In the last several weeks, I've received quite a few queries about my thoughts on courtship, and some have offered me theirs. I've discovered that my readers (all three of you) are an eclectic mix, with a much broader array of backgrounds, culturally and spiritually, than I ever anticipated when I began writing a couple of months back. Don't get me wrong, I think that's awesome. At the same time, I realize that even as pointblank as I am in what I write here, with all of the different backgrounds and experiences that stop by here and read it, it may be read in vastly different colors and intensities. Given that the courtship issue, and my view on it, is one that has been influenced by this dynamic, and given the interesting exchanges going on here and around the blogosphere concerning Stacy McDonald's article on courtship, an article that I feel oozes legalism and doctrine over person, I thought this would be an opportune time to make abundantly clear my view of courtship, and hopefully do so in a way that cuts through the haze of cultural differences and the various backgrounds represented.
I've no doubt that many will disagree with my view, including many who may usually find much common ground in my writing as a whole. Even if you disagree, I hope you'll keep reading here and writing to me, because I'm not so naive as to think everyone's gonna agree with me (especially given the flammable subjects I delve into here), and your emails on this issue have been very pleasant exchanges. I appreciate the opinions and feedback of you guys.
Ok, to clear up my view on courtship, whether I believe it's good in some cases, bad in others, a good idea that gets put to bad use, whether I find merit in the formula, et cetera...
When speaking of scenarios involving children (read: under 18 years of age), a parent has every right to determine what boundaries are proper, although I would think it wise of a parent to approach the issue uniquely with each child. Each child is unique, strong in it his or her own ways, weak in his or her own ways, and special in his or her own ways.
When speaking of adult children (read: over the age of 18), in no case whatsoever do I find the process, system, or practice of courtship acceptable, wise, or biblical. In NO case. Never. Ever. Period. In fact, I'm whole-heartedly convinced that it's a form of idolatry, and absolutely nothing will ever persuade me otherwise. I detest courtship for adults with the white hot flaming passion of a million screaming asteroids of utter doom.
Now, let's look at the "why"...
There's NO biblical directive or mandate that requires an adult child to be in submission to a parent. An adult child should HONOR their parents, but choosing their own path in life in submission to the Lord doesn't dishonor a parent. In fact, I would offer the idea that it should be the goal! Marriage and family is absolutely NOT the the ideal of Christianity. Christ is. I repeat: Christ is. Philippians 3:14...
"I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
In that passage, "high calling" comes from the Greek "ano klesis", with ano meaning upward or heavenly, and klesis meaning calling, invitation, vocation. Paul's goal was to reach Christ and reach others for Christ. He even once said "...to live is Christ..." THAT is the ano klesis. But, for people fighting a cultural war, it would appear the ano klesis is marriage and family. That's their high calling. The title of Mrs. McDonald's blog even suggests as much. It's as if there's no other purpose in life. I don't say this to diminish marriage and family. They're beautiful and important things, and those who are married and/or have children shouldn't ever take the responsibilities of them lightly. But, marriage and family shouldn't be the highest purpose of our lives. In fact, for some people, it probably shouldn't be a goal at all.
Many also promote courtship under the assumption that it's a godly father's role to act as his daughter's protection, or that a godly daughter will submit to his wisdom being it's provided by God for her. Well, the bible doesn't even begin to say that it's the duty of a father to officiate the life choices of adult children, nor does it promise daughters the wisdom of a father. It's not terribly wise to trust in "biblical" promises that the bible doesn't make. The actual, tangible biblical promise that parents SHOULD point their children toward is the promise of wisdom to be given liberally to ALL who ask, including daughters, and how this promise doesn't mention their father as the source, but instead mentions THE Father as the source. Frankly, any daughter that needs her father to protect her and officiate her choices has no business at all getting involved in a relationship of any kind, and much less getting married. She isn't ready for either. She's miles and miles and miles away.
Many parents don't believe it's "godly" for any relationship to begin or transpire outside of the parent-set boundaries of courtship - i.e., if the parents don't officiate. I examined 1st Peter 4:15 in this post several weeks back, with the Greek word "allotriepiskopos" as the root for the word meddler or busybody. In that passage, clear biblical instruction is given to not meddle, and it's lumped in with murder, thievery, and other evils. Allotriepiskopos is the combination of two words. Those words mean "not one's own" and "overseer". You do the math, and then tell me exactly who is acting "ungodly" and failing to be biblical in a courtship scenario.
Make no mistake, any person, including young adults, would be wise to seek the counsel of wise mentors, beginning, but not ending, with one's parents. I passionately encourage as much. However, if an adult can't make a decision outside of the approval of these people, or if these people represent God's voice to her, then there are emotional and spiritual problems (usually the product of an authoritarian system) that go waaaaaaay deeper than anything courtship could ever cure. I'm sorry to say that this is exactly the kind of children courtship proponents wish to produce. Before you go getting too mad at me for that statement, ask yourself...If it weren't a true statement, would there be any imaginable need for something like courtship? In light of that, what other conclusion can one draw?
Parents should be willing to offer their advice and assistance when asked for it, and do so ONLY if there will be no retribution or rejection of the child if the child goes against the parent's counsel. In my estimation, anything beyond this is extra-biblical and uber-unhealthy.
Like I used to tell my ex, "If any voice, aside from mine, yours, and most of all God's, thinks it has or deserves a say in our relationship, it's one voice too many, and somebody's got to shut up."
I'll offer a few thoughts on Mrs. McDonald's article, and perhaps a few other courtship thoughts, in part 2 sometime in the next couple of days.