“Why Courtship is Fatally Flawed:” A Response and Caution

I was casually browsing Facebook today, and the same blog post popped up again. It had appeared in my feed before multiple times, and here it was again, shared by another five of my friends. So I decided to bite the bullet and read the long post. (If you haven’t read it, you can find it here: http://www.thomasumstattd.com/2014/08/courtship-fundamentally-flawed/) Now I will quickly point out that I appreciated this man’s honesty and candidness; it is no small thing to publicly retract views you have just as publicly promoted in the past. Also, I think he has some very valid points in his criticism of courtship, things that everyone can learn from and hopefully improve in light of. I will also admit that my ideas on courtship have changed over the past few years. I agree that the movement has largely stopped the communication between young men and women, and seems to have had an unintended affect on the marriage rate. However there were some positions in his article that I would like to address, not because I think his position wrong, but to warn against some of the things he may not have thought to bring into the discussion.

(Before I dive in though, I would like to add a definition for the sake of clarification. When I use the term “courtship” in this post, it is in reference to the more conservative, or extreme forms of courtship. Mr. Umstattd further defined what this is in his post, so for more clarification you can seek it there.)

Response: The Elephant in the Room

The past few weeks I have had the pleasure of taking a Comparative Worldviews course as part of my college work, and the things I have learned through it have been very enlightening. One worldview that I hadn’t studied much before this course was Naturalism, and how it birthed the Sexual Revolution. In league with Cultural Marxists seeking the demise of Western Civilization, the like of Margaret Sanger, Michel Foucault, and Alfred Kinsey actively sought the breakdown of family. I won’t go into an in depth history lesson, but needless to say their efforts were successful. In the past fifty years we have seen the definition of marriage expanded, a dramatic increase in promiscuity and births out of wedlock, as well as abortion numbers shooting through the roof. The correlation between these issues has been well documented in studies performed by sociologists and anthropologists, many of them on the outset intending to prove the traditional family unit had no intrinsic benefit to society. (In these links you can find two of these studies quoted. http://www.familywatchinternational.org/fwi/marriage_Unwin_and_Marriage.pdf , http://www.firstprinciplesjournal.com/articles.aspx?article=1555 ) A further result of the breakdown of the family is that the training ground for children to learn real commitment was compromised, and we have now at least two generations that have no concept of commitment or any visions for the future besides personal pleasure.

Now in Mr. Umstattd’s post he did eventually mention the Sexual Revolution, however I think he did not give it’s affect on our culture the weight it properly deserved. With the basic institution of our culture crumbling, there has been a significant rise in the divorce rate. Not to say that issues with courtship are not partly responsible, at least in the homeschool community, but it is by no means the only trend to blame. When you fail to learn the importance of commitment, and that life isn’t about being happy all the time, then you will have a divorce problem.

Caution 1: Don’t Be Naive

The breakdown of the family and the rise of divorce rates are not the only consequences of the Sexual Revolution. With the idea that sex is purely for selfish means, and a no-conquences attitude attached to it, there has been an increase in the rate of sex crimes. (http://www.ucrdatatool.gov/Search/Crime/State/RunCrimeStatebyState.cfm) Unfortunately as we have been learning in the past few years, this problem is pervasive, and it’s perpetrators and victims do not exclude those in the homeschool community. In light of this, I found the following quote from Mr. Umstattd rather concerning,

Allow your daughters to say yes to first dates from Christian guys you don’t know.

Now don’t get me wrong, I know that Mr. Umstattd isn’t recommending throwing caution to the wind and let your children got out with a Joe Shmoe that comes along. I only wish to present the unfortunate truth that just because someone was homeschooled and/or claims to be a Christian will honor your daughters purity. And also to entreat you to not forsake acting with wisdom and caution. I also realize that no system can perfectly protect every person from being a victim of sexual abuse, even the rigors of courtship couldn’t do that. But let’s not move forward with blinders on in hopeful ignorance.

Caution 2: Beware of Formulas

There is a rather ironic trend in our society: though we usually bristle when someone tells us what to do, we still love it when we have a convenient checklist that we can refer to and complete. I appreciated that Mr. Umstattd gave suggestions for how to improve the current issues, but we must watch ourselves that we don’t look to these suggestions as a formula to solve our problems. Every person’s situation is unique, and it’s impossible for a formula to appropriately address each one. In fact, this was one of the problems of courtship; people went to a formula instead of seeking wisdom from God in whatever situation confronted them. So let us learn from this failing, that we shouldn’t have faith in a formula, we need faith in God. Remember that Mr. Umstattd pointed out the complete lack of congruency in the way people in the Bible met and married their spouses. Let us not make the mistake we made with courtship, by making a newer (yet still older) form of finding your spouse our preferred formula. Again, every situation is unique, and requires God’s guidance.

Caution 3: Avoid Extremes

Probably the biggest problem with courtship was that it was working in extremes. My dad likes to say that world views, political ideologies, and social practices can be viewed as points on a pendulums arch. You have to be careful, because swinging too far to one side or the other ends up in pretty much the same place, at the top. The leaders of the courtship movement had some legitimate fears based on personal experiences and the reality around them. They saw the consequences of one extreme, part of that being the result of the Sexual Revolution, but in trying to fix the problem they went to the other extreme. There was a shift from absolutely no input, to a striving after complete control over their children’s relationships. They took their attempts at reform too far. Therefore this is another lesson we can take away from courtship; when seeking another solution, don’t run to another extreme. Seek God for wisdom, and be rational.

Conclusion

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves”. Matthew 10:16

That verse sounds very dark and foreboding, but it has a warning and wisdom in it that we should take to heart. We need to be careful, accurately discerning the times and culture we live in, and act accordingly. While avoiding the pitfalls of courtship, don’t forget the lessons it can teach us as well. Also let’s be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water, there are things of value that can be taken from the courtship movement. Whenever you get to the place that you desire to pursue a serious relationship, having a network of godly mentors can be supremely beneficial. There will still be an element of temptation, so they will be useful as accountability partners, and by having an outside view of your relationship any wisdom they can offer may prove to be invaluable.

I greatly appreciate the issues Mr. Umstattd discussed in his post, and again I do not intend for this to be an attack of him or his position. My heart’s desire is to caution us all to use discernment and act in wisdom.

In the end, seek to live out this verse:

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31

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