Thursday, May 24, 2012

Goin' Courtin'

Courtship used to be a generic term for mating rituals, whether of singing backwoodsmen or strange tropical birds. Somewhere about two decades ago, certain segments of conservative American Christendom decided to appropriate this term for a new (yet traditional!) method of approaching marriage in a particular way that would be holier than, more successful than, and above all, not the same as dating.

Dating was bad because it was associated with immorality, divorce, rebellion, and wasted youth. Unfortunately, it was not nearly so easy to define what would be occurring instead. Books were written, seminars were held, pledges were signed, but everybody was signing up for different things, which resulted in a great deal of confusion when they tried to actually get together.

Still, two elements emerged as key for true "Biblical" courtship. (I forget how it was explained that something was Biblical when no one had heard about it until 1990.) There had to be parental approval and guidance of the process, and "emotional purity" was exalted to the level of physical purity, which was in turn exalted as far as it could go and still hope for a future human race.

Many people had many other details added on to this. (My favorite was the idea that courtship should consist of constructing a "compatibility chart" to determine the suitability of the potential partners. "Our charts indicate we are compatible--will you marry me?")

There was some good stuff in all this, of course. Promoting passionate romance among young teenagers is pretty silly. (Of course, so is treating them as perverts because they have natural desires, which was what the teaching of "emotional purity" often amounted to.) Having purpose. Consulting elders for wisdom. All good things.

But the structure of courtship went beyond providing some balance for the decadence (and by that I mean not excess of chocolate, but lack of a center, loss of purpose) of modern romance. It created a new structure that not only, like all human structures, had its own set of problems, but because it was promoted as "God's way" exacerbated whatever problems might arise.

And on that, more next time. And the time after that. And to conclude.


the Joneses said...


Amen. I laughed about the heights that physical purity reached. And I look forward to the next installment.

-- SJ

Litterairy said...

SJ, I actually got to read this before Tim did. We are winners! (He's actually rather busy this weekend, but I'm sure he'll find time to come by and drop a word or thirty.) Your Duchessness, I am enjoying reading your blog and I look forward to more posts on this topic.~Amanda

Diary of an Autodidact said...

I sense I am being laughed at here. I am enjoying this series, and await the sequel with bated breath.

Queen of Carrots said...

Welcome, Amanda!

Sara, I became certain things had gone too far when I heard a mother saying at her daughter's wedding, "Look at them, they're kissing like married people. I thought we did courtship to prevent that!" She was half joking, I think. But only half.

Diary of an Autodidact said...

I get the feeling there is a great deal of anxiety among our parents about their children actually, you know, having sex. Perhaps we should have aspired to cellular division as a means of grandchildren.

Carrie said...

Ok, I'm FINALLY catching up! (I had all your posts gathering in my Google Reader.) And I am amused as I move on to reading Part 2 . . .