Recently Relevant Magazine published an article answering a question from a woman asking why Christian men are not asking Christian women on dates. The response to the question basically, from my POV, seems to place the majority of the blame on bad dating advice given in the 80’s and 90’s which seemed to have equated going on a date with someone with intending to marry them (I personally can’t comment on this issue as I did not grow up in such Christian circles). This is no doubt terrible advice and should certainly be discarded, as the response rightly advises people to do so in my opinion. However there a few other things related to this issue that the article did not touch on that I would like to address.
First, there is an assumption in the question which I believe is wrong. The question states, “Where are all the brave men? … This is why so many women date non-Christians; because Christian guys rarely can just keep it casual and go on a date…” The assumption here seems to be that many Christian women date non-Christian men because Christian men can rarely keep things casual (presumably because of the effects of the aforementioned bad dating advice), however I believe that this assumption is invalid. Assuming of course the assertion that many Christian women date non-Christian men is even true in the first place (and I’m not doubting that it is, though it certainly could be false), I propose instead the reason for this (many Christian women dating non-Christian men) is not primarily because of the inability of Christian men to keep things casual, but rather instead because there are significantly less Christian men than women (see here and here). The more important and significant question is, “Where are all the Christian men?”
Answering this question is a fairly complex endeavor, and I will not attempt to do so completely here, but I think the most likely reason is that generally men respond to challenge moreso than displays of affection. Growing up I consistently heard of how much Jesus loves me. And while I am certainly grateful that this is the case, this reality does not motivate me to live the Christian life. I get far more motivation from the challenge of holding onto my Faith in the midst of attacks from demons, secularism, atheism, scientism, pantheism, etc than I do from Christ’s displays of love.
Second, there is no single answer as to why the men in a certain church are not asking out the women in that church. It seems like what Erica (the one who posed the question) is wanting is more casual dates with men in her Church in order to get to know them better, presumably to see if there is enough to build a more serious relationship on, and the article rightly notes that there is nothing wrong with this. Personally I am in favor of more casual dating within the Church (e.g. the kind where you go get coffee) as I think it is a great (and efficient) way to get to know someone and gauge future relationship potential.
Why this lack of casual dating exists however is also a complex problem, and one that I will also not seek to completely address here. However I believe that to put the blame for this lack entirely on men is short sighted. From my POV it seems that the issue is, again generally speaking, that each gender has been so segregated from the other that they are mystified and confused by the other with the result being that they actually don’t know how to be just friends with the other gender.
In the end I am personally in favor of more casual dating, but I think more people need to get on board with it, both men and women (and also parents of youth). Having coffee and chatting with someone for a while is really not a big deal and is nothing to be afraid of, even when it involves teenagers in my opinion. The desire for romance is a natural and healthy one, a desire that we should be honoring and embracing in a healthy and godly way and teaching future generations to do so as well. Treating dating as essentially pre-marriage isn’t the way to do this.
I seem to remember ‘True Love Waits’ and ‘I Kissed Dating Goodbye’ (which the article refers to in a few places) to be a big thing in the churches about a decade ago – the combination of the two messages really was enough to send the message that: 1. The purpose of dating is marriage, if you aren’t going to marry a person, then do not date them. 2. God blesses emotional purity, the more pieces of your heart you give away, the less of a whole being you will be before God and the less of a blessing you will have with the one. 3. Men are initiators, women are to respond, therefore women cannot ask men out, this ties into the next set of beliefs: men are leaders, women are helpers. Of course, some Christian circles believe that dating is sinful, so they teach courtship. Some think that’s flawed and they go with betrothal. The latter two are basically the equivalent of an arranged marriage, but that is the price you pay for emotional purity.
I do believe that you’re right though – gender segregation doesn’t allow for normal healthy interaction between boys and girls and that disconnect doesn’t go away as soon as they are men and women. I think that they treat dating advice as applicable for all ages, but what works for 16 year olds shouldn’t be the same for 26 and 36 year olds. Sadly, many of the teachings that are contributory to the issues that exist for older singles today are still being taught in churches. Singleness is the new norm and pretending that it’s not isn’t going to make the problem go away or the singles any happier.