Chapter 4 and 5 didn’t make a lot of statements that caught my attention, so I’m going to focus on key observations from each chapter, specifically the good and the bad.
Harris argues that one should strive to love as God loves, selflessly and sincerely. This is of course a good point. We should strive to practice agape(unconditional love). Harris encourages readers to look up “love” in God’s dictionary. This is all wonderful and if we do follow it, we won’t treat people as objects. “God’s love pushes out the pettiness and selfishness which defines so much of what takes place in dating.”
Next, Harris encourages his readers to practice patience. He retells the old story of the boy who used a magic ball. Whenever he would pull the string in the ball, he would skip past boring parts of his life to get to the cool moments. But then he realized he had missed his entire life by being impatient.
Harris also mentions two stories, one of his friend who had sex as a teenager only then to get married to someone else in college. The other was of a couple who agreed not to kiss or physically touch before marriage. It seemed to work out for them, but they told him this was something they wouldn’t apply on everyone. It just worked for them. The couple had the right idea in not trying to force this personal standard on others.
Harris once again calls for what is essentially emotional repression. He tells people if they aren’t ready for commitment they should content themselves with friendship and wait for intimacy and romance. He claims this won’t stunt their relationship since they can focus on helping other people. While this mindset might seem harmless, there is a great danger behind it. By putting so much pressure on early relationships to not develop romantic feelings, you create an environment where people are frightened to even get into those friendships. Because romance happens naturally between friends who are attracted to each other, people might try to avoid that connection in the first place.
Here’s a more reasonable statement when it comes to romance. Take it slow and get to know the person first. From there, get to know if you can see committing to this person in the long term. Now, we get to the REALLY damaging advice.
The book continues to push this idea that God has a “soul mate” for you. This time he expands this idea so if you engage in short term dating relationships, you are practically insulting your future spouse. He calls for us to “do our future spouse a favor and not shop around prematurely.”
It’s interesting that this book pushes against cultural ideas but agrees with the idea of a soul mate. Disney has been preaching to us about the perfect “prince” or “princess” for quite some times(Although they have gotten a bit more realistic). We do have an ancient idea of soul mates, but it comes from Kabballah(Jewish mysticism). When a soul is created, an angel splits it in two and gives one to a man and another to a woman. So these two are soul mates. Some people may not find their soul mate due to sin or circumstances. However, if a man or woman finds their soul mate, they should divorce their current spouse to be with that person. Divorce isn’t exactly kosher in evangelical circles.
I’m not saying Harris borrowed the idea from Kabballah, but I do think he is borrowing from lite Calvinism. The idea that God controls and ordains everything is a Calvinistic idea, so it makes sense to apply it to your romantic life. The Bible, however, does not give us any indication that God has a perfect person in mind for us. Sometimes He might for certain people, but not for everyone who gets married.
Also, there is a dangerous implication here that you are already owned by your future spouse. That’s some weird deterministic stuff that can really mess people up. Harris takes personal convictions about waiting until God tells him he is ready for a relationship and applies it to everyone. I’m not sure this is appropriate.