Monday, August 2, 2010

IKDG Part 3: A Couple of Oxymorons, part I (p. 21-27)

In the next section of “I Kissed Dating Goodbye,” Joshua Harris introduces two concepts which prove foundational to the rest of the book: “Smart love” and “emotional purity” [although he doesn’t use the actual term “emotional purity” in this section, this is the term most often used to refer to JH’s concept of “purity and blamelessness in our motives, our minds, and our emotions” (25)]. It’s my opinion that these two phrases are oxymorons, or self-contradictory statements (such as “pretty ugly” or “an honest lawyer” [jk!]).

Anyways. JH says that, “To truly love someone with smart love, we need to use our heads as well as our hearts” (22). He goes to say that one way smart love can be applied specifically is coming to the realization that “I have no business asking for a girl’s heart and affections if I’m not ready to back up my request with a lifelong commitment” or, more succinctly, “Waiting until I’m ready for commitment before pursuing romance” (23). He gives a few more examples, such as when he “stopped viewing girls as potential girlfriends and started treating them as sisters in Christ” and when he “stopped worrying about who I was going to marry and began to trust God’s timing” (24).

(And just a note. If you hear anyone use the phrase “God’s timing” in regard to relationships, then run. Just run.)

So. What is contradictory about this “smart love” concept? Well, if you look at the examples thereof that JH gives, while some of them are IMO legitimate, like the not sleeping with your girlfriend one (22), a lot of them have at their core the assumption that “love” involves protecting one’s emotions from being hurt or strained, at all cost and above all other considerations. JH evidently believes that ensuring that one lives life in a safe, protected, risk-free emotional bubble should be the goal of every Christian and is the epitome of the abundant life that Jesus came to give us. And here’s the funniest part: he believes that through the courtship system, such a thing is actually possible.

I think “smart love” is an oxymoron because such a thing (true love that loves only as much as it is safe to love) simply cannot exist. I know this verse gets quoted a lot, but think about what it’s really saying in regard to the nature of love:

“If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge…but do not have love, I am nothing…[love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (I Corinthians 13:2, 7).

Now. Obviously, if a spouse or boyfriend is abusive to you, you NEED to get out of that situation and not stay in the abuse because it seems like the “loving” thing to do. If your relationship situation involves any sort of abuse, you should get out. But what I and presumably JH also is talking about here is a normal, non-abusive relationship. And I just can’t reconcile the idea of love “believing all things” with the idea that true love means emotional self-protection at all cost.

As much as JH wishes to distinguish himself from American culture, I think one of the key motivations behind his relationship philosophy is in fact a very basic American cultural trait: the tendency to “worship safety” or to believe that safety is the primary goal of life and that it is actually possible to ensure one’s safety at all times (which, of course, it isn’t, because we do not “command the morning” etc. and no one knows what will really happen to them at any given time.)

When I went on this missions trip this summer, we had to read a book called “Crazy Love” by Francis Chan. This book challenged so many of my assumptions about the Christian life, and I felt like one part of it particularly applied to courtship:

“We are consumed by safety. Obsessed with it, actually…I am questioning how we’ve made safety our highest priority. We’ve elevated safety to the neglect of whatever God’s best is, whatever would bring God the most glory, and whatever would accomplish His purposes in our lives and in the world…People who are obsessed with Jesus aren’t consumed with their personal safety and comfort above all else” (133).

Now should you deliberately run out there and put yourself in a relationship you know will fail, just to make a point? Um, no. What I’m trying to say here is that an approach to relationships (which shapes a heck of a lot of stuff about your life) that is based on a fundamental error (the idea that safety is God’s priority and that it’s even possible to attain it) will obviously end up with some erroneous practices.

Now here’s the real shocker. Suppose you disagree with all of the above. Suppose you believe that emotional safety and “smart love” really is the ultimate goal of Christian living. Well, guess what: even if you follow the strictest courtship practices and jump through all the correct hoops, there is absolutely no guarantee that this approach to life will prevent you from experiencing emotional, relationship-related pain. Take me, for instance. All my life I’ve been incredibly sheltered from guys, from knowledge about guys, and from a chance to dress stylishly and attractively. No guy has ever dated me prematurely and broken my heart, but I’ve sure as heck experienced a TON of loneliness, feelings of unworthiness, insecurity, and even fear (because as much as we’d like not too, we all fear the unknown). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a romantic movie or a real-life couple in love, and experienced pangs of intense sadness because I’ve never been able to experience that and fear that I may never get to. At times I’ve even questioned my basic identity as a woman because I’ve had to ask myself what is wrong with me, because guys have never seemed attracted to me.

If that doesn’t convince you, consider this: a very close friend of mine was “courted” by this guy for several years. Of course I don’t know all the juicy details but as far as I know, they did everything “right”: spent time at each other’s family’s houses, asked parental permission first, didn’t kiss, etc. They even got officially engaged and were planning the wedding, when, guess what. They ended up breaking the engagement off. Using courtship practices to define their relationship did not give them one bit of protection from the emotional pain they experienced with this break-up. In fact, I would suggest that in some ways, courtship sets a couple up for INCREASED emotional pain if they ever break up, because when you “court-someone-with-the-intention-of-marriage” you practically guarantee the other person that this relationship will end in marriage down the road. Whereas with a dating relationship, you of course don’t want to be aimless and directionless, but there’s not this like official promise that you will marry the other person one day, and so if you decide you need to get out of the relationship, it’s not as traumatizing.

Wow, this post is getting long. I will save the second oxymoron for next time. I’ll close with this quote by C.S. Lewis (again, this gets quoted a lot, but I think it really applies to the irony of “smart love”, and anyways, how can you say no to a little C.S. Lewis?) :)

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable” (C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves).


Monday, July 26, 2010

Hey I'm Back!

Hello All!

I am back from my trip, which was AWESOME, and ready to dive back into the dicussion of "I Kissed Dating Goodbye"...and maybe more good stuffs after that! So yeah! :)


Monday, June 7, 2010

Sadness :(

So I regret to say that I will not be able to post here for a while since I am going on a trip! Of course, I'm super-excited about the trip, but I hate to break off from the discussion just when I was really getting into it :( At any rate, if you all will be kind enough to return in late July I shall be back then as well! Thank you all so much for your comments, they were very much appreciated!


IKDG Part 2: Definitively Dating (p. 18-21)

In this section, JH shares a bit of his personal testimony of how he got burned out and discouraged with short-term teenage dating relationships. I have to agree with him that in some of the stories he shares here, the people were acting rather immature (like the girl who dumped her boyfriend and kissed JH literally the next minute). And I can understand how JH would feel fed up with all that.

However, this section is where one of the biggest flaws with his argument arises. JH shares these few examples of his own negative experiences with "dating," and goes on to talk about all the problems with "dating." However, he never sits down and says exactly what dating is. So without being given a clear definition, we're left to believe that these immature junior-high relationships are the only kind of "dating" that there is.

Check out this other blog post on "I Kissed Dating Goodbye: Wisdom or Foolishness?"

This post describes various types of dating and how "it is quite possible for a couple to be involved in any of the above scenarios and do it in the purity that God commands us to." I'm sorry that JH had only negative experiences in his dating life. But it's not fair of him to assume that everyone's experiences are going to be like his. And his vague definition of "dating" (short-term, physical-based, immature teenage relationships) is NOT a complete or accurate definition of the term!

You know what I think is really going on here? JH says "I felt discouraged, confused, and desperate for an alternative to the cycle of short-term relationships in which I found myself. 'God,' I cried, 'I want your best for my life! Give me something better than this!' " (21). I think JH was experiencing a syndrome I have noticed a LOT in the conservative Christian community. They look around at our culture (or their ill-conceived ideas of it), see the whole world as going down the tubes, and desperately wish to distinguish themselves from "all that." Therefore, you get these over-the-top situations like familes who, instead of simply just skipping the R-rated sex comedies, buying TVGuardian, or fast-forwarding the "bad parts," go overboard with their media pickiness and can't even enjoy a totally fun and entertaining movie like Indiana Jones because they feel "disturbed" by the idea of Indy having multiple girlfriends. Or parents who don't want their daughters to look immodest or provocative in their personal appearance, and so forbid them from wearing makeup or dying or straightening their hair, and dress them up in unflattering, ill-fitting outfits that were out of style 80 years ago. (See my post, "Butterflies," for more about this.)

Now, to some people, this approach to life may seem right and good. But I've seen this "throw out the good with the bad" method create a lot of problems for people, especially in the area of dating. Allow me to illustrate with a personal tale: the tale of the closest I ever came to having a "date."

About 3 years ago, some people I know started a Bible club thing on Sunday afternoons for kids in a largely Hispanic, lower-income trailer park. I am a Spanish major and was really interested in using the language, and had done things with these people in the past, so a friend and I eagerly jumped on the bandwagon and began helping with the club. Now, one of the people who helped start the club was actually someone that I had not met before, and was this guy about a year younger than me whom we shall refer to as Adam (that's not his real name, but deal with it.) Anyways, Adam turned out to be this super-nice Christian guy who had a lot of similar interests as I did--he had been going to Guatemala every summer for several years (I think his uncle was a missionary there or something) and doing missionary stuff down there, he spoke Spanish fluently, was great with kids, etc. Now, (and this is not one of those romantic denial things, but the truth) despite the mutual interests and all, I geniunely did not feel any sort of romantic interest in Adam. Maybe it was because he dressed like solely in camo, and there ain't a thing wrong with camo, but I've always favored the more jeans/hoodie/Star Wars T-shirt type myself. And yay for being shallow. But. Anyway. I would have loved to know Adam better as a friend, because of the Spanish and stuff, and because he was just an all-around nice person, easy to talk to, etc.

Well. Like I said, he helped start the club, but wasn't able to attend consistently because he lived pretty far away from town and was involved with a lot of other church stuff. But he would still show up from time to time and help out, and we were friends on Facebook. One day we happened to both be on FB and were talking via FB chat. He asked if I had any exciting plans for the summer, and I said that I was going to Guatemala on a short-term missions trip, because I was at the time (this was last summer). Well like I said he had been to Guatemala a ton so we were talking about it and stuff, and then FB chat decided to be...well...FB chat, and malfunction. So we switched to FB email to finish the conversation. Via email we talked a bit more about the trip and then he closed by saying, "If you ever want to grab a coffee and talk more about Guatemala, that would be fun" or something to that effect.

OK, freak mode! What was I going to do with that? Well, obviously, I couldn't say "yes," or my parents would absolutely freak out and think this was a "date," and want to meet him and have him talk to my dad, etc. (Actually they would probably have said a flat-out NO, or suggested something stupid like inviting him over for family dinner or something.) But on the other hand, I couldn't say "no," because I would have to explain WHY I said no, and I couldn't do that without introducing into the conversation the idea that said coffee-getting was a "date." Now like I said I did not like this guy in the "like-like" sense, and I honestly do not think he made the offer with any sort of romantic or relationship intent in mind. So not only would it have been very presumptious of me and unfair to him to introduce this "date" element that he did not bring up, it would also have been really, really awkward. I mean, imagine it. "Hey, Adam, my dad wants to meet and interrogate you, and how are your finances right now? And while you're at it, I like crimson and rose for wedding colors." When all he had done was offer to grab a coffee together!

(And just to clarify. I live at home with my parents, and they are very aware of everywhere. I. Go. So if I had gone away to college or lived with a roommate or something, I'm sure I could have gone for coffee without any problems. But, that is not possible in my current situation.)

So, what did I do? I'm ashamed to admit that I did nothing. I couldn't see any way out of the situation without causing a major problem, so I just never replied to his email. I was hoping that since Chat had been malfunctioning so much a few minutes ago, he would assume that the email had malfunctioned and I had just never gotten his email. And nothing ever happened, so maybe he did assume that, and then forgot about the offer. Do I think this was a good choice? No. But it seemed the only option possible at the time.

I still feel sad about this. If we had been able to meet for coffee, it would have been a great opportunity to learn more about the culture of the country I was going to, since he knew so much about it. We could even have practiced speaking in Spanish. And it might have been the beginning of a very nice friendship. And who knows, if we had been able to spend more time together as friends, not to flatter myself but maybe we would have discovered that we DID like each other, and I might be a much happier person than I am now. (Of course, I probably wouldn't be writing on this blog. But. You know.) And if my parents had been less of the "omg they're meeting for coffee to have an imformative chat about a mutual interest, therefore it's a DATE, and that's BAD, because they are committing themselves emotionally and she's leading him on, and they're probably going to start having sex in the middle of Starbucks" mentality, all of that would have been possible.

But, no, alas.

This is why I think one's definition of "dating" is crucial. Especially if they are going to "kiss it goodbye." We don't have to define "dating" the way JH does--immature, young teenagers coupling up sexually, based on good looks & popularity, with no sense of responsibility or thoughts for the future. We were 2 college-aged adults who had a lot of things in common and could have had a perfectly innocent coffee & conversation. That wasn't a date, or a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship. And even if it had been a "date," I don't think there would have been anything bad about it.

(As a side note, what is WITH Josh Harris's apparent advice to 100% break off a relationship the minute troubles arise or sin issues crop up? This is something I saw popping up again and again in IKDG. Does he think that with Mr. or Miss Right, you would never experience any temptations or difficulties?)


Sunday, June 6, 2010

IKDG Part I: I Dreamed a Dream (p. 17-18)

Well, here we go! The first bit of my "series", "Alternate Realities: A Personal Response to Joshua Harris's I Kissed Dating Goodbye."

The book begins with the story of a dream, had by Anna, one of Josh Harris's many elusive friends. In the dream, Anna is getting married to this guy David, but, alas and alack, six other girls show up and stand next to David for the wedding ceremony. David informs Anna that they are "girls from [his] past" to each of whom he has "given part of [his] heart" in dating relationships. The dream concludes with David telling the languishing Anna, "Everything that's left is yours."

Now, there is probably no more interesting way to start a book than by telling a dream. Because, who doesn't like to talk about dreams? I have often found that a dream-telling session is practically a no-fail conversation creator when you're running out of things to talk to someone about. One of my favorite dreams to tell is when I dreamed that I accidentally got involved in the plot of this evil spy dude (he stumbled into my apartment by mistake because he thought it was where he was supposed to meet someone). We actually ended up falling in love, even though he was evil. But he had curly hair. So what did you expect me to do?

Anyway. As fun as dreams are, I'm not sure that it's very accurate to take a dream and extrapolate it to apply to real life as JH does in the first chapter of IKDG. Because dreams AREN'T reality. Even the least nightmarish dream has something bizarre and odd about it. I've no doubt that the dream!Anna was very sad about the six dream!girls who showed up with the dream!David, but that honestly has no correlation to the real!Anna or anyone else real.

Because, the dream makes it sound like "giving your heart away" to someone that you don't marry is unfair and cruel to the person that you eventually do marry. Of course, I believe that it's wrong to have sex before marriage, but "giving your heart away" is NOT the same as sex. I've noticed this confusion among many in the pro-courtship crowd. It's like they assume that your feelings and emotions are something you can package up neatly on a shelf and take down and unpack at will. But in real life, emotions are messy and complicated. Sometimes you feel something even though you really, really don't want to. Sometimes you feel something even if you believe it's wrong. Sometimes you feel something and don't even know that you feel it. I'm sure that some people would sleep better at night if they could tell their spouse 100% truly "I've never loved anyone in the world but you," but that is simply an unrealistic, and certainly an unbiblical, expectation.

I remember in the Mahaney's book "Girl Talk," which my mom once went through with me as a study, Carolyn Mahaney would have her daughters come to her periodically during their adolescence and "confess" to her which boys they had a crush on. In addition to being extremely invasive and embarrassing, this system makes no sense to me because the way we feel about people is simply not that simple!

Anyway, the point. JH is wrong to blame "David" for having attatchments to other girls before marrying Anna. People have crushes. People experience attraction. And people get in relationships, realize they're making a mistake, get out of the relationship, and start over again. (In fact, I know someone who was engaged and the engagement ended up getting broken off. And they were a courting couple!) And, if anyone here is nerdy enough, I'm sure we could hear some stories of "giving our hearts away" to a book or movie character. (hee...) And all of this is not equivalant to fornication or adultery. Believing that it is makes people awkward and repressed, afraid to even talk extensively to the opposite sex because that might be too much of an investment if they don't end up marrying that person. But how can you know that someone would be a good marriage partner if you don't invest in them prior to walking down the aisle?


Saturday, June 5, 2010

IKDG: Initial Impressions

So I just finished reading the infamous I Kissed Dating Goodbye. I was actually very surprised--he never once in the book used the word "courtship"! I wonder who was the first author/speaker/pastor to attatch the word "courtship" to the principles and methodology advocated by JH in this book.

Also, he looooooves numbered lists. Just thought I'd mention that.

And to be fair, this book in and of itself is NOT as bad as the things that people have done with it are. It would have been totally possible to read this book and come away with an approach to relationships that, while still fundamentally problematic, is far less extreme that the approach you usually see among IKDG fans. Which begs the question, has anything been done to address these excesses? I can't find much evidence of it. I think this book desperately needs a new edition with updated examples (for instance, he talks about letter writing with that one girl he met at camp. How would such a situation differ today with e-mail, Facebook, etc.?) and that also addresses the problems that result from kissing dating goodbye, especially in the extremist courtship form. Because, if people want to refrain from dating, that is their personal choice. But they need to be aware that non-dating will NOT make them immune to emotional pain, immaturity, temptation, and (gasp) it might even make them miss out on God's timing for their lives. And don't I know it.

Anyways. More detail to come!


Friday, June 4, 2010

Coming Soon!!!

Dear readers, I now wish to announce to you my goal for another "series" on this blog: a personal discussion of/response to Joshua Harris's book I Kissed Dating Goodbye. But first I have a confession to make. Although I've read bits & pieces of this book in the past and am very familiar with its general concepts & effects, I don't think I've ever actually sat down and read the entire thing! *runs away and hides* So I've started reading through it, and I really want to start a series of posts looking at this book in depth, evaluating JH's ideas and sharing the (a clue: negative) effects that these ideas have had in my family and community.

Obviously, IKDG has been around for a while (because at one point he talks about VCRs! Gosh!) and while it is not the only anti-dating book out there, has certainly been very influential in setting the whole courtship trend. So I've dug out our family's copy, which has random parts underlined in pencil by an unknown entity which I thought was maybe my mom, until I came across a comment written in the margin which was in a handwriting I did not recognize AT ALL. Weird. But anyway. When I finish reading the entire thing (it's a pretty quick read though) I shall be posting about almost everything in it! Smart love, the gift of singleness, the shopping cart of doom, it's all happening, right here!

I've been partially inspired in this effort by this blog: I hope this guy won't mind if I quote him a little bit (cited, of course)--his basic point is that some of what JH says in IKDG can be helpful for younger teenagers, but that when the book is applied to older singles it causes a lot of problems. Which I would totally agree with.

I haven't decided yet whether to just go through the book chapter by chapter, or go for more of a topical approach. I'm sort of leaning towards the former at this point.

So I think that's everything about it, except for one small yet crucial detail. I'm leaving very shortly on a short- (actually kind of long-) term missions trip, and I probably won't have much time to work on this while I'm there. However, I'll be back in late July, and hopefully ready to jump right into it! (My goal is to get the first installment or two up before I leave though.) So, pray do not abandon this blog--it is merely a temporary delay. And please feel free to share your opinions, critiques, testimonies, etc. I am actually super-excited about doing this!

Oh, and the name of the series will be: "Alternate Realities: A Response to Joshua's Harris's I Kissed Dating Goodbye."

Long titles ftw!