A Foreign Affair

I think a lot of our ideas about attraction and “mating” are very specific to our culture.

Recently, I watched two documentaries on Netflix that gave me some food for thought about how we, as Americans, think about attraction and marriage.

Meet The Patels, centers around an Indian-American actor who is on the cusp of 30. According to his cultural expectations, this situation is unacceptable. So, after some thought, he agrees to let his parents intervene with his love life.  And ultimately, he agrees to a modern-day take on pursuing an arranged marriage.

What I found fascinating about the film was the idea, that marriage is such an important part of his culture and community, that the older generation didn’t leave partnering up to chance.  In addition, there seemed to be an intentional goal of passing on the traditions, morals, and values of previous generations.  It also appeared that this “rite of passage” was/is so important that people created a process to ensure that like-minded individuals could meet and marry each other. I also liked the fact, that the community was vested in making sure that the potential couple was vetted for compatibility, character, interests, etc.

Granted, I say this as an outsider to the Indian/Indian-American community, so I don’t have a grasp on the nuances of reality of this idea. But some of the concepts presented were interesting and compelling.

I grew up in the “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” pandemonium, which although good intentioned, brought a lot of confusion and hang-ups to the single, Christian community.

To that end, there is a tendency for many singles to “date in a vacuum”, which is isn’t particularly beneficial.   I think there’s tremendous value in having the previous generation pour into our lives.  And I also think it’s very valuable to have married couples weigh-in on our dating decisions. Through this interaction, there’s an opportunity for people to share their mistakes, successes, and the tips that have helped them weather the storms of life in a partnership.  I feel that we need this knowledge and I wish it was more freely offered and given.

The other film (Love Me), profiled American men, who after various failed attempts at finding love in the States, decide to take a chance on a “mail-order bride” from another country. Yes, this concept is extreme and some of the men are “interesting”.  However, this film made me think.  It made me question the concept of attraction.  In fact, the saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” comes to mind.

If we’re honest, there is some level of reciprocity in relationships. The value of  the”goods” is often determined by culture.  Meaning…what we find physically attractive, the amount of value that we place on physical desirability or the ability to provide, etc. is often determined by the society around us.

So, it was interesting to see men, who some would not find desirable in the US, being desired and valued elsewhere. Granted, I realize that the ideas presented in this film are complicated at best. (I am not advocating the mail-order bride arrangement.) However, it did make me think about my American concept of attraction.  Is possible that I, we are missing out on good people because they don’t fit our preconceived notions of what is desirable in our culture.

What are your thoughts?  If you’ve seen the movies, weigh-in.  Even if you haven’t, what do you think about today’s approach to dating and marriage?

Meet The Patels

 

Love Me

Quitting Church…

Why the Faithful are Fleeing and What to Do about It– Julia Duin

In some ways, all of us struggle with trying to fit in.  Seldom do people enjoy being the “only one” or the person who sticks out as not being “like the others”. Unfortunately, if you are single and you are in your late 20’s or beyond, you may feel like the odd man out in your church circles.

It often feels like many churches are primarily geared towards married couples with children. I don’t believe this focus is meant to be a slight towards singles. But I don’t think those in leadership understand the unique needs of their single members.

Think about it. How many people in church leadership are single themselves or were married later in life?  So it stands to reason that many of them simply don’t understand this path and few seem willing to the bridge the gap in experiences or willing to truly empathize.

On top of that, it’s no secret that many people are becoming increasingly skeptical and disillusioned with “organized religion”. In fact, I’ve known a number of friends who’ve left the church after years of being active members.  And I’ve also seen friends who’ve become mired in unbelief and doubt even as they continue to serve and fill up the pews on Sunday mornings.

To be honest, I’ve had my own frustrations with church. Many times I’ve sat in a darkened sanctuary feeling isolated and disconnected wondering why I bothered to peel myself out of bed.

Unfortunately, I’m not alone in this sentiment.

A while ago, I stumbled across Julia Duin’s book Quitting Church. In her book she outlines some of the reasons that people are “fleeing”. They include things like:

  • The church has become  irrelevant to the struggles that people face
  • The lack of true community
  • The lack of guidance and compassion for singles-especially for those over 35
  • The role of women in various places of leadership and ministry

I can identify with many of the observations she describes.

As I mentioned in my Why Blog post, I didn’t think that my life would look like this-single with no children in my 30’s. As an older single, I struggle with loneliness, questions of fertility, sexual purity, rejection, bitterness, and more.  Not to mention, since I live alone, there is no division of labor (cooking, paying bills, cleaning, etc.), emotional support and/or built-in help in times of need (health issues, car problems, etc.).It’s hard to go through these concerns alone and few in the church are truly equipped to offer assistance beyond a scripture memory verse or occasional prayers.

But despite my frustrations, I don’t think the answer is to give up on church. In fact the Bible tells us to not get out of the habit of having fellowship with other Christians –Hebrews 10:25.  However, I’m beginning to realize that “church” isn’t strictly a gathering where people meet in a special brick and mortar building. Church can happen anytime or any place where multiple Christians are seeking to encourage and edify each other by studying scripture and living life together.  In my faith journey, this has led me to seek out home fellowships.  These meetings are typically small and have a built-in sense of community.

Regardless of where or how you find community, I think it’s important to find a group of people where there is a reciprocal exchange of ideas and opportunities to meet each other’s needs.

So… what say you?

  • Have you struggled with finding a place at church or have your experiences been mostly positive? Why?
  • If you get a chance to read Julia Duin’s book, let me know what you think.

“Sex Is Sexist”

“American society… has torn down [the] hedge of protection [of cultural norms]. In doing so, we have left our adolescents and young women naked, uncovered, and unprotected.”[1]

The dating landscape has changed. Back in my parent’s day, there were subtle (and not so subtle) cultural expectations  for how a man and a woman were supposed to relate to one another in regards to romance, dating, and sex.  But today, the argument can be made, that those expectations are all but non-existent.

Some would say that this freedom from cultural “rules” has liberated us from our hang-ups and has created an equal playing ground for the sexes.  However, others, such as the authors from Girls Uncovered, would disagree.

Girls Uncovered: New Research on What America’s Sexual Culture Does to Young Women by M.D. Joe S. McIlhaney Jr MD ,  M.D. Freda McKissi Bush MD and Stan Guthrie

This is a book written by doctors (obstetricians/gynecologists) who have treated numerous women during their active years of medical practice. From their first-hand accounts they have seen how “sex is sexist”.[2]  Meaning, oftentimes it’s the women who bear the consequences of premarital/extramarital sexual activity via unplanned pregnancy, sexual transmitted infections (STIs), and emotional fall-out.

I realize that when it comes to negative statistics about non-marital sexual activity, there are more than a few skeptics.  But I found this book to be eye opening. The authors do a good job of laying a case for why casual sex and non-committed relationships may have farther reaching consequences than many people (certainly youth) realize.

In a day and age, where we have the freedom to do whatever we want (especially in the bedroom), we are not free from the consequences1 Corinthians 10:23.

All in all, this book is a reminder to me that there is great value in choosing to submit one’s sexuality to the authority of Christ. In my opinion, this book is a good read.


[1] McIlhaney Jr., Joe S., Freda McKissic Bush, and Stan Guthrie, Girls Uncovered: new research on what America’s sexual culture does to young women (Chicago: Northfield Publishing, 2011),19.

[2] McIlhaney Jr., Joe S., Freda McKissic Bush, and Stan Guthrie, Girls Uncovered: new research on what America’s sexual culture does to young women (Chicago: Northfield Publishing, 2011), 49.

Image credit: Girls Uncovered