In the fundamentalist Christian circles that Samantha Field grew up in, the word “courtship” doesn’t evoke romantic images of men and women batting eyelashes at each other in a parlor, or writing love poetry by candlelight.
Rather, in these communities, “courtship” refers to an intricate set of rules and practices intended to help young people find godly, parent-approved spouses. While it’s meant to be beneficial and holy, this practice of courtship can also result in abuse ― particularly when it gives older men an opportunity to prey on much younger teen girls.
Field is a writer, seminarian and ex-fundamentalist Christian who attended several Independent Fundamental Baptist churches in Florida and other parts of the South as a child. In those communities, she says, a significant age difference among couples was seen as ideal for allowing men and women to carry out their God-given duties ― the husband to provide and lead, and the wife to run the household and give birth to many children.