The Absurd and Amazing Adventures of Cafe Girl: He Kissed (Church) Dating Goodbye

May 4, 2012

He Kissed (Church) Dating Goodbye

I first came across the article: Why Won't Christian Men Date Women Who Go To Their Church when a friend of a friend posted the article on Facebook. Originally from the blog Your Tango, it's a thoughtfully written article by a Christian woman who interviewed five Christian men ranging from their 20s to their 40s about why they are hesitant to, or even completely avoid, asking out the women who share their communities of faith.

The five Christian men were surprisingly honest - all of them wanted a relationship, and wanted to eventually be married. Most of them had been in some kind of relationship with a woman at one point or another in their adult lives. But these men were all in agreement that they would rather not date the women that go to their church for these five reasons:

Reason #1 - They're worried about their reputations.- Men didn't want to be perceived as "that guy" who preyed on women in the community.

Reason #2 - Dating girls at church reduces their options. If they dated one girl in their community, and it didn't work out, all her girl friends were instantly "off-limits."

Reason #3 - It complicates things. People at church gossip. Also, break-ups are painful and awkward when you have to share the same circle of friends.

Reason #4 - There are better ways than church for meeting women.  Because the men can't date the women that are already at church, and meeting new people at church is impossible, men prefer other options of meeting women - such as online dating sites, or, more "organically" through mutual friends.

Reason #5 - It feels inappropriate. Church discourages men and women from expressing their sexuality, and turning something as sacred as church into a pick-up playground was just too "shady."

The article caused a riot on Facebook. There were hundreds of comments within a span of days- from both men and women. Some were horrified and disgusted - these men were clearly selfish, only considering their fears, their needs, their comfort.

Others applauded these men for their honesty and agreed wholeheartedly with their reasons. Some took this as an opportunity to point out that church-going women's expectations were too high anyway, and all Christian women ever did was say no to well-meaning men.

Yet others shook their heads and rolled their eyes cyber-style and declared the entire system of dating as we know it today dysfunctional. Others encouraged commenters to wait on the God to bring the right one for them. Words like "bitter" and "letting go" got thrown around.

Eventually, the person who posted the article took it down, along with the thread of comments - I think all our posting was causing the poor poster's account to implode.

I've been reflecting on this online interaction ever since. Two out of three of my serious relationships had been with men who were attending my church at the time. And I had experienced every one of those emotions the men expressed - awkwardness, pain, confusion about how to express my sexuality. When one of those relationships ended, I found myself in a community where most of the available men were friends with the Ex - I had become "off-limits."

So while the men in the article made a good point, were these the same reasons I would not date the men with whom I go to church? Well, not really. For me, avoiding the church as a dating pool isn't about worrying about my reputation, or trying to appear appropriately non-sexual on Holy Ground. For me, it comes down to these reasons:

Reason #1 - Community certainly means well, but is a pain-in-the-ass.
I cannot even begin to tell you how much Community loves me and wants to see me happy, and I would dare saw that your Community loves you so very much too. In fact, Community can't believe that someone as awesome as you is still single. That's why, the moment you start dating, Community rejoices. Finally! Someone has seen how so very awesome you are! Finally! Someone who deserves you! Community has all the hope in the world that this is The One For You.

The problem with Community's hope for you - hope that this is the last man you'll have to date, hope for a timely engagement, hope that you'll never be lonely again - may not be the same things you're hoping for yourself. And sometimes, because Community loves you so much, you may find it hard to say no to their hopes. Before you know it, their hope becomes your hope. And if the relationship comes to an end, the weight of hopes dashed - hopes that you may never have had if Community had just shut their yap - is staggering.

So in some ways, it does feel like a relief to date outside of the eager eyes of Community. 

Reason #2 - There's no freedom to go at your own pace. 
By that I mean as quickly or as slowly as you need to. Depending on the dating culture of the particular church, you're given the message you're either moving too fast, or too slow in your relationship. Getting engaged under a year of meeting could be met with raised eyebrows and concerns of whether you are aware of what you're doing. On the other hand, dating for years without an engagement is met with questions about what issues you're avoiding, and how you could possibly have enough self control to stay celibate throughout the time.

I think Christians love timelines and formulas because it adds certainty to grey areas. And dating is an infinite grey area. In a season of dating, you are neither  married, nor are you completely separate. You're trying to express and grow in love and yet stay away from the full physical and emotional expression of love - sex. You're to trying to share your heart in hope of growing intimate, and yet you're somehow called to "guard your heart." There really can be no formula for this - some of us may know this is the person they want to spend the rest of their life within moments of meeting. Others will need to take the two, three, or *gasp* five years to feel safe and known enough to share a lifetime together. And yes, we'll have to figure out how "not to have sex" while we're at it, ok?

I'd certainly be more eager to date within Community if there was less talk of where I'm heading in the dating relationship, and more coming alongside of during the relationship.

Reason #3 - We complicate things.
For me, there's no question that breaking up and having to share the same church and circle of friends, having to still have to see your Ex week after week, having to quite possibly lose some friends in the process is one of the painful realities of dating in community. But I would argue that people who don't go to church still struggle with these situations. Just read any dating blog or lifestyle magazine and you'll find articles about who gets to keep which friends, whose side you choose in a break up and how to act if you run into your Ex on the street. Hell, Sex in the City did a whole episode about that one.

I think we, the loving Body of Christ, make dating complicated by adding a spiritual dimension to every little facet of dating. So I don't go to coffee to get to know someone better, I'm going to coffee and discerning if this is the person God has for me to spend the rest of my life with. We don't just share a kiss - by kissing, we somehow develop soul ties so that if we break up, our souls are torn asunder. When we break up, we don't just get to be depressed and eat ice-cream. we also need prayer for healing of a broken heart. And if we're depressed too long, and eat too much ice-cream, we need the next level of prayer - "intensive prayer." Everything has such spiritual weight on it. It's no wonder why no one feels particularly excited about dating in this kind of environment. Who wants to carry around a spiritual anvil?

Sometimes, I wish the people of God would just chillax. Coffee can just be coffee, kissing and then a little more may not always lead to intense spiritual bonding, and sometimes, we just need to be sad for awhile because, well, ending a relationship is incredibly sad. Dating is hard enough without this added pressure of having to consider whether each interaction with the opposite sex is going to damage my soul, or his, for eternity.

Reason #4 - Men? What men?
I'm not being snide and saying that church is full of boys, or there are no "real men" around. What I mean is that there is a gender disparity in the Christian faith as a whole. According to the site Church For Men the typical U.S. church congregation is 61% women and 39% men. That's all kinds of men, of all ages. If we take a guess and say the percentage of single people in church follows the trends of the U.S. as a whole, then it means only 44% of those men in church are single. So basically, less than 20% of any given congregation is single men.

Statistically, church is a terrible place to find a date if you're a woman.

Reason #5 - It feels a bit much.
Because there's not a lot of men coming to church, once an age-appropriate, apparently single man walks through the doors, women pay attention. But quite frankly, as a woman, I hate the idea that all of us women are looking out for the next new single guy at church. It makes me feel like a vulture. It makes me feel like I have to do whatever the local church version of batting my eyelids might be (Can I pray for you? Are you new? Come to lunch with us? I serve in Children's Church.) hoping that the New Guy will pay attention to me.

We're not on The Bachelor here... I really don't want to compete with women in my circle for that one new guy that happens to grace our pews. (Why did that sound strangely filthy?)

So church going men, here's the good news. Relax. Not all of us are sitting at these church pews eagerly hoping you'll ask us out. We women are aware of the baggage dating at our churches brings. Hell, some of us are even in agreement with you in Kissing Church Dating Goodbye. (It's probably one of the few kisses we'll enjoy this year). So don't enter those sanctuary doors looking like the hunted from a Discovery Channel special.

However, consider this:

If we automatically dismiss the single people that go to our church because we want to avoid gossip, awkwardness, or pressure of expectations, we're dismissing some really great potential here. The men and women in our church are the ones we see the most often, who know our strengths and weaknesses, who share in our beliefs, who pray together and support one another. Call me crazy, but that sounds like great potential for deep, intimate romantic relationships to me.

That's why next time, I'll tell you why I'd give church dating a chance.

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