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.