So, this past Sunday I ventured into the dangerous grounds of teen dating with the high school Sunday school class. Nowadays this is an area particularly fraught with peril because this is the Google / Twitter / Instagram / Snapchat generation. These are the people who think that they know more than they actually know. At the same time, this is clearly a generation that is more connected than previous generation, so they clearly know more trivia than previous generations. As a result, a priest always has the danger of trying to either be too relevant or too willing to use simple training booklets that do not really work with the current generation.
Frankly, I do not know whether this summer will end up well or not. But, during the class, I asked a several of questions. Of course, you do not know the context that led up to the questions, but it was interesting to hear their answers, and sometimes, to surprise / shock them. But, I will share some of them with you. Think about how you would answer them.
- Does Scripture or the Church speak about romantic love?
- Does Scripture or the Church speak about dating?
- Does Scripture or the Church speak about betrothal / marriage?
- Does Scripture or the Church speak about sex? We know that it is forbidden before marriage. But, what is sex? (I promptly assured them that I had had health classes back in junior high.)
- Is it sex to hold hands? Is it sex to hug? Is it sex to kiss? Is it sex to go farther? What Scriptural or Church guidelines are there to help guide you?
- What is the difference between lust, infatuation, and true love?
- Does Scripture or the Church prescribe a method for acquiring a marriage partner, or do you have some freedom in the matter?
I know that there is no one answer on which all agree, even among the Orthodox. Some would say that dating is automatically non-Biblical and non-Church. Some would say that no male and female should go out by themselves, but only in a group. Some would say that even the act of holding hands is a type of sensual excitement that should be avoided. On the other hand are those who would argue that some of this varies from culture to culture (within certain limits, of course). They would point out that in both Scripture and Church history, there have been various methods used to acquire a marriage partner, and that these methods have ranged from romantic marriages to which both agreed, to arranged marriages, etc. Therefore, dating is not forbidden, and is obviously an established and recognized part of this culture, even by the Church. Thus, this will make teaching this summer especially challenging. There will be no way that I will be able to satisfy every viewpoint, even among fellow priests!
But, what I hope to end up with is teenagers who have thought through the various issues and who know where the bright lines are that they must not cross. There will be some grey areas that will not be easily answerable. They will need to speak with their parents and follow those guidelines. It is my hope that out of all this we will have teenagers who will know what they believe, why they believe it, and who will willingly adhere to godly guidelines.
I have also clearly told them that if they wish to speak to me more privately in some of these areas that they are welcome to make an appointment to meet with me.