Monday, August 8, 2011

Crush the -- what?

A long, long time ago (okay, maybe about 8 years ago), I was in an evangelical Christian youth group. Yes, the real whooping, hollering, hand-raising, tongues-speaking, PRAISE JESUS! sort of evangelicals. I'll post a comment later about the nature of evangelical churches and exactly what goes on in a lot of them, and I have things like "televangelism" chalked up on my list of Religious Things to Write About. I guess I'm sort of the ambassador from the Southeast or something, and unlike many who fled the evangelical scene, I didn't punt my religion along with it. Anyway, that's another post. This one is about a specific thing that I am thrilled never became popular.

Odds are probably greater than 95% that you have never heard of Crush the Crush. In fact, the Internet has an impressive lack of record that such a thing even exists. Because it was back before Facebook, Twitter, and all the mainstream social media (despite what you think, not everyone had a Myspace account), not much of it got recorded in the series of tubes. It took me a nontrivial amount of digging before I managed to dredge up a single website, someone's blog, that mentioned it. They make it sound so adorable compared to what it actually is.

Crush the Crush, according to that one website, is a sort of "religious fast," except instead of fasting food, you fast your romantic relationships. It's aimed at tweens and young teens -- people who are just getting into their sexual maturity. For one year, you don't date, flirt, or otherwise engage in romantic behaviors with anyone, ever, at all, and the idea is that you're dedicating that year to spiritual diligence.

That within itself sounds very fluffy and actually kind of admirable. You give up a large chunk of teenage social life for a year, and spend it becoming knowledgeable about your beliefs and your spiritual allegiances. Sweet. Except the way they actually treat it, when it's taught, has a nasty undertone that this cute blog doesn't mention.

I went to a Crush the Crush event. It was part of a greater convention, a big gathering of youth groups in northern Florida. My group attended, camping out the convention center with a bunch of other people. It was an enormous stadium full of middle schoolers, and in the front was a stage where bands would play and speakers would teach. One of the lessons/events we had there, was Crush the Crush. Attendants handed out pieces of paper to everyone, and when I looked down at mine, I saw it was a sort of combination certificate/contract. I was to write down the name of my crush, and it was a promise to not engage in romantic behavior towards them for a year. Given that there are thousands of other kids there, all staring at the same sheet of paper, all ready with pen in hand, the pressure to sign the paper is immense. It's a very well-wrought peer pressure, because you're all there to be spiritual, and the guy in the front is saying this is how you can be spiritual, and all the kids look like they're signing, and...yeah. It's not just a sheet of paper; it's a sign that you do or don't believe in its message.

The speaker started talking about dating relationships, and how they worked. The hallmark of the speech was, in short, how damaging breakups are.

Now, I know some people who have gotten screwed up by breakups. I spent a summer hiding on a couch because of one. It happens. But this speaker was determined to tell us that romantic relationships would be the death of our hearts and minds. Every time you date someone, he said, you bind your heart to them a little. Every time you break up, you rip both hearts away from each other, and a little piece of your heart stays with them. Someday, your heart will be a little destroyed piece of itself, and you will have nothing to give, no way to love, because you're so annihilated by all the breakups. Therefore, kids, don't date people. It's a very tiny step to the pipe dream that everyone will find their soul mate and magically know that the person is meant for them, and the relationship will begin on the grounds that they are just so in love and understand each other so much and whatever have you, that the first person you really date is the person you'll marry and stay with forever.

I really wish it could be that way. I respect that dream a lot. But in the end, 99% of people will not have that ideal state. (Some people really don't think it's even the ideal state at all.)

My guess is that this was meant to prevent premarital sex, because almost all evangelical preaching on young relationships is meant for that. But in the end, it turned into a creepy sort of "dating people will hurt you" and "puppy love is bad" and all kinds of things meant to turn a healthy learning experience about courtship and romance into a hellish nightmare where people are constantly causing each other dire pain that will never heal, eventually ruining their lives forever.

Tell me that isn't creepy. Stay tuned for the occasional new post about the creepiness of extreme evangelical society.

I don't remember if I signed or not, by the way.

Edit: Weird! A new source has shown up -- someone who is selling DVDs for the Crush the Crush cause. I finally found it! Its tagline is as follows...

"Are you tired of moving from crush to crush and one relationship to the next? Are you ready for a more rewarding way to live?
Find out how to CRUSH the CRUSH and live your pre-married years passionately for Jesus. This video features testimonies from young people who have learned from past relationship mistakes and are grateful for a second chance from the Lord. Target audience: teenagers and early twenties."

Look at that tagline. It's basically saying, don't date, because if you do, you're not living for God. Yeah. There's also a YouTube video out there.

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