Thursday, August 26, 2010

My Distaste For All Things Courtship (part 2)

I left several comments about Stacy McDonald's article in the comment string over on (and others left some great comments, too), but I want to address the article a bit further here. I think the article is both intellectually and spiritually dishonest, and I believe such needs to be addressed, as it has the potential to influence people with a very legalistic, doctrine over person slant.

For starters, the list of questions. I'm not going to spend a great deal of time discussing it beyond describing the list as silly, intrusive, meddling, legalistic, self-important, and a cultural circling of the wagons. I would like to note this comment by Mrs. McDonald in the occasional disclaimers...

"... And again, remember, there are no right or wrong answers. The questions are intended for the purpose of “full disclosure,” as well for discussion points."

This is a completely dishonest statement by Mrs. McDonald. Let's look at a question or two as random examples...

"What is your view of the Sabbath and the proper use of that day? What activities can children enjoy on the Sabbath?
What is the present day application of the Mosaic Law?"

I would submit that there are any number of possible answers to just those two, among the plethora of legalistic, intrusive questions, that would cause Mr. and Mrs. McDonald to run a young man out of town on a rail. And God help us all at the possibilities on this one...

"What do you see as your wife’s role in local church ministry?"

(potential answer) 
"Well, Mr. and Mrs. McDonald, I believe that modern feminism has helped to demonstrate some good things along with the bad, and I believe that it [feminism] has to be added to the filter which I measure a woman's role in church ministry through."

Anyone want to give odds on that one most definitely being a "wrong" answer? I simply don't believe Mrs. McDonald is being honest, but is attempting to deflect accusations of legalism by appearing, through lip-service, to be less legalistic. Earlier in the article, Mrs. McDonald says this...

"Therefore, please keep in mind that most of these questions do not have right or wrong answers."

The inclusion of the word "most" suggests that at least some of the questions most certainly DO have wrong answers, and I would suggest, again, that the convenient inclusion of the word "most" is still dishonest. Take the word "not" out of the statement, and you'll be getting somewhere.

Another mind-boggler...

"Over the years, my husband has received numerous requests from parents for his “famous” courtship questions. However, he has been hesitant to make them available, since it is easy for people to want a formula for courtship."

My word. Courtship itself IS a formula. As my friend Christi pointed out in the comments on part 1, courtship is the cultural warrior's extreme answer and formula for countering that mean ole, worldly, evil, disgusting, out-of-wedlock pregnancy causing, feminist breeding, sex-driven, send you straight to hell, marriage ending in divorce making...well, Courtship is the cultural warrior's "do it this way to be godly" solution. Formula, formula, formula. And, it's a commandment of men.

There are several statements in the text of the article, and in the comments that follow, that suggest that the McDonalds believe that courtship is a process that THEY should reign over, essentially, taking upon themselves authority and responsibility that God hasn't assigned them or delegated to them, becoming meddlers, "not one's own overseer", something covered in part 1.

"The Bible gives us many prescripts, but not as many processes. God’s Word presents a number of concepts on how men and women are to relate to one another, as well as how they might prepare themselves for marriage; but it is certainly not a cookbook. While I don’t see a “biblical formula,” I do see biblical principles that will help our children move toward marriage in purity."

I don't know of any biblical prescript or principle that serves as a valid foundation for courtship. It just isn't there without adding to the scripture in significant fashion and speaking on behalf of God. Also, if it isn't a cookbook, she's awfully willing to share the recipe...

"Please feel free to copy and use these questions for your own personal use.  If you would like to share them with others, you can click on the options at the bottom of this page, or grab the code in the right hand column to put a button on your own blog that links to this page."

Looks like a recipe for courtship salad being promoted to me.

To go along with the talk of biblical "prescripts", there's also this...

"So, the way our family chooses to live out these precepts is just that – our choice. It is our application of the biblical precepts found in Scripture."

So now we have, in addition to the "biblical" prescripts, "biblical" precepts. I wish I knew what these "biblical" precepts were. I've heard about them for three years, and have been told that there are traces of them all through the scriptures, yet I just can't seem to find these traces, nor can anyone point me to them. Sure sounds authoritative, though, to refer to things as "biblical", so they must be valid, right?

I would offer this opinion: Just because something is recorded IN the bible, that doesn't mean it's taught or recommended by the bible. Adultery is IN the bible, so is it a biblical precept? How about murder? Slavery? Concubines?

My opinion is that most of these "precepts" are actually human ideas from tribal periods, where customs were Chaldean, Hurrian, and Sumerian - HUMAN, and when the Holy Spirit wasn't given freely to comfort and lead men and women into all truth. These precepts aren't "biblical". They're human precepts that just happen to be recorded (not taught, recommended, or instructed in any shape or form) in a historical context in the bible. Here's a genuine biblical precept of note...Hosea 5:11...

Ephraim is oppressed and broken in judgment,
      Because he willingly walked by 
human precept. 

That's reason enough to make me run from courtship, and Mr. and Mrs. McDonald's formula for it, like it's the plague. As far as I'm concerned, it is.


  1. Lewis- More great observations on the hilarity of the McDonald's list. Hosea 5:11 sums up completely their list of courtship questions.

    I couldn't even take their list seriously because it was so ridiculous and full of things that weren't their business as future in-laws.

    I actually shared their link on my LiveJournal with my friends and some of them even responded to the entire list of questions and it was HILARIOUS. Reading their answers made the list SO much more bearable, which isn't saying much at all.

  2. It's not meeting your daughter's boyfriend, it's interviewing him for a job.

    Do they shine bright lights in his face while asking him all this?

    Has it ever occurred to them that he might ditch they daughter because he figured out what his in-laws are going to be like?

  3. One thing I keep thinking of when I read the list is the questions the Pharisees would ask of Christ.

    I strongly suspect that the McDonald's wouldn't let Jesus court their daughter.

  4. Another well reasoned rebuttal by Lewis. Thanks brother for being a voice of reason on the internet.

  5. "I strongly suspect that the McDonald's wouldn't let Jesus court their daughter."


  6. The list just demonstrates one of the (many) problems with patriarchy, this particular one being the concept that parents have the authority to determine who is good enough for their daughter. Oh wait there's a second problem but I can't pinpoint it exactly. It's either the assumption that the daughter is going to perfectly line up with the personal beliefs and convictions of the parents, or even more disturbing, that it doesn't matter even if she disagrees - she still has to marry a mini-Daddy anyway.

    Even though I'm quite familiar with this belief system, it still took me by surprise to see some of the completely secular questions (though no doubt they're of the opinion that nothing is spiritually neutral) like vaccinations, pets, health history of the parents, and my personal favorite... do you have any food dislikes (uh, who doesn't?). I just fail to see why any normal parent would care about these things (and I'm even a selective vaccinator with my kids... just never occurred to me to expect their spouses to agree with ME on this issue).

    Also the notion that the parents have the right to know all previous relationship details is one that has long bothered me. What was it that God said? "As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us." (Psalm 103:12) How could it possibly be appropriate to have to reveal any past relationship/sexual mistakes to your potential future in-laws? The only person who deserves to know these details is the potential spouse!

    "I strongly suspect that the McDonald's wouldn't let Jesus court their daughter."

  7. References available upon request.

  8. Good post. It brought back some interesting memories. I wonder how many fathers, after years of insisting that no young man they met ever came close to minimally qualifying, then told their daughters to marry complete losers after they realized there weren't any other options.

  9. Note to all:

    Although it seems such a list of questions might disqualify every man who ever lived, I can see a method to the madness. What better way to ensure that the right match come from one's own church or sister church, or common connection with some like-minded para-church entity? After all, that person has probably been taught the same things and expected to believe them and live them. I've known patriarchal-leaning types who thought ill of marrying outside of one's own church. Keep it in the family because we have a legacy to preserve.

    Failing to get a match can also result in a reaffirming of one's doctrinal smugness. "See? The state of the church today is so bad we can't find a match for Suzie. WE really ARE the chosen few!"

  10. I think you're on to something there, Steve.

  11. Steve is definitely on to something.

    My husband grew up in a William Branham church. VERY much a cult. At 12 years old, the young people get sat down to watch a movie outlining all the evilness and ills of marrying outside the church. When I came along, his father was very opposed to our relationship because I wasn't part of the chosen, whereas his mother figured I could just be indoctrinated and converted to their system.

    He had to keep his relationship with me a secret from the rest of the church because of the consequences. When we finally did get engaged, it was such a scandal in the church. I was treated like the outsider.

    In fact, one of the men at the church asked my FIL, "Why did your son have to go outside the church to find a wife? What about my daughter? Was no one here good enough for him? We don't have many young men in the church as it is, our daughters are not going to have anyone to marry if the young men keep leaving and picking women outside the church."

    Obviously, we left the church, which made it even more obvious that marrying outsiders is horrible. We're Jezebels that take the men out of the TRUE church. *rolls eyes*

  12. Okay, so not being able to find a spouse is a confirmation that "many will hear, few will follow." Then why bother with a marriage-minded theology? If every man, woman, and their respective parents believe that there's no one good enough, why waste so much time and effort preparing for a marriage that'll never take place? Why continue to tell people "God will send someone" ten years after they first expected to marry, as if there really were great matches out there somewhere?

  13. Jenny - I know so many girls that are told that their prime purpose in life is to get married and have a "quiverfull." Then, they sit at home, waiting for their dad to approve a mate for them while they're subjected to homeschooling their younger siblings and cleaning the house and taking care of the books for their dad's business.....all the while waiting and waiting and waiting. It isn't until they're in their 30s that Daddy finally approves someone because Daddy realizes that in order to have an army-full of grandchildren, he better get her married off SOON. ugh.

    It's no wonder so many of these girls treat their bodies horribly by having a ton of children right after the other because their biological clock is ticking quickly to an end and whoever has the most kids when they die wins.

  14. Jenny (8-28, 12:37pm) said: "...why waste so much time and effort preparing for a marriage that'll never take place?"

    I think because "it is not good for man to be alone" is often taken as a biblical command to marry. "Be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth" was what God commanded Adam and Eve, and, by extension, everybody who is descended from them. You can't multiply without marriage. Marriage is then seen to be COMMANDED by God, and disobedience is never an option. Therefore, all the more effort is put in to obey God. The result is a viscious cycle.

    Also, Erika's (8-28, 11:08am) comment rings true to some of the things I've heard people say about marrying outside of the church. The women are "snubbed" by the men, which makes the men look bad, which prompts the women to do their best to become even more godly... The result is...

  15. I'm not convinced. If they took the "not good for man to be alone" seriously, then they wouldn't criticize those of us who are lonely for not being "content in Christ." And if they are so concerned about obeying God's command to multiply, they wouldn't put so much more weight on us marrying someone who's "perfect."

    I had the life Erika describes, only without the marriage ending. I'd religiously turned down (snubbed, ridiculed, publicly humiliated) nice (but not "perfect") men for years, because I thought that was right. During this time, ZERO effort was made to find me a "suitable" spouse. And then, when I had reached the end of the prime-mating period in American culture (college), I was told that there wasn't anyone and to essentially throw myself at members of the least desirable demographic I regularly came in contact with.

    On that day (over 7.5 years ago), I concluded that the whole thing was a scam. And since then, I've read about and communicated with more and more people who have also been similarly scammed. The "leaders" are just out to make money off their formulas that don't really work, and they'll bother to arrange their own kids' marriages (if the workers can be spared) just to show how successful they are. (A few followers are successful only because they manage to tweak it just right and are sitting in the right conditions.)

    Jonathan Lindvall didn't offer a plan for getting married. He offered parents an easy way to shut up their kids when they ask permission to start dating. And he sold it successfully by frightening the parents with stories about pregnant 12-year-olds. Since profit attracts new producers, Lindvall's success encouraged others to get into the business. Now we have thousands of blogs, books, and other resources, siphoning money out of young adults and their parents, with absolutely no helpful advice. But no one cares because their making money off of it.

  16. Jenny said (in italics),

    I'm not convinced.

    You don't have to be! And I'm glad you aren't.

    If they took the "not good for man to be alone" seriously, then they wouldn't criticize those of us who are lonely for not being "content in Christ."

    Actually, they would! The system isn't logical or consistent.

    And if they are so concerned about obeying God's command to multiply, they wouldn't put so much more weight on us marrying someone who's "perfect."

    Well, the command came before they sinned in the garden. Now, after the fall, we must be far more dilligent in our selection that Adam was.

    What I'm getting at here with my comments is that when the system is not logically consistent, there is often a requirement to uphold both sides of competing or contradictory concepts. This is why these systems are so dangerous. They subject so many people to confusion. No wonder so many have incredible feelings of guilt, because the system really does tell you that you're damned if you do and damned if you don't.

    Of course, those in charge never need to examine their systems for logical consistency because it all comes from the bible, which is a God-given book that is totally consistent! Arguing against their system is taken as arguing against the bible.

    I just realized something that I'll post in my next comment...

  17. "The system isn't logical or consistent."

    Ah, okay. I was thinking to much like an economist, expecting everything to be rational. :P

  18. Lewis,

    I just realized a few minutes ago that the vast majority of your links and the vast majority of those who comment here are women. Your main issue is patriarchy, with maybe a bit lesser emphasis on quiverfull and other issues. These are all "ideas of men" that harm women in all the ways all of you have written about, including links to links.

    What I realized about my answer to Jenny's question in my (8-28, 4:04pm) comment was that I was coming at this from a man's point of view. The "command" to marry based on the verse that says it isn't good for a man to be alone is most often pointed at the man (at least from my experience), and not the woman. The woman's job is to wait on a godly man or wait on a godly father's recruiting of a godly man.

    Also, Lewis is quite right to be pissed that there are very few men who are coming to the defense of women on these issues. But, there is also the other side to the coin: the damage that these systems - and systems similar to these - do to men. Men are given so much authority and responsibility that they are set up to fail, and fail miserably.

    There are several ways for men to react to their own failures. One is to blame the women. Another is to blame the suitor, like Lewis. Yet another is to realize that they are being crushed under the responsibility placed on them and either cower right on out of life, or to leave the movement and become enlightened.

    I realized that "it is not good for man to be alone" places the responsibility for marrying (again, in my experience) on the man or the father and doesn't necessarily translate to the woman. I've been involved in several male-dominated systems, although not patriarchy per se. We men have been taught from the outset that the majority of all responsibility, and almost exclusively all of the accountability, falls on the man. We must search for a mate; persue her and woo her, deal with her dad. On and on. If something fails, you're on the hook, pal. You're completely responsible for micro-managing your wife, micro-managing all your kids and their relationships.

    Recently I took a night class and discovered that the instructor went to a same church I did (although at different times) and at a sister church of another at the same time. We didn't know each other. But as we talked about "old times" we had the common recollection that those churches were very brutal on single men with the doctrines of relationships and marriage that they held to. God help us all.

  19. You know, Scott, I was wondering something similar earlier this week. According to the theory of patriarchy, the man is supposed to provide for his wife and children very well, teach the children, spend time with his wife, have time to be accountable with other men, be actively pursuing training opportunities for his older sons, etc. This is one reason he has to have his own business, so he can be home to teach the children and do all this other stuff.

    How in the world is a man supposed to do all that? Further, if he is so stressed out trying to be financially successful and teach his kids everything, will he ever have time to make his wife feel valued? Will he ever have time to help with the dishes or bathe the baby or just sit and talk to her and really hear her out on whatever she needs to talk about??

    I'm not expressing this very well. But I do wonder how in the world a man is supposed to do it all?

  20. "I'm not expressing this very well. But I do wonder how in the world a man is supposed to do it all?"
    You did express it well. :) That is an excellent point, and something that I have wondered as well. Since I work part-time (self-employed, but still, I'm working) I am all too aware of the fact that in the eyes of patriarchy my husband is a "poor provider" (so says Jennie Chancey on VF's website). Yet I'd rather help bear the "burden" of work (maybe that's what being a helpmeet means) because what's the alternative... having my husband working a second job (oh and did I mention he's a full-time student as well!) and never have time to be home with me and the kids. That is the problem with patriarchy, this have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too attitude. The husband has to be the sole provider, but also should be present in the home. What happens when those two ideas conflict?

  21. Steve...I particularly liked this line...

    "Men are given so much authority and responsibility that they are set up to fail, and fail miserably."

    This describes my former future father-in-law to a tee. He was/is an unstable man, a poor leader, with low self-esteem and a lot of mental and emotional baggage from some difficult past experiences, and even though the only qualification he had for being a "patriarch" was the Y chromosome and some children, he tried in vain to live up to the movement's idea of what he was supposed to be. Everyone around him ended up the lesser for it, with a wide debris field of irrational and damaging decisions made that diminished everyone...not just him.

    In that dynamic, there's absolutely no question that patriarchy/patriocentricity is very much a formula and a recipe...but not every man's a chef - and there's no room for that contingency.


    I'm enjoying the discussion in this thread, guys. Good stuff.

  22. Christi- it seems like such an inconsistency with VF people, doesn't it? They think it's okay for a wife to have a home business as long as the husband okays it and then Jennie Chancey says that the husband is a poor provider if a wife is helping to bear the burden.

    Their inconsistencies are at least consistent. *ugh*

  23. Agreed. Men do get a rotten deal. Fathers' relationships with their daughters are wreaked when things don't turn out as planned. Everything's a competition: writing the most books, gaining the most followers, having the most kids. With that kind of stress, it's no wonder there's abuse in many families.

    I know a few young men who'd like to marry, but feel that they must be financially prepared to levels unrealistic for where they are early on in their lives/careers. Why? Because they were fed the idea that they must be successful (with their own businesses) before marriage. And they're expected to take on a family immediately since everyone's in competition with each other to see who can start procreating the fastest.

    Men also get a raw deal because either the woman or her father (or both) control the courtship/betrothal process. It's no wonder they keep marrying "outside." Approaching a woman casually is dangerous. She'll be insulted that he doesn't instinctively know her/her father's particular 12-step courtship method. And after jumping through more fiery hoops than a circus performer, he can be rejected (and probably will) at any time. Whenever I hear a groom talk about his important role as an image of Christ, I stifle a laugh. He's right where he is only because he followed the bride's rules. Please tell me where in the Bible it says that Jesus asked the Church's father's permission.

  24. Christi Rose said: "Yet I'd rather help bear the "burden" of work (maybe that's what being a helpmeet means)"

    Christi Rose, I think you are spot on.

    This word, "helpmeet," is a hot button of mine. There is no such noun. It comes from (I think) the KJV where the verse reads "a help, meet for him." Meet meaning suitable. To really unpack this "helpmeet" thing, the original Hebrew sheds a lot of light. Author Carolyn Custis James does a wonderful job of this in one of her books. The original Hebrew phrase is "ezer kenegdo" and it means a help corresponding to/alongside/facing him. But the word "ezer" is loaded - and of the 22 times it is used in the OT, 21 of those times it refers to God as our ezer. It connotes not only help, but succor, ally, rescuer. And that's what Eve was to Adam - she rescued him from his aloneness, for starters. An ezer is not under her husband like a junior assistant; she is his ally and partner alongside him; according to Genesis 1:26, they have dominion TOGETHER and rule over the earth TOGETHER. I have never ever understood how female subordinationists can get hierarchy out of that foundational bible passage.

  25. Every good man I know who has been forced into this paradigm has failed and checked out, gone passive, or otherwise tried to numb their failures with addictions. It saddens me to see so many otherwise good men...fathers, husbands...walking around with empty eyes in a soul-less shell of a body, either bearing a burden too heavy for them or having completely given up. I watched my own father do exactly this.

    Sometimes, when reading VF's stuff, I'll think "my husband would never go for this!" And instead of feeling discontent in his "lack of" abilities or character, I am grateful. Because their visions of "the perfect Godly family" aren't anything that could draw him in or seduce him into playing a part that neither of us would be very good at. I know his strengths and weaknesses enough to know that their way of life would eat his soul til there was nothing left.

    Yes, the system known as Biblical Patriarchy is damaging to women. But it is just as damaging to men. What shall it profit these men if they gain the whole world while losing their souls? And the souls of their wives and children?

  26. This article and the comments are amazing...I continue to hear from others talking about the effects of patriarchy on men, and I am praying that God will call The Right Someone to write a book about / for sons and husbands affected by neopatriarchalism. Please keep up this discussion ~ it is so important.

  27. This discussion is wonderful! Many good insights.

  28. "Failing to get a match can also result in a reaffirming of one's doctrinal smugness. "See? The state of the church today is so bad we can't find a match for Suzie. WE really ARE the chosen few!" "

    exactly what my father thought... although like Steve said in another comment, it was built up to me as if *i* was worth soooo much that they were all just below me, no one would ever live up to what i am, etc... so much pride that is now difficult to overcome despite its falsehood.

  29. I agree with Light on "help meet." God brought the animals to the man to show him that there was no "face-to-face-strong-aid" to be found there. Then He gave the woman to the man as his "face-to-face strong aid," so that they could rule the creatures together, so he wouldn't be alone. When the man began to "rule over" the woman, he was, in effect, reducing her to the status of the other creatures-- which rendered him "alone" all over again.

    It is not good for the man to be alone! And yet every man who rules his wife, is exactly that-- alone and without his strong aid, because she's under his feet instead of face-to-face with him.

    It's lonely at the top. And it's something God never intended.

  30. After reading Hilary's blog on the rain and our image of self/condemnation [patri leaning] or Grace,

    and thinking on many things, I thought I'd go ahead and post this video,

    Lewis, though this song is really meant to women, you know from what I've read of your experience, and what 'little' I know about the harms done to men in ancient polygamous type of societies where one man had numerous wives and only One son would be chosen, I know in Ottoman Empire all sons not chosen were killed off, one by one, and we don't often Look at that side of patriarchal misogyny, it's effects on MEN, and the measurements used against men who are not of the 'ruling or elite' class, so in a way these courtship measurements and judgments of control used on women are also used on men, possible suitors, etc.,

    and well anyway, What kind of message does that send to those effected Spiritually?

    So I think this song will relay to both men and women, According to You, you is the patriarch/harsh, and Him can represent Jesus,

    was looking at videos to use on my blog I stumbled on this one...and it well, just fits with a Lot being discussed here,

    and for women wounded [and men too] the words speak, but hang onto how the 'according to Him' in the song, feels about the woman singing, because that is how God sees/feels about all of us.



  31. Kristen said: "God brought the animals to the man to show him that there was no "face-to-face-strong-aid" to be found there. Then He gave the woman to the man as his "face-to-face strong aid," so that they could rule the creatures together, so he wouldn't be alone. When the man began to "rule over" the woman, he was, in effect, reducing her to the status of the other creatures-- which rendered him "alone" all over again.

    It is not good for the man to be alone! And yet every man who rules his wife, is exactly that-- alone and without his strong aid, because she's under his feet instead of face-to-face with him.

    It's lonely at the top. And it's something God never intended."

    I thought this bears repeating. The problem is, those who insist husband authority is God's decree, have no clue about the depth of relationship they are missing. They seem to have no idea that a wife who is kept under her husband's feet is keeping so much of herself from her husband. Although she follows her prescribed role, when she learns that sharing of herself isn't safe, she stops sharing the real her, either on purpose or through the killing off of her real self that is required by her role. The men, then, become so used to being lonely they apparently associate loneliness with the power of manhood and manliness. It is sad. The wife often knows she hurts, but if the husband hurts, he blames it on the wife. He may become more sexually demanding to attempt to fill the void, he may become more controlling and abusive, or he may detatch from his wife and find more stuff to do away from her and their children. Or as someone already mentioned, he may become passive.