Thinking Out Loud

November 23, 2018

I Kissed Dating Goodbye: The Survivors Speak Out

So again, when I posted a piece on Tuesday about the upcoming documentary film based on the variety of experiences of readers of  I Kissed Dating Goodbye, I had no idea that the film was actually going live online in a matter of minutes. I quickly signed up to watch I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye, and here we are just a few days later returning to the topic.

What I wrote on Tuesday was about the notion that even though an author changes his or her mind on a previously written book; it doesn’t guarantee that readers will want to travel on that same journey. The line, “I think he’s wrong now;” has, honestly speaking, haunted me all week, and I’ve found myself seeing that person differently all week.

Joshua Harris’ wife: “It was a good book; well, I don’t know if I can say it was good book; it was a well-intentioned book.”

Harris talks about being thrust into the spotlight, and into the pastorate, at a very young age. But at the same time, he got married about a year after the book’s printing, and at a personal level, had moved beyond the tension implicit in being single. For the record, he didn’t kiss his wife before the wedding. The doubts about the book came much later.

Harris: “For a long time I was afraid to re-examine the book I’m best known for.”

I originally thought the book and this subsequent documentary was going to focus on the challenges of adopting the courtship model as opposed to the dating model. But really, much of the documentary is focused on the Purity Movement with programs like True Love Waits.

Christine Gardner: “What I found fascinating was the Evangelical church using sex to sell abstinence.

The film contains many Skype interviews with readers from around the world reflecting how the book helped or hurt them.

Harris: “A desire to make a message as effective as possible could actually mislead people.”

One thing that Joshua Harris notes is the importance that was placed on the book at the time, and the potential influence it would have if the book was given to you by a parent or a pastor. In those situations, there was less likelihood of being able to challenge the premise of the book.

The book also created a number of “weird” situations in churches and communities which were considered normal, and thereby caused any other type of situation to be considered abnormal.

Harris: “In trying to fix the problems of dating with the model of courtship, we created a new set of problems.”

Thomas Umstattd Jr. (to Harris): “The reality is the marriage rate in the church has dropped significantly… We’re just not getting married as a generation… You were not the only person writing on this topic; you weren’t the only person writing popular books on this topic.  I think what happened is, you had the best title.”

Umstattd sees the formulaic approach of the courtship model as being no different than the prosperity gospel.

Activist Elizabeth Esther: “It was held up as, ‘This is the gold standard by which you should live your life.’ It was kind of a money-back guarantee. If you do it this way you will have a marriage that is happy and fulfilling and have mind-blowing sex for the rest of your life…”

Joshua Harris then embarks on a study of how things work now, in the world of dating apps and hookup culture.

Harris: “Neither the strict rules of courtship, or the rejection of rules in Tinder meet the deepest longings of the human heart. Both of these extremes seem to share an exalted view of the role sex should play in our lives.”

Even though it’s a documentary, I run the risk of filling this page with spoilers. (I’d love to see a published transcript.) I wouldn’t want anyone who is interested in this to miss out on watching because I summarized too much here. I’ve hit some highlights from the first 45 minutes of the 75-minute film.

There is archival interview footage interspersed from the Canadian 100 Huntley Street television show. In the last half, Harris goes on to interview author Dale Kuehne, author Debra Hirsch, author Debra Fileta, and author Dannah Gresh. The latter surprised me — I’m familiar with her books — insofar as the great kinship she has with Harris in terms of also re-examining the purity emphasis of her writing and seminars.

Gresh: “We use the word purity as a synonym for virginity. It’s not. Not in the scriptures. I work with girls all the time who are virgins, but they’re very impure.”

The book definitely put a large number of young people into some very awkward situations because of the expectations it raised. As the film asks, what if your views on sex and relationships at the time you were 21 were used to shape an entire generation of Christian kids? Millions of kids? I can’t imagine being thrust into that role.

I’d probably rethink some of it when I was older and had more life experience. And more wisdom. 

Harris: “Coming to a place of seeing dating as healthy was a big step.”


• Your journey to buying the DVD or watching the film for free begins at this website. You’ll be emailed a code which will allow you to view the documentary.

I never discussed the movie production itself. The cinematography, the sound, lighting, scripting, pacing etc. are all first-rate. Producer/Director Jessica Van der Wyngaard is to be congratulated on an excellent project.

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November 20, 2018

When a Christian Author Has a Change in Thinking

For over 20 years, I’ve spent a minimum of two days per week in a Christian bookstore which my wife and I own. We’ve seen books come and go for reasons other than the normal life cycle of publishing. We’ve heard of authors having affairs. We’ve learned of writers who have adopted a position on an issue which makes their publishing contract untenable with their publisher. We’ve seen testimony and biography books where it was revealed the story would have been suited to the fiction section.

I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris is unique. The author asked for the books — there are at least three related titles that I’m aware of — to be withdrawn when the current inventory is exhausted. He feels that the book is not a helpful or healthy approach to boy/girl relationships before marriage and has worked with a documentary filmmaker to give voice to the readers who found taking his approach harmful and counterproductive. That documentary releases online today!

This does not for a moment change the minds of some people. There will be pockets of mostly conservative people throughout North America — the book’s primary audience — who will continue to follow a courtship model for their sons and daughters, which is often associated with the idea of early (young) marriage.

But it’s different when you discover you know one of them.

A longtime friend asked me to order two copies of Harris’ book for him. I know this person well, and while he’s not exactly an ultra conservative, he does take a traditional stand on some things. I asked if he was serious. I thought maybe it was a bit of a joke, or a test to see if I was aware of recent events. I explained that the author had withdrawn the book, though copies are still floating around.

He replied, “I think he’s wrong now.”

Didn’t see that coming, though in hindsight it’s not unthinkable. I just wonder what Joshua Harris would say to that? The idea that he had it right and has now been sucked into some liberal vortex.

In the end, I think both Harris and my friends need to follow their hearts, though it concerns me that some people felt it took their lives in a direction where they waited for their Prince(ss) Charming to come along and then he/she never showed up. It took away the opportunity to be proactive.

But are Millennials proactive? Many have cocooned into an online world where dating apps offer their only hope of making that opposite-sex connection. Should Helicopter Mom and Helicopter Dad be stepping into the situation setting up a courtship scenario with the future in-laws? 

On the other hand, some of the kids my friend works with are not from Christian families. There is value in the group activity situations which avoid the pressure of 1:1 evenings, but it is these very activities that Millennials seem to find uninteresting. To his credit, my friend works in trying to create environments which can involve these very kids, but once they attend, they need to know that it might be on them to take the initiative to connect with that person across the room.

Also, Joshua Harris didn’t know any Millennials when he wrote the book 15 years ago, in 2003. (He was in fact home-schooled and admits to not knowing much outside that milieu.) Some would argue that we need his model more now than ever. But some of the people who were the book’s collateral damage interviewed in the documentary would say we need less of that school of thought.


More info at I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye

September 7, 2018

Social Media: What It’s Doing to Us

Some of you may have seen this on Facebook.

That’s rather ironic; since it does not paint the social media platform favorably.

The timing on this is interesting, since I was planning to write about this topic anyway. I’m not opposed to technology, nor do I resent the application of social networking. Rather, I was going to write something like, “I just want to go back in time and use the internet as it was in 2003.” That’s right; 15 years ought to do it.

Anyway, see what you think. Someone put some thought into this, but it hasn’t had many views and no public comments as of yesterday. (Perhaps this isn’t the original post.)

March 15, 2018

“What Are You Like?”

A girl once asked me the question, “What are you like?”

I had basically forgotten this, until I watched something last night where the main characters were updating online dating profiles which basically answered the same question, “What are you like?” Or if you prefer, “Describe yourself.”

It occurred to me that the order of things is now reversed. Back in the day, there was some context in which you got to meet someone: Work, school, church, neighborhood, etc. There had already been superficial contact and visual recognition.

Then you decided to deepen the relationship by probing deeper — getting to know each other one-on-one — by asking questions like the one above.

But today, couples share their self-description of their personality, guiding principles, experiences, aspirations, preferences, etc.; long before they ever come into physical proximity.

Another way of putting this: Instead of the kid you met at camp who agrees to become a pen pal (a dated notion if there ever was one), it’s the pen pal who agrees to meet up (which admittedly did happen from time to time; hence the ‘Pen Pal Wanted’ ads in the back of magazines). Intimacy (in terms of personality and mental insights) precedes contact.

There is a lot riding on your writing ability, and no, I’m not offering to help you draft your profile description. If you can say what you want to say, the way you want to say it, that’s great; but the chances of misinterpretation are many, and with some people, spelling counts as does grammar. It’s the ultimate creative writing assignment.

It’s the same with a picture. Without a budget allocation, your best bet is to at least have someone take the picture for you, and in good lighting. But no picture tells it all. I was once set up on a blind date by a friend with a girl who happened to have 8 x 10 head-shot glossy pictures. (Not sure what you call them in Europe, but the size of an A4 sheet.) I found that rather strange, but she did look good in those poses. So I said yes. She was indeed the same as her picture, but Barry, my friend at the time, had held the picture out to me at the same height as he was standing, whereas the picture should have been held somewhere around his stomach. She was short. Very short. Can’t-get-past-it short. She deserved a guy who was more on her level.

Given an hour of angst to sweat it out writing a description, with thesaurus nearby, you can probably come up with something rather appealing. But asked live and in the moment, “What are you like?” you’re probably going to be more authentic, once you get past the shock of the question itself. And better to do this sooner, than later; better to not like other things — like the physical attraction part — get ahead of really knowing the person.

My answer? I honestly can’t remember what I said in the moments that followed.

November 17, 2017

An Embarrassment of Spiritual Riches

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:23 am

Each week, because of my job I speak with parents of twenty-something or thirty-something children who are no longer attending church and/or no longer serving or following God. I can’t begin to imagine the frustration. A few are in full-time ministry and deal with the added complexity of a daughter or son who is “in a far off country” spiritually.

We are fortunate that both of our boys are actively involved in local churches. I’d like to say I set a good example for them, but honestly, for certain the one thing I did right was persisting in our evening Bible study time well into their college years.

So no problems, right?

Historically, I’ve seen it happen where the next generation takes on a somewhat diluted version of faith. Even among those who follow a parent’s footsteps into ministry we find second generation pastors whose preaching isn’t quite as deep; second generation missionaries who try to adopt a fast-track approach to getting converts; I’ve even seen second generation people in Christian publishing who simply don’t breathe books in the manner of their respective parents.

But in my case, I really feel our kids expression of their faith exceeds anything I can offer. While what follows does not apply equally to both, I see greater generosity, more disciplined prayer and Bible reading, and a more healthy and balanced approach to living a life separated from the world. (Other things, also; but they might see this and I don’t want spiritual pride to factor into their lives.)

In any type of mentoring, you want to see tangible results and if “the student becomes the master” then you did well, right.

I hope so. Sometimes it leaves me humbled, and other times it leaves me feeling I could have done much better.

September 6, 2017

Wednesday Link List

For the superhero fan at your house. Click the image to learn how to order.

Again, some great articles you may have missed in the past 168 hours.

This church serves as an image for a line of Greek foods sold in a British supermarket. Lately, the cross has been airbrushed out of the picture.

May 6, 2017

Weekend Cat

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:26 am

We’re cat-sitting for 48 hours, which normally would be like heaven to me, a dedicated cat person, were it not for the gallons of water rushing into the basement as I type this. The cat is not the one in the picture who apparently is smart enough to take a selfie of itself with some dogs.

Returning to having a cat in the house after many years without one is educational. Similar to those recent grandparents who after years of not having children in the home must suddenly remember basic parenting skills. There are probably many spiritual analogies here, but I hesitate, much like the pastor who realizes that to do a cat illustration is to possibly alienate half of their dog-preferring congregation.

Clearly, you cannot force a cat to do anything. It has to be their decision. They may eventually do what you are suggesting but has to be on their terms. It has to be their idea. Even though the spot on the couch you’re trying to coax it to is nice and comfortable, they remain on the floor ignoring your beckoning. It’s rather like — oh, yes; I said I wouldn’t do the analogy…


For those of you wanting a hefty dose of randomness this morning, the Saturday Brunch at Internet Monk is particularly lengthy today, and there’s always the Weekly Meanderings at Jesus Creed which isn’t necessarily Jesus-y.

If you prefer something more faith-focused, consider the recent posts at Christ and Pop Culture.  For my women readers, scroll to the bottom of this article by Holley Gerth and you’ll find links to 114 recent blog posts

And of course, there’s always Alltop.

March 7, 2017

Unequally Yoked: Advice Not Taken

dating-tipsWhile going through boxes of old books, I came across a 1962 publication by Back to the Bible Broadcast, Dating Tips for Christian Youth. Though only 64 pages in length, the booklet has no less than five authors dealing with the following topics at the length indicated:

  • Relationships with parents, 11 pages
  • Making sure you date the right person, 17 pages
  • The myth that “everyone is doing it,” 8 pages
  • The dangers of physical intimacy, 6 pages
  • Committing to a single person to date, ie. “going steady,” 11 pages

In other words, the chapter given the greatest weight in this 55-year old title has to do with the Biblical principle of not being “unequally yoked” which was and still is generally interpreted in this case to mean that Christians should not date non-Christians.

I have not spent a lot of time reading more recent books either written for teens or for people in youth ministry, but I would like to think this is still a rather important theme. Trying “unequally yoked” at CBD did not produce any youth titles, and “dating a non-Christian” only revealed a 2002 IVP booklet. On the internet however, “should a Christian date a non Christian” revealed 12,800,000 results. The phrase “unequally yoked” brought 345,000 results, and just to be sure I checked every one of them. Or maybe not.

Still, I’d like to think that youth pastors continue to advise the tweens and teens to make lifelong connections through church, youth groups, Christian concerts, church-based summer camps, and yes…with certain caveats…on Christian dating sites. In other words, not necessarily at school, their part-time job or, once they reach the legal age, at a bar.

So…

…I have to wonder if Christian kids grow up hearing this message over and over and over and over again, why is it that each week, in the context of my work, I hear the despairing voice of a parent lamenting that their teen or twenty-something is dating, is engaged to, or has married a non-believer. There are no words to describe the disappointment these moms and dads feel when, after a lifetime in church, their son or daughter has made a decision that they feel is the opposite of every core value they tried to instill in them on the subject of choosing a mate for life. Often, for this or other reasons, the relationship is currently in crisis.

The thing is, when a male and a female live together or get married (a choice that needs to be the subject of a different article) if one of them is not a Christian, while it’s sometimes the case that the non-Christian is willing to check out their partner’s church, the greater preponderance seems to be that both stop going to church.

recessive-faithI know nothing about biology but I remember hearing someone using genetics to explain how blue eyes are a recessive trait and as blue eyed people continue to crossbreed with non blue eyed people, the number of blue eyed people declines. I sort of feel like church attendance and faith commitment are recessive traits and as theological mixed marriages take place, we see the decline in church attendance and/or people identifying as Christian.

In other words, there’s more at stake than just the underlying reasons why Paul makes the statement in 2 Corinthians 6:14, though the context is quite broad and marriage is not mentioned specifically. (If you’re in a business partnership with an unbeliever, the principle would appear to apply equally.)

What’s at here stake seems to be the future of the church.

 

May 29, 2016

Yesterday We Graduated from University

Filed under: Christianity, family, parenting — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:26 am

He graduated in terms of actually taking the courses and getting the diploma. We graduated in terms of parenting him through the process. His undergraduate years as a student are now behind him, as are our parent-of-an-undergraduate years.

James Dobson frequently talked about the role of parents to “just get them through it.” I have mixed feelings about that phrase. I like the idea of parents seeing their offspring through the different stages of life, and going from A to B to C to D. But I think there’s more a parent can do. We can encourage them to completion of A and B and C, but we can also enrich the process so it isn’t reduced to a fatalistic ‘let’s get this over with and then we can relax.’ Women reading this are free to comment something like, ‘Only a male would say that parenting is just getting through it,’ because according to the stereotype, men are more goal oriented, and women are more process oriented. I would agree, there has to be more than just reaching graduation day, in the four or five years which lead up to it.

So yes, we worked to get him through it, but hopefully we also contributed to making it a life-changing experience regardless of the outcome; though, for the record, he did pass every course.

Congratulations, Aaron.


This also seemed like a good place to reiterate some text which has appeared, I believe, three times here now.

no vacancyOur kids hated road trips. We would get to a city, walk into a motel, pull out our coupon book, and then be told that due to a soccer tournament, there were no motels with openings anywhere within an hour radius. Back to the car, hungry, hot, tired, and another hour’s drive.

Later on, we discovered the joy of planning destinations ahead, and making reservations, though by that point, the kids were older and opting out of our excursions.

Their road trip phobia later turned into an interesting object lesson.  I told them that somewhere in the future, they will find themselves in situations that will tempt them to compromise their principles, or do something foolish and unsafe. We said that like our motel example, they need to pre-book their choices. That way they won’t regret something done in the heat of the moment. Decide now what they will and won’t do.

December 6, 2015

With Christmas Coming, Do Your Kids Feel a Sense of Entitlement?

We never gave our kids an allowance. Not once. Working for ministry organizations and then owning a commercial ministry where we don’t pay ourselves a salary may have precluded it somewhat. But at the end of the day, I just didn’t see the point. Some kids are paid for being good. Our kids were good for nothing. [Rim-shot!] I just didn’t want them to think that we owed them anything.

We rarely bought our kids much of anything when we went to the mall. Perhaps never is a bit strong. The general presumption was that we were going to look, that the mall was a recreational destination where we would also do some comparison shopping and if the mood hit us, actually make a purchase. There was never the expectation that we would emerge carrying packages. The kids never thought that they were going to come away with increased personal possessions.

As a result, I think my children have a balanced perspective when it comes to materialism. In their mid-teens, they learned to pick up the tab for the things they needed or wanted on their own. It helped that both had paying jobs in high school. A part-time job at that age in our town is nothing short of a miracle.

Now they’re in their 20s. Both have a VISA card, and are well-versed in online banking. My youngest told me he feels guilty when he makes a large purchase. Maybe we need to tweak that attitude a little.

I felt both of them had a head-start when it came to money given the part time jobs. Some start even earlier. I wasn’t ready for the young girl who came into our store with a debit card. I think she was about nine years old. Okay, maybe ten. Not much more than that. It was one of those split-second moments of seeing something almost comedic, like when little boys would dress up in their father’s jackets and ties, back when their fathers actually wore jackets and ties. Maybe the analogy today is wearing their father’s shoes. (Not sure what the girl equivalent is; can tell me?)

The other side to consumerism is that I’ve tried to do is encourage our kids not to waste, because I believe the issue of materialism and the issue of waste go hand-in-hand. Maybe rationing the squares of toilet tissue is a bit much,* but certainly there’s no need for the second glass of the expensive treat we bought, such as Welch’s Grape Juice — the real stuff, not the Grape Cocktail their flogging now — or even a second glass of the cheaper apple juice.

Mind you, they’ve inherited that from me. I see food on the table and feel this desire for more. I had no siblings growing up, yet I seem to be in this constant competition for my fair share. At church potlucks, I tend to position myself close to the food table. I have a sense that all the other people in our congregation are people who will eat my share of the dinner if I do not guard it carefully. Not sure where I got that. But like father like son(s); the kids don’t like to miss out.

My youngest, aka Kid Too, was usually the first to take a piece of chicken or roast beef from the platter, a luxury of choice I was always taught is reserved for the cook, aka Mrs. W. He chooses well. He has taken a culinary course and knows the good pieces. The tender pieces. I always complain at that point that he just took “the best piece.” I am not trying to cause trouble. I sized up the platter before we said the blessing and already saw the piece that I considered the finest, and he took it. More competition.

At this point, I’m thinking of the title of the book by Francis Shaeffer’s daughter, Susan McAuley Schaeffer, How To Be Your Own Selfish Pig. I have been mastering this art for years, but not through actual pigging, but by ranting about the perceived pigging of everyone else.

As I write, it occurs to me that I probably wouldn’t be so obsessed about portion control if my youngest had shown more gratitude during those years. Actually, he does this a great deal, but in other areas. If he were to tell me how much he enjoys the times we purchase the more expensive grape juice, I would probably lavish him with more. He is changing with age however. When he comes home at Christmas I expect his sense of appreciation for all we do to have matured even more, though I still feel I should be saying grace with one eye open…

Then it hits me. That’s what God is waiting for. He has many good things in heaven’s storehouse which have me in mind. But he’s waiting for me to say thanks for what I have been given. As the Biblical story of the ten lepers teaches us, the thank-you rate is about 10%.


 

*I don’t actually ration toilet tissue, though I have been known to do calculations as to the number of squares that — hmmm …too much information?

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