Courtship and Those Crazy Patriarchalists

Thomas Umstattd has been making waves in fundamentalist homeschooling hyper-conservative homesteading courtship patriarchalist circles these days. His blog post “Why Courtship is Fundamentally Flawed” is a solid bit of work which I recommend glancing at.

My biggest problem with the piece, if it has a flaw, is that all of the arguments are pragmatic, rather than Scriptural. That is, it opens itself up to the charge that courtship isn’t really the problem, just certain people practicing courtship wrongly. This was, as one might expect, exactly the protest leveled by patriarchalist Doug Wilson in a response titled “Why Courtship is Fundamentally Awed.” In the post, by the way, Wilson describes himself as “someone who helped to put the courtship paradigm on the map,” and this is more or less true in a lot of ways.

But Umstattd never asks the fundamental question: “Why are we even still talking about this?” It is 2014. Fourteen years into the 21st century. And we’re still talking about the boy having to get permission from the father, and the father given extreme veto power in this dynamic? Fuck that noise. There isn’t a shred of evidence this is necessary, required, or even recommended in Scripture. If the father likes the boy that much, he should marry him. There are a lot of states letting you do that these days, apparently.

Courtship is just a small portion of the problematic teaching in these circles, but at their core they all have one thing in common. Dependency. Don’t get me wrong. We’re supposed to help and support each other. But dependency is entirely different. Dependency manufactures immaturity and destroys self-empowerment. In a novel, when a character is free to make their own decisions and behave proactively, they are said to have “agency.” All patriarchalist theology is designed to take away your agency as a person by making you dependent upon the opinions, the decisions, and the commands of others.

This is soul-sucking abuse and it is mentally and emotionally crippling. Be your own person. Love God, love your neighbor and your enemy. Figure out what you like and dislike, and the kind of person you want to have a relationship with. No one can make that kind of decision for you. They aren’t you. They can’t know. Live, love, and know that God loves you for who you are, mistakes, lessons, brokenness, and all.


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