Courtship, Dating, and God are Criticized but not Always Understood.
Popular culture likes to sometimes poke fun at a Christian’s views on romantic relationships. They have been characterized as confused and naive because of the focus on saving themselves for marriage:
This does not only happen in fiction. The recent scandal with Katy Perry kissing a Christian teen on American Idol because he said he had not kissed anyone is a good example of how Christians are treated. Look at how the judges react when the teen says he has not kissed anyone yet:
They look at him like he is crazy or some sort of alien creature. But if you knew anything about Christians and romantic culture this would make sense.
The fundamental belief is that a Christian gives their heart to God. That is the first priority. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom.” (Colossians 3:16) This has led to a split of thinking between two schools of thought. The first is that because you have not signed a covenant yet with the person you may be romantically entangled with, you should not engage in any physical acts. In fact, you should be avoiding dating, which is just two people engaged romantically, as much as possible.
The distinction between courtship and dating
What is recommended instead is courtship. Courtship is romantically seeing someone with the expressed intent of marrying them. To some, this means it is ok to do some physical acts because of marriage on the horizon. But to others, it means saving your physical affection for when the inevitable time comes when you are married to God.
So when the teenage boy told Katy Perry he had not kissed a girl it made complete sense. He was probably more likely to be interested in courtship or felt that dating was not appropriate, or that any physical acts would be disrespectful to God, who is the first priority. “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.” (1 Corinthians 6:18)
While courtship or Christian dating is sometimes called “Biblical courtship” or “dating within Biblical principles” that is not entirely accurate. There have been many interpretations of what the Bible dictates for romance. In an early form of Christianity, celibacy was seen as appropriate. Because early Christians thought that Jesus’s Second Coming was soon, it made no sense to have kids. Who wants to raise children during the apocalypse? There have been other parts in history when Christians were told to marry to have children but stop after a certain number of kids. Literally, stop having sex after a set number of children. Forever.
Even though the principle of no physical action or dating before marriage is a principle that is talked about, following it is a different matter. Sixty-one percent of Christians in a survey stated they were willing to have casual sex and 80 percent of unmarried evangelicals under the age of 30 have had sex. While this number is slightly lower than the national average, it is still the majority.
Religious leaders like to use this as proof of the decaying morals of modern society but there could be a simple solution. People are marrying older. Compared to the Bible, when people were regularly marrying at 13, the average age of marriage in the United States is 27 for women and 29 for men. That is a lot more time for temptation, hormones, and cultural influence to effect the ability of people to wait until marriage. Conversely, it meant less time being single that people living in Biblical times had to deal with the issues that modern Christians have to. We even look at the concept of marriage as a social bond entirely different today:
The lens in which Christians view romance is guided by numerous factors: Family, friends, and specific interpretations of Biblical principles, to name a few. It is important that before individuals or mainstream culture mock how they view Christian romance to learn more about it. We should respect how much thinking and effort individuals put into how they find and keep romantic love.