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.