In the course of my research, I’m spending a lot of time reading Christian Dating Advice books and blogs and posts by churches. I’m positively inundated with messages about how dating relationships are supposed to look and do and be like. There was a time when I would have gobbled up this advice, especially the kind that told me all I had to do was wait and he would come, Field of Dreams-like. It was practically promised to me that if I concentrated on God, if I became a good godly woman, then Christian men would positively flock to me! It had to work!
After all, if you’re a woman, and you’re actively looking and seeking out a mate – no matter what age you are – then you’re not focusing on God and letting him in his sovereignty bring a guy into your life! I mean, Mark Driscoll’s online church ministry, The Resurgence, says as much:
Submission is not only for wives. God asks for a submitted heart now, one that trusts in his provision and plan for your life, including dating. Ultimately, dating, and all of life, is about submission—waiting and trusting God and saying as Jesus does, “Not my will but yours be done.”
This does not, however, leave you helpless, hopeless, and hamstrung in the relationship department. A godly woman can express friendly interest in a brother in Christ.
- It is OK to mingle—but don’t manipulate.
- Peruse—but don’t pursue. Let him initiate.
- Take notice of the godly men serving Jesus around you—but never stalk. It’s creepy.
- Cross paths with a man who interests you—but don’t tackle him.
You see, as a woman, I’m only allowed little subtleties, passive interaction. If I attempt to take the lead, then I’m somehow sinning and not submitting. A woman who takes the lead is a signal to Godly Christian Men ™ that she’ll have trouble submitting to you in marriage (beware the whores!).
The Resurgence’s tips for dating for guys say as much – take the lead, be intentional, etc. The woman in the advice is merely a placeholder, someone who can be rotated out. Notice that in the advice for what to say in a relationship, asking what the woman thinks is never a part of it. From the first point, it advises a forceful approach: “I’d like to take you out a date.” Not, “Would you like to go out with me sometime?” or even “Would you like to have coffee with me?”
From the first interaction, the woman does appear to have a say. Sure, she could say no to “I’d like to take you out on a date,” but the language advised there does not help men develop an attitude in which the woman and her will are considered. It is presumed that, if you say things intentionally, then she won’t say no. And hey, since she’s a passive woman just waiting for you to ask her out, you, as the man, have every expectation that she would say yes, because you’re the leader.
Some of this advice can be useful – being honest and open about your intentions is important for BOTH sides of a dating relationship. But the way this advice tells men to approach relationships elides the will or even humanness of the woman they’re supposed to be dating.
That, ultimately, is at the center of my problem with most Christian dating advice: not only does it quite frequently encourage passivity on the part of the woman, but it quite often – in a good-faith attempt to get men to be more confident – dehumanizes the role the woman plays in a relationship.
I am not a passive woman upon whom a man can expect to say things and have me follow along. I am an active partner, with a life, a genuine humanity, and life goals and dreams that aren’t going to be dropped because some man says jump. But that’s what Christian dating advice frequently commands – be prepared for him to lead, let him take the lead, your life is the one that’s going to change, etc. etc.
Sorry, dating advisers: I’m not a “follower” just because I’m a heterosexual woman. When you forget the unique nuance that characterizes every single relationship – the way different personalities come together and the ways different people interact – your advice rings hollow and dehumanizes both men and women.
Some men don’t lead, and some women don’t follow. The boxes you put men and women and their God into are more harmful than whatever worldly influence you can imagine.