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 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.



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.