Tue, 14 November 2006
In 1997, Leon Kass published an essay called "The End of Courtship" in a quarterly journal devoted principally to matters of domestic public policy. Kass was not suggesting new federal guidelines on dating, but was describing a social condition which laws and policies addressing marriage and divorce had failed to reckon with. The article made the argument that, growing up in contemporary society, young people are by and large not given any guidance about how to prepare for married life. As Kass wrote, "Courtship provided rituals of growing up, for making clear the meaning of one's own human sexual nature, and for entering into the ceremonial and customary world of ritual and sanctification. Courtship disciplined sexual desire and romantic attraction, provided opportunities for mutual learning about one another's character, fostered salutary illusions that inspired admiration and devotion, and, by locating wooer and wooed in their familial settings, taught the inter-generational meaning of erotic activity. It pointed the way to the answers to life's biggest questions: Where are you going? Who is going with you? How--in what manner--are you both going to go?"
By contrast, Kass noted, "The practices of today's men and women do not accomplish these purposes, and they and their marriages, when they get around to them, are weaker as a result. There may be no going back to the earlier forms of courtship, but no one should be rejoicing over this fact. Anyone serious about "designing" new cultural forms to replace those now defunct must bear the burden of finding some alternative means of serving all these necessary goals."
A few years after this article was published, MARS HILL AUDIO produced a four-and-one-half hour documentary on the social and personal costs of the absence of expectations about marriage called "Wandering toward the Altar: The Decline of American Courtship." Featuring interviews with Leon Kass and his wife Amy (who has written on this subject with him; see "Proposing Courtship," First Things, October 1999), "Wandering toward the Altar" also includes conversations with a variety of social and cultural historians, theologians, and pastors, including Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, Wendy Shalit, Allan Carlson, Beth Bailey, Steven Nock, Kay Hymowitz, and Douglas Wilson.
This extensive Report is now being offered in an MP3 download format, which is burnable to 4 conventional CDs. The price is $11.
A future issue of Audition will feature excerpts from this Report.
Category:MHA MP3 -- posted at: 4:40pm EST