(This is a response to "Off the Rails," Gina Dalfonzo's recent entry.)
I am blessed. Having just asked the woman of my prayers to marry me, I'm experiencing what may well be the worst case of love-bug envenomation on record. But after reading Susan Olasky's recent duo of articles about Christian dating (1 & 2) in World, I'm also having a serious, cognitive-dissonance-induced headache.
Yes, I did it "the right way." I was the one who initiated my relationship with Gabriela. But just barely. I know many Christian guys, even the lucky ones who end up married before 30, who can relate. It's tough to work up enough courage (especially when faced with the I Kissed Dating Goodbye paradigm of only asking a woman out if you intend to marry her) to take that leap. It makes dating a very big deal, a commitment not unlike the world's idea of engagement. And so guys like me often choose to hold off.
There's no question that the ideas of Josh Harris and others have radically changed the rules of the game for many Christian singles. But was this a change for the worse? Should we revert to the technique which our culture espouses -- the shell game of zero-commitment recreational dating?
After the Israelites had spent a few days in the wilderness, they started complaining to Moses and asking to return to Egypt, the land of their quadricentennial slavery. But anyone who reads Exodus and has the larger perspective in mind recognizes the foolishness of such a request.
Valid comparison? Maybe, maybe not. But there are certainly a few snakes and scorpions (perhaps even a good-sized ocean in front of us) in the wilderness of Christian dating. That's to be expected. We're in unfamiliar territory. But in our earnestness to condemn and correct the flaws in this new paradigm, let's not forget the bondage from which we so recently escaped.
I will be the first to stand up and admit that modern conservative Christian "courtship" has major problems. Women who want to be asked out aren't getting asked out. And the church ought to make an honest effort to remedy this. But the fact is, young men and women also cannot often exercise the emotional restraint necessary to keep it "casual." I know. I am one. Like it or not, when two people begin a relationship, a powerful bond will form. Taking dating seriously not only prevents such bonds from forming under the wrong circumstances, but duly honors them in the right circumstances.
So, let's not give up just yet. It seems (at least to me), that the benefits of this new paradigm outweigh the disadvantages.
But then again, what do I know? I'm one of the lucky ones. Perhaps, though, I can persuade a few guys to follow into the sea instead of turning back toward Egypt.