“Our problem is not that we desire too much but that we desire too little.”
So says Dave Sloan, time and time again, as he travels around the country promoting his ministry to singles, God of Desire: From Dating to Courtship to Paradise.
”The first thing is to recognize that God himself is the source of our attractions and desires for each other,” Sloan says. “The ultimate purpose of our relationships is to be drawn closer to God and attain heaven through discovering both who God is and who we are as men and women made in his image. We want to allow God to draw us not only to each other but to the nuptial union in heaven, the wedding feast of the Lamb.”
As a writer, speaker and founder of this unique pro-life apostolate for singles, Atlanta-based Sloan has brought his message to singles groups, college campuses and Eternal Word Television Network viewers. His foundation is Pope John Paul II's “Theology of the Body” and “Love and Responsibility.”
Sloan says he's working “to unpack it all for single people.” He knows whereof he speaks since he's single himself.
Sloan's “Twelve Principles Program” is grounded in the conviction that all romantic relationships must grow out of our relationships with each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.
He's quick to point out the groom's words in the Song of Solomon: “You have ravaged my heart, my sister, my bride.”
Men and women must love each other first as brothers and sisters whose identity is based on being children of God, he stresses. “Only then,” he adds, “will we be able to help one another grow closer to heaven at every stage of our dating and courtship.”
“Practically speaking, you don't skip over the dating and go directly to the courtship,” Sloan teaches. “Formal courtship is a commitment we should make only after we've taken plenty of time to get to know the real truth of who the person is. Dating is the bridge between having met one another and embarking on a commitment of formal courtship.
“When our hearts begin to stir with affection, with love, with longing for another person,” he continues, “we must not repress but complete that desire by seeing not only the beauty of this person but the mystery of the God who made this person so beautiful.”
Sloan speaks of the struggle singles face in trying to find old-fashioned romance in a new-fashioned world.
“Most folks these days say it's okay for a woman to take the lead in the beginning of the relationship,” he says. “What they forget is that they want the guy to eventually come around and take the lead in courting the woman. Everyone wants him to be the one to get down on his knee and ask her to marry him. If those roles get reversed in the beginning, it's tough to get them straightened out later.”
Few would dispute that. But what's the solution? “We have to rediscover and restore appreciation for the great glory and splendor of womanhood and feminine beauty,” Sloan says. “Courtship, including the beginning phase of dating, is nothing other than a man recognizing the glory of a woman and striving to earn her heart.”
Drawing from his streetwise, hard-knocks life before his conversion in 1993, Sloan brings his message to the streets with striking fearlessness. Father Mitch Pacwa once had an EWTN crew follow Sloan around Atlanta's nightclub district as he talked to daters.
“You could see these guys with steam coming out of the top of their heads,” Father Pacwa says. “They had just bought dinner and drinks for a date and obviously had other things in mind, but Sloan was questioning the daters about real love as opposed to ‘fun.’”
Despite the boldness, Sloan manages to get the point across without confrontation. How? “He doesn't pretend to be cool,” Father Pacwa observes. “He is cool.”
Michael Patrick of Washington, D.C., was among a group of people in Sloan's discussion group — that is, God of Desire in its early stages — at Christ the King Cathedral in Atlanta.
“People really thrived discussing and praying about the words the Holy Father had written in that context,” Patrick says, pointing out how the apostolate combines prayer, content and respect for “the whole person because we're soul and body.” For instance, “Dave is trying to get us to go on hikes together.“
God of Desire seminars don't offer rigid rules, but lay out 12 common-sense spiritual principles. The principles give clear biblical criteria for choosing a person to date, beginning with selecting someone who practices both charity and purity.
“These two virtues,” Sloan says, “are a bazillion times more important than any set of psychological traits on some dating-service checklist could ever be.”
Father Pacwa finds a difference in Sloan's apostolate. “He has a multi-faceted approach,” notes the priest. “He has young singles come together for apologetics, and he also talks about dating, courtship, marriage and sexuality for singles, and married chastity. That's the genius — he brings all these things together.”
And Sloan does it in an enjoyable way. There was the recent five-day seminar on a cruise to Nova Scotia with CatholicSingles.com, and the latest addition to his website — a fun, yet serious, Dating License Test. Those who pass can print their dating licenses from the site, and those who don't are referred to appropriate sections of the site for further study.
Sloan believes that singles ministry is the real hope for the future of the Church, because singles are the source of all vocations, married or consecrated.
“There are 86 million single people in America today, and we're going to create a revolution in ministering to them,” he says. “Thanks to the great prophetic work of Pope John Paul II, we're ready and able to bring singles the good news for which they long in the depths of their hearts: the great glory of God's plan for creating us as men and women in his image. It's his glorious plan of drawing us from dating to courtship to paradise.”
Joseph Pronechen writes from Trumbull, Connecticut.