Saturday, February 7, 2009

Kissing dating goodbye? Not so fast

I recently had reason to remember the controversial book "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" by Joshua Harris, which I had received it as a gift a number of years ago. I was reminded why I had issues with it.

I think I understand what he was trying to say -- that people don't exist for our selfish purposes and we ought not to use them. But he wrote from the perspective of a very sheltered Christian upbringing with a strong family and church community that met his emotional needs, and thus the book doesn't speak to probably most Christian singles, which is to whom it was "sold."

Take me, for example. I'm a convert that didn't come from a Christian home and thus didn't have that kind of backup. My late father was an alcoholic and control freak who, in retrospect, never wanted me to leave home for reasons I won't get into here. I bring that up because I made a commitment to Christ due to the dysfunction in my family, specifically my mother's threat to leave him (and she would eventually make good on it).

However, I learned that people, especially men, who come from that kind of background are often shunted aside. In the fellowship I attended at a large secular university, the "strong" guys (most of whom came from Christian families) were chased by the girls and the weak guys were ignored. On top of that, I knew of at least six people who had attempted suicide (fortunately, none succeeded). Thus, Harris' "audience" has little connection the real world -- it assumes a context that many of us cannot relate to.

A sequel, "Boy Meets Girl," that I paged through a number of years ago deepened my feelings of alienation. It focuses on a fantasy I had years ago -- asking the father of a "prospect" for the right to court his daughter. (I had that opportunity only once, and though he was OK with it she wasn't interested.) Besides, I've never met the fathers of the women I've dated; indeed, in only one case were any of them even living! And at my age, pushing 50, it's more likely that I will end up with someone who was "single again" and thus no longer under Dad's authority.

And then -- what about those occasions where people could use an escort? I never went to my high school prom and often had trouble getting dates for fraternity formals because in many cases the girls I asked often were so focused on "Will this result in marriage?" to a point that even if they had gone they wouldn't have enjoyed the evening. That's not fellowship.

Bottom line, most Christians, especially if they don't find someone before graduating college, do need to date, in large part because in the working world you don't have the time to "hang out." Not even a church, or even a singles ministry, offers that kind of bonding. Men especially need the opportunity to take women out so that they can learn to "take responsibility," and men learn to do things generally by actually doing them.

Since last year I've been privileged to develop a somewhat healthy relationship with a woman friend of nearly five years. I actually asked her on a date the second time I saw her but she resisted for a number of legitimate reasons; only a year-and-a-half ago did she finally say yes. It's worked out well; she has more responsibility than I at work and church, so when we go out together every few months I make it a point to take care of everything. Call it "dating" if you will, even though neither of us believes we'll be married -- at least to each other -- but it's mutually beneficial. And isn't that what Christian relationships should be about?

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