Somehow or another, I heard of the book “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” by Joshua Harris around the time it was published in 1997. In 1997, I was a newly minted adult having earned a college degree a year earlier. As someone who managed to get through puberty in part due to Molly Ringwald movies, kissing was something I’d looked forward to for a long time and no book that said the Bible said that kissing and dating were wrong was going to deter me…
And yet as the daughter of a pastor and as a young woman who recommitted to my faith following college graduation, I pondered if what Joshua Harris wrote in his book was actually true. Was courtship (which includes the parentals and is leading to marriage at the outset) and not dating the Christian way to mingle while single? Was kissing crossing the line?
Somehow or another, I decided even after I recommitted to my faith that despite the fact that his book was a runaway bestseller and the fact that I had met a few single Christian guys who advocated courtship (weirdos in retrospect), it was rubbish. But on the other hand, I had read the verse about fleeing fornication and another verse about being modest as a Christian woman and still another about not awakening love until it is time and I wondered if I was just being “in my flesh” as some Christians say.
But as I’ve always questioned authority, I decided over numerous conversations with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit that my relationship with the triune God (the three parts of God) would have to govern my actions in mating, dating and relating. And still, if you date more than a few years, about 20 in my case including high school, you start to wonder if maybe those folks who didn’t kiss before their wedding day and courted and got married right around puberty or right after college were right after all. I’m not writing all of this to say that I take any pleasure in the fact that Joshua Harris recently announced via Instagram that he and his wife have separated…
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We’re writing to share the news that we are separating and will continue our life together as friends. In recent years, some significant changes have taken place in both of us. It is with sincere love for one another and understanding of our unique story as a couple that we are moving forward with this decision. We hope to create a generous and supportive future for each other and for our three amazing children in the years ahead. Thank you for your understanding and for respecting our privacy during a difficult time.
Because as a married woman of nearly six years, I know this must have been a heartbreaking decision to make. But I am writing this to say that with the insight of age and hindsight, some of these extreme views on how to conduct yourself while dating as a Christian can really stunt your growth as a relational person in general. (And please know that I don’t know why Joshua and his wife are separating nor am I speculating as to why…) And I think “groupthink” galvanized by a book or whatever the medium doesn’t take into account a person’s individuality. I think each person, according to his or her relationship with God and the counsel of wise friends, associates, books including the Bible, etc., has to figure this thang out. For example, we all know that Christians are supposed to flee fornication prior to marriage but what does that look like at 40 years old versus 20 years old? Now, I know why many up and got married at 21. Sex, basically. And I’m not even saying that is wrong in each and every case. But what happens when for whatever reason, marriage doesn’t happen until later in life?
Somehow I missed the news that Joshua came to the same or at least a similar conclusion that I did. Below is a portion of his statement about his book “I Kissed Dating Goodbye.”
While I stand by my book’s call to sincerely love others, my thinking has changed significantly in the past twenty years. I no longer agree with its central idea that dating should be avoided. I now think dating can be a healthy part of a person developing relationally and learning the qualities that matter most in a partner. I recommend books like Boundaries in Dating by Dr. Henry Cloud and True Love Dates by Debra Fileta, which encourage healthy dating.
There are other weaknesses too: in an effort to set a high standard, the book emphasized practices (not dating, not kissing before marriage) and concepts (giving your heart away) that are not in the Bible. In trying to warn people of the potential pitfalls of dating, it instilled fear for some—fear of making mistakes or having their heart broken. The book also gave some the impression that a certain methodology of relationships would deliver a happy ever-after ending—a great marriage, a great sex life—even though this is not promised by scripture.
I’m glad that he referenced Dr. Cloud’s book “Boundaries in Dating” because his book helped me a lot while I was dating. His views made sense to me as a grown woman dating and I encourage any person who wants to have a balanced, Christian approach to dating to read his book. Apparently, Joshua made a documentary regarding his reevaluation of his book and ultimately decided to discontinue its publication with the approval of his publisher. (Below is the trailer for the movie.)
You have to respect that. As has been said, when you know better, you do better. His book and the purity culture that sprang up around that same time had good intentions I’m certain and I do believe that some may have benefited from these ideas, but I don’t think that it helps anyone to say adhering to a certain set of beliefs will work the same for everyone. We come from God alone and we return to Him alone and that individual journey must be respected. Am I making sense?
Anywho, Slate has an excellent article about Joshua Harris and what had happened…
AND this as well:
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My heart is full of gratitude. I wish you could see all the messages people sent me after the announcement of my divorce. They are expressions of love though they are saddened or even strongly disapprove of the decision. I am learning that no group has the market cornered on grace. This week I’ve received grace from Christians, atheists, evangelicals, exvangelicals, straight people, LGBTQ people, and everyone in-between. Of course there have also been strong words of rebuke from religious people. While not always pleasant, I know they are seeking to love me. (There have also been spiteful, hateful comments that angered and hurt me.) The information that was left out of our announcement is that I have undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus. The popular phrase for this is “deconstruction,” the biblical phrase is “falling away.” By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian. Many people tell me that there is a different way to practice faith and I want to remain open to this, but I’m not there now. Martin Luther said that the entire life of believers should be repentance. There’s beauty in that sentiment regardless of your view of God. I have lived in repentance for the past several years—repenting of my self-righteousness, my fear-based approach to life, the teaching of my books, my views of women in the church, and my approach to parenting to name a few. But I specifically want to add to this list now: to the LGBTQ+ community, I want to say that I am sorry for the views that I taught in my books and as a pastor regarding sexuality. I regret standing against marriage equality, for not affirming you and your place in the church, and for any ways that my writing and speaking contributed to a culture of exclusion and bigotry. I hope you can forgive me. To my Christians friends, I am grateful for your prayers. Don’t take it personally if I don’t immediately return calls. I can’t join in your mourning. I don’t view this moment negatively. I feel very much alive, and awake, and surprisingly hopeful. I believe with my sister Julian that, “All shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”