Book Review: Courtship in Crisis

By | September 1, 2015

I believe Thomas Umstattd Jr. has written an important book in “Courtship in Crisis“. Umstattd effectively answers the concerns which Joshua Harris brought up in the infamous book, “I Kissed Dating Goodbye”. Similar to that book, “Courtship in Crisis” has two main parts: a problem and a proposed solution. The main problem Umstattd addresses, and the perspective he previously held to, is the type of courtship (“modern courtship” as Umstattd refers to it) which Harris proposed in “I Kissed Dating Goodbye”.

While I was not immersed in quite as conservative a culture as Umstattd, I wasn’t too far from it either. I hadn’t personally gone as far as holding to “modern courtship” as the only way to go, however my beliefs were in many ways similar. I was certainly influenced by the same stream of thought as Umstattd even if not quite to the same degree. And my experience has been largely similar to his. Interestingly enough, I had recently come to very similar conclusions as Umstattd at the time I read his blog post which became the catalyst for this book. I certainly applaud Umstattd for his willingness to admit, “I was wrong” in regards to what had been an important belief for him.

There are three main types of courtship—meaning the process of selecting a marriage partner—which Umstattd contrasts. His premise is that both “modern dating” and “modern courtship” make the same mistake, even though “modern courtship” was imagined as a response to “modern dating”. They mistake both make is that they make dating relationships too serious too soon. Umstattd proposes “traditional dating” as the solution to both.

One of the significant problems I’ve encountered is confusion over the meaning of the word “date”. In present times, it typically refers to refers to a couple in an exclusive relationship. Umstattd shares how in the past (“traditional dating”), it simply meant going out and doing some activity with a member of the opposite sex as a way to get to know them. “Going steady” was the term used for a couple who had become exclusive. The sexual revolution made relationships more intense and increased the pressure to have relationship become exclusive quickly. This led to the shift in the term “dating” coming to mean an exclusive relationship. Which leads to the confusion situation of “How serious is a date? Do we call this a date? Does a date mean there is significant interest? If dating is serious, how can I get to know someone well enough to know if I want to date them or not.”

Umstattd tries to cover a lot of ground in this book. In doing so, he mostly provides a brief overview of his points. I don’t have a problem with this. However, I’m guessing that many of the criticisms people may have of this book will coincide with the fact that he was unable to fully address all aspects of an issue. Nevertheless, I believe “Courtship in Crisis” covers what it needs to. The important thing is the overall paradigm which the book addresses.

If there is a weakness in the book, it is that Umstattd comes across as a bit idealistic and paints a rosier picture of “traditional dating” than what is perhaps realistic. This may partly be a result of the relative brevity of the book considering the amount of ground being covered. Likewise, Umstattd seems somewhat idealistic (from what I understand) about marital sex. However, in the chapter in which he speaks of this, he is attempting to counter one of the problems of the purity movement, which is a good goal. My last criticism is I would categorize what are labeled chapters 10 and 11 as appendices as opposed to chapters. (Chapter 10 is a “F.A.Q.”, and 11 is barely more than a page.)

“Courtship in Crisis” is an easy and enjoyable read. I was able to finish it in just a few hours. I appreciated Umstattd’s humor. He quotes “Princess Bride”, “Back to the Future”, and “Star Wars”, and there is even a word crossed out—something I’ve never seen in a book before but I loved it.

Overall I am thankful that Umstattd wrote “Courtship in Crisis“. I hope that it will be a very positive catalyst for improving relationships between Christian men and women, something which is sorely needed.

(Disclosure: I was a kickstarter backer for this book.)

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