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Boy Meets Girl: Say Hello to Courtship Kindle Edition
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Courtship certainly sounds romantic, and seems governed by godly principles and it also seems safe. It is a relationship between a man and a woman who are actively and intentionally together to consider marriage; 'relationship with a purpose.' It sounds good, but the more Joshua attempts to explain what courtship is, several things about it struck me as contradictory, vague, and (dare I say it), undefined. It's contradictory because it sounds like a big deal, and it is - it's making a committment to someone. 'By setting a clear course for romance by answering the 'What's the point?' question at the very outset.' But he also says that 'We shouldn't make courtship a bigger deal than it is.' Courtship sounds vague and undefined because you're only considering the possibility of marriage. It's not a form of engagement. You might
realise after a time that you're not heading towards marriage. Do you see what I'm getting at here? On one hand it's a serious committment,
on the other hand it's not. There's a lot of grey area involved.
Another issue about courtship, and this isn't really about the book itself, is: will courtship work in inexperienced churches? Joshua Harris
apparently was already attending a church where courtship was a well established practice. He mentions couples and friends he has who
were also courting, and obviously the pastor and older couples were able to mentor them successfully by advising them on how best to
progress in their relationship. But in the UK, courtship is not practiced in the church (at least, I've never come across any couple who has
adopted Joshua's methods), and ministers and leaders will probably be unfamiliar with what it's about. They may be unsure about what their
role is and how best to guide couples in a courtship, unless they decide to adhere rigidly to the book, which they might find a little dull, or
Joshua and Shannon decide to save their first kiss for their wedding day. Sound extreme? He doesn't advise all couples to do this, but he thought it necessary to draw up a list of guidelines on the physical boundaries he and Shannon had to keep to. Physical contact was kept to an absolute minimum - limited to hand-holding and 'brief side hugs.' Oh, and he was allowed to put his arm round her shoulder. And yet, he admits a few pages on that 'I sinned more in my heart without kissing Shannon than many guys who kiss their girlfriends.' This revelation
was shocking to me, because Joshua Harris is so strict, almost puritantical - in his approach to sex and physical sin. I guess he thought that
as long as he had a list of rules to follow then he would be safe. But that's simply not the case. While I can understand his reasons for
following them, I think it proves that adopting a list of rules and regulations do not automatically make you immune to sexual desire. I also
can't help wondering that if Joshua and Shannon had not compromised their purity in previous relationships, would they have gone to such
extremes? Joshua knew about Shannon's past, so maybe he was trying to protect her.
In Part 2, Chapter 7 Joshua addresses the specific gender roles assigned to men and women. While I didn't have a problem with what he had to say, when the topic of dressing modestly cropped up in the part 'A Challenge To The Girls: Be Godly Ladies', I was amused, aghast and insulted at the same time. Why? Well, he's presuming that Christian girls and young women are wearing midriff-revealing, low-cut tops and short skirts and need to be told to dress modestly. I can think of NON-Christian young women who could do with his advice, but NOT women who ARE Christians. I'm sure that Joshua didn't intend to come across as patronising, but I sure don't need to take his fashion advice. Nor do I need to 'ask my father or another Christian woman to honestly evaluate my clothing', as he suggests. If I wonder whether an outfit is inappropriate (not that that ever happens) all I have to do is look in the mirror! Rest assured, Josh, women do not need to 'sacrifice fashion to be obedient to God' - we can be as fashionable as we like without having everything on display!
The final points about courtship is: I'm not sure if I can see British men going in for this kind of thing. For many, throwing the possibility of marriage into a first date might be too scary or too much pressure. And how exactly do you approach someone and ask them to take a step into courtship with you? Do you say 'Hi, would you mind if I courted you?' Or how about 'Let's go courting!' You couldn't mention courtship without making a speech about your feelings for them, and if their answer was 'no' then this would hurt a lot more than if you had only asked them out on a date. The other thing I felt acutely when I reached the end of his book was that it didn't have much to offer single people. The fact is, Joshua didn't have to wait very long for marriage. Although he apparently struggled with staying sexually pure in his previous relationships, by the time he was 24, he was happily married. There are many Christians who have to wait much much longer and find being single much more painful than he ever did. In spite of readers who loved this book enthusiastically espousing its merits to all and sundry, married and single alike, when you are in your 30s and you wonder if you will ever meet anyone who will even ask you out, just the possibility that someone might ask you out on a casual date sounds wonderful. The idea that to even get to that stage, people have to follow a formula or some kind of model like this one just takes something that looks remote to begin with into the realms of the impossible. I appreciate the gist of Joshua's book, but I am not sure if courtship is compatible in every church, nor am I convinced that it guarantees a happy marriage; (for the record, two of courtship's 'poster couples' he mentions, Megan and Kerrin, and Bethany and Sam Torode whose love story is featured in the intro of 'I Kissed Dating Goodbye' are now divorced). For anyone who has to deal with dark secrets of their past however, then I'm sure they will find Joshua's guidance valuable. But when it comes to following his example, this book will not be for everyone.
EDIT: Since publishing this review, one thing that has struck me is how much of a following Joshua Harris has within the Christian community, and how much power his writing has over them. I have even been contacted by people who keenly felt any criticism I was levelling at some of the points he makes in 'Boy Meets Girl' and sought to defend him. If Joshua Harris' courtship regimen and this book has helped them and enriched their relationships, then I am happy for them. But Joshua is not God. Nor is he any kind of Christian dating guru, and I feel like because both his books were bestsellers, then maybe some people have placed Josh high up, and are looking to what he says in his books as an answer to their problems, and quite frankly, I'm not sure if this is what even Josh himself intended when he wrote 'I Kissed
Dating Goodbye' (he has since stated that it was him 'at 21, trying to honour God in his relationships'), and 'Boy Meets Girl'. One other thing that struck me was this: in spite of Josh saying in both books that he's not trying to make people follow his examples and so forth, I can't help feeling that since his books were published, they MAY have inadvertently created a sense of moral superiority in the Christians who read, loved, followed his 'no dating'/courtship principles, over the ones who were more sceptical of his methods; especially if the Christians who were more pro-Joshua Harris ended up getting married in the end. ("We saved our first kiss for our wedding day; they didn't. We're purer than they are.") Some Christians may even end up believing that adapting Joshua's methods is the holy grail to marriage instead of looking to, and trusting God. I'm sure that Joshua Harris himself never actually intended this to happen, but it seems to be one of the consequences of his books nonetheless.
In 'I Kissed Dating Goodbye' Harris talks of why he thinks 'dating' is wrong and now he sets out what to do when you find the person you think you may want to marry.
This book is NOT legalistic although Harris does say he thinks couples should have boundaries and he truthfully tells us what his limits were.
It was amazingly refreshing to hear someone talking of keeping yourself pure for your future spouse and suggesting ways of doing this.
A definite buy. I would suggest this book to people of all ages and marriage status. To help in your own life and to give advice to others.
I thought that 'I Kissed Dating Goodbye' was fantastic and completely agreed with it but was left wondering what happens when I meet somebody that I could spend the rest of my life with. Reading this book has answered that question and I now feel confident that God will help show me who that person is whether it is next year or 10 years down the line!
This book isn't just advice on how to handle dating and find the perfect match, it brings scripture and biblical relevance into the issue and encourages sticking to God's way during a relationship.
Thank you Joshua for another brilliant guide!!
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