Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Before You Meet Prince Charming: Chapter Seven - Part Two

To no one's surprise, the section on parental help in staying pure is fluffy.  I figure the reason for this is that Sarah Mally's already demonstrated exactly how her parents have helped her remain pure.  First, when she's approached by a remotely eligible suitor, they help her create detailed lists of reasons why getting to know him better is a bad idea.  The fact that the parents don't know the suitor is irrelevant.   Second, if she's met a guy she's even remotely interested in, her father and brother will meet him at some point in the semi-distant future and create a list of things they don't like about the guy.

The process seems to be working well.  Ms. Mally is in her late thirties and unmarried while remaining in a sub-culture that idolizes early marriage and militant fertility - but she's still got all of her heart!

After a section of hand-wringing angst about how hard it is to remain pure when the Enemy is trying to destroy marriages before the marriages are formed, Mally launches into the idea that parents are critical for remaining pure.

She starts with a story cribbed from Uncle Arthur's Bedtime Stories by Arthur Maxwell.  In a habit Ms. Mally shares with the Botkin Sisters, the book is listed in a footnote but the footnote/literature cited is incomplete.  There are at least 47 volumes in the Uncle Arthur's Bedtime Stories series so she should have noted the volume number and the edition date since the series has had multiple printings.

Here's a synopsis of the synopsis: A family is in the mission field when their daughter becomes ill.  Her mom tells her to take some bitter medicine.  The daughter refuses.  Eventually, the daughter offers to take the medication if the mom leaves the room.  The daughter becomes severely ill within a few days; she admits that she dumped the medication out the window rather than taking it which endangered her life.

If this story sounds familiar without having read Uncle Arthur's Bedtime Stories, that's probably due to the fact that that trope has been done repeatedly in stories involving white colonial families who are in Africa or India.

It's a mildly interesting idea, but completely unrelated to courtship.  The daughter is clearly a young child who is too immature to understand the danger of malaria; someone that immature should not be courting.  Failure to take medication when critical ill with a dangerous disease is life-threatening; disagreements over dating or courting are inconvenient at worst.

After that rousing start to the chapter, Ms. Mally throws the obligatory bone of comfort to young women who have non-Christian parents that God wanted them to be in the families that they are in and that the girls can totally find a wise pastor or older couple in their church to act like parents when the time is right.  I've always found that to be questionable advice.

  • Parents/guardians have a long-standing, societally-sanctioned relationship with their child.  Parents and guardians face a basic expectation that they will be present to support their child after the marriage - especially if the marriage fails.  Will the wise pastor or older couple who are acting in the place of parents during courting provide the same level of support if the marriage fails?  
  • What happens if the courting overseers like a suitor who the non-Christian parents have genuine reservations about?  How does that pan out?
Ms. Mally transitions into recounting her memories of learning about parent-led courtship.
"The first time I remember discussing the topic of marriage with my mom was when I was very little. I can't recall exactly what she said, but I remember I had the impression that my dad was going to pick out my husband. That sounded fine to me. In fact, I liked the idea :-) A few years later while in class at my Christian school, my teacher explained the parents in Bible times would choose mates for their children. I raised my hand and enthusiastically told the class, "In our family we're going to do that too!" Needless to say, my classmates were surprised. One girl asked in disbelief, "Sarah, you are actually going to let your dad pick your husband?"

Despite the comments from these friends, I wasn't worried at all. I knew that our family was going to be like a team working on this together. I didn't know how the Lord was going to bring my future husband to me (I still don't know :-) ), but I knew that I could trust the Lord to work through my authorities." (pg. 130)
  • I've been trying to remember the first time my parents talked to me about marriage and I've got nothing.  I think my earliest memories revolve more around weddings with my parents explaining things like who the bridesmaids were.  Of course, there wasn't really anything else to discuss since I was going to meet and marry whomever in my future by dating like my parents did and like their parents did before them. Raising kids is much more simple when the end goal is well-adjusted reasonably productive members of society instead of culture warriors who will overturn the status quo.
  • I'm betting that Sarah's teacher was even more surprised than Sarah's classmates.  Oh, to be a fly on the wall when Sarah volunteered that her parents were going to set up an arranged marriage for her!  
  • A few paragraphs after the quoted section, Sarah emphatically states that she's not talking about an arranged marriage because her parents wouldn't want her to marry someone she doesn't love.  That's not what an arranged marriage means; it means that the bride and groom were either picked for each other by the parents directly or that the bride and groom were vetted heavily by the respective parents prior to the couple being allowed to assent or decline a relationship.
  • I don't remember if I've added gratuitous use of the word "authorities" as a sign of the Mally's affiliation with ATI/ATIA/IBLP yet.  In an unquoted section of this book, one young adult woman uses the phrase "character traits" in a discussion about a boyfriend.  
Immediately after her side note on how she's not talking about arranged marriages, Ms. Mally gives us a list of reasons why women should send potential suitors to ask permission from their dad.


"Seven reasons to send young men to your dad (...)
  1. Your father will respect you and know that he can trust you.
  2. You and your dad will be a team working on this together.
  3. The young man will respect you. Even if he was surprised and find this to be a completely new concept, he will still respect your conviction.
  4. If the young man won't go ask your father, then you know he's not the one for you. It's a good way to screen guys.
  5. If you aren't interested in a persistent young man, well, you can let your dad explain that to him - - makes it easier for you! :-)
  6. If he does go talk to your father, your dad will probably see things in this young man's life that you do not see. He will be able to give you caution, wisdom, and guidance.
  7. If this is the right man for you, he and your dad will start off their relationship on the right foot. From the beginning they will respect each other and have a good fellowship. This is going to be an important relationship in the years to come." (pgs. 130-131)
Allow me to explain my numerous objections to this list in order of ideas.
  1. Respect and trust between parents and children should be well-established prior to dating/courting/arranging marriages.  
  2. In Western cultures, parents are not integral persons in a marriage.  Since the married couple will be expected to "leave and cleave", having parents overly involved in picking a spouse is counter-productive.
  3. Basic respect is a right of all people. Men are not uncontrolled sex fiends who women need to guard themselves from.   Basic respect, however, does not require all men to be impressed by an adult woman telling a potential suitor to go talk to her dad first.  Men are well within their rights to be disturbed - and leave quickly.
  4. In terms of screening, this is a very weak screen.  Based on the sheer number of CP/QF men who are in favor of courting AND have been accused or convicted of sexual abuse, the screening accuracy of this test is close to 0%.  
  5. Women are more than capable of telling a persistent guy to stop.  I will concede that having a trustworthy male available in case of a creepy persistent guy - but that does not have to be a father.  Heck, my plan in case of emergency involved the nearest police department or a family friend who was a lifelong Teamster, gun-lover who has plenty of visible tattoos.  
  6. I do not understand how fathers magically know more about a guy than other people in a woman's life.  I appreciated the input of my parents - but I relied on other people as well.  My theory was the more eyes to see red flags the better.
  7. My dad and husband met each other with my mom and I at a local botanical garden.  Dad and my husband get along very well.  The relationship between any two men has far more to do with the character and interpersonal relationship skills of the men than how they met.

The rest of the chapter is anecdotes that can be summarized easily.

Theme 1) A young woman has a relationship with a guy that is causing her to feel (pick a negative emotion) because she's not talking with her parents about him.  She talks with her parents about the relationship.  Her parents' wisdom makes her feel (pick a positive emotion).  At no point are any relationships fleshed out enough to figure out if they are good, bad or indifferent.

Theme 2) A young woman wants to do some completely unspecified activity.  Her father objects on the grounds that it will interfere with her walk with Christ.  The young woman is initially disappointed, but comes around to her father's point of view at some point in the future.  The reasons for her change in point of view are never discussed at all.

Theme 3) Girl likes a guy who her parents/guardians dislike.  If the guy is a good guy, the parents will come around once God moves their hearts. The fact that the girl is probably sinning against her parents in the eyes CP/QF mores for pining after a forbidden guy is ignored.  Also, no guy ever gives up from sheer exhaustion prior to parents' giving their permission.

Well, that's the end of this chapter - but we have a bonus bit.  This book shoves a "testimony" from one of Sarah's followers between each chapter.  I've ignored them so far because they are pretty mindless, but Grace Mally wrote one that gives amazing insight into how her father works in the real world.


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