Sunday, July 11, 2010

Courtship Promises pt. 1

Well, today I'm going to talk about something my mom only jokingly threatened me with, but that many Christian teenagers are forced into: Courtship. I'll be using writings by Bill Gothard. Before anyone gets upset that this isn't *their* version of Christianity & therefore I'm unfairly judging all Christians, here is my brand spanking new Angie the Anti-Theist General Christian Disclaimer.
There is no universal consensus among Christians on the life and teachings of Jesus, the primary message of the Gospel, the role of Old Testament laws in today's society, or the proper way to live a "Christian life." Therefore, I will address the multitudes of differing beliefs within Christianity. If you feel that your particular ideology, sect, denomination, or version of Christianity has been unfairly excluded, please let me know and I'll be sure to cover why I don't share your beliefs either.
Are we good now?
What is Courtship?
Courtship is experiencing the blessing of God by loving the Lord Jesus Christ and honoring both sets of parents. The purpose of courtship is to determine a couple’s readiness for marriage and to discern the will of God for a covenant marriage that will benefit the world.

While the actual manifestation of a courtship relationship will vary because no two couples are alike, one of the primary motivations behind courtship (as opposed to dating) is the protection of the emotions of those involved until the time when it is clearly God’s will to proceed into marriage.
Okay, I've got a problem from the opening clause, "Courtship is experiencing." That is an active verb. It's an action - "experiencing." But that's really a broad verb, when you think about it. I mean, we have sensory experiences and means of experiencing the world around us. We don't seem to have any measurable way of "experiencing" blessing, however. What exactly does "experiencing the blessing of God" mean in practical, measurable terms? My brother the physicist (oh yay! the only other atheist) has this quote as his email tagline -
"When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind."
- Lord Kelvin
You can see why he's the other atheist, can't you? Okay, so courtship is something that frankly hasn't really been defined. We know it's about "honoring both sets of parents" though...

I have to ask, how are emotions protected by going through your parents? If one person doesn't want to move forward, there's still gonna be rejection. Besides, minimizing the risk of dating also minimizes some of the rewards. I learned a LOT about myself over the years, and some of that I learned from men and women I dated. I'm still in friendly contact with ex-boyfriends from as far back as seventh grade. (Hi, Micah!) Even though there's pain and loss in dating, I don't think that's a reason to completely forgo the exercise. Alright, let's get into the meat of this.
Foundational Principles of Courtship
I'm intrigued already. Foundational principles of "experiencing God's blessing"? I can hardly wait.
1. Ensure the blessing of God

The greatest asset of any person or marriage is God’s blessing. “The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it” (Proverbs 10:22).
Since the Bible isn't nearly as pro-marriage as most contemporary Christians (I was gonna type modern, but then realized that might not be the best description for some of these people), I'm going to look up that verse in context. This is a passage about wisdom, like many of the proverbs are. It is not about marriage, marital love, male-female love, or procreation or children. There are early verses in the passage comparing a wise and foolish son, bringing joy and shame to parents, but they're a good ten verses before the one Bill Gothard quoted. Here's a little context for you,
20The tongue of the just is as choice silver: the heart of the wicked is little worth.
21The lips of the righteous feed many: but fools die for want of wisdom.
22The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it.
23It is as sport to a fool to do mischief: but a man of understanding hath wisdom.
24The fear of the wicked, it shall come upon him: but the desire of the righteous shall be granted.
That's just not about marriage. Nice try, Bill. But let's see how Bill thinks a couple can "ensure" the Lord's blessing for their marriage.
No couple will have a happy or prosperous marriage without the blessing of the Lord. If God does not bless them, the devourer will damage and destroy their present and future joy and potential.
Wow, I guess we can blame "the devourer" for all those failed Christian marriages. Or maybe we're supposed to blame the Lord for not blessing their marriages, and allowing the devourer to wreak so much havoc? Oh wait, silly me. This is Christianity! People are to blame for everything bad, and God gets credit for everything good. It's simple, really. Okay, so no getting married until you have God's blessing. Of course, that hasn't been defined yet and we're still not sure how to "ensure" you get it.
A blessed marriage is described in the following passage: “Blessed is every one that feareth the LORD; that walketh in his ways. For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee. Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table” (Psalm 128).
I don't want to be a vine - fruitful or otherwise! I don't want to live in another man's house. I want to live in my house. And I don't know about the rest of you, but I don't see my son as an olive plant or any other possession.

It sounds like a man gets blessed by fearing the Lord and walking in his ways. Again, dating isn't mentioned. There is no verse saying, "Thou shalt not watch a movie with a member of the opposite sex without appropriate Christian chaperones" but that's the message I got as a Christian teen. From youth group to Brio to that stupid hated "Worth Waiting For" necklace of my sister's, the idea that dating was somehow wrong was clearly communicated. Somehow it's "unChristian" or "worldly" to date, but really, this isn't territory that's covered in the Bible.

In the Old Testament, if you liked a girl you just bought her from her dad, or raped her first and then bought her. In the New Testament, well, Jesus never married and neither did Paul, Paul was pretty adamantly against marriage. I'll get into that more later, but for now let me just say, the Bible isn't particularly pro-marriage. The gross assumption on the part of many conservative Christians that marriage is somehow "sacred" or "holy" in God's eyes simply isn't supported by the text (which is why good old Bill here will use verses completley out of context.)

Now let's address this assertion that "No couple will have a happy or prosperous marriage" unless they did it Bill Gothard's way. Divorce statistics for Christians and non-Christians in the US are fairly stable. Born-again Christians and Baptists get divorced at the highest rate (according to an Associated Press survey) and atheists at the lowest rate. Conservative states like Oklahoma and Alabama have a 50% higher incidence of divorce than liberal states like Maine and Washington. Apparently, the Bill Gothard style of marriage fails more often. Now, if you think that at least some of these Christian marriages that succeed are doing so because of the Lord's blessing, how do you account for the successful non-Christian marriages? Surely Bill doesn't think the Lord has bestowed his blessing on heathens. Clearly, there are happy (or at least in tact) marriages among non-Christians. The "destroyer" has not had his merry way with them. How does Bill account for this, I wonder?

We'll just have to wait until tomorrow to find out. Part 2 coming soon, Anteaters. I may as well let you in on my decreased posting. I've been having really awful and frequent periods, and they're taking a toll on me. I've had four since I moved to Denver two months ago. I've basically been half-zombie, but I talked with a midwife friend who told me what I can do and take to feel better, so I hope to be more alert and active soon. Till then, be well and have great and godless days.