I kissed dating goodbye: the final horrible conclusion

My first reaction to Chapter 15: Principled Romance contained a lot of four letter words. I’ll just focus on this chapter, as Chapter 16 doesn’t really have much new to say. Principled Romance lays down Harris’s philosophy for courtship(Spoiler alert: it’s mostly horrendous)

Harris states that although the Bible doesn’t give us a one size fits all formula, he has some steps he considers “God-honoring.” It goes from friendship to deep friendship, to purposeful intimacy with integrity to engagement. He states that romance is like driving a car. You wouldn’t drive it super fast in the city with a friend next to you, so you should be careful with romance and consider its effects on other people and your relationship with God. This is all well and good, but then Harris gets into his ACTUAL advice:

First, mainly do group things to get to know each other as friends. Because clearly, everyone is an extrovert and no one could ever hide their true identity in a crowd.

Second, avoid expressing romantic feelings while exploring each other as friends. He literally says, “Don’t take it into your own hands by flirting,” as if somehow God is immeasurably displeased with all but the most level headed romance. Harris tops himself with the ludicrous claim that you will never regret waiting to express your feelings.

Are you kidding me? This is a MASSIVE claim to be made by someone that’s barely out of his teens. That’s not even mentioning how easy to it is disprove this statement. Just talk to anyone who missed their opportunity for a relationship because they wouldn’t reveal their true feelings.

Third, blow things way out of proportion. Harris tells a story of Jason and Shelly who obviously like each other. Instead of expressing their feelings, Jason writes a 9 page letter to his uncle describing her and asking if he should date her.

Jason’s uncle then gives him a series of over the top questions like: Can you support her? Are you ready for marriage? Have you spoken to your pastor?  Words can’t express how stupid I find this. WHY DON’T YOU TALK TO HER YOURSELF NOT YOUR PASTOR. IT’S NOT LIKE YOU’RE GOING TO GET MARRIED AFTER ONE DATE.

Oh wait, this is I kissed dating goodbye I’m talking about… Moving right along!

Fourth, make sure you are absolutely prepared for every facet of marriage before you even date.

This is idiotic advice. How are you supposed to be prepared for marriage when you don’t even know how to take a woman/man to Applebees?

Fifth, make sure you know everything about the person. Examine them closely: from their character to their spirituality to their financial habits. No one would ever break under such examination or just lie.

It gets worse when we get into Harris’ advice for the actual courtship.

First, he recommends you basically tell the girl that you are asking for permission to win her heart in this big dramatic scene that sounds like an engagement.

Second, he recommends you basically make yourself the whipping boy of her parents. He literally says you should invite her parents to ask pointed questions about your spirituality, finances, maturity, etc. Tell all about your activities you will do with her and how you plan to win her hand, etc.

My simple response to this is, in my personal experience, this plays into the hands of controlling and abusive parents. It puts you under the thumb of narcissists who want to control their daughters.

Third, he adds some sexism in the mix by saying the guy should make the first move and you should talk with your girl about gender roles and such. As always, the pressure is always on the guy to win and protect the poor innocent girl who needs to be controlled by her parents.

Finally, Harris ends by arguing that you will never regret saving up passion for marriage by not engaging in anything physical of any sort. The problem with this argument is that it isn’t necessarily true. Just ask some of the women who grew up in this environment that suffer from severe sexual dysfunction that can at times make any sex literally physically painful.

Harris’s standards are a recipe for fear and disaster. Let’s just summarize all of his requirements for one date, shall we?

  • Repress your attraction and refuse to express romantic intentions.
  • Get to know them in group settings and examine them closely in every way.
  • Wait until you are absolutely ready to marry them.
  • Chat with your pastor, her parents, authority figures.
  • Ask for permission to win their heart.
  • Get approval from parents.

With all these standards, just by asking someone out on ONE date, you are basically asking to marry them, bang them and have 15 kids with them.

Stay tuned for my final thoughts on the book.

I kissed dating goodbye: Chapter 12, 13 and 14 analysis

There’s a degree of repetition to this book, where certain ideas such as self-improvement prior to marriage pop up again and again, just with slightly different wording. These three chapters fall into a series of ideas that I will examine.

Self improvement during singleness:

Chapter 12 focuses on “ignoring your biological clock” when it comes to relationships and simply work on self improvement in your life and in your relationships with friends and family. He encourages his readers not to waste time pining after a relationship but instead “hustle while you wait” and built good character. While on paper this is good advice, it falls into the trap of an overall attitude of perfectionism that pervades Harris’ book.

Super serious business:

Chapter 13 ends with a poem that says only men whose hearts are oceans strong and true should dare to stand at the bars of a woman’s heart and ask to gain entrance. He also recommends people keep the entire view of marriage in mind and be ready for sacrifice.

While all this advice is great and all, I feel he falls into the trap of making the whole process seem so earth shatteringly difficult and demanding that only the best need apply. No wonder people were scared to death of the opposite sex in his culture and church!

Carefully examine a potential significant other’s character according to evangelical standards

Harris lays out a few things to examine with potential “courting partners”(I can’t think of a better term) from how they interact with authority to how they relate to God and the opposite sex. While some of his tips are good, like examine how a guy treats his mother, I find his overall tone plays into an underlying message of the book: Make sure you and the other person have it completely together before you enter into a relationship that is instantly focused on marriage.

You know, with all these requirements, it’s a wonder many in Harris’ circle didn’t just decide, “Marriage and relationships aren’t worth it!”

We have two more chapters to go. Stay tuned.

Image from Pexels.com

 

I kissed dating goodbye chapter 10

In this chapter, Harris is going to tackle the idea of “guarding your heart.” In the process, he misinterprets the word “heart” in the Bible and encourages emotional repression(whether intentional or unintentional).

In this chapter’s opening story(almost every chapter I have read starts with a story like a sermon), a woman named Jessica develops her own standards of courtship, and Harris describes her as like, “a modern day Moses come off Sinai with the Ten Commandments.”

Jessica easily casts off the affections of bad boys who wear Metallica t-shirts and have bleached hair, but once she goes to a Christian college, she finds it more difficult to deal with those sexy Baptist boys, or how the book puts it, “godly handsome men” who are clean cut. Jessica becomes confused regarding her feelings and her standards.

Harris then argues from this example that we need to keep our heart(emotions) tied to a chair and put under close watch, because our hearts are deceitful. He contrasts our hearts from our minds.

The problem with this argument is it doesn’t fit the biblical definition of the word heart. When Harris uses the word heart he is thinking of emotions, much like how Disney tells us to follow our hearts.

The Bible defines heart as the center of both our emotions and our intellect. It is the central object that moves us. When the Jews would talk about someone lacking insight, they would say, “That person lacks heart.” The heart is the “center” of us that determines our thoughts, feelings, intellect and desires. So when Proverbs 4:23 says guard your heart, it is speaking about guarding who you are as a person, because who are you will determine how you speak and act. It is not talking about some kind of mind/emotions dichotomy, nor it is speaking of emotional repression.

In modern terms, it would be something like, “Examine yourself carefully because the person you are deep down WILL come out.”

Harris moves forward  by addressing three pollutants in our hearts: infatuation; lust; and self-pity.

Harris makes a claim that infatuation can become idolatry when it replaces God as the chief longing of our hearts. He encourages readers to not feed into “fantasy” when you are attracted to someone, which leads to infatuation.

I both agree and disagree with his sentiments. I agree that we should not put others on a pedestal and expect them to complete us or allow them to take God’s place as the center of our lives. HOWEVER, the Bible is also quite clear that Adam wasn’t complete with just him and God, so God made him a woman because “It is not good for man to be alone.”

Infatuation is a natural reaction that ensures humans stay together long enough to make a baby. The honeymoon phase, as it is popularly known, is a period of infatuation. When done in moderation, it is a good beautiful thing. However, because infatuation naturally fades, there also needs to be something more than infatuation to keep the relationship going, whether that be a deep spiritual commitment, maturity or a conscious decision to love each other even when you don’t like them right now(a la Relient K).

Moving along to lust, Harris defines lust as any type of sexual desire that God has forbidden. For Harris, this is any type of fantasy regarding a woman, including a future spouse. Once again, I am torn on Harris’ definition. On one hand, we all know fantasy can get out of hand and lead to fetishes, objectification, etc.

On the other, it is difficult for me to get a clear understanding of the Biblical idea of lust. The basic idea Jesus seems to present in his parables is that desires lead to action, so lust for another man’s wife leads to adultery. Song of Solomon always presents a great deal of sexual desire, some of which may not be within the realm of marriage.

The NT, as I see it, applies the golden mean standard of Greek thought to sexuality. In Greek thought, the golden mean was the key middle ground between pure abstinence and consumption, whether that be with sex, food, work or anything else. For some activities or emotions, the golden mean might lay more heavily on the side of abstinence or consumption. The NT uses the golden mean standard when it argues to ignore teachers who teach that marriage is wrong but also to avoid orgies and sexual excess. Even when Paul argues his case for singleness, he admits it’s his own opinion, not God’s opinion.

Jewish thought also varies on sex. Some admit that sex outside of marriage is bad, others claim that it is not bad persay, but just not as good as unmarried sex.

That being said, let’s move on to the final point: self-pity

I agree with Harris that self-pity is problematic, as it leads people to be unsatisfied with their lives. We all know someone who is desperate for a significant other. We should not be so focused on finding a significant other that we miss the value in being single. This is one point that I do give Harris credit for.

At the same time, I have seen others dismiss people’s very real emotional problems as just being “self pity” or “over sensitivity.” We should recognize the difference between self pity and real emotional issues.

 

 

 

I kissed dating goodbye: Chapter 7, 8 and 9

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.

I kissed dating goodbye chapter six analysis

Part 4

The book is now beginning to explore its definition of purity in full. Harris relates a story of boys in a youth group bragging over how far they got with girls. He then jumps from there to the story of Bathsheba and argues that David took many small steps towards committing adultery from there. He draws a parallel with this Biblical story to any physical contact outside of marriage. I believe at this point the book’s advice becomes truly dangerous.

Harris argues that any form of physical intimacy is dangerous and by engaging in it, we treat that person as if we own their body. He argues we must recognize “the deep significance of sexual intimacy at any level” and not “steal those privileges before marriage.”

If you think he is going too far, he would say “That’s the point!” He argues that one should set their standards too high to avoid any sort of “impurity.” In particular he believes something like one little kiss “awakens desires we aren’t allowed to consummate.” One way he applies this is by refusing to have one-on-one dates with girls.  I find it interesting that Harris criticized dating in past chapters for setting up artificial environments but in this book he thinks he should only be with girls in the artificial environment of groups.

Harris believes that his readers will “never regret purity.”

However, if you want an example of people who have regretted his model, just go read a few of the stories on Harris’s website. When you argue for complete and utter repression, people aren’t going to be able to adjust even if they do get married.  Harris is just adding more restrictions to avoid any possibility of sex. While I can admire his determination, I believe this mindset can turn virginity into a fetish. The only way to sustain this mindset is to put virginity on a pedestal and view human sexuality in a purely negative sense, until it all can be successfully “awakened” at once.

Next up, Harris gives his “advice” to how men and women can practice his mindset. He begins this advice by stating that men struggle more with sex drives and women struggle more with their emotions. This is an over generalization. Men are just as emotional as women, they are just taught to repress their emotions, and they tend to be more skilled at compartimentalizing. Women can have just as much of a sex drive as men.

For men, Harris calls for them to stop flirting and leading on women. I agree with this in part. You shouldn’t lead people on or use them. Harris calls for men to be warriors that guard women’s hearts rather than thieves that steal them. I would argue men should just acknowledge women as people and if they want to engage in a relationship with them, not to use immoral tactics. Harris says he wants to be the kind of friend to a girl where even her future husband will say to him, “thanks for guarding her heart and her purity.”

This is weird. I could never imagine saying to an “ex-boyfriend/ex-courtship” of my wife. I would appreciate it if he respected her in the past, but ultimately as long as it wasn’t an abuse relationship, it wouldn’t really matter to me. One thing Western culture is somewhat good at is telling people not to bring their past relationships into new ones. I kissed dating goodbye argues that every relationship claims a piece of your heart, but this is simply isn’t true. You don’t have a limited amount of emotions to give. Your heart isn’t your wallet.

Harris then gives his “advice” to women, which is essentially “Please cover up so I stop getting aroused around you.” Now to be fair he does agree it is a guy’s responsibility how he reacts to a girl, but he still tells girls to cover up. So guys are called to be warriors and women are called to cover up their dangerous bodies.

In Harris’s world, the goal is to utterly crush sexual desire. Is this the right mindset? We shall explore this in greater detail in future chapters.

For now, take a look at this article. It’s a bit more even handed than the purity culture literature.

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.