Saturday, January 19, 2013

Needed: A "No Sex Till Marriage" Dating Site

Dan Slater Atlantic has a good article about a sad phenomenon: online dating makes some relationships less stable and less likely to lead to marriage.

One of the reasons for this instability is that online relationships tend to quickly lead to sex.  As Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker found in Premarital Sex in America, the earlier sex is introduced into a relationship, the shorter the relationship is likely to be.

This leads me to think there is a market for a new kind of dating site: one of the ground rules would be "no sex till marriage."  Or at least until she has a ring and a date. 

Such a site would separate the let's-have-sex-and-see-what-happens online daters from the I-am-here-for-lifelong-marriage online daters - to the mutual benefit of both groups.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Family Scholars Online Discussion of "Does the Shape of Families Shape Faith?"

I invite you all to participate in an online discussion, today and tomorrow, at the Family Scholars blog on their new report, "Does the Shape of Families Shape Faith?" 

Yours truly has contributed one of the response essays, and I will be following the discussion and commenting where appropriate.

The link is here.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

"The End of Courtship?" is Really About The Subculture of Courtship Incompetents

The New York Times has a story that those of us in the pro-marriage business are obliged to read.  It is a popular theme in upper-middle class publications that hope to attract young adult readers: courtship is impossible now because men are incompetent and/or women are incomprehensible. She wants a traditional date, but he only wants to hang out in a group.  He tries to be traditional and romantic, but she attacks his macho presumption.  And they don't have enough money for courtship.  And Facebook Ruins Everything.

I think the good news is that the extreme incompetence that such stories highlight is not universal, but is the kind of anecdote that makes a good hook - the sort of stuff that forms the core of most stand-up comedy.

I think the core of the problem is that there are two groups here, working at cross-purposes.  One group wants a game with sex; the other wants a clear path to marriage.  Most of the players in the first group are men, and most of the players in the second group are women.  Clearly, though, there are overlaps - which adds to the confusion.

One of the core features of dysfunctional relationships is unclear communication.  Therefore,  I think our best hope in ending the "end of courtship" story is to say clearly which game - that is, which kind of social relationship - you are seeking.  To that end, by the authority vested in me by having a blog, I offer three pieces of advice:

1) Figure out what you want, say so, and stick to it.  Ambivalence kills.

2) The earlier sex comes into a relationship, the less likely it is to last.  Women control sex - this is just a basic, asymmetrical fact - so if you want marriage, don't allow sex early.

3) Use social media to your advantage.  If you want a traditional courtship leading to marriage, spell it out.  If you just want to hang out and not get serious, say that, too.  And whichever side of that divide you are on, Don't Go Out With the Other Kind.  Period.

Following these simple rules are more likely to keep the two games separated, and to get you want you want.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

I commend "Café" as a morally and theologically interesting film

I lucked into a theologically interesting film. "Café" is a small independent movie, though the recognizable Jennifer Love Hewitt is one of the leads.  It is set in a small independent coffee house in West Philadelphia.  I found it when I was looking for films to use in my "Cafés and Public Life" class.

What "Café" is really about, though, is the idea that this reality might just be virtual, a simulated reality set up by a programmer.  I am not very interested in that idea.  But the film uses it to run a parallel conversation about how our free will is consonant with God's foreknowledge.  I thought they handled this tricky idea well.

Moreover, the several running stories of the regulars in the coffee house all lead them toward potential evil choices.  Most of the characters use their free will well.  I will not spoil it by saying more.

The ending will not be satisfying to all. I thought it was too pat, though intelligible.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Divorce Undermines Children's Trust in Other Institutions, Too

Yesterday I wrote about the new report "Does the Shape of Families Shape Faith?"

Today I want to connect that report with other recent research on young people and institutions.

Divorced kids are less likely to become churched adults.  Yet these unchurched adults are not usually atheists.  They are just disappointed with and suspicious of the institution of religion.

Divorced kids are also less likely to get married. Yet they are not against romance, parenthood, or even the idea of permanent pair bonding.  They are just disappointed with and suspicious of the institution of marriage.

A recent study from the Pew Research Center, led by Robert Putnam of Bowling Alone fame, found that a fifth of Americans say they have no religious affiliation. Yet most of them believe in God and think of themselves as in some way spiritual. They are religious, but decline to register with a religious institution, in the same way that they are political, but decline to register with a political party. This is especially true of young people.

My best guess is that the young people are reluctant to trust institutions because they were divorced upon in their childhood, or never saw their parents even attempt marriage in the first place.  The experience of family is more basic than the experience of other institutions, and the decline in marriage precedes the decline in religious and political affiliation.

The shape of families not only shapes faith, it shapes children's trust of all institutions.