“Biblical” men don’t date? (A face-palmer from the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood)

10681746-student-talking-to-female-teen-in-college-classNormally I don’t see much of a point in engaging fundamentalist Christian entities like the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood because I suspect they aren’t particularly relevant to my readership. But a recent post by JD Gunter from CBMW really struck a nerve with me because it so plainly contradicts my experience of dating as a young adult in a way that ironically encourages irresponsible, sinful behavior under the guise of taking yourself very seriously. The only thing missing from Gunter’s post describing why “Biblical” single men shouldn’t stay in un-serious dating relationships with women they aren’t planning to marry is any reference to scripture whatsoever.

Gunter decries the way that young adult and teen couples today seem have a preliminary phase in their relationships together that they call “talking” instead of “dating,” when they’re testing the waters out by spending time together and deciding whether or not to get serious:

This new phase of pre-dating called “talking” is like adolescence for relationships: an unnecessary stage in the relationship allowing young men to avoid taking responsibility and acting like men. It prevents the man from having to be clear about his intentions to pursue or end the relationship. If he wants to stop “talking,” he simply walks away, leaving behind a confused, and potentially wounded, young lady.

Notice the somber heroic language of “taking responsibility and acting like men.” When boys behave badly, it is often out of the need to prove that they are fully men. But according to Gunter, the following is the way to take responsibility and act like a man in how you date women:

First, you should ask girls out that you see as potential wives. Second, when you don’t see her as a potential wife any longer, explain yourself and then stop asking her out. Third, throughout the relationship be clear, upfront, and honest about your intentions.

I’m definitely in agreement about clear communication. But the reason I feel that his first two points are so egregiously wrong and dangerous is because most of the romantic disasters I got into before I met my wife were precisely because I presumed that every girl I dated was supposed to be my future wife. I guess I missed the memo on college “hookup culture,” partly because I was an uber-serious evangelical kid. Whenever I had premarital sex as a young adult, I justified it to myself on the basis of my serious intentions with whatever girl I was in the process of preparing to marry at the time, even if I had two or three potential future wives in the course of a single semester.

That’s why I think it’s a very bad idea to encourage teenagers and young adults who are dating to take themselves too seriously. I was serious with all the sincerity that a somewhat socially delayed evangelical college kid could muster. At every moment of my life, I had to have a potential future wife to pursue. My relationships with women were entirely utilitarianistic and oriented to this purpose. I couldn’t just hang out with women and get to know them. I didn’t know how to joke around or laugh at myself. My entire self-worth was determined by the status of my latest potential future wife project. It was so unhealthy.

I recognize that there are guys out there who play around and get lots of play from the women they play around with. In college and young adulthood, whenever I had to be the platonic BFF of the girls who got hurt by that, man, did I want to beat those guys up! But you can be young and not take yourself too seriously without being a player who behaves abusively towards women and breaks their hearts. That is, if you haven’t been indoctrinated with the ideology that women are an inferior species of human to either be protected or exploited sexually.

There are a lot of broken marriages that have recently emerged in the evangelical subculture as a result of people thinking they were supposed to marry the first person they ever kissed. So guys, please wait until after at least a few dates before you start thinking about the girl you’re “talking to” as a potential future wife. It will save you and her a lot of grief.

11 thoughts on ““Biblical” men don’t date? (A face-palmer from the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood)

  1. This sounds all so strange to me. I’m from Germany and we don’t have this dating culture here, well not too much, American TV is bringing it here, too over time.
    We don’t dat people we like, we “spend time” with them.
    I never understood this (careful, what I write now I know most of all from TV) dating where you meet with people you somehow might like and kiss or more just to see…
    I don’t know. For me kissing a girl (or even holdign hands) meant quite some kind of commitment. And all this while at the same time premaritial sex is not really considered a problem here, but rather normal. Of course there are also people who do it all just for the fun of it, and yes, many also get hurt… but I don’t know, we don’t have those stages like “talking” and “dating”… maybe things are just not so clear and thus there is more freedom. Either I’m going steady with someone when I go out, or we go out just as friends. There’s no middle ground between that and I never felt there should be. That’s why I never understood the concept of dating…

    • Yeah I never understood the concept either. I’m glad that I’m just married now and that phase of my life is done with.

  2. I agree with your critique–this evangelical culture of “all commitment, all the time” is imbalanced and unhealthy, and portraying it as the only alternative to being a “player” (which I tended to do as well) is a false dichotomy. But what do you see as an alternative to this culture, or a happy medium? You write that “you can be young and not take yourself too seriously without being a player who behaves abusively towards women and breaks their hearts.” Can you elaborate on this?

    • I think we have to create a positive culture where young people can be un-serious with one another without that meaning that they are doing serious things like becoming one flesh recklessly. As long as evangelical sexuality is tainted by the paranoia about protecting the white female body that is a legacy from segregationism, then we’re not creating healthy cultural space but simply reinforcing taboos that catalyze temptation.

  3. It seems like it is mostly making a big deal out of a difference in how people refer to dating anymore. For example there was a woman I went out with before I met my wife. We went out on one date, I’m pretty sure she thought I was a complete dork and we never went out again. If I were to pass her in town one day and someone asked me if we dated, I might say, “kind of, but we only really went out once” where as with someone else in the exact same situation if asked the same question they might answer, “not really, we only went out once”. The point being that at the beginning of a relationship (no matter what you want to call it) all you are really doing is getting to know each other. You might go into it looking for a wife, and realize that you can’t stand this person, or you might just be looking for someone to have fun with, and stumble upon your future wife. Who cares what you call it, just try not to be too much of a jerk in the meantime.

  4. I’m glad that you are upset and exasperated at this. In Young Life I remember that our group spent a few months covering “I Kissed Dating Goodbye,” which seems to promote the similar reductionist romantic dualism of “all partners must be pursued as a future spouse, or else the relationship is worthless.” As an evangelical teenager who thought deeply about God and was too shy, cynical, and self-hating to consider myself worthy of a relationship, the advice to take your romantic intentions super-seriously at all times was rather harmful and actually increased the negativity of my self-talk and lowered my self-esteem, while paradoxically puffing me up by letting me privately claim the high ground of having more “godly” romantic intentions than my peers, even though I was really using this bullshit piety as a way to mentally avoid confronting the real cognitive patterns that were harming my self-esteem and contributing to the inertia in my romantic life.

    In a word, I praise you for calling out this ridiculous advice that will encourage young men and teenagers to cloak their romantic lives in false piety and leave themselves full of puffed up spiritual pride, anxiety, and self-doubt. The sooner the evangelical world gives up the downright Satanic, Victorian legalistic ideals of “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” and similar ideologies, the better. Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy on those couples who were fanatically pushed into running that race only to find their marriages and relationships hollow and wanting.

  5. PS — I didn’t even know that such an organization as the CBMW existed. It sounds reminiscent of the controversial “Total Woman” propaganda that appeared in the 1970s.

  6. MG, I agree: Pressure toward dating as a “marital hunt” can be premature and can stifle cross-gender friendships. You wrote: “At every moment of my life, I had to have a potential future wife to pursue. My relationships with women were entirely utilitarianistic and oriented to this purpose. I couldn’t just hang out with women and get to know them. I didn’t know how to joke around or laugh at myself. My entire self-worth was determined by the status of my latest potential future wife project.”
    I suspect this has been the experience of many “serious” young lads raised in the evangelical community, whose self-esteem may have hung on finding “the right one” or just being lovable.

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