Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Review: Dating Like Airplanes

Dear Readers, please note, I received this book free of charge from Caleb Breakey in exchange for this review. Also, Caleb is one of the few authors who actually signs his review copies personally, which makes them a real treat to receive. 

In August 2013, author Caleb Breakey contacted me regarding his first book, Called to Stay, an excellent work about millennials and the church. I kind of loved it. Caleb was able to voice the concerns of the up-and-coming generation of church leadership and then calm that voice with exhortations to love. Acknowledging the great irony that millennials judge their elders for being judgmental, Caleb was able to find a wonderful balance between critique and compassion. I truly loved that book. 

Caleb continued his writing career earlier this month with his sophomore outing, Dating Like Airplanes. The book covers dating from a Christ-centered perspective that calls its readers to engage in a new form of ever-mindful, constantly-vigilant romance. If the current keyword of evangelical leaders is "radical", Caleb Breakey's latest work fits the bill. 

The book shows Caleb's adept read on human nature and cultural narratives. Whereas Called was a rallying cry to the disenchanted, Dating is a wake-up call to those enchanted by romanticism (shattering one particular myth on p158). The title of the work comments on the old adage of "falling in love" and that mindset's implied lack of control. Caleb encourages his readers to "fly" rather than fall--to soar in healthy relationships that not only avoid being ruled by emotion and passion but also require focus and intentionality. His core themes include: Selflessness, Vulnerability, and Transcendence--a good list, to be sure (p42-43). His intentions are clear: for Christian couples to engage in relationships resulting in giving, god-honoring marriage or, at the very least, break-ups without the baggage of resentment, regret, and bitterness. 

Of course, this us no easy task (nothing of value is). No, Caleb unapologetically asks his readers to step into a new approach to dating that is difficult. His exhortations are strongly communicated and very applicable, providing those who will undertake the challenge with a good roadmap. 

However, I had a few misgivings with some of the stops on the trail, and I think that the book will be best digested in youth groups or book clubs rather than with individual readers. Some of these ideas need to be discussed. For example, in making a case for why believers should not marry unbelievers, Caleb asserts, "marriages are not the place for character reform" (p52), implying that one should not enter into a relationship to evangelize or change a person. I agree with the content but strongly disagree with this language, for my marriage has been nothing but a constant process of character reform (and I believe all good marriages are, for both parties, regardless of religious dynamics). Additionally, the book contains inserts after each chapter featuring comments by people "flying", and I just did not value such testimonials. Not unlike the narrative asides I critiqued in Real Men Don't Text, such interludes both interrupt the flow of the writing and also add little to the overall content--these comments would have been much better served as appendices at the book's end.

Dating Like Airplanes is full of thought-provoking content, and a young person (toward whom the book seems to be intended) will need some help navigating not only some of the concepts but the deeper things beneath them. Regardless of my personal cautions with some of his ideas, Caleb has good amount of great things to say, and he says them well (such as affirming Jesus at the center [p58] and providing a visual picture of a relationship's anatomy [p61]). I didn't love Dating Like Airplanes, but I liked it well enough to recommend it for small groups or book clubs with a facilitator to help engage and digest its worthwhile material.

Portions found on pp. 83, 98-99, and 127-145 are especially good, and Caleb's blanket accusation of each of his readers, that each individual is the greatest threat to his/her romantic relationship (p69, p80), is a powerful and bold move for a writer to make in this type of work. It's a gutsy and well-taken assertion, tempered with a noble confession on the following page. But, again, I think some readers better understand his point after receiving further guidance and feedback.

You can get Dating Like Airplanes at Amazon.

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