high and was flourishing at the hand of God's bounty (v. 7a).Step two: David became too

posted 12:15:30pm Aug. 31, 2010 | read full post »

Theology After Darwin 1 (RJS)
One of the more important and more difficult pieces of the puzzle as we feel our way forward at the interface of science and faith is the theological implications of discoveries in modern science. A comment on my post Evolution in the Key of D: Deity or Deism noted: ...this reminds me of why I get a

posted 6:01:52am Aug. 31, 2010 | read full post »

Almost Christian 4
Who does well when it comes to passing on the faith to the youth? Studies show two groups do really well: conservative Protestants and Mormons; two groups that don't do well are mainline Protestants and Roman Catholics. Kenda Dean's new book is called Almost Christian: What the Faith of Ou

posted 12:01:53am Aug. 31, 2010 | read full post »

Let's Get Neanderthal!
The Cave Man Diet, or Paleo Diet, is getting attention. (Nothing is said about Culver's at all.) The big omission, I have to admit, is that those folks were hunters -- using spears or smacking some rabbit upside the conk or grabbing a fish or two with their hands ... but that's what makes this diet

posted 2:05:48pm Aug. 30, 2010 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.