The older I get as a “single again” Christian woman, the more I notice a peculiar trend that I can’t quite account for:  Christian men, by and large, don’t pursue women and ask them out on dates. Now, the sheer fact that there are Christian married couples out there seems to make hash of my observation – obviously, at some point these husbands had to pursue the women who eventually became their wives. But start asking around among small groups of Christian single women and you’ll see what I mean. Their frustration with the “dating scene” – or lack thereof – in Christian circles is so common you begin to hear a refrain.

“What’s up with Christian guys?” my friend Whitney lamented. “I went to the 'Keys with three girlfriends, and guys hit on us all the time [of course they declined]. Yet here at home, in our Christian singles groups, we can’t even get a guy to acknowledge us, let alone ask for a date.”

Janet told me that a guy in her Bible study has been paying a lot of attention to her lately, but every time he calls he asks if she wants to “grab a bite to eat” with him – and his roommate.

Becky has a different complaint. She met a wonderful Christian man on the tennis court and got to know him gradually, over several months, until their casual friendship deepened into what she thought was something more. When he invited her over for dinner, she sparkled inside, sure he was taking their relationship to the next level. After the second such dinner, the two of them watched a movie together on the sofa – enjoying an evening of laughter and innocent companionship. Then the unexpected happened. The guy “dropped off the face of the earth,” Becky said. Two weeks passed with no word from him, no friendly phone call – nada. Finally, both puzzled and frustrated, she called him and asked how things were. He stammered that they needed to just be friends and all but slammed a door closed in her face.

Is It Commitment Phobia?

You might be tempted to chalk it up to the common male malady of “commitment phobia,” but the sheer volume of such stories out there makes me wonder.

I know that many Christian singles were hugely impacted by Joshua Harris’ best-selling book "I Kissed Dating Goodbye," in which he recommends interacting with the opposite sex in groups until you find “the one” and are ready for courtship – intentional dating with an eye toward marriage.

But it seems unlikely that this mindset accounts for the overwhelming lack of dating among Christians, because so many Christian singles don’t espouse Harris’ viewpoint. Again, casual conversations (in this case, with men) shed light on the subject. Wanting to get to the core of the issue, I asked a few guys in my own singles Bible study what was up.

“I can tell you what it is,” said one male friend emphatically. “They’re scared. Period. Christian guys are scared to get involved with girls because they hear in church about the dangers of getting too close to someone [physically]. Once they’re attracted, it’s a slippery slope.”

“If a girl is mature, and I’m interested in her, then maybe I’ll ask her out [on a casual date], but otherwise it can be a bad idea,” said one handsome guy friend who just turned 40 and has never been married. Not sure what his vague response meant, I pressed for an explanation: He’d been burnt more than once, it seems, by women who mistook a “casual date” to mean he was considering them as wife candidates. Back-paddling his way out of those sticky situations was not worth the trouble anymore.

“Anytime I sit in church with a new girl, everyone swoops down on me later and wants to know if it’s serious and whether she’s the one,” lamented yet another male friend, who rolled his eyes as he told his story. Eventually, the “big news” traveled around the whole church.

Then there was Bryan, a 43-year-old man who’s been married only three years but remembers well the trepidation he and his single Christian brethren faced in the church: “They’re scared,” he said, echoing my first friend’s response. “So many guys are petrified of the idea of commitment, and of course there’s the whole issue of staying morally pure. For a lot of guys, it’s easier to just avoid the whole thing.”

But he did finally get married, I remind him. How did he get to know his wife? Did they date?

“We didn’t date in the traditional sense of the word,” Bryan said. “We were around each other in groups all the time, and one day I just sort of noticed her in a new way. We were friends for a long time before I knew I wanted her to be my wife.”

I can hear Joshua Harris cheering somewhere.

Our frustrations aside, we Christian women have to acknowledge that we’re part of the problem. To those who smother a guy too quickly – or put pressure on him to act, or jump to conclusions when he does – I gently encourage a healthy dose of moderation. For guys who are overly gun-shy, I encourage you to take a chance on a casual date (if you aren’t opposed to that philosophically) and keep it within safe boundaries. The old standbys of going out for dinner or coffee are good for obvious reasons.

In the end, the not-always-so-welcome bit of wisdom Elisabeth Eliot dispensed in her classic book "Passion & Purity" seems to hold true, despite our best efforts to the contrary:  When the time is right, men are intended to pursue. Until then, a woman’s role is to stay busy with life … and wait.

A. J. Kiesling is the author of "Jaded: Hope for Believers Who Have Given Up on Church But Not on God" (Baker Books).  She welcomes your thoughts and comments.  Feel free to write her at jaded0351@yahoo.com.  For more information about "Jaded," visit her online pressroom.  Copyright 2005 by A.J. Kiesling