Courtship, Part 1, Part 2, Part 4.
And now for Parental Authority.
To which I want to begin by saying that I have nothing particular against the way our parents handled our courtship. They did their best to step back. They didn't meddle. They didn't pursue their own agenda. There are many courtship horror stories out there of parents who got highly aggrandized notions of their own importance, but ours is not one of them.
The problem I have is not with our parents in particular, but with the notion of parental authority in courtship in general.
I do believe in *children* obeying their parents. I believe in honoring parents all your life.
I don't believe this gives parents the right to make decisions for their adult children.
The irony was, my parents did an outstanding job at raising us to be adults. To go out and make wise decisions for ourselves. To ask their advice and weigh it but not need our hands held. Except that we all believed courtship was the right way to go.
I was twenty-three years old. I had a professional degree and was licensed to practice law in two states. I could drive a car, run for office, buy, sell, travel . . . anything. Anything except make the most important decision of my life. That one had to be taken out of my hands. According to courtship, the only way for me to please God and have a good marriage was to turn that choice over to my parents. And so, after functioning as an adult for years, I returned to childhood at the most critical juncture.
Courtship advocates will claim that there is no overstepping of authority because the girl always has the right to say "no." But the right to say "no" is meaningless if you don't also have the right to say "yes." They will also point to the many women who have blundered badly in choosing a partner. However, courtship has been around for long enough now to establish it is not a fail-safe means of guaranteeing the lifelong good character of a spouse, either. And I strongly suspect that teaching girls that they can't trust their own insights is not going to help weed out the bad guys.
Anyway, no harm, no foul, right? My parents did approve DOB (eventually) and we were able to go ahead and get married and all that. But, either enforced or just expected, the courtship rules loomed over us. With a nice, laid-out procedure to follow, with parents to please and expectations to meet, there was no need for us to talk about how *we* wanted to do things.
I don't know which of these rules were good and which were bad. I doubt it would have made a lick of difference if we had kissed each other before the wedding. But I'm sure it would have made a difference in our marriage if we had thought we had some responsibility to decide that for ourselves. It took us years of marriage to actually start talking about and making life decisions together, and looking back now, I think courtship contributed to that unhealthy pattern. It taught me to be passive. It taught me that my opinion did not matter. Que sera, sera.
Further, the point of getting married is supposed to be leaving your old families and starting a new one. But by its nature, courtship is intensely family-centered. Leaving a close-knit family and being flexible enough to try new things and establish a new family is hard under any circumstances. Under courtship, it's practically impossible. Loyalty to the old families is paramount; the new relationship is secondary. (This is why "compatibility" looms huge in courtship. If both families don't already agree on practically everything, there's not even a chance of a successful courtship.)
I am all in favor of people listening to the counsel of their elders, particularly their parents. If your parents really can't stand the person you want to marry, you should probably think long and hard about why. But that is very different from telling parents they have the duty to approve or disapprove, and telling young people they have no final say over their own lives.