Conservative evangelicals have tried hard to fight back against modernity. In a perverse way they should be admired for their tenacity. We’ve seen purity balls, screeds against dating (and the real lives that have been damaged by this kind of ideology), the quiverfull movement, and the list goes on and on. All of it is rooted in complementarianism, which is a modern name for good old-fashioned sexism and patriarchy.
I read a short article today that gave me hope. It’s written by Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, so you can imagine that they’re not as happy about it as I am. All of these attempts to suppress teenaged sexuality try to remove choices from Christian teens: no casual dating (or dating at all); no private time with any member of the opposite gender, and no friendships with the opposite gender. All of this is intended to create an asexual environment where teens conform to strict gender roles and pine for marriage.
It’s a suffocating environment, but to my pleasant surprise, there are signs that teens may have figured out a way to game the system a little bit. It’s called “talking.” The writer of the article illustrates this better than I could:
“You misunderstand,” he said, “we aren’t dating – we’re just talking.”
“Talking?” I replied, a little confused, “you mean like we’re talking right now.”
“No,” he explained, “we’re at the stage of the relationship just before dating. It’s called talking.”
Dumbfounded and feeling a little old and disconnected, I decided to investigate this new pre-dating phenomenon. “Talking,” I discovered, is a widely accepted stage in current guy/girl relationships wherein a young man and a young woman get to know each other without better defining the relationship. This isn’t even a real stage of the relationship; it’s a pre-stage. They’re not just friends; they’re not really dating or pursuing marriage; they’re “talking.”
I know that a lot of people will read this and seethe with outrage. And their outrage is justified. But I love how these teens have taken a rigid system and added a radical new element to it: talking. Hanging out with each other without taking pains to define the purpose of the relationship. Enjoying the uncertainty that comes with all relationships. Experiencing disappointment.
Jeff Goldblum’s quote from Jurassic Park above says it all: life finds a way. Even in oppressive systems, teenagers find small ways to interact with each other that resemble normal, human communication. Since noncommittal dating and hanging out are forbidden, they found a new outlet: talking. Maybe it won’t lead anywhere and they’re stay on the course their parents have mapped out for them. But maybe – just maybe – Christian teens are fighting back in way that is subversive in its normalcy.