Recently the internet exploded with the much publicized announcement that pastor and popular author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Joshua Harris, has walked away from Christianity and his 21 year marriage.
When his book came out in 1997 – it rocked my world. I was just 23 years old at the time, and actively on the market looking for my future bride. Now, let me clarify here. The book didn’t rock my world because I read it and its content resonated with me. No. Not at all.
The first contact I had with the I Kissed Dating Goodbye came after a young woman I was very fond of had rejected my sincere advances. Did she reject my wooing because I was ugly, or not her type, or ‘just a friend’? No. Her reason for not going out with me was simple and quite straightforward. Out of her bag, she pulled out Harris’ book and showed it to me. She said this book was now her blueprint for her future marriage. She said she didn’t believe in dating anymore.
To be honest, I never saw that coming. I didn’t know what to say. Heck, who would?!
So, I was flustered and immediately took a dislike to a book that, I figured, presented itself as a major roadblock on my road to courtship.
You see, I wasn’t one of those guys your parents warned you about. I had strong biblical principles. I was an old-school hopeless romantic, and I didn’t want to engage in sex before marriage. I was even somewhat naive. I was no angel, but I had (mostly) good intentions when I asked a young woman out. I didn’t understand the impact and popularity the book had, especially with the young women at my church. As a result, Joshua Harris became my nemesis from that day on; until I found my wife that is. I remember complaining to a friend saying: “Fer crying out loud! Even Billy Graham dated! He dated Ruth, who became his wife!”
Ironically, Elisabeth, my wife of 16 years, had actually read the book when I met her and dated her. She was actually able to chew the grass and spit out the hay. Although she appreciated Harris’ approach to courtship, there were some things she didn’t fully embrace and agree with in his ‘dating doctrine’. At the time, this was a major sigh of relief to me, an introvert, who tended to thrive and connect in one-on-one settings and not in groups. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Fast forward to this week and the shocker all over social media: Joshua Harris kissed Jesus and his marriage goodbye!
To be honest, I must admit to being a smug and self righteous jerk when I initially read the news. I smiled and thought: “Serves him right.” Well, shame on me. Shame on me for not being more compassionate.
Now, I don’t know much about Harris except that at 21, through the writing of his book, he was catapulted to evangelical super-stardom and that not long after that, he met his wife-to-be, and subsequently became a pastor for quite some time.
I don’t know what Joshua Harris meant when he wrote in his post that he has “undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus.”
God knows I have undergone similar experiences in my years of walking with God in faith and “searching for truth no matter where it would bring me.” Sometimes, I have found myself on dangerous terrain in doing so, even to the point of jeopardizing my faith to some degree or another. Lord knows I have seriously questioned what I believed and why along the way – which is a good thing. Men need to know these things and be firmly established through self-questioning and investigation. But through it all, the Father has always shown Himself faithful in keeping this silly sheep safe. He has always shown himself strong despite my blunders.
As much as I resented Harris’ book; after taking the time to think about his present predicament, I couldn’t help to feel truly sorry for the guy.
I know a lot of people have written blog posts discussing the state of his salvation, or if he was even in the fold to begin with, or other such religious stuff. To me, the one thing that really popped up from this news is just how damaging religion is to man. How damaging it has been to Joshua Harris. When I read his story and how he gradually began shifting away from his pastorate in 2015, to how he gave a TED talk in 2016 recanting his book , to his now very public divorce and ‘falling away’; I just felt kinda sorry for him.
This whole publicized spectacle serves as a very stern reminder to steer clear from what? Dating? Marriage? God? No. It serves as a reminder to steer clear from man-made religion, religiosity, and the traditions of men.
In my opinion, Joshua Harris is just one more casualty of ‘churchianity’. Like child stars in Hollywood, he just got too big too fast. His growth in popularity preceded his capability to handle the religious microscope he was under. It’s a classic case of being put in the spotlight too quickly. The evangelical religious circus can make even the strongest men juggle too much under too much pressure. Even when looking at YouTube videos and reading many blog posts about Harris’ controversial decision, I can still spot those who comment through the lens of religion and those who comment without it.
Is Harris a Christian? Of his own admittance, no. Was he ever one? Probably not.
That said, who knows what path the man is truly on? What I’ve observed throughout the years is this: A man who turns his back on religion after much pondering may very well be on a path that will finally lead him to God and His truth.
That’s my hope for Joshua. I’m hoping that after the dust settles, he will realize that he wasn’t truly running from faith, his marriage, Jesus, or God. Sometimes, before you know what to run towards, you have to decide what you want to run away from. It’s my hope that after all this is water under the bridge, he will seek Him – without any artificial Evangelical flavors or religious additives.
One thing is for sure though, I’m glad we won’t be hearing about this book anymore.
R.I.P. I Kissed Dating Goodbye.