Psa 68:6 God setteth the solitary in families: he bringeth out those which are bound with chains: but the rebellious dwell in a dry land.
I need to start this post carefully. I have the greatest respect for the Botkins, including the Botkin daughters. Their writing, their films, their vision for their family long term… I am incredibly impressed by much that I see of what they do.
That said, I think that their post on courtship and marriage in the church[i] represents a clear presentation of the exact problem that courtship is causing. Rather than summarize their post (which I encourage you to read for yourself), I am going to attempt to go through their article and pick points where they illustrate how courtship is utterly failing the church; causing a ‘marriage crisis’.
The panic is summed up in the words of the site, “There are young people of both genders who wish to be married and are not.”
This is a True Statement.
It is not quite a true statement. Or, at least, it is not the true statement. The true statement is this:
There are thousands of Godly homeschooled young people of both genders who want to get married, are ready to get married, and should be married… indeed should have been married long ago… who are not married. Their church, their friends, and their families have all prepared them for marriage, for early marriage, for early, fruitful marriage… and they are not married. There is no persecution, no law, no physical infirmities that prevent them from being married… but they are not married. This is not a ‘panic’, it is a crisis. Indeed, we have from among the very best and brightest of our Christian young people, the best taught, from the finest families, who are already well past the flower of their age, and they are not married. That is beyond a crisis, it is a catastrophe.
They go on to write:
However, true observations can get blown out of proportion and trigger false alarm; fed with fear, emotionalism, bitterness, gossip and rumors, they can easily become a monster. Perspective is lost, objectivity destroyed, and it becomes hard for us to detach ourselves from our own personal concerns.
True observations can trigger useless panic. However true observations, especially if they are about serious things, can also trigger true alarm, and proper action. A sudden pain in the chest can cause all sorts of panic, all sorts of morbid thoughts. However it can also trigger one to call 911, to get an ambulance, to get an EKG, nitroglycerin, aspirin, a heart cath… and save one’s life. Having a heart attack is a personal concern. Panic will not solve this concern. However neither will delay, neither will denial.
We are called to wait on the Lord for our strength, but we are never called to wait on the Lord for our obedience. We are called to obey, to do hard things, to do things that fly in the face of our current culture. The Botkins go on to say,
Looking realistically at the big picture, the existence of young people wishing to be married and having a hard time going about it is hardly a new phenomenon. Many of civilization’s most familiar literary classics revolve around this theme (Shakespeare or Austen, anyone?)
So? Prostitution, adultery, pornography, murder and theft are also not ‘new’ phenomenons. Would we be pleased if they were becoming standard features of our churches? Being ‘new’ is not a requirement for being a crisis. And Shakespeare (Taming of the Shrew) and Austen (Pride and Prejudice) both also saw the lack of marriages as a crisis. The Botkins write, revealing their presupposition:
Nor is this “problem” a product of the courtship movement.
Yes, it is. People who believe in courting are not marrying. Many are not even courting, but even those who are courting are not marrying. And they are not courting, and not marrying, precisely because of the errors of courtship. Discernable errors; errors which are ways in which courtship has strayed from the Biblical model for marriage.
They try to make their case, excusing us in the light of our surrounding culture:
Our whole generation is seeing an unusually prolonged season of singleness, from the secular crowd that intentionally puts off marriage, to the Christian singles-group dating scene that has created a minefield of thirty-something singles. Inside the courtship camp, marriage rates are in fact higher than for those outside. However, we’re still inhaling the fumes of the culture that has caused the general marriage delay, and some of this second-hand smoke is affecting our own matrimonial condition.
First of all, since when do we care what the secular crowd does? Since when do we compare ourselves to those outside in order to justify our own sin?
Secondly, it is precisely courtship, or at least the ‘readiness’ aspect of courtship, the very issue their post promotes, which is, in so many ways, itself a product of that second hand smoke. So many of the problems of courtship are precisely the problems illustrated and promoted in Jane Austen and Shakespeare. Our job needs to be to strip aside the smoke of our culture; and the ‘readiness’ issue is, precisely, one of the plumes of that smoke.
They go on to break the issue down, starting with:
Is There a Problem?
If there is a problem, we believe it’s not that so many young people are not married – it’s that so many young people are not ready to be married.
This is utterly false. It is, ironically, the very men and women who are the most ‘ready’ who are the least married. And even if that were not true, even if our marriages were being prevented because of some readiness crisis, that would not be the real problem. God said, ‘it is not good for man to be alone’ not, ‘it is not good for man to be not ready for marriage’. Whatever issue it is, even if it were readiness, we would need to acknowledge that the end problem, the true crisis, is that our sons and daughters aren’t getting married.
Attacking the statement on its face, to say we have a ‘readiness’ crisis in this fashion would be to assume that only ‘ready’ people should marry, or may marry, or have married. All of these are false. An examination of the world will prove that very unready people have married. An examination of the law (including Gods’ law) will show that unready people may marry. And an examination of Scriptural teaching will show that unready people should marry; indeed, are commanded to marry.
Scripture shows that marriage is a sanctifying union. A young man and young woman are not to bring readiness to marriage; they are to gain ‘readiness’ (godliness, sexual purity, maturity) from marriage. ‘He who finds a wife’ we are told ‘finds a good thing’. We are assured that she will ‘do him good and not evil all the days of his life’ and ‘he will have no need of spoil’. An elder is shown ready for his office when he has married, had children, and trained his entire family in Godliness.
In language shocking to our current generation of Christians, Scripture insists that is precisely those who are struggling with, and failing to master, sexual temptation who must marry[ii]. It insists that it is in the lawful and commanded pleasures of the marriage bed that the young man and young woman are distracted from the unlawful and forbidden temptations of the adulterous bed.[iii]
The paragraphs that follow in their post go on to indicate that our young men are not finding worthy enough girls in the church to marry; that all of the girls in their churches are ‘unappealing’ (their words). To this I would say two things:
Firstly, I have never met any of these young men. I, personally, have never interviewed a young man of my or any other church who has said or even implied, “I find all of the young women in my church unappealing.” I don’t actually think these young men exist. A given young man, given his free choice, might choose one young woman of the church over and against another, but I have never heard one say, or even imply, “I’m not married because I have never found a young woman of our church (or our sister churches) who appealed to me, look how I will.”
Secondly, if they do exist, I would not let such an egotistical, vain, and selfish young man anywhere near any of my daughters, and would recommend to every father I know that they not even speak to such a young man. To say of any girl that God has created, of a sister in Christ, of a daughter of the church, that you find her ‘unappealing’ and somehow below the standards that you have set for the person that would deign to be your mate… well… such blasphemy[iv] should be given to the elders to deal with. Is he really saying that he is rejecting God’s own gift, and command, of a wife, because he finds all of the women God has ranged in front of him ‘unappealing’?
They also imply that the young women, themselves, are so narcissistic and shallow that they are turning down suitors right and left in their quest for some combination of ‘Jonathan Edwards in Edward Cullen’s body’[v] (again, the words the Botkin sisters choose to use). I have never met these girls. Somehow my own experience must be limited and shallow, but the girls I have talked to were sort of looking for… a male warm body, a church member, a Christian. They may dream of the Botkin girls combination of perfect body and perfect doctrine… or perfect personality and wonderful work ethic… or any other combination of traits, but most are not waiting for them, they are waiting for someone Daddy approves of.Which is the rub. Daddy, with his pronouncements[vi], has already cut the majority, the overwhelming majority if not the totality, of young men off at the knees. His buckshot of requirements for any young man that would dare to even consider asking for his daughter to court is so serious, and so deadly, that he has left young men bleeding all over the church.
Fathers are standing up in church, writing articles, and giving speeches in which they expound all of the wonderful traits that a man who wishes to marry their daughters must have. Ignoring the physical, they concentrate on the spiritual (able to understand and expound doctrine), the financial (financially stable, good job, education done, etc.), the sexual purity (no pornography, no lust, no self-abuse), etc., etc. And that, of course, is the foundation, the minimums. To actually be the right boy, instead of merely an acceptable boy, they must be someone higher, more stellar, more magnificent than that. After all, we are talking about his daughter.
I heard of a young man who, once he had been given his bride and they stood together at the altar, was lauded, praised by all the preachers and fathers, as a sterling young man, the perfect young man, the young man who was, in every single possible way ready to get married. And yet this young man, this not even that young of a young man had, up until recently, for years, not been willing to consider himself ‘ready’. Why? Because he had imbued the false fumes from the courtship movement… the fumes that had said that only perfect young men need apply, and he had known, as do all of us, that he was not perfect.
And Daddy is a problem even once the courtship has begun. I, personally, have heard story after story of young men (Godly young men!) who, applying for permission to court received it (as opposed to the others before him) and then, after a season of winning the young ladies’ heart was told, by the father, that he was, after all, not good enough and should go look elsewhere.
The Botkin girls compared the courting church, earlier, to the secular world, to excuse our shortcomings. I would point us to that world, to reveal, even more fully, our guilt. A secular singer, singing to a secular audience, wrote a song that has millions of hits on the internet:
All he could think about was, “I’m too young for this.Got my whole life ahead.… I’m just a kid myself.How’m I gonna raise one?”–All he could see were his dreams goin’ up in smoke.“So much for ditchin’ this town and hangin’ out on the coast.Oh well, those plans are long gone.”–And he said,“There goes my life.There goes my future, my everything.Might as well kiss it all good-bye.There goes my life…….”–A couple years of up all night and a few thousand diapers later.That mistake he thought he made covers up the refrigerator.Oh yeah, he loves that little girl.–Momma’s waiting to tuck her in,As she fumbles up those stairs.She smiles back at him dragging that teddy bear.“Sleep tight, blue eyes and bouncin’ curls.”–He smiles…..“There goes my life.There goes my future, my everything.”“I love you, daddy, Good-night.”“There goes my life.”–She had that Honda loaded down.With Abercrombie clothes and 15 pairs of shoes and his American Express.He checked the oil and slammed the hood and said, “You’re good to go.”She hugged them both and headed off to the West Coast.–And he cried:“There goes my life.There goes my future, my everything.I love you.Baby. Good-bye”.[vii]
Ok, so he wasn’t ‘ready’. He probably wasn’t the spiritual leader in his home. He wasn’t full quiver. He didn’t homeschool.
They were fornicators, ignorant, not committed to each other… but they married. They married and raised their child, and loved her. It all started because of a sin; but God used it for good. God took two ‘unready’ people, and gave them one of his precious children.
We do not have a readiness crisis, we have a marriage crisis. We are not marrying our young people. Our children are not marrying, they are not having children, they are not
We, the Church of the twenty first century, have a marriage crisis. In Genesis 2:18 God says, “It is not good for man to be alone.” In I Cor 7:2 He says, “Let every man have his own wife, and every woman her own husband.” Gen 1:31, stating the whole creation is ‘very good’, is made after he has finished making man and woman, and brought them together as husband and wife. God does not have a marriage crisis, we do. God commands us to let them marry, and we have not done so.
What is the answer? A return to Biblical marriages. A return to ‘letting them marry’. A return to ‘Take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands’.
Paul states very clearly, ‘let them marry’. Let that imperfect young man, who lusts, is lazy, plays too many video games, and has no earthly idea of how precious your daughter is to you, let him marry your daughter. Stop waiting, get up, go to your elders and say, “My daughter has passed the flower of her age. I have raised her to be a wife and mother, to homeschool and keep the home, to honor, respect and obey her husband, but she has no husband. She is not perfect. She will probably forget half of what we told her and abandon the rest as soon as she faces a real husband instead of her dream. But she is ready, it is time, it is past time. Please find a young man in the church and convince him that he needs a wife, and then give him my daughter. No, he does not have to court her, your word, your judgement is good enough. Betroth them, give them to each other in covenant, and then let them learn, over the next few weeks or months, what being bound in covenant is all about. And then he may come for her, when he is ready or when he has a need, and take her to his house, to his bed.”
Let those of us with sons go to the elders and say, “I have a son, who needs a wife. He is not sexually pure, he does not have his thought life under control, and thus I am commanded, by Scripture, to let him marry rather than burn. I have tried to raise him to be a godly husband and father, and no doubt have failed miserably… after all, look who he has had for an example. But God did not say that only perfect young men get wives, but every young man. Please find him a wife. No, he shouldn’t court her, God doesn’t permit him to look on her in that way until they are bound . Bind them in covenant, so that when he looks at her, from now on, she will no longer be his sister but his wife. And then, when the time comes that he is ready, or when he has a need, let him come for her, and bring her to my house, to his bed, and let them dwell together, as husband and wife, trying to serve God and learning, from each other, from us, and most of all from God. Let them be fruitful now, in their youth. Let him have this good thing now, in his youth. Let her bless him, as he loves her. Let him have no need of spoil, and rejoice always in her breasts. God has said that it is not good for man to be alone, and I wish for my son no longer to be alone.”
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QUOTING QUIVERFULL is a regular feature of NLQ – we present the actual words of noted Quiverfull leaders and ask our readers: What do you think? Agree? Disagree? This is the place to state your opinion. Please, let’s keep it respectful – but at the same time, we encourage readers to examine the ideas of Quiverfull honestly and thoughtfully.
NLQ Recommended Reading …
‘Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich
‘Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland
‘Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce