The End of Courtship?

A recent New York Times article documents what it suggests may be “the end of courtship” among millennials. It notes emerging trends, especially among urban 20-somethings, that cause their romantic lives to be more casual, cheaper, and more convenient rather than committed.

Some of the most startling and insightful thoughts from the article include:

“Dating culture has evolved to a cycle of text messages, each one requiring the code-breaking skills of a cold war spy to interpret.”

In interviews with students, many graduating seniors did not know the first thing about the basic mechanics of a traditional date. “They’re wondering, ‘If you like someone, how would you walk up to them? What would you say? What words would you use?’ ” Ms. Freitas said.

Traditional courtship — picking up the telephone and asking someone on a date — required courage, strategic planning and a considerable investment of ego (by telephone, rejection stings). Not so with texting, e-mail, Twitter or other forms of “asynchronous communication,” as techies call it. In the context of dating, it removes much of the need for charm; it’s more like dropping a line in the water and hoping for a nibble.

“I’ve seen men put more effort into finding a movie to watch on Netflix Instant than composing a coherent message to ask a woman out,” said Anna Goldfarb, 34, an author and blogger in Moorestown, N.J.

THERE’S another reason Web-enabled singles are rendering traditional dates obsolete. If the purpose of the first date was to learn about someone’s background, education, politics and cultural tastes, Google and Facebook have taken care of that.

What’s causing the end of courtship? The article indicates that economic and sociological forces are at play. On the one hand, difficult economic times mean that millennials can’t afford traditional dating, at least not with someone that may be here today and gone tomorrow. On the other hand, shifting sociological norms mean that millenials aren’t sure what the rules of engagement are in dating relationships anymore, especially as gender lines blur.

Churches must cast a different vision of the Christian view of dating and courtship that shifts the convenience-centered view of the culture to the Christ-centered view of the Bible. For some reason, the most popular post I’ve ever written on this blog was one from all the way back in 2006 called “The Bible and Dating: How to Guard Your Heart.”

If search traffic tendencies are any indication, young Christians are seeking direction on dating. Is the church prepared with a counter-cultural answer?

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