Why Betrothal Isn’t ‘The Answer’

by Calulu cross posted from her blog True Love Doesn’t Rape

Last week brought the news that Vaughn Ohlman of True Love Doesn’t Wait betrothed his son Joshua to a young lady up in Michigan named Laura Camp. I wish both of them well, they look like good well-scrubbed Fundie Christians. They’re going to need all the luck and good wishes they can garner considering the explanation of betrothal Josh’s dad gave in the wake of the announcement.

Marriage isn’t easy under the best of circumstances. It’s a struggle sometimes to create a union where each is valued for who they are and both partners fit together in complimentary ways. Their type of betrothal sets up a pretty high potential for failure, or at least, outright misery. Saying that doesn’t give me any pleasure, but after being married to the same wonderful irritating man for nearly thirty years now I think I have at least a clue what needs to happen to have a successful marriage.

Pink’s song “True Love” really sums up my and my husband’s relationship sometimes. ‘I wanna hug you and at the same time I want wrap my hands around your neck’ shows the playful push/pull dynamic that works for us, right down to the freedom to disagree and occasionally not like everything about each other.

Let’s examine Vaughn’s way, shall we?

Let me start by laying out the process whereby people in our era commonly get married. They first start, usually, as ‘friends’. Then they start dating and become ‘boyfriend’ and ‘girlfriend’. Perhaps they ‘go steady’. (We will ignore, here, the world’s stages of when they start sleeping together.) Then, assuming things go well, they get ‘engaged’.

That friendship and ‘boyfriend – girlfriend’ phase is really one of the best ways to get to know each other enough to get a sense if you have common goals and values. If you’re completely yourself and your partner is honestly who they are then this is really a critical time. Whatever red flags you see will let you know what you can expect if you plan a lifetime together. It allows you time to examine what your own deal breakers are, what things you’re willing to overlook or compromise on.

I knew before I married Jim that he was a football fanatic and between Saints games, LSU games and fantasy football scheming that every weekend during the fall and winter revolves around football. I’m not a big football fan so that time is usually when I go shopping with our daughter Laura, hang out with friends, quilt or take my oil paints and easel outside to paint. I knew it going in and it wasn’t a big deal. He knew I had almost no interest in football but was okay with his love of football.

We’re not joined at the hip, our interests are sometimes divergent and that’s okay. Had I gotten engaged after a two hour meeting there’s no way I would have known that and it had the potential to be a big deal. That’s why those dating days and/or hours in courtship are so needed. You have to get to know the real other person.

I want to examine carefully the next two phases; because we don’t think of them as two phases except, occasionally, when there is some legal problem. But there are two distinct stages. First there is the ceremony, which usually involves some critical moments: vows, a preacher saying ‘I now pronounce you’.


Most of us, after those critical moments, consider the couple ‘different’. We call them Mr and Mrs So and So, we call them man and wife, we cheer when he kisses her.


But at the same time, especially if they are virgins, we are all waiting for something else as well. We call it ‘consummation’. It is the time, usually later in the day, when the young couple ‘comes together’ physically.

I don’t think that Von realizes that it doesn’t reference the wedding ceremony much in the Bible. I think it’s more of a Westernized cultural thing than a Biblical thing. It’s symbolic of the promises the two people being bound in legal covenant together are making and a way to make their friends and family part of that symbolism.

We may cheer at the end of the ceremony when the couple seals the ceremony with a kiss but I hope no one in their right mind is thinking about the sexual consummation of the relationship that night. It’s just creepy and wrong, mind-porn, to think about the happy couple gleefully making the hotel bed springs squeak in passion. Most people are either thinking happy thoughts, like how beautiful the bride is or about the commitment these two people have made, or even anticipating having wedding cake, not thinking about sex.

If weddings make you think about all the sex the bride and groom are going to have it’s highly possible you have issues with impurity of the mind.

But there is typically at least some kind of separation between these two times. A time when the young couple is ‘Mr and Mrs’, but they have not had sex. When they are in covenant, but have not consummated that covenant.

Not legally are they Mr and Mrs. No one but a few people with little understanding of the actual commitment of marriage might consider them bound in a marital covenant.

What is betrothal? It is that time. Bound in covenant but not  yet consummated.

Mountains out of bridal molehills, it is essentially the same thing as an engagement. Just because you are calling a pig a puppy doesn’t mean you can’t still have bacon from it.

In Scripture we do not see the whole ‘friends’, ‘dating’, ‘engagement’ thing happening. Even historically a broken ‘engagement’ was called ‘breach of promise’ and could be sued over. In Scripture we see the couple being formed by the agreement of the fathers,[1] and being bound in covenant at that time. They don’t date, or court, they begin by being bound in agreement.

But even betrothed couples in the Bible usually knew each other more than a few hours. The agreement of the fathers was usually more related to political machinations or to protecting the wealth inherent in each family. That’s a very old way of dealing with marrying off a daughter or son. It still happens in some societies or people are strongly encouraged by their parents to date and marry from their own circle. You’ve misunderstood the cultural factors and the era you are using as an absolute.

For all your ‘Biblical’ blathering you’re deliberately misunderstanding the Old Testament. You have no proof of what you claim.

I hope against hope that your son and his soon to be bride are happy and a good match. It’s just too bad they had no say in the matter. Way to start out their lives together with a strong disadvantage.

You need time to know others.

Comments open below

Comments open below

Read everything by Calulu!

Calulu lives near Washington DC , was raised Catholic in South Louisiana before falling in with a bunch of fallen Catholics whom had formed their own part Fundamentalist, part Evangelical church. After fifteen uncomfortable years drinking that Koolaid she left nearly 6 years ago. Her blogs are True Love Doesn’t Rape and  Calulu – Seeking The Light

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


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