The other week I read an exhaustive and intimidating list of questions an American pastor devised for his daughters’ suitors.  He has been distributing this questionnaire to parents in his congregation in the belief that these enquiries will help parents discern the right mate for their beautiful girls.

The questions, which included such things as, ‘Do you have any bad habits whilst you sleep?’ and covered other subjects of a pietistic variety (e.g. alcohol and tobacco use), reflect a most American characteristic, that of trying to take the country back two centuries.

The questionnaire was so lengthy (and, no, I shall not provide the link as it is such an ill-conceived notion) that the answers would require note-taking.  Is it appropriate that a young man have the most intimate details — especially failings or shortcomings — of his life written down on paper for review later? I can just imagine the pastor saying, ‘Well, my wife and I want to make sure we’re discerning when it comes to choosing a mate for our baby girl.’   

Mmm.  Indeed, Reverend.  Of course, the pastor (outwardly mainline Protestant but, in reality, fundamentalist) — like a potential boss in a job interview — has no obligation to provide reciprocal information.  Of course, why should he?  He’s doing the interviewing in a position of authority.  However — to put this in American parlance — isn’t it prideful to extract all manner of intimate details about a man’s teenage or university years — and know as much as God Himself would? 

I would suggest that such an invasive enquiry would deter the best of men.  No one should submit to such egregious questioning.  If such questions about personal details occurred in the same context 100 or 200 years ago, I should be most surprised indeed.

Further, I would counsel any young man against answering such a battery of questions unless he is so in love with his damsel that he would sacrifice his dignity for her. Even then, it’s a very bad idea. Don’t forget that this pastor will be father-in-law to the ‘successful candidate’.  His wife will also likely be privy to all the details.  So think of that on all the supposedly joyous family occasions you intend to enjoy with their daughter.

Worse is what befalls the rejected suitor.  ‘I’m sorry, son, I just don’t think you’re cut out for my daughter.’  In which case, the answers are still on file, if not on paper, then in the pastor’s and his wife’s heads. 

That said, there is an even more important consideration here other than the inexcusable invasion of privacy.  And that is what actually happens in married life.  And no human heart or mind — not even that of the reverend pastor — can foresee how events will unfold.

It is often said, ‘A week is a long time in politics’ and in response to reasons for a rapid political change of circumstances, ‘Events, dear boy, events’.

Just as in politics, no one can know what will happen in married life.  We recite the vows at the altar, ‘for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health’, yet, until we are a few years down the line, we have no idea what this actually means until ‘events’ come into play, such as a man who willingly:

– Finances his in-law’s health care because they refuse to, e.g. home help for an Alzheimer’s patient (Pastor, this could be you one day!)

– Keeps the household going whilst his wife suffers a debilitating illness

– Temporarily relocates as a weekend commuter so that he can bring money in to support his wife and children

There are many more examples of selfless sacrifice on a man’s part for his wife and family, including the in-laws.

So, the fact that a boy had a brief romance when he was 16 or got completely plastered on his 21st birthday may, in reality, have little or no bearing on whether he, as an adult, will make a good helpmeet to a pastor’s — or a congregant’s — daughter.  And what one does in one’s sleep (and most of us do something disagreeable) is of no consequence in the matter. 

Therefore, to young men, I would advise walking away from such nonsensical questions, if asked.  Financial security is one thing.  Snoring (or worse) in one’s sleep is quite another.

And what about the young lady, one might ask.  Now, there’s a question …