This chapter reads like a sepia-toned advertisement for a romanticized version of Christian marriage.
Now, I want to say up front that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a lifelong covenant love between two people. I have no problem with “golden wedding anniversaries with kids and grandkids beaming” (76). However, when we set up heterosexual marriage as the ideal state of being for all people, and say that people are less than human without it, we have made it into an idol. I believe the church’s neglect and marginalization of single people, celibate people, and LGBTQ+ people proves that this idol has already taken up residence here.
Boone does nothing to challenge this. In fact, he feeds the idol. Marital love, he says, “is a gift that makes us fully human” (71). This is a damned lie. Maybe the worst sentence in the whole book. Not only because it is so blatantly hurtful, but because it is believed and supported by the actions of the church.
When our focus is how we are going to teach our children that marriage should be their goal rather than how we are going to teach them to primarily be self-possessed, respectful individuals who endeavor to love others the way God loves, we are missing the mark.
Further on in this chapter, we see the latent patriarchy that is insidious in the church and this book. One of the examples Boone gives of “how love is meant to be” is this:
A dad sitting in a nice restaurant across the table from his dressed-up 12-year-old daughter, giving her a locket and key as he explains to her the intimacy her heart desires and how to find it in marriage.
Setting aside the classist implications that an example of real love takes place in a “nice restaurant,” the fact that a man of authority is explaining to a girl the desires of her heart should bring up all kinds of red flags. The church and parents of girls therein should be equipping and empowering young women to think and speak for themselves, not telling them what they should want.
As I mentioned above, I have no problem with heterosexual marriage or a dad taking his daughter on a special outing in and of themselves. It’s the underlying assumptions and implications that marginalize unmarried or non-heterosexual people and continually put women “in their place,” without agency, that are harmful. And just as these assumptions and implications are subtle and uncriticized, people are harmed by them subtly and permanently.