The church can get pretty weird about dating. Last Spring I did a series of blogs on “Why Christians Are Bad at Dating.” The popularity of this series doesn’t prove that I had a solution for making dating in Christian circles less awkward, but it does show that this issue is on a lot of minds.
I’m telling you, we are weird about the road to marriage. We can’t agree on what it should be called, how often it should be done, how long it should last, how close a not-yet-married couple should get, and on and on. Yet most church folk tend to be pretty opinionated about these things. And perhaps more germane to the problem, we all seem to have an urgency to see every single person in our churches married. I don’t think anyone is trying to make their single brothers and sisters feel bad or pressured, but the pressure is there nonetheless.
And now to my point. Last week a book was released that I have been waiting to see for a long time. The book is entitled, Altared: The True Story of a She, a He, and How They Both Got Too Worked Up About We. For years I have been wanting a solid book that helps Christians navigate the road to marriage, but I haven’t been satisfied with the go-to books on this subject (though each makes helpful contributions). This is the book that I’ve been wanting.
The authors, writing under pseudonyms (Claire and Eli) in the tradition of Soren Kierkegaard, help us think this issue through in a variety of ways. They offer their experience of being young singles in the church world. Sometimes they heard it said aloud, sometimes it was more latent, but always there was an understanding that the single person’s goal (duty even) is to get married as soon as possible. This was their experience, and I think most of us who grew up in the church can relate. The authors then survey a number of statements from prominent Christian leaders to reveal that this pressure to marry quickly and at all costs comes to us from the top down as well.
Marriage is a good gift from God, and the authors are eager to affirm this. It is the perversion of God’s gift that makes the pursuit of marriage an all-encompassing goal and contradicts 1 Corinthians 7 that the authors want to challenge. Their concern is that we can get so caught up in finding “the one” to love that we neglect Jesus’ command to love our neighbors—not just our potential mates.
So the authors explore love and marriage from a biblical perspective. What should our priorities be when thinking about love in general and marriage and dating in particular? They also did the difficult work of incorporating some of the most helpful thoughts from church history that come to bear on the matter. This gives the book a richness and continuity that we often miss out on.
Probably my favorite part of the book, however, is the narrative. “Claire” and “Eli” teamed up on this book because they saw the way our marriage preoccupation affected their own dating relationship. Both authors are gifted writers and insightful persons in general, and their story is woven through the book, sometimes from her perspective, sometimes from his. The effect is a compelling exploration in which one is personally invested, rather than an impersonal treatise.
So if you want someday to date someone, if you are dating and want to think through it more effectively, if the concept of dating seems awkward yet you aren’t quite ready to kiss it goodbye, then you really ought to read this book. And for the rest of you, everyone in your churches is either married, on the road to marriage, or wrestling with issues of marriage, dating, and singleness. This really isn’t an issue that can be safely ignored.
If you’d like to get a taste for the writing of one of the authors, check out Eli’s recent article in Relevant Magazine.