Ahh. Courtship. The subject most likely to make me pour gasoline all over my clothes and light myself on fire. Before I go any further on the subject, let me qualify my views as being directed at adult relationships. Parents of minors are wise to set whatever guidelines (within healthy scriptural, emotional, and logical boundaries) for their children they choose. It's a natural part of teaching children to become responsible adults. My problem is with the imposition and indoctrination of courtship where grown men and women are concerned.
I've seen courtship described the following way, in these exact words, by some of it's proponents...
"Courtship: The period of time where a girl decides if she can do better."
Poor guy. (Forgive me for projecting onto all men victimized by the above mentality)
There's so much personal and emotional selfishness in that statement that it's dizzying. It's also misleading, as the girl's "decision" is about the most powerless and futile aspect of the whole process. The statement would better read...
"Courtship: The period of time where a girl's father imposes his own will and vision on his daughter's future, guarding her from her wicked, sinful, putrid, disgusting heart and those mean ole, deceitful emotions - with help from anyone else with an opinion who feels the young lady should be in submission to them, and if by some chance she gets really, really lucky, maybe, just maybe, she'll actually like the guy they choose for her."
Here are a few other options...
"Courtship: What the rest of us call meddling."
"Courtship: For a woman in a patriocentric home, it's either this or hell on earth."
"Courtship: Where you act as a forced stooge - and like it or else!"
"Courtship: Perpetual infancy."
"Courtship: Your forced admission of "I suck at this. You've said so all my life. Please domineer this for me."
"Courtship: Feigned virtue rather than genuine character, discernment, and discipline."
"Courtship: The only way to find a man without losing your family."
I could go on and on and on and on and on...
Courtship isn't a biblical instruction. It isn't even a biblical pattern or implication. It's a human idea, a commandment of men, reliant on total indoctrination which induces paralyzing fear of any other alternative, turns one's attention to one's own "sin nature", and which provides absolute, unchallenged control and opportunity for a father to impose his will on his daughter's life. I've discussed "lording" and "meddling" in previous posts, and measuring the process of courtship against those scriptures would seem to very clearly put courtship at odds with the heart of God. It's clear in Hebrews 5:12-14 that God desires His children to mature and be discerning, whereas fathers who officiate grown daughter's lives through courtship would seem to have an entirely different goal, usually seeming to have become so polluted by human religious traditions and the commandments of men that they tie their own self-worth as men and fathers into how successfully they pass the pollution on to their children.
The courtship phenomenon got an injection of steroids with the Harris book, "I Kissed Dating Goodbye", or as I call it, "You're stupid! You suck! So do it my way, you sinful, lustful wretch of a failure!" A 21 year old author, who didn't know jack-squat about jack-squat, still largely learning about life, becoming the voice for Christian singles as they searched for their soul-mates. The emphasis on abstaining from affection, with the implication being that it ALWAYS leads to something more, seems to me to suggest to the writer's audience that they should just accept their destiny to fail and do things his way. How convenient for the man who eventually took over one of the most controlling, spiritually abusive organizations in the church community. Beat them into oblivion, then remind them how oblivious they are, or, as I said more thoroughly here, create a demand, then demand to meet the demand. Great way to stay in business. Lousy way to serve.
Some of the most ridiculous things ever said to me have been said in defense of courtship. Of the 10 dumbest things ever said to me, my former future father-in-law has at least 8 of them, and most of those were in defense of courtship, which was in essence his way of peeing on the trees, tires, and fenceposts of my relationship with his daughter, claiming it as his own, and protecting his own authority and fiefdom. It had nothing to do with protecting her.
While I fully agree with seeking counsel, there's a huuuuuge difference between counsel sought and counsel imposed, and just because you receive counsel, that doesn't mean it's wise or Godly. That's where discernment, which is the mortal and spiritual enemy of courtship, comes in. I had no problem with my ex-fiancee seeking wise counsel about our future. Heck, I tapped every resource I had, from my own parents (who've just celebrated 50 years of Christ-centered, happy, and loving marriage) to various mentors. BUT, had any of the people in my camp imposed their counsel on me, I'd have likely invited them to go somewhere, preferably away from my relationship with my ex, and eat a Snickers. It wasn't their place to meddle.
My ex-fiancee and I exchanged our first kiss shortly after our engagement. It was sweet, innocent, beautiful, and every other wonderful thing I ever wanted our first kiss to be. Lucky for us, a couple of her sisters saw it happen. Of course, they had all been heavily indoctrinated into the courtship crapola, falling for all of the ominous warnings and the related propoganda. The next day, my ex and I were walking through a Wal-Mart, and apparently one of her sisters (I'll refer to her as "Sally") had jumped all over her earlier that morning. We had this exchange...
Her: Lew, some of my family saw us kiss last night.
Me: Is this a problem?
Her: Well, Sally really, really thinks we need to be careful. (translation: Sally said "You slut!")
Me: Careful how?
Her: I just think we need to be careful. It really bothered Sally.
Me: So now Sally gets a say in our relationship? She gets to set our boundaries?
Her: (taken aback and somewhat enlightened, having never considered it that way) Well, no, that's not what I want. What should I do?
Me: Sally needs to grow up, mind her own business, and leave you, and us, alone. If she keeps bugging you about it, send her to talk to me. Your family isn't gonna make me feel guilty about anything we're doing, and I don't like them pouring guilt on you.
It made me furious. To be frank, to this day I don't really like Sally, as she was the biggest disciple of the authoritarian and headship nonsense among the siblings, repeatedly trying to manipulate my ex and remind her how she was "tearing apart her family!" It's making me pretty angry even as I type this, over two years removed. And on that note, I'll end this post.
Uggggghhhh. What toxicity.
If you must officiate the life choices of a grown daughter, you've already failed as a father to prepare your daughter to face the world that awaits her. How grossly unfair and what an injustice to do this to your children. What a reproach upon the name of the Lord. His Spirit produces liberty, you know. If you're not nourishing an environment of liberty, is it really His Spirit at work in you?