Wednesday, September 7, 2016

All About Feelings for $500, Alex

Christians can have many opinions about the proper way to go about finding a spouse, about the proper "path to marriage," if you will. However, when a Christian begins to make claims about what the Bible says it is imperative such claims are backed with citations to Scripture. I recently read an internet posting in which a woman claimed that a certain practice needs to be repented of, and I managed to take offense at such a statement because I have engaged in that practice. Since she publicly made her objection, I shall publicly make my rebuttal. I shall respond to her objectionable statements one by one.

The Bible has a lot to say on this topic!
It teaches there is great wisdom in having *purpose* and being ready to marry before a single person begins to actively pursue a romantic relationship with another person.
She says the Bible has a lot to say on the subject of what she calls "pre-marriage relationships." As per the purpose of my blog post here I must ask, "Oh really? Where? What does the Bible have to say about pre-marriage relationships?" Is she talking about boyfriend/girlfriend relationships? Because the Bible doesn't mention them. If she is talking about those who are betrothed, the Bible likewise does not mention how such couples would interact, if at all.  Romantic relationships in Scripture are specifically restricted to those who are married. Romantic relationships outside of marriage are not mentioned at all, except within the context of extra-marital sexual contact, which is sin. The only possible exception is the Song of Solomon and the couple there are, at the very least, betrothed when speaking to each other in a romantic manner. I would refer my readers to my posts To Court or Not to Court, and Does Physical Contact Lead To Sex?  for my explanation on why romantic relationships outside of marriage are sinful.

My second objection is to her claim that the Bible talks about a single person having "*purpose* (sic) and being ready to marry" before pursuing a romantic relationship. She is clearly making a distinction between romantic relationships and marriage. Since I already covered that, I'll just deal with her claim that single people should have purpose and "be ready" to marry. What does that even mean? What makes a person ready to marry? What makes a person unready? The Bible gives no answers that I can find and if she wants to say the Bible DOES define these things, the burden is on her to show it. She doesn't even try. The entire quote above is just a lie. The Bible does not say what she claims it says, and no one is even questioning her on it! She just boldly makes the statements and gets a bunch of comments agreeing with her. It is just frightening what Christians will say and believe.

The Bible supports having the *parents* and families & more mature believers as involved as possible.
 Let's forget for a moment her use of the * in every paragraph, annoying as it is and address the content of her claim. The Bible does not support having a bunch of people involved in deciding whether a particular man and woman should marry. If it did, she could easily post her references. Instead, what do we see in the Bible? We see fathers deciding whether their son or daughter should marry and to whom they will be joined. In the case of Rebekah and Isaac, Rebekah's brother, Laban is also involved. Even in the New Testament we see Paul saying that the father of a virgin has the right to either give her in marriage or not. (1 Corinthians 7:36-38)  Here is the rub for her, SHE wants to be involved in the match-making of people who are not her own children. And in order to justify her meddling, she tells us that the Bible supports her meddlesome ways. She operates a facebook page where she acts like the matchmaker, Yenta, from Fiddler on the Roof, but she works directly with young men and women, rather than with their fathers. The Bible does not "support" this practice.

God's Word commands singles to *protect physical purity*. I think it wise to have boundaries and daily accountability to a parent or more mature Christian friend.
 Again with the *s. Anyway.....  God's Word says to all people, single and married, to "flee fornication." (1 Corinthians 6:18)  Daily accountability is not the same thing as simply fleeing or avoiding situations in which fornication could occur. As Douglas Wilson says in his book Her Hand In Marriage, "Don't heat up the oven if you aren't going to bake the bread." There is no way a person can be fleeing fornication while becoming physically affectionate with a person to whom he is not married. It is inappropriate outside of marriage. It isn't an issue of setting boundaries, unless those boundaries are the same as those that would apply between a single person and married person. For example, a single man should have no more physical contact with a single woman than he should with a married woman. Any woman who is not his wife is off limits to him. The Bible no more approves of unmarried people holding hands, kissing and hugging or petting than it does of oral sex. All sexual contact, from the least to the most intimate is approved for the married, but the Bible cannot be used to justify any contact that doesn't reach sexual intercourse for the unmarried. It just isn't in there.

To go against the God designed process of *REALLY* getting to know someone before marrying them.
 This is not a complete sentence, so it is difficult to understand her point here, but I object, quite adamantly, that God has designed a process for a man and woman to really get to know each other before marriage. God has NOT designed such a process, unless he revealed it to her personally. I will refer to one example in the Bible where God has shown us just the opposite, the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah. They got married before they knew each other AT ALL. They had never spoken to each other, and Isaac didn't even know who she was until she showed up at his tent. She is perfectly entitled to have the opinion that a man and woman should get to know one another before marriage, but she is NOT entitled to state that God prefers such a thing, requires such a thing or that He designed a process for such a thing. She is wrong. And it is a pretty frightening thing to be stating wrong things about God. Or it should be. 

It has also caused families to *hide* the fact that their single child is "getting to know someone" until it's certain that person is the one, for fear of shame. In addition to not being honest and open so others can learn how it *really* works, at the same time these hidden relationships perpetuate the false idea that people actually ARE marrying the first person they talk to.
 This is the part where I begin to take offense. As you may already know from reading about my daughter's arranged marriage here and here, we did not make it public that we were arranging a marriage until they were engaged. The woman who wrote the quote above is known to me, and I suspect that our daughter's arranged marriage is the only one she knows of where the matter was kept private until it was settled. She is making straw man arguments and is misrepresenting what we did and our motives for what we did (unless she knows of other people who would actually fit her description - which I highly doubt but remain open to being enlightened). What we did was to keep it private, we were not hiding anything. We had no fear of shame and I don't even understand what she could mean by that. Shame for what?  I guess she's upset that we didn't seek her input?  We were dishonest? We weren't open? What business was it of hers or anyone else? This woman takes "busy body" to new levels of height. As for letting others know how it *really* works, both my husband and I blogged about it and have made ourselves available to anyone who wants to discuss it. We have written extensively, although not exhaustively, about the dangers of public courtships and the potential for damaged reputations and the loss of perceived value in the eyes of potential suitors, but we never considered a failed marriage arrangement to be shameful. She has no basis for stating such a thing except for her own imaginations. I doubt if she has read what we have written and she has not personally asked us about our process or our reasons for how we conducted the arrangement. She did, however, provide a forum for people to bash us on her private match-making facebook page where we were unable to defend ourselves or respond to comments made about us. So much for her being honest and open.

She is also misrepresenting our process. Our daughter was not "talking to" her suitor. The fathers were talking to each other. We weren't "perpetuating" any false ideas about anything. Women who dream up ideas and then assign the origins of those ideas to others are fantasizing. We have never assigned any moral value to whether a father is able to secure a husband for his daughter on the first try, and I'm not sure why she is making an issue of it. I do believe that multiple courtships, where people are entering into romantic relationships and then ending them, is wrong. Since I believe that romantic relationships outside of marriage are little more than fornication light, obviously having multiple such relationships is repugnant to me. The authoress of the above quote may not think so, but she is not able to dictate how that sort of thing rates with potential suitors. She may believe that her daughters having been through multiple boyfriends doesn't diminish their value, but she really has no control whether men use that issue to cross those daughters off of their list. Likewise, I believe her son-in-law would not be happy to see the names of her daughter's former boyfriends/suitors being proclaimed publicly. Why would he want the whole world to know that he wasn't her first choice? How does the cause of being open and honest trump his dignity?   I believe it would be fabulous if every Christian reserved romantic relationships for within the bonds of matrimony, and therefore every Christian had only one romantic relationship. There is nothing wrong with promoting that standard within my family and within greater Christendom.

This is FALSE & a twisting of the Scriptures. Let us repent of black and white, of extra-biblical labels and ideas, of systems, rules and shame. Let's NOT confuse commands with opinions. Instead, let us stand confidently on God's Word & the certain and sure guidelines He's given for pre-marriage relationships.
 Calling others to repent is to accuse them of sin. This is probably best done in private, but she appears to have no idea what that word means. The one presenting extra-biblical ideas (such as romantic relationships outside of marriage) is this authoress. She is the one stating the "Bible says..." without citations. To close with a reference to the "sure guidelines He's given for pre-marriage relationships" is pretty ironic, when she didn't reference a single verse or passage from Scripture in her entire rant. By all means, steer us all to these "sure guidelines" as you call others to repent for violating them.

I hope she will follow this post with her biblical analysis, with citations, for the role that mothers and match-makers should play in bringing men and women together in marriage. The burden of proof is on her to justify her methods, I've already used the Scriptures to justify mine.


Jeremy VanGelder said...

When I read the post I did not think it was referring to your daughter's situation. It is very common for courtships to either be secret or wink/nudge secret. For example, my grandma was surprised when I told her the number of women I have pursued. Many people in the courtship world attempt to keep courtships secret for the same reasons that you give. If they were consistent they would embrace arranged marriage. But, hey, cognitive dissonance gives quite the buzz.

Of course, this is just my reading of the situation. You could ask Mrs. Petta herself.

subject by design said...

I am not familiar with the secret/private courtship. In my own acquaintance I have never known of even one. There could have been some that didn't end in marriage, which is why I never heard of them, but I would, of course, be pleased about that and I can't imagine complaining that I was entitled to know. I have never even heard of anyone (besides my husband) advocating for such a thing, which is why I'm suspicious of whom is being called to repent in the instant case. And, I would repeat my assertion that a call to repentance should be private. It is one thing to say "the Church should repent of such and such" when there is a prevailing sort of sinful situation or attitude, such as not doing anything about abortion, but it is another when the accusation is about a behavior that is not wide-spread and seems to be referring to a small group of people or even a single person or family.

Hubert said...

Though I enjoyed your post very much, but I agree with Jeremy, I do not believe that she was referring your daughter's wildly successful marriage process. At her church, they have a tradition of announcing courtships from the pulpit and making them very widely known.

Jeremy did not hide his courtships, but did not broadcast them, either. I think that is a wise path to navigate. (I'm not commenting on method of courtship/dateship/arrangement)

subject by design said...

I am familiar with the public announcements of courtships. In my two decades of being involved in the "courtship movement" I have not known of even ONE private courtship or arranged marriage. By that I mean I have never been surprised by an engagement announcement. My experience doesn't mean it never happens, but it does mean that if "hidden relationships" do occur, they are rare and hardly worthy of a rebuke from someone who doesn't approve and who claims it is a widespread occurrence. It is one thing to say, "I don't like it when people don't let me know their daughter is courting" to accusing others of needing to repent for not telling her. Perhaps I'm making too much of her imprecise writing style and seeing things that aren't there.

Hubert said...

BTW, did you know that Yenta means busybody/gossip, not specifically 'matchmaker'?


subject by design said...

I did NOT know that. :)