Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Debunking the Purity Movement Part 1 Dating vs. Courtship

Proverbs 18:22 “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD"

I wanted to the take the time to discuss and analyze the purity the movement that sprang up in the past decades and the affects it has on society since.  I will be posting a few parts on this subject matter regarding different fields within this movement.  This first part is about the courtship vs. dating.  In the 1970s, conservative pastor Bill Gothard taught courtship over secular dating.  Then in the mid-1990s, Jonathan Lindvall, also introduced courtship known as “Youthful Romance” as an alternative to dating. 

However, the purity movement itself all started in 1997 when Christian conservative Pastor Joshua Harris wrote a book called “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” when he was only 21, in which he encourages young Christian people not to do the regular dating based today’s secular standards.  Instead, they should embrace courtship in which they only form romantic relationships with each other for the sole purpose of marriage.  The young man will also usually ask the young lady’s father for permission to court his daughter, and they don’t do anything physical with each other(with the exception of holding hands) until after the wedding including a first kiss.  They shouldn’t even be left alone together as group dating or chaperoned dates are often encouraged.   Ever since the book came out, more books by Christian authors including Leslie and Eric Ludy’s “Set Apart” series promoting the same message. There is also the “True Love Waits’ organization for Christian teens.  

The Purity Culture would become a huge phenomenon among very ultra-conservative, patriarchal Christian Fundamentalists and homeschooling families. This movement was meant to be a Christian counter-culture to a sexualized society of the post-sexual liberation of the 1970s. The idea was to restore a pre-20th century romantic relationships that was more pure, holy and innocent and considered biblical and godly.  I’m not against reviving or restoring any traditional ritual, moral, ideal that is beneficial as I’ mentioned in my previous post.  I can even understand the motives behind this purity movement, and agree that in today’s culture, society as become too sexualized and has affected both Christians and non-Christians alike.  However, this courtship ritual among the purity movement has many downsides that has actually hindered rather than help Christians.  First, it has caused uneasiness and discomfort socially awkwardness interacting with the opposite sex.  Males and females had trouble relating to each other and were even discouraged from forming friendships fearing it would lead to something more.  The idea of a male and female being alone together, even if they are not a couple or don’t have any romantic or any desires for one another, is discouraged out of fear of any temptation that may arise.   

Because of these restrictions, plenty of Christian adults in the late 20s and onward, who are involved in the movement wind up still single.  Plenty seldom dated or dated at all in their early 20s.  Many had troubles forming romantic relationships and out of frustration gave up dating and the complications that come with it, choosing to hang out with the opposite sex instead buying into the idea that God will just find a spouse for them when they are ready.  For the young Christians in college and afterwards, part of their reluctance to date may have been out of fear of the expectation of marriage, since, marriage was seen as the only purpose date known as courting.  Another factor, is the idea among the purity movement, is that for young people who date and then break up are just practicing divorce.  I even, read an article from a fundamentalist pastor who was warning his congregation on the dangers of dating since it was practicing divorce. 

Many ultra-conservative churches discouraged dating among younger Christians from dating for this exact same reason.  I always wondered where these folks get this logic?  I assume it comes from theory that young people who get used to forming relationships then breaking up may conclude that relationships aren’t meant to last and if it fails, just end it and this attitude could extend to marriages as well with the divorce rate so high.  Another theory is that to give their hearts away to someone who they are not going to marry will cause them to not be able to completely give their hearts to their future spouse and could be considered emotional cheating.  So, young people are cautioned not to give their hearts away so easily.  Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it”.  Many misunderstand this verse to refer to romantic relationships, therefore not give our hearts so easily to people we won’t end up marrying.  However, the context of that verse is about a father cautioning his son, warning him not to allow his heart to be corrupted by sin, including greed, selfishness, lust and allowing the heart to harden becoming bitter and malicious.  This is certainly something all us Christians should strive to avoid. 

 Many young Christians doing courtships often marry young sometimes barley out of their teens encouraged and pressured by their parents, churches, pastors.  Because of this many who haven’t had any experience in dating have trouble relating to one another causing conflicts in their marriage and some lead to divorce.  Even in less patriarchic Christian circles, Christians are encouraged to date with the only purpose for marriage known as “dating with marriage in mind”.  These can be really discouraging for Christian high school and college students who are not yet ready for marriage but feel ready to explore romantic relationships with all the fundamental ups and downs that come with it. The main point is to form romantic relationships on biblical principals, and being god-centered.  I definitely agree with this concept, we should strive not be influenced by the modern secular attitudes on dating that go against God’s will, which has become to sexualized, just for the sake of getting with the program and following the crowd.  As Christians, Our first priority is being a glory to God even in dating. 

However, combating the ungodly sexualized society, by adapting to another extreme ideal doesn’t solve this issue but as in fact created even more problems.  Many survivors of this courtship movement have created blogs and articles in which they talk about the downsides and the bad affects they and fellow peers endured due to this movement.  In fact, plenty of Christians are now and have gradually turned away from the courtship culture and regretting their choice to embrace it in the first place. The fact is movement’s views are often legalistic with rigid restrictions, rules and outdated and unnecessary cultural ideals on romantic relationships which are not biblically mandated.   In fact, there is nothing at all in the bible that mentions dating since dating didn’t exist during ancient biblical times.  During, the ancient times, arranged marriages and courtships were the norm.  Love didn’t often play into the role when couples married by arrangement by their parents, sometimes for business reasons.  Also, the norm was men taking more than one wife and having concubines whom he fathered children with.  Also girls married as young as twelve and boys young as thirteen.  Of course, none of these customs are no longer socially acceptable, some not even legal.  Arranged marriages and courtship continued as late as the 19th century. 

In the 1920s, courtship was replaced by dating rituals, especially in the western world, where couples go out together without a chaperone and the no kissing until the wedding was relaxed to allow some forms of physical affection, premarital sex was still frowned upon.  As decades have past, cultural norms has since evolved including dating customs, not always for the better as the sexual liberation emerged during the 1960s and 1970s.  For Christians, many are simply bad at dating, as they are confused as what to do, what is acceptable for them and what isn’t, receiving well-meaning but sometimes conflicting and misguided advice and standards from their churches. Plenty of young Christian women are dating and even marrying non-Christian men as they complain Christian men don’t pursue them.  Christians just seem to be lost when it comes to the modern dating world.  Fortunately, there are several Christian dating experts, authors who are not embracing the courtship rituals and instead are focusing on realistic modern dating standards for Christians that still holds to godly principals.  Experts include Dr. Stephen W. Simpson, a Christian psychologist who wrote the book “What Women Wish You Knew About Dating”, Jason Illian  author of “Undressed: The Naked Truth About Love, Sex and Dating”. 

Others also include Mindy Meier, Chad Eastham, Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott etc.  I also like to point out I don’t condemn courtship altogether, so long couples choose on their own free will to follow the courtship way and share there first kiss on their wedding day.  Couples should be able to freely choose whatever they feel is right for them, without judgment.  However, I don’t condone courtships and the “I kissed dating goodbye” culture restricted to Christians, in which they are made to feel these standards are the only godly way for all Christians to pursue. 

As we are now living in the 21st century, culture and customs has since evolved in progressed.  Christians need to adapt to the modern world and all in entails, rather than always isolate themselves from the present society in order to feel more godly, while still embracing Christ.