I kissed dating goodbye: chapter 4 and 5 analysis

Part 3

Chapter 4 and 5 didn’t make a lot of statements that caught my attention, so I’m going to focus on key observations from each chapter, specifically the good and the bad.

The Good

Harris argues that one should strive to love as God loves, selflessly and sincerely. This is of course a good point. We should strive to practice agape(unconditional love). Harris encourages readers to look up “love” in God’s dictionary. This is all wonderful and if we do follow it, we won’t treat people as objects. “God’s love pushes out the pettiness and selfishness which defines so much of what takes place in dating.”

Next, Harris encourages his readers to practice patience. He retells the old story of the boy who used a magic ball. Whenever he would pull the string in the ball, he would skip past boring parts of his life to get to the cool moments. But then he realized he had missed his entire life by being impatient.

Harris also mentions two stories, one of his friend who had sex as a teenager only then to get married to someone else in college. The other was of a couple who agreed not to kiss or physically touch before marriage. It seemed to work out for them, but they told him this was something they wouldn’t apply on everyone. It just worked for them. The couple had the right idea in not trying to force this personal standard on others.

The Bad

Harris once again calls for what is essentially emotional repression. He tells people if they aren’t ready for commitment they should content themselves with friendship and wait for intimacy and romance. He claims this won’t stunt their relationship since they can focus on helping other people. While this mindset might seem harmless, there is a great danger behind it. By putting so much pressure on early relationships to not develop romantic feelings, you create an environment where people are frightened to even get into those friendships. Because romance happens naturally between friends who are attracted to each other, people might try to avoid that connection in the first place.

Here’s a more reasonable statement when it comes to romance. Take it slow and get to know the person first. From there, get to know if you can see committing to this person in the long term. Now, we get to the REALLY damaging advice.

The Ugly.

The book continues to push this idea that God has a “soul mate” for you. This time he expands this idea so if you engage in short term dating relationships, you are practically insulting your future spouse. He calls for us to “do our future spouse a favor and not shop around prematurely.”

It’s interesting that this book pushes against cultural ideas but agrees with the idea of a soul mate. Disney has been preaching to us about the perfect “prince” or “princess” for quite some times(Although they have gotten a bit more realistic).  We do have an ancient idea of soul mates, but it comes from Kabballah(Jewish mysticism). When a soul is created, an angel splits it in two and gives one to a man and another to a woman. So these two are soul mates. Some people may not find their soul mate due to sin or circumstances. However, if a man or woman finds their soul mate, they should divorce their current spouse to be with that person. Divorce isn’t exactly kosher in evangelical circles.

I’m not saying Harris borrowed the idea from Kabballah, but I do think he is borrowing from lite Calvinism. The idea that God controls and ordains everything is a Calvinistic idea, so it makes sense to apply it to your romantic life. The Bible, however, does not give us any indication that God has a perfect person in mind for us. Sometimes He might for certain people, but not for everyone who gets married.

Also, there is a dangerous implication here that you are already owned by your future spouse. That’s some weird deterministic stuff that can really mess people up. Harris takes personal convictions about waiting until God tells him he is ready for a relationship and applies it to everyone. I’m not sure this is appropriate.

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.

 

Revelation and the Modern Pop Culture Apocalypses

I have poured a vast amount of time into studying the Apocalypse of St. John, better known as the Book of Revelation. To the modern reader, whether Christian or non, it seems confusing and bizarre. Yet it’s effects are everywhere. Whenever someone says the numbers 666, you know they are talking about something evil. However, there is an easy way to see the effects of the Revelation. Go into any store and you will likely find merchandise for two TV series, one American and one Japanese: The Walking Dead and Attack on Titan

Both of these deal with the apocalypse, albeit in different ways. Attack on Titan, a Japanese anime, deals with the Apocalypse as both an external threat in the form of Titans and an internal threat in the form of conspiracies and mysteries within the world. Most of humanity has been wiped out by the man eating Titans, and a small group survive within a massive walled off country that is governed by people who may have had something to do with the creation of the Titans.

In a way, this series is truer to the meaning of the word Apocalyspe, which means “unveiling.” The thrill in Attack on Titan is watching this mysterious world gradually unveil before your eyes as the characters struggle each step of the way. However, in Attack on Titan, you are rooting for characters who are resisting this onslaught of Titans and gradually trying to put an end to this nightmare by discovering the secret to finally put mankind back on top.

The Walking Dead on the other hand doesn’t give such hope. The world is over, zombies are everywhere and your worst enemy are other humans. The show flat out tells you that the real walking dead are the humans. The characters spend every day trying to survive and work together against foes both living and dead. It has often been described as a zombie soap opera due to the various dramatic interactions between the characters. In this reality, the Apocalypse cannot be resisted and humans simply have to do what they can to survive, even though they are the Walking Dead. In one scene, a character named Hershel Greene says that he knew the Lord promised the resurrection of the dead, he just didn’t envision it would be like this.

However, one might point out that a key difference between the Revelation of St. John and these shows is the lack of a divine presence. In Revelation, even with these horrifying events, God intervenes and creates a new heavens and new earth where even the nations and kings that were persecuting the people of God get to enter and receive healing.

However, the divine is not completely absent from many apocalyptic works. For example, in Attack on Titan the main character Eren can transform into a Titan and uses his power to give humanity its first victory over the monsters. Throughout the series, the main characters are struggling to get back to his hometown to find a power that will end the Titan reign. In any case, it is a transcendent power or ability of some sort that allows the main characters to survive and even overcome the end of the world.

What I am getting at is that these works are simply being honest. Without something transcendent or the better angels of human nature, there is no hope in the face of the apocalypse. But, as I mentioned before, the word apocalypse might bring up images of complete destruction, but it actually means “unveiling.” It unveils the plan for the end of this age and it unveils the true character of those who experience it.

Modern apocalyptic tales often unveil that humanity is too messed up to pull themselves up. Humans in Attack on Titan spend a lot of time plotting and fighting against each other, and people in the Walking Dead are too divided and selfish to unite against the undead. Thus, the only way to overcome the end of the world is to use some good aspect of humanity such as teamwork and self-sacrifice or some transcendent power such as turning into a Titan.

In the end how one views the apocalypse depends on how one views human nature and God.

 

Nostalgia and the ever changing past

Looking at old photos is like grabbing a single piece of cloth from a massive tapestry. You can envision the full tapestry in your mind, but that piece of cloth influences what it looks like. Maybe it’s more dark blue or maybe white and gold. Maybe you feel happy about fun days, or you feel saddened that you cannot relive those days. Nostalgia is a strange mistress, because the way she appears depends not on her but on us.

When you are 15, remembering when you were 5, you might feel a number of things such as embarrassment. You might be embarrassed that your parents kept that photo of you running around in your underwear in the house. Or you could feel a sense of freedom that you can do more things now than you could when you were 5. However, when you are 25, you might long for those simpler days when Mom or Dad were close by and you had no real worries.

In the same manner, nostalgia can be both a positive and negative force. It could inspire someone who has been dragged down by life to remember the carefree days and attempt to emulate those feelings in his or her life, rather than continuing in negative thoughts. It could also be a good collective activity among a group of friends or family. On the negative side, it can lead to one creating, as Neon Genesis Evangelion puts it, a rosary of good memories that one clings to rather than dealing with the present. It can also lead to destructive patterns in a quest to restore the past, such as Gatsby’s obsession with restoring his old romance with Daisy in the Great Gatsby.

Pop culture currently is obsessed with nostalgia. From Star Wars to Power Rangers, they are all attempting to grab a piece of that nostalgic pie. The Force Awakens was a love letter to every little boy and girl in the 80s who grew up with Luke Skywalker. Yet for some, the new movie will never quite capture the original feeling, but it will remind viewers of some part of the tapestry that is Star Wars.

One question that emerges from this post is, “How should we relate to nostalgia?” In my own mind, I believe there are a few general principles. First of all, don’t lose your childlike spirit. By childlike, I am not talking about “childish behavior,” but rather a sense of wonder. We all know people who have completely lost their sense of wonder and became angry, jaded and sometimes extremely unpleasant. By keeping that spirit, we can both engage with nostalgic memories and create new ones, which leads to my final point.

Live your life naturally now so that you will naturally create good memories. This does not mean live in an artificial way to create Kodak moments that can easily be quantified and thrown on social media. It means to live your life naturally, with a childlike spirit, so that good memories will come naturally.

You may call that a cliche, but just remember that cliches were once treasured tropes.

Defining the profound

Once, Stephen Colbert asked scientist David Christian about the meaning of life. Mr. Christian responded by talking about the theory of how human life came about. Colbert pointed out that all Mr. Christian had given him was the “how” not the “why.”  You see, the “how” is interesting and easily definiable, but not profound, like “why.” This key difference can be witnessed by comparing the question “how do you love me” with “why do you love me.”

Your partner will respond to the first question with actions. The partner loves you by giving gifts, physical affection, staying up late at night, etc. But, to respond to the second question, the partner has to go a little deeper. For example, they might say, “I love you because of that twinkle in your eye when you have an idea,” or “I love you because you have a beautiful soul.”  However, many times the why cannot be described with words. It swells up from deep within in a language not defined by linguistics.

For something to be profound, it must be transcendent, above definition. This is why the early Christians embraced the mystery of God. After all, if God is easily defined, God becomes a thing. You might scoff at this, but think about yourself as a person. You are not your politics, gender, orientation or race. Those are a part of you, but you can’t add up these elements and get you. As Rob Bell and others would argue, you are more than than the sum of your parts. There is a mystery to you that defies words, from both others and yourself. And yet, you still know yourself, albeit through a mirror dimly.

Every single word you speak is a metaphor for the profound. The profound is both a mystery and familiar.