I think sometimes Christianity is so normal that it looses sight of how some of the things it says and does is abnormal to others. Either the above scene fills you with warm fuzziness or is pretty creepy. In the warm fuzzy category, some people seemed to be happy that the scene was about a father exercising headship over his daughter to protect her as she moves into young womanhood and the dating world, asking her to trust his judgement to help find her future husband. In the creepy category, some were disturbed by the father asking the young lady to set aside her free will and promise to remain pure for the husband that her father would choose for her.
Sometimes the best families are completely unplanned – you cannot schedule where, when, and who you will fall in love with.
Purity rings, chastity rings, and abstinence rings are often accompanied by a religous vow to practice abstinence until marriage. It’s an easy enough thing to do when you are supposed to at 16 when your entire church throws a purity ball or spends a few months on modesty and purity teachings – but it’s much harder to keep over the next few years of growing up.
My church did a mini-conference for the youth when I was about that age – It was called ‘The Awakening’. About half-way through the book, there was one page that featured statistic after statistic of STDs, suicide (presumably as a result of a broken heart), and the number of youth that said that they had already had sex. The next page had a small block of text: “Who do you have an unhealthy soul-tie with? Who have you given pieces of your heart?” There was a picture of small, red heart. It was broken and bleeding, it had chunks missing from it and other parts were stretched out of place. Now what they should have said was: “Abstinence is our official position.” But that’s not what the pages indicated to me. They were clearly insinuating that any sort of relationship was an avenue to the heart and should be avoided to keep the heart pristine. It showed that a perfect heart pleased God much more than an imperfect heart … but there was just one problem: It’s humanly impossible to keep a heart pristine forever. Yes, God does look to the heart – David was a man after God’s own heart and he was a murdering adulterer cheating on his multiple wives.
The next page had this clever math problem:
1 x 1 = 1
1 x 1/2 = 1/2
1/2 x 1/2 = 1/4
They explained that when one person who has a whole heart is together with a person who has a whole heart, then they’re left with a whole heart. But if a person who has a whole heart is together with a person who has a half heart because they lost the other half to an unhealthy soul-tie, then they would be left with a half-heart. If two people with half-hearts got together, they would be left with a quarter of a heart. So they mathematically proved that in terms of purity, abstinence was best. But for kicks and giggles, let’s continue that mathematical logic:
1/4 x 1/4 = 1/16
1/16 x 1/16 = 1/256
1/256 x 1/256 = 1/65536
It’s never 0. You can’t run out of love. Even better, love replenishes itself. Think about the miracle of the oil: no matter how much had been used, there was more than enough to go around.
Generally, parents teach their children well. ‘Don’t break the law.’ They don’t ever have to sit their children down, give them a gift as a symbol of their promise to not cheat, pirate, steal, or break the law for the next few years. But when it comes to their daughters becoming young women, its suddenly a Christian duty to do just that. Daddy-daughter dates are considered an important right of passage. There’s no Mommy-son date in Courageous to hold up as an example of how it works for sons.
I keep on thinking about Romeo and Juliet – if their story were told today as a young man and woman in love, their parents would never consider the match as being a possibility. Juliet’s father would scour the countryside looking for somebody – anybody else. He might mean well, but he’s not God. The worst thing about it all though, is that it’s tied to a religious vow. If and when it is broken, these kids think they have sinned greatly: for having had sex before they were supposed to, having disobeyed their parents, and having broken their vow to God. The guilt of that is something that will stick with them for years to come. That’s because that church has made growing up weird. If you’re raised in the church then you’re not allowed to make mistakes and experience God’s forgiveness. So when you make your first big mistake, it feels like a heavy weight for the first while.
It its not just about purity, but emotion too. That’s why when taken to extremes, the youth can find it difficult to interact with one another. Hugging, flirting, having a crush, holding hands, can be misconstrued as cheating on a future spouse. That’s why some parents don’t allow their children to date, they arrange courtships or engagements instead. Because emotional purity is so very important, then the first person a young man or woman dates should be the person they marry, so they are automatically engaged to their first boyfriend / girlfriend whom they will marry. During this time, they don’t allow the couple to go unchaperoned. It ensures complete purity, but does not always allow for chemistry. There is story after story from young men and women who went through a courtship relationship, were married, and discovered that it was nothing but an empty promise and unfulfilled expectations. Sure, some probably went through it successfully but that’s not everybody’s story.
But God is not like the church, He knew what would happen beforehand and he was prepared to dish out forgiveness long before any of us were born. Growing up is tumultuous in this day and age – we live in a distinctly different culture than the one the Bible was written to. We can’t always make their rules apply to our situations. Modesty and purity is fine if you can keep it, but you are not ‘damaged goods’ if you cannot. You are not worth less to God no matter what you do. You are everything to God as you are – not as you were. You see, God is love and his love never runs out.