I kissed dating goodbye: conclusion

I’ve had a bit of time to process my thoughts regarding the book I kissed dating goodbye by Joshua Harris. With any book that had as much impact as this one, we have to take a look at the broader culture and context that Harris spoke to. If I could boil it down to one word, it would be control.

Homeschooling

Homeschooling really started to pick up speed in the late 90s and early 2000s. While for some, like me, it was more about quality of education, for most it was about control.

Parents looked to the sexual revolution and growing liberalism in society and felt afraid. When you are afraid, you turn to methods that you believe will control your family and social circle so it doesn’t fall to these influences. Homeschooling fit like a glove with this mindset.

With homeschooling parents could directly control their children’s

Social circle, dating habits, education, entertainment, religion, etc. When your kids are around you 24/7, it’s much easier to monitor them.

Harris made it easy for parents, because his book emphasized a great deal of self control, so it was easy for parents to throw this book at their kids and say, “Read it and follow it.” It was also beneficial for that culture that Harris also emphasized a great deal of parental control, although not as much as other proponents of courtship such as Bill Gothard.

Bill Gothard

You might recognize the name Bill Gothard as the disgraced founder of the Institutes for Basic Life Principles, who was forced to resign from that organization after multiple woman accused him of fondling them when they were teenagers. Gothard taught courtship before Harris did, albeit a more extreme version.

He believed that God put umbrellas of authority over everyone. For a woman, her umbrella would be her parents, although mainly her father, followed by her husband. These umbrellas of authority were the mouthpieces of God and if you disobeyed them, you would experience demonic attack.

Courtship fit will with his messed up philosophy since it took all the autonomy away from a daughter and laid it at the hands of a father.

Again, Harris was not as severe as Gothard, but his proposal was not so much different.

The Joshua Generation

One common phrase within the homeschooling circle was how the next generation of homeschoolers would be the Joshua Generation. They would retake the country for God, which was code for getting into politics and passing conservative Republican laws. Many within the homeschooling movement believed their children would be that set apart generation that would reclaim the country, repeal Roe v Wade and make America a Christian nation again.

For such a different and set apart group, it would make sense they would embrace all sorts of ways of life that were different from the majority. Hence, a book like I kissed dating goodbye came at just the right time. It gave them an entirely different way of life if you will.

The collapse

I could mention other factors at play as well such as a revival of Calvinistic ideas within the evangelical church. However the homeschooling movement itself that embraced Harris has declined fairly severely. Many of the children who took up the banners their parents gave them now find themselves hurt and trying to recover from all the damage of that movement. You can see this on websites such as homeschoolersanonymous and recovering grace.

This was ultimately a movement that put fear and control above love and grace, and it shows even in a book as shiny and polished as I kissed dating goodbye.

Even the author himself is starting to wrestle with the damage his book has caused. My only prayer is that the church doesn’t fall into this trap of fear and control again.

 

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I kissed dating goodbye: the final horrible conclusion

My first reaction to Chapter 15: Principled Romance contained a lot of four letter words. I’ll just focus on this chapter, as Chapter 16 doesn’t really have much new to say. Principled Romance lays down Harris’s philosophy for courtship(Spoiler alert: it’s mostly horrendous)

Harris states that although the Bible doesn’t give us a one size fits all formula, he has some steps he considers “God-honoring.” It goes from friendship to deep friendship, to purposeful intimacy with integrity to engagement. He states that romance is like driving a car. You wouldn’t drive it super fast in the city with a friend next to you, so you should be careful with romance and consider its effects on other people and your relationship with God. This is all well and good, but then Harris gets into his ACTUAL advice:

First, mainly do group things to get to know each other as friends. Because clearly, everyone is an extrovert and no one could ever hide their true identity in a crowd.

Second, avoid expressing romantic feelings while exploring each other as friends. He literally says, “Don’t take it into your own hands by flirting,” as if somehow God is immeasurably displeased with all but the most level headed romance. Harris tops himself with the ludicrous claim that you will never regret waiting to express your feelings.

Are you kidding me? This is a MASSIVE claim to be made by someone that’s barely out of his teens. That’s not even mentioning how easy to it is disprove this statement. Just talk to anyone who missed their opportunity for a relationship because they wouldn’t reveal their true feelings.

Third, blow things way out of proportion. Harris tells a story of Jason and Shelly who obviously like each other. Instead of expressing their feelings, Jason writes a 9 page letter to his uncle describing her and asking if he should date her.

Jason’s uncle then gives him a series of over the top questions like: Can you support her? Are you ready for marriage? Have you spoken to your pastor?  Words can’t express how stupid I find this. WHY DON’T YOU TALK TO HER YOURSELF NOT YOUR PASTOR. IT’S NOT LIKE YOU’RE GOING TO GET MARRIED AFTER ONE DATE.

Oh wait, this is I kissed dating goodbye I’m talking about… Moving right along!

Fourth, make sure you are absolutely prepared for every facet of marriage before you even date.

This is idiotic advice. How are you supposed to be prepared for marriage when you don’t even know how to take a woman/man to Applebees?

Fifth, make sure you know everything about the person. Examine them closely: from their character to their spirituality to their financial habits. No one would ever break under such examination or just lie.

It gets worse when we get into Harris’ advice for the actual courtship.

First, he recommends you basically tell the girl that you are asking for permission to win her heart in this big dramatic scene that sounds like an engagement.

Second, he recommends you basically make yourself the whipping boy of her parents. He literally says you should invite her parents to ask pointed questions about your spirituality, finances, maturity, etc. Tell all about your activities you will do with her and how you plan to win her hand, etc.

My simple response to this is, in my personal experience, this plays into the hands of controlling and abusive parents. It puts you under the thumb of narcissists who want to control their daughters.

Third, he adds some sexism in the mix by saying the guy should make the first move and you should talk with your girl about gender roles and such. As always, the pressure is always on the guy to win and protect the poor innocent girl who needs to be controlled by her parents.

Finally, Harris ends by arguing that you will never regret saving up passion for marriage by not engaging in anything physical of any sort. The problem with this argument is that it isn’t necessarily true. Just ask some of the women who grew up in this environment that suffer from severe sexual dysfunction that can at times make any sex literally physically painful.

Harris’s standards are a recipe for fear and disaster. Let’s just summarize all of his requirements for one date, shall we?

  • Repress your attraction and refuse to express romantic intentions.
  • Get to know them in group settings and examine them closely in every way.
  • Wait until you are absolutely ready to marry them.
  • Chat with your pastor, her parents, authority figures.
  • Ask for permission to win their heart.
  • Get approval from parents.

With all these standards, just by asking someone out on ONE date, you are basically asking to marry them, bang them and have 15 kids with them.

Stay tuned for my final thoughts on the book.

I kissed dating goodbye: Chapter 12, 13 and 14 analysis

There’s a degree of repetition to this book, where certain ideas such as self-improvement prior to marriage pop up again and again, just with slightly different wording. These three chapters fall into a series of ideas that I will examine.

Self improvement during singleness:

Chapter 12 focuses on “ignoring your biological clock” when it comes to relationships and simply work on self improvement in your life and in your relationships with friends and family. He encourages his readers not to waste time pining after a relationship but instead “hustle while you wait” and built good character. While on paper this is good advice, it falls into the trap of an overall attitude of perfectionism that pervades Harris’ book.

Super serious business:

Chapter 13 ends with a poem that says only men whose hearts are oceans strong and true should dare to stand at the bars of a woman’s heart and ask to gain entrance. He also recommends people keep the entire view of marriage in mind and be ready for sacrifice.

While all this advice is great and all, I feel he falls into the trap of making the whole process seem so earth shatteringly difficult and demanding that only the best need apply. No wonder people were scared to death of the opposite sex in his culture and church!

Carefully examine a potential significant other’s character according to evangelical standards

Harris lays out a few things to examine with potential “courting partners”(I can’t think of a better term) from how they interact with authority to how they relate to God and the opposite sex. While some of his tips are good, like examine how a guy treats his mother, I find his overall tone plays into an underlying message of the book: Make sure you and the other person have it completely together before you enter into a relationship that is instantly focused on marriage.

You know, with all these requirements, it’s a wonder many in Harris’ circle didn’t just decide, “Marriage and relationships aren’t worth it!”

We have two more chapters to go. Stay tuned.

Image from Pexels.com

 

I kissed dating goodbye: Chapter 11 analysis

In this chapter, Harris explores how to deal with people(or strawmen) who don’t agree with your conviction not to date.

Harris tells several stories of family members, students and others pressuring courtship believes to date. What is interesting is how he presents these people. For example, he describes someone named Aunt Tessi as an annoying relative that won’t leave her niece alone about her lack of a boyfriend. He says, “You will no doubt meet someone like Aunt Tessi who doesn’t care about logic, values, or biblical principles.”  He also tells a story about a girl named Alisha who tried to get a boy named Paul to go out with her. He describes it this way, “Alisha’s voice and actions were not so subtle hints that Alisha was interested in him as more than a brother in Christ.”

Even those these individuals are real, he is presenting them as the main source of opposition his readers will face, not people with opposing ideas. In other words, he is presenting strawmen, not people with legitimate different ideas. Even those people who do disagree with them strongly, Harris still speaks as if they are heading down a bad road. He says, “If those people continue in relationships I think are unwise, I pray that God will show them the same mercy He has shown me. But I don’t continue to hound them; God will work in their lives when they’re ready.”

To be fair to this chapter, Harris’s basic advice is “don’t be a jerk” or wait for someone’s life to fall apart just because they don’t agree with you. He calls for his readers to be humble and to not info dump courtship rules on everyone you talk to. Harris obviously assumes that courtship is the Godly path and that those who follow its tenets must let their example be the key to draw people in.

Harris assumes that his ideas will lead to better lives, which makes sense. After all, why would you write a book on this topic if you didn’t believe it would work? The problem with this idea is that if you read some of the stories of those who were under the courtship and purity cultures, they will talk about how the ideas caused them a lot of pain and anguish. There are certainly people who have had positive experiences, but the overall culture that this book supported has caused a lot of harm.

In fact, Harris is not even creating a new subculture in this book. He is defending one which already exists. If he was creating something new, he would not have stories to tell about people who believe in courtship.

What I find interesting about this chapter is that you can see just how easily Harris’ ideas can craft a sub culture. After all, Harris states that there will be social pressure from friends and family to date. The obvious solution to this dilemma is to create a new sub culture where dating is not allowed. You can find entire congregations that follow the principles of courtship, or homeschooling circles.

This ends Part 3 of the book. We have five more chapters left to go.

I kissed dating goodbye chapter 10

In this chapter, Harris is going to tackle the idea of “guarding your heart.” In the process, he misinterprets the word “heart” in the Bible and encourages emotional repression(whether intentional or unintentional).

In this chapter’s opening story(almost every chapter I have read starts with a story like a sermon), a woman named Jessica develops her own standards of courtship, and Harris describes her as like, “a modern day Moses come off Sinai with the Ten Commandments.”

Jessica easily casts off the affections of bad boys who wear Metallica t-shirts and have bleached hair, but once she goes to a Christian college, she finds it more difficult to deal with those sexy Baptist boys, or how the book puts it, “godly handsome men” who are clean cut. Jessica becomes confused regarding her feelings and her standards.

Harris then argues from this example that we need to keep our heart(emotions) tied to a chair and put under close watch, because our hearts are deceitful. He contrasts our hearts from our minds.

The problem with this argument is it doesn’t fit the biblical definition of the word heart. When Harris uses the word heart he is thinking of emotions, much like how Disney tells us to follow our hearts.

The Bible defines heart as the center of both our emotions and our intellect. It is the central object that moves us. When the Jews would talk about someone lacking insight, they would say, “That person lacks heart.” The heart is the “center” of us that determines our thoughts, feelings, intellect and desires. So when Proverbs 4:23 says guard your heart, it is speaking about guarding who you are as a person, because who are you will determine how you speak and act. It is not talking about some kind of mind/emotions dichotomy, nor it is speaking of emotional repression.

In modern terms, it would be something like, “Examine yourself carefully because the person you are deep down WILL come out.”

Harris moves forward  by addressing three pollutants in our hearts: infatuation; lust; and self-pity.

Harris makes a claim that infatuation can become idolatry when it replaces God as the chief longing of our hearts. He encourages readers to not feed into “fantasy” when you are attracted to someone, which leads to infatuation.

I both agree and disagree with his sentiments. I agree that we should not put others on a pedestal and expect them to complete us or allow them to take God’s place as the center of our lives. HOWEVER, the Bible is also quite clear that Adam wasn’t complete with just him and God, so God made him a woman because “It is not good for man to be alone.”

Infatuation is a natural reaction that ensures humans stay together long enough to make a baby. The honeymoon phase, as it is popularly known, is a period of infatuation. When done in moderation, it is a good beautiful thing. However, because infatuation naturally fades, there also needs to be something more than infatuation to keep the relationship going, whether that be a deep spiritual commitment, maturity or a conscious decision to love each other even when you don’t like them right now(a la Relient K).

Moving along to lust, Harris defines lust as any type of sexual desire that God has forbidden. For Harris, this is any type of fantasy regarding a woman, including a future spouse. Once again, I am torn on Harris’ definition. On one hand, we all know fantasy can get out of hand and lead to fetishes, objectification, etc.

On the other, it is difficult for me to get a clear understanding of the Biblical idea of lust. The basic idea Jesus seems to present in his parables is that desires lead to action, so lust for another man’s wife leads to adultery. Song of Solomon always presents a great deal of sexual desire, some of which may not be within the realm of marriage.

The NT, as I see it, applies the golden mean standard of Greek thought to sexuality. In Greek thought, the golden mean was the key middle ground between pure abstinence and consumption, whether that be with sex, food, work or anything else. For some activities or emotions, the golden mean might lay more heavily on the side of abstinence or consumption. The NT uses the golden mean standard when it argues to ignore teachers who teach that marriage is wrong but also to avoid orgies and sexual excess. Even when Paul argues his case for singleness, he admits it’s his own opinion, not God’s opinion.

Jewish thought also varies on sex. Some admit that sex outside of marriage is bad, others claim that it is not bad persay, but just not as good as unmarried sex.

That being said, let’s move on to the final point: self-pity

I agree with Harris that self-pity is problematic, as it leads people to be unsatisfied with their lives. We all know someone who is desperate for a significant other. We should not be so focused on finding a significant other that we miss the value in being single. This is one point that I do give Harris credit for.

At the same time, I have seen others dismiss people’s very real emotional problems as just being “self pity” or “over sensitivity.” We should recognize the difference between self pity and real emotional issues.

 

 

 

I kissed dating goodbye: Chapter 7, 8 and 9

Harris finishes up Part 2 by relating a dream he had. In this dream, his entire life was a catalog of cards, from the good and the bad. Jesus enters his library and goes through his bad cards and then writes out all the bad parts with His blood. Harris uses this dream to encourage his readers that they are forgiven if they made mistakes in the past. Harris retells this dream in a beautiful way and it is certainly encouraging, but it reveals something a bit troubling in certain Christian circles.

Mainly, in these circles, works based salvation is the norm until you have a big, “I’m forgiven moment.” When the rest of the book places so much emphasis on “proper actions,” reminders that, “Hey Jesus forgives you and it’s not about works anyway,” tend to ring a little hollow. This type of mindset also tends to tie good Christianity with a certain generic set of behaviors, which I’m not a huge fan of. I recognize of course that your behavior matters, but some books and groups tend to make those behaviors their religion(see the purity culture for example.)

Chapter 8 kicks off with how you can start with a clean slate, and it is here that I get the impression Harris’ parents were a strong influence on this book. Harris encourages his readers to break up bad relationships with a clean break, which is good advice for any bad relationship. He then encourages his readers to get their parents involved or to pursue another authority figure if the parents aren’t in the picture. He mentions that he talks to his parents about his crushes and will ask them for help if he is getting “too distracted by a girl”

I get the sense that Harris’ parents were a big influence in getting him to swear off dating. After all, he does mention how his mother gave him a purity book in a previous chapter.

Chapter 9 is entitled “Just Friends in a Just-Do-It World.” This chapter should be entitled, “Just Repress your emotions in a Purity-Culture-World.” Harris laments the fact that so many friendships with the opposite sex quickly lead to romantic feelings. He compares it to the old commercial where a child asks an owl, “How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsi Pop?” He compares the owl crunching into the pop to the moment when a friendship becomes romantic. He expresses shame at these times his friendships in high school turned into romances.

Harris gives several ways you can stay “just friends” by encouraging group settings, working towards a common goal and serving each other.  However, I say there is an easier solution to Harris’ dilemma. Harris’ church came up with a way to avoid romantic feelings. They chose not to be friends or engage with the opposite sex at all.

Harris even preached a sermon about how singles at his church were stuffy and unfriendly with each other. Read about it here.

When you place all this pressure on basic human relationships, you get unhealthy situations like this where no one feels comfortable talking to each other. It also causes issues in long term relationships, since followers cannot easily turn on their repressed romantic impulses.

Some people might say that this book is more of a personal journey than an actual rule book, but the book gives quite a different feel. Harris assumes that his readers will be joining him on this quest of rejecting dating. It reads like a pastoral book, a call to action.

I get the sense that Harris got too easily drawn into relationships as a teen so he is overreacting in this book to put up control mechanisms. However, it is problematic when you take his personal restraints and give it to someone just entering puberty. It can leaded to stunted relationships and development. I don’t blame Harris for not knowing about these possible consequences, and other groups have created more severe versions of his ideology. I will discuss the overall implications of the purity culture at a later time.

I kissed dating goodbye chapter six analysis

Part 4

The book is now beginning to explore its definition of purity in full. Harris relates a story of boys in a youth group bragging over how far they got with girls. He then jumps from there to the story of Bathsheba and argues that David took many small steps towards committing adultery from there. He draws a parallel with this Biblical story to any physical contact outside of marriage. I believe at this point the book’s advice becomes truly dangerous.

Harris argues that any form of physical intimacy is dangerous and by engaging in it, we treat that person as if we own their body. He argues we must recognize “the deep significance of sexual intimacy at any level” and not “steal those privileges before marriage.”

If you think he is going too far, he would say “That’s the point!” He argues that one should set their standards too high to avoid any sort of “impurity.” In particular he believes something like one little kiss “awakens desires we aren’t allowed to consummate.” One way he applies this is by refusing to have one-on-one dates with girls.  I find it interesting that Harris criticized dating in past chapters for setting up artificial environments but in this book he thinks he should only be with girls in the artificial environment of groups.

Harris believes that his readers will “never regret purity.”

However, if you want an example of people who have regretted his model, just go read a few of the stories on Harris’s website. When you argue for complete and utter repression, people aren’t going to be able to adjust even if they do get married.  Harris is just adding more restrictions to avoid any possibility of sex. While I can admire his determination, I believe this mindset can turn virginity into a fetish. The only way to sustain this mindset is to put virginity on a pedestal and view human sexuality in a purely negative sense, until it all can be successfully “awakened” at once.

Next up, Harris gives his “advice” to how men and women can practice his mindset. He begins this advice by stating that men struggle more with sex drives and women struggle more with their emotions. This is an over generalization. Men are just as emotional as women, they are just taught to repress their emotions, and they tend to be more skilled at compartimentalizing. Women can have just as much of a sex drive as men.

For men, Harris calls for them to stop flirting and leading on women. I agree with this in part. You shouldn’t lead people on or use them. Harris calls for men to be warriors that guard women’s hearts rather than thieves that steal them. I would argue men should just acknowledge women as people and if they want to engage in a relationship with them, not to use immoral tactics. Harris says he wants to be the kind of friend to a girl where even her future husband will say to him, “thanks for guarding her heart and her purity.”

This is weird. I could never imagine saying to an “ex-boyfriend/ex-courtship” of my wife. I would appreciate it if he respected her in the past, but ultimately as long as it wasn’t an abuse relationship, it wouldn’t really matter to me. One thing Western culture is somewhat good at is telling people not to bring their past relationships into new ones. I kissed dating goodbye argues that every relationship claims a piece of your heart, but this is simply isn’t true. You don’t have a limited amount of emotions to give. Your heart isn’t your wallet.

Harris then gives his “advice” to women, which is essentially “Please cover up so I stop getting aroused around you.” Now to be fair he does agree it is a guy’s responsibility how he reacts to a girl, but he still tells girls to cover up. So guys are called to be warriors and women are called to cover up their dangerous bodies.

In Harris’s world, the goal is to utterly crush sexual desire. Is this the right mindset? We shall explore this in greater detail in future chapters.

For now, take a look at this article. It’s a bit more even handed than the purity culture literature.