Dear Anon-O-Box: Courting vs. Dating for Christians or Others with Vintage Values

Dear Anon-O-Box,

I’m a conservative Christian, who enjoys RP and has a flair for the romantic. I sincerely desire to get married one day. But I’m also a believer and advocate for the point of view spear-headed by Joshua Harris.

I believe that modern culture is pretty selfish, and that a lot of people enter romantic relationships for what they can get out of it.  As a result, often, relationships are treated as cheap things, and people’s hearts are treated with less respect than they are due.

Strong (and sometimes over-zealous to the point of idiocy) advocates insist on the terms “dating” for “worldly” relationships, and “courting” for “Godly” ones. I’ll use the terms, but I’m not absolutely tied to them.

Dating is often seen as attempting to initiate the physical aspects of a relationship too soon. Given the pre-marriage physical restraints expected of a fundamentalist (believe in a reasonably literal interpretation of the Bible), this is obviously a concern. The strictest form of courting insists that a couples’ first kiss be upon the wedding altar. I don’t agree with it myself, but I do see the necessity of putting stronger boundaries in place.

Arguably the most notable split between dating and courtship is the degree to which you know a person before engaging in an overtly romantic relationship. Dating typically can see a relationship starting from anywhere between strangers to best friends. Courtship encourages romance to start later in a relationship – good friends to best friends as an adequate rule-of-thumb.

I’m not trying to turn this into an article (I’m a lecturer by trade, I’ve got a bad habit of being over-thorough in my explanations) – I just wanted to ask if you have any opinions on this style of relationship?

I would love to engage the services of a “dating website”, but purely from a social angle.  Because I want to show respect in my relationships, I don’t want to see a pretty profile picture and be wow’d by a lovely written self-description, and suddenly declare that a stranger – whose description, while quite probably legitimate, is still just pixels on a screen – is someone (“the one”) who I want to engage romantically, emotionally and spiritually with.

I’m still holding out hope, though, and look forward to your reply very much!

Sincerely,

Wants To Go A-Courtin’

Dear Courtin’,

I really respect the amount of thought you put into your beliefs.   You’re right, we’re in a culture that seems to have pushed down the accelerator on relationships.  In the past, you would get to know people through family, friends, coworkers, or your church or social groups.  We progressed from friends to good friends to dating to “going steady” to engaged to married.

Now, especially with online dating, it seems that people are leaping from strangers to bedmates at an alarming rate.

Our culture also puts a lot more pressure on people to be matched and mated right out of college.  Ask any late 20′s woman how many times she’s asked 1) why she’s not married yet and 2) if she is married, why she hasn’t produced grandbabies yet.   The pressure can be pretty intense, and I think it prompts some women to leap before they look, hop into bed hoping it’ll make a guy love them, and then end up heartbroken when the grand plans don’t pan out.

To answer your question, I know there are people who still believe in the courting style of relationship.  They’re harder to find than they used to be, but they’re out there.  As you might suspect, they are going to be most easily found in more fundamentalist Christian circles or other circles where vintage values are still upheld.

While I don’t think a traditional online dating site is for you (especially since I know where you live), I’d recommend the site Christian Cafe.  It’s a niche dating site just for Christians and I really think you’d be able to make connections with similarly-valued folks there.

I shot a quick note to Fred, the lovely gentleman who runs the ChristianCafe Twitter account, and he said that after the U.S., the top countries on their site are Canada, UK, Philippines, Australia, and South Africa.   There’s even a 10 day free trial, so you can browse through some profiles and get a feel for how many people there might make for good friends and hopefully, a good spouse down the road.

Rest assured, there are people out there who share your values and want to grow a friendship into courtship into marriage.  Stay strong in your beliefs, check out the places where similarly-minded folks frolic on the Web, and you’ll find the right person for you.

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