Daniel Anderson, MEd, with his daughter Jacquelyn Anderson, MEd
254 pages, paperback.
On occasion I receive promotional emails from publicists plugging an author and the new book he just wrote. They’ll ask me if I would be interested in a copy so I can write up a review for my tremendously high quality, but low trafficked blog. Typically I give them a pass, because the books I am offered are usually oriented toward women issues or topics I have absolutely no interest in, like red hot Amish romance novels.
Recently, however, I was contacted about a book written to debunk the myths of teen dating. My interest was stirred with that offer for a couple of reasons.
First, the book is specifically aimed at the parents of teen girls. I have two girls who will be teenagers in a few years, and any club I can obtain to beat back the hordes of hormone riddled boys intent on grabbing them by the hair and dragging them away is appreciated. And secondly, the book is advertised as helping parents navigate the dark, murky waters of teen dating where all sorts of unsuspecting peril lurks underneath the surface ready to pull a father’s little princess to the drowning depths below. So yes, obviously I have an interest.
I responded with my mailing address and promised the folks that I would read over the book and provide a review, so here we are.
The author is a fellow named Daniel Anderson, and according to the bio blurb on the back cover, he is a veteran high school teacher in Oregon who was troubled by the way teens conducted their dating lives. If the teen dating scene is anything like the various raunchy, teenage angst movies that dominated the late hours of early era HBO, Showtime, and Cinemax that I used to sneak watching as a kid, I can completely understand his concern.
His adult daughter, Jacquelyn, who is also a school teacher, participated with the writing as well. She provides her perspective and color commentary on what it was like to be raised by her parents as each dating myth is debunked.
In the introduction, Anderson further explains that over the course of his high school teaching career he watched teenagers date each other and what he saw was not pretty. He was so moved by what he was witnessing he started teaching his students about dating relationships. Eventually, he accumulated enough material that he was able to pull together the book I hold in my hands.
Anderson picks, in no particular order, what he considers the top 10 dating myths teen girls evidently struggle with. Each chapter explores and debunks one of those myths.
1) If I had a boyfriend I would be happy
2) I should trust my feelings
3) I’m in love
4) Sex will enhance my relationship
5) Love and sex are the same
6) Sex comes without consequences
7) It’s okay to break up and get back together
8) He will never hit me again
9) A rebound relationship is just what I need
10) Serial dating and living together will help me stay married
Now. Does Anderson and his daughter debunk the myths? Well, I suppose so. Each chapter is filled with lots of statistics about teen pregnancy, divorce rates after couples live together, and how premarital sex will ruin a girls life. If you are looking to get academic like information about teen dating, packaged in a readable style, the book pulls together a lot to mull over.
But honestly, any number of relationship themed books meant to address the terrible blight the American hook-up/dating culture has pushed on to the average teenager will contain similar information. Laura Schlessinger, Focus on the Family, and Family Life Today, all offer a cornucopia of books addressing how girls and guys are to navigate the teenager dating scene. I’m sort of at a loss as to what this particular book is meaning to offer that those other ones did not.
What I was expecting with this book, after receiving the promotional email discussing it, was a helpful presentation on how to navigate our teen daughters through the dating/courtship rituals while honoring Christ. At least that is what I took away from the email I received. Maybe I read too much into it.
Regrettably, I was disappointed, because the book had none of that at all. The focus was not on Christ at any point, and the Christian worldview took a backseat to the statistical presentation. In fact, the author even stated that the book would intentionally avoid focusing upon the Christian faith in his introduction under the section, “The Bible is Not Enough.” He explains how he is a Christian, but his perspective as a teacher in a public high school in the very liberal city of Portland, Oregon, provides him a unique clarity as to how the secular world views the Christian faith.
Even though he believes “the ancients” (what he calls the wisdom of the Bible) have a voice to be heard in the discussions regarding teen dating, the Bible is not enough in our modern culture. (Evidently, guys and gals were different before the 20th century, who would’ve thought!?). “I think the Christian community often believes that the word no, some extra prayers, a few sermons, and the spiritual bromide of Scripture are all that every person needs for a better life,” he writes. “What is missing from Christian writing on sex and dating,” he laments, “is scientific information and practical tools to help your daughter.” His book is designed to correct that deficiency in Christian relationship literature, or so he claims.
I am not sure what Christian books he read in research for his, but they cannot all be lacking a discussion of scientific and statistical data when it comes to relationships. He mentions Josh Harris’s I Kissed Dating Goodbye, but certainly that can’t be the only one he read?
Like I noted above, there are tons of Christian dating/relationship books on the market; and I have read over a lot of them given my circumstances raising five kids. Everyone I have read definitely employed the data-mining of statistical and scientific information interwoven with the discussion of the biblical text. I mean, Focus on the Family practically thrives on statistics about sex and dating.
As a Christian father who seeks to raise his family in the fear and admonition of the LORD, statistical and scientific data is really a secondary issue for me. I could care less how many couples who live together before marriage wind up getting divorced. What I care about is focusing my children on what God thinks about the purposes of relationships between boys and girls. I place a high premium on boys and girls dating because God places a high premium on boys and girls getting married. Sure. Getting pregnant as a teen girl has grave circumstances, but I want my sons and daughters to understand that sex outside of marriage is sin before a Holy God, not just that having sex could lead to pregnancy and messes up their lives in the future.
I thought this book was a missed opportunity. While the information presented by Anderson may be statistically scientific, and perhaps helpful, I believe the readers would had been better served if it had been interpreted and applied through a Christian worldview. Ultimately, what girls, and even the guys, need is a right relationship with the Lord. Only the Gospel can orient their hearts to think correctly about dating.
Even if a girl or guy has the best, most truthfully accurate information about busting dating myths, unless they have a desire to act upon that information, it is pointless to know. Only a spiritual change can apply that knowledge correctly, and the means for obtaining that spiritual change was completely ignored in the pages of this book.