Former Evangelical Pastor Rethinks His Approach To Courtship

"When I wrote "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" is ... I had not walked through that relationship yet myself"

Joshua Harris has been reflecting a lot on the impact of his book. He’s heard from people who felt his writing taught them to be ashamed of their bodies and to feel guilty for having any sexual desires. The criticism came out recently on Twitter. One woman reached out and said the book was used against her like a weapon. Joshua Harris apologized.

 

Josh Harris, a former evangelical pastor, wrote an influential book on Christian courtship. NPR’s Rachel Martin talks with him about the criticism he’s gotten from people who grew up reading his book.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The book “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” has been something of a relationship bible for a generation of young evangelicals. It urges people to avoid rushing into relationships and gives advice like this. (Reading) Dating is a distraction. It can help you practice being a good girlfriend or boyfriend, but those aren’t the skills you need for marriage. Joshua Harris wrote the book when he was just 21 years old.

JOSHUA HARRIS: I was advocating for friendship. I was saying, you know, you can get to know this person, you can enjoy a deep friendship. But when you get into this – we’re in this relationship where we’re sharing more and more of our hearts and our bodies, is that really a good thing if you’re not ready for commitment to the other person? So, you know, that was – I think the problem (laughter) when I wrote “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” is that I had not walked through that relationship yet myself. And I was – it was very speculative.

MARTIN: Joshua Harris has been reflecting a lot on the impact of his book. He’s heard from people who felt his writing taught them to be ashamed of their bodies and to feel guilty for having any sexual desires. The criticism came out recently on Twitter. One woman reached out and said the book was used against her like a weapon. Joshua Harris apologized.

HARRIS: I think I’m finally at a place where I’m really trying to listen to those voices. And I think it’s taken time for the consequences of the way that people applied the book and the way the book affected people to play out. And so I’m hearing these different voices saying, here’s how your book was used against me, here’s how it was forced on me, or here’s how I tried to – no one forced it on me, but I tried to apply it and it had this negative consequence in different ways.

I’m trying to go back and really evaluate, you know, where did my book contribute to that? Where was it too stringent? And where was that me and what I was writing, and where was that – the families and the church cultures and so on? So I feel like I’m on the front end of a process to help people in some way if I can apologize where needed and re-evaluate where needed.

MARTIN: As you have gone back through the book, where have you changed your mind?

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