I believe in Betrothal, almighty maker of marriage on earth, and in Christian Courtship, its only begotten structure, which was conceived by the holy dating, born of the virgin Harris, suffered under zealous proponents-
Okay, I’m done! You don’t have to burn me as a heretic! Please accept the above pseudo-creed as my tongue-in-cheek introduction to the social methods that shape our modern American Christian pursuit of matrimony. My apologies also to Mr. Harris for invoking his name in my heretical hyperbole.
Since this blog is about the pursuit of romance as an American Christian, I felt I shouldn’t put off this post any longer. See, you can’t really understand Christian matrimonial subculture without understanding the social methods that are touted for the pursuit of matrimony. Many posts to come will be about various aspects of these methods, so I figured it would be appropriate to introduce them now. And I promise I’ll share some thoughts on what it means for you personally!
Betrothal is without doubt the oldest social methodology of the three. Its history literally spans millennia. It was the primary means by which marriages were formed in Bible times. Betrothal is where a man and woman pledge themselves to be married, often without any romantic relationship existing between them. The pledge is often considered as unbreakable as a marriage vow, unlike an engagement which can be called off. Betrothal was typical in ancient cultures when securing a spouse was essential while liking him or her was often an afterthought. The concept of romantic matrimony didn’t develop until much later in history. Betrothal isn’t very popular in America today, with our romantically oriented American culture, but a few American Christians still practice and promote it. Betrothal is more prevalent in other modern cultures that don’t have such a heavy emphasis on romantic matrimony (e.g. India).
Next in history came dating, which developed after the turn of the 20th century. As modern technology made travel and out-of-home entertainment more accessible, men and women began to pursue romance by spending time together outside the home. Dating remained relatively upright through the 1950’s, but the social and sexual revolutions of the sixties harnessed dating as a vehicle for all kinds of sexual looseness and self-serving relationships. The degradation of dating and marriage that occurred in the wake of the sixties prompted many Christians to turn a critical eye toward dating and desire a more moral and constructive matrimonial mechanism. This desire gave birth to…
Christian Courtship is the baby of the family, having been around since the early nineties. It’s often referred to as just “courtship.” However, if you look up “courtship” in the dictionary it will give some general definition along the lines of “behavior between two individuals leading to a romantic relationship or marriage.” Dating thus can be said to involve courtship. What we’re really talking about is the modern social phenomenon within Christian culture. I specify this by saying Christian Courtship or by just capitalizing Courtship. Courtship seeks romance before commitment to marriage and can be called off, similar to dating, but Courtship has significant differences from dating. Main differences include asking the woman’s father for permission to Court her, developing a solid friendship before beginning the Courtship, beginning the relationship with the express purpose of determining whether the couple will marry, and maintaining the Courtship within the context of home and church community.
God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit exist together in perfect unity. Betrothal, Dating, and Courtship do not. For years, Christians have been bickering over which social method is most biblical, most godly, most wise, and most effective for producing wholesome marriages. The proponents of Betrothal and Courtship often promote their ideologies with evangelistic fervor, while many other Christians doggedly maintain that dating really is the most sound social method for our modern culture when used righteously and wisely. Meanwhile, the conflicting messages coming from these ideologies mingle in our Christian subculture and directly contribute to the confusion, uncertainty, and downright awkwardness that often mark our Christian pursuit of matrimony.
“This is all wonderfully informative, Justin, but how does this apply to me personally?”
Yes, viva la pragmatism! There are a few applications. First, know that there are multiple options for pursuing romance and matrimony. If you’ve grown up or lived thinking that only one good option is available for building your love life, expand your perspective. You don’t have to stick with a method that’s not working for you. All three methods have been used by many people to build wonderful marriages. Second, know that all three methods have their proponents and detractors. For anyone who wants to stand up and proclaim that their pet methodology is best, you can find ten people willing to state otherwise. If you’ve been taught that one particular method is best, don’t be quick to believe everything you hear. Third, if you’ve lived within Christian culture for any significant length of time then you probably have beliefs, whether conscious or subconscious, about what is best for pursuing matrimony. Give yourself an opportunity to test whether those held beliefs are sound. Many people, including myself, have started with one belief only to find weaknesses in it later.
What do you think? What experiences have you had with these three methods? What lessons have you learned that you would share with others? How do you feel about our Christian matrimony subculture? Please add your thoughts in the comments section!
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