I kissed dating goodbye: chapter 3 analysis

Part 2

After introducing the “seven defects of dating,” Harris is going to suggest five key attitude changes. Let’s take a look at them and see if the reasoning behind them is sound.

No 1: Every relationship is an opportunity to model Christ’s love.

Under this point, Harris talks about a girl named Bethany who is known as a “flirt.” She goes to Christian colleges and jumps from boyfriend to boyfriend. Then she realizes she needs to stop viewing guys as boyfriends and start engaging with them as friends and love them as brothers in Christ. At first glance, this seems okay. After all, you shouldn’t objectify others. And according to Harris, Bethany is selfish.

However, you can flip this on its head and say model Christ’s love within dating and friendships. You should be kind and encouraging to others regardless of your relationship with them. Also choosing only to view the opposite sex as a brother or a sister seems to be a recipe for dysfunction within gender relationships. If the goal is to avoid appearing flirtatious, this can hinder opposite gender relationships. I have been in circles before where any girl who talked too much to boys was viewed as flirty.

In general, Harris seems to be bashing any sort of “playing the field” or “looking for a girlfriend/boyfriend.” While this can be problematic if done in a destructive, obsessive or objectifying manner, I don’t think it’s worth a total rebuke.

No 2: My unmarried years are a gift from God.

The same bad exegesis again…sigh. Singleness can be a good time for getting to know yourself and having more freedom to do other things. However, this statement is taking Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 7 about how he personally prefers singleness and applying it to some sort of ordained period of life. Yes your unmarried years are a gift from God, as is your entire life. But the Bible doesn’t give any special importance to those years, other than the practical applications Paul mentions.

No 3: Intimacy is the reward of commitment. I don’t need to pursue a romantic relationship before I’m ready for marriage.

Define being “ready for marriage.” Due to economic circumstances in this generation, many won’t have the means to get married until well into their 30s. However, Harris isn’t talking about economics, he seems to be referring to waiting until God specifically tells you who you should marry.

Wait, what? There is no real Biblical basis that God specifically ordains a spouse for everyone. There are occasions where he intervenes and helps with the process such as Rebecca and Isaac, but these are specific circumstances.

Harris does admit you will likely have several intimate relationships before you figure out God’s will regarding who you should marry. But he ends this statement by saying if you aren’t ready to consider marriage, you shouldn’t date. This mindset, however, can lead to problems. It can lead to you being afraid to even get to know someone on a one-on-one basis because you are worried you aren’t ready for marriage or they aren’t marriage material.

I can understand that dating just for the sake of dating with no future plans for commitment can be unwise, but this can be easily solved by: keeping it casual and analyzing if you are compatible.

No 4: I cannot “own” someone outside of marriage.

Here, Harris criticizes the idea of playing marriage, particularly in the context of teenage relationships. Here is where it gets dangerous, as Harris tells the story of two people named Sarah and Philip who break up to refocus. Harris says even if they had stayed together and stayed “physically pure” they still would have made unwarranted claims on each other’s spiritual and emotional life. This is a sneaky example of emotional purity, of keeping your emotions safe and buried. While this was likely not his intention, I can easily see how groups could take this principle and do some real damage with it. Repressing your emotions can lead to great damage, such as guilt over simple things such as having a crush.

In a sense, Harris is right you can’t own someone outside of marriage, but you shouldn’t “own” someone within marriage either. It’s a partnership where two people work together and agree to devote themselves to one another.

No 5: I will avoid situations that could compromise the purity of my body or mind.

This ideology is a double edged sword, as it encourages the mindset that if you leave two people alone for any amount of time, they will bang each other. Thus, people in this culture begin to believe that is true all the time, so when they are alone they bang each other. Yes people’s sexual urges are strong, but this type of mindset turns sex into the BIGGEST thing ever, and I’m not sure that it is.

If you do have certain boundaries regarding sexuality, it would make sense to lay down ground rules from the beginning. This is a-okay.

And with this, we are done with Part 1 of I Kissed Dating Goodbye.  The one thing I find strange is that so far in almost all of Harris’s stories all of the people are still virgins. But Harris encourages them to one up each other. “Sure you didn’t have sex but couldn’t you have been purer!” While it’s okay to push for better things than the norm, this type of mindset can easily slip into a form of legalism.

Join us next time for chapter 4.

I kissed dating goodbye: Chapter 2 analysis

Part 1

Last time, we looked at the introduction and chapter 1 of I kissed dating goodbye. Next up, Joshua Harris tackles the seven habits of highly defective dating. This ought to be fun. Let’s examine each of them and see if they have any merit. Let’s also check to see if Harris stays true to his two promises in the intro: he doesn’t believe dating is a sin and it’s okay for a male and female to meet one on one.

No 1: Dating leads to intimacy but not necessarily to commitment.

At first glance this seems correct. After all,we can all point to relationships that moved quickly but then fizzled out due to a lack of commitment. Harris also points out that dating is a fairly recent phenomenon and courtship is older. Harris believes the true purpose of dating is just to get close physically for a short term relationship without any commitment. This sounds convincing, but it is ultimately a straw man argument, because there are other purposes of dating.

For example, you can date just to get to know someone else. Or you might be trying to develop your relationship skills. Or maybe you are dating with long term commitment as a possibility but you want to see if you are compatible with the other person first. All of these traits fit the definition of dating perfectly. Harris is making the mistake again of lumping in the practice of dating with immature high school antics. Harris could make the case from this point that it may be unwise to date in high school, due to social constructs that prevent commitment such as our western ideals of adolescence, but he cannot make the point it is wise to avoid dating entirely.

No 2: Dating tends to skip the friendship stage of a relationship.

Harris defines dating as being based on physical attraction and a friendship as being based on mutual interests, and dating skips the friendship stage. This brings up a key question. Have you ever met someone who didn’t want to date someone with similar interests? Many male gamers are obsessed with finding a gamer girlfriend to share their hobby with. Casual dating allows people to get a sense of someone’s personality and interests. Immature dating is only concerned with the physical.

Also, the idea that one must be friends before you can start dating isn’t necessarily true. Some people start out as girlfriend and boyfriend and grow to have a deep friendship and vice versa. In addition, by keeping it casual initially, you can discover if you do have mutual interests.

No 3: Dating often mistakes a physical relationship for love

Harris is again equating pure immaturity with dating. Teenagers and immature people might not realize it, but for any good relationship you need to have some common interests and compatible personalities. Dating can help you figure those traits out if you don’t become “too serious, too fast.” Many people who have practiced courtship in the past have brought up that courtship encouraged them to get too serious too quickly and prevented them from really getting to know each other due to emotional barriers. Isn’t that ironic?

No 4: Dating often isolates a couple from other vital relationships.

Harris mentions that couples need to see each other in other circumstances such as around family and friends. This makes sense, which is why you should not become possessive of your significant other and try to see them in different circumstances to get a handle on what they are really like. A possessive relationship that shoves out family and friends is not healthy, even in married relationships. I have seen several marriages where the spouse demanded all attention to the detriment of other relationships.

Once again, Harris is confusing immaturity and possessiveness with dating.

No 5: Dating, in many cases, distracts young adults from their primary responsibility of preparing for the future.

Interesting enough, Paul writes that marriage can also put barriers up when it comes to evangelism. 1 Corinthians 7:32-35 states: But I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord; how he may please the Lord. But he who is married cares about the things of the world; how he may please his wife. There is a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world; how she may please her husband. And this I say for your own profit, not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction.

Any commitment will necessarily take away from other commitments. That’s how relationships work because you only have a certain amount of time. How you manage the time spent for each relationship is up to you. That doesn’t make dating, marriage, engagement or friendship bad, it just requires some balance.

No 6: Dating can cause discontent with God’s gift of singleness.

This is straight up poor exegesis. In 1 Corinthians Paul personally recommended singleness and not getting married period. However, he doesn’t command singleness as such, he just says it works for him and God gives him the ability to remain single. But it isn’t a bad thing to get married if you have a desire to do so.

This gift of singleness as Harris described it was more or less Paul’s personal preference that he recommended for a particular context. Paul is not describing a stage of life that Harris is describing.

No 7: Dating creates an artificial environment for evaluating another person’s character.

Here, Harris defines dating as being exclusive one-on-one outings that prevents you from seeing each other in different contexts, such as around family and friends. While this is a practice within certain dating relationships, it is immature. Any relationship expert would recommend you see each other in different environments to get a grip on who they are as a person.

 

I kissed dating goodbye: analysis chapter 1

The phenomenon of I kissed dating goodbye that was written by 21-year old Joshua Harris never affected me directly, but it affected a large amount of my fellow homeschoolers. I had no idea this book had such a deep impact on the homeschooling culture. In recent years, I have become familiar with its effects, both positive and negative on gender relations and dating among young Christians. It helped give a major boost to the purity culture that was circulating around that time and still exists to this day in the form of purity balls, promise rings and more modesty conferences than you can shake a g-string at. Thus, I am going to blog through this best seller chapter by chapter, with analysis, critique and suggestions.  I have never read this book before other than a few quotes from others.

This first post will be focusing on the introduction and first chapter.

Introduction:

Joshua Harris begins his book by calling for the reader to essentially set aside all biases and remain “open to the ideas” in the book. He tries to “let down his reader’s defenses,” in particular by laying out two clarifications. First: He is not saying dating is sinful, he is simply stating he believes he has found a better, healthier way. Second: He agrees that there is nothing wrong with a male and a female meeting alone under certain circumstances. We shall have to examine if his actual book matches these ideas.

While Joshua Harris could simply be trying to get readers to remain open to his ideas, you should be suspicious when an author calls for you to set aside your defenses, because this is an attempt to shut down criticism and by extension critical thinking. With that in mind, let’s turn to Chapter 1

Chapter 1:

Harris begins the book with a dream of a girl named Anna about to get married. However, as Anna joins her groom David at the altar, six girls also walk down the aisle. When Anna asks him what is going on, he says these are his six ex-girlfriends that he gave “part of his heart” to. She can have what is left of his heart. Already, I can see a major issue with this, which only continues throughout the chapter.

Next he relates a story of his teenage relationship which turned sour as he was unable to grow as close to his girlfriend physically as he would have liked due to his personal boundaries. So he ended the relationship, even though he had expected to marry her. From there, he quotes Philippians 1:9-10 and jumps from there to his idea of “smart love.”

At first, he defines smart love as simply being kind and aware of others feelings. Then he turns around and says that until he is ready to commit to a lifelong commitment with a girl he cannot ask for her affections. And he will wait for romance until God tells him he is ready for it. From there, Harris relates several stories essentially criticizing immature dating among teenagers.

And here is where Harris starts to go wrong. First of all, he is criticizing immature behaviors such as becoming too serious too quickly or not acknowledging someone else’s feelings. For example, he brings up two friends: Alyssa and Ben. When they started dating, Ben didn’t want to kiss her but Alyssa pressured him into it as well as other physical activities other than sex. Then, she ran off on Ben with another boy. He also mentions immature dating games among teenagers. Harris should not assume all dating is teenage games. Of course they are going to date in an immature manner, because they are trying to figure out life, their newfound sexuality and relationships! It’s going to get messy!

After relating these stories, Harris says, “Dating may seem like an innocent game, but as I see it, we are sinning against each other!” Here we see Harris implying that dating is sinful, which contradicts his point from earlier. If he had said that certain elements within dating such as manipulating people were sinful that would be one thing, but he directly ties dating to sin.

Harris also seems to be way too hard on himself for a failed high school relationship, even though he called it off for a relatively decent reason: he didn’t feel comfortable escalating the relationship to a deeper physical level due to his convictions. He states that in previous relationships, he was merely interested in what he could get out of the relationship such as comfort, popularity and pleasure and would say loving words for selfish reasons. However, his primary serious relationship seemed far closer and emotionally entangled but failed due to immaturity.

Harris ends the chapter with a call for purity and blamelessness before God. I hope Harris dials back some of this rhetoric in future chapters as this type of mindset can easily slip into perfectionism.

Overall, Harris seems to be looking at pain caused by careless people in careless relationships and attributing the problem to dating. However, this is all based on a few personal experiences, so should we change our entire dating practices just because of his poor experiences?

I am also detecting that Harris believes in some form of emotional purity. Namely the idea that one needs to guard his or her emotions and avoid giving away “pieces of your heart.” In this chapter, he declares he will look at women not as potential girlfriends but as sisters in Christ. While you certainly shouldn’t objectify people, the idea that you should repress your natural desire for a relationship seems rather unnatural.

Next time, we will be looking at Chapter 2. With the next installment, I’ll likely focus on a few key details rather than creating a summary. Stay tuned. Also if this book has affected you in any way, feel free to share in the comments down below.

Disclaimer: Harris has made a few statements recently regarding his book. It is not my intention to examine his current state of mind or position on the book. I am taking the book as is, as much as possible.