Tag Archives: I kissed dating goodbye

Joshua Harris, unkissed frogs and false promises


So, Joshua Harongekust enris, American Christian celebrity and the guy who wrote ‘I kissed dating goodbye’* is separating from his wife. Which would be nobodies business if he hadn’t been the guy who sold countless copies of a book that promised you a good marriage if you followed his rules.
* ”ongekust en toch geen kikker'”, (unkissed but not a frog) in the Dutch edition.

I’m not an anthropologist, but as far as I know the guy who made the ‘first kiss at the altar’ idea popular in (American) evangelicalism and made a lot of promises about how his (for me as non-US person extremely alien) ideas would lead to good marriages if you’d follow his rules. He also advocated a form of ‘courtship that I’m probably not even able to understand if I try as a European, and had a complementarian bent that has hurt a lot of women an relationships if I can believe the blogposts and FB comments I’ve read over the years.
He also wrote this when he was quite young and before he was married, which isn’t the best idea either.

It seems some people find it funny that he is separating now, which it isn’t. It’s tragic,  ironic even in the most dark cynical way possible. But this has a lot of consequences, he had influences a lot of people. Seems that the promises are not to be trusted if his marriage is over now; and that the book is completely worthless.

Well, he kind of recanted a lot of his ideas already in the last few years.  From Christianity today:

“While I stand by my book’s call to sincerely love others, my thinking has changed significantly in the past twenty years. I no longer agree with its central idea that dating should be avoided. I now think dating can be a healthy part of a person developing relationally and learning the qualities that matter most in a partner,” he said in a statement.

“There are other weaknesses too: in an effort to set a high standard, the book emphasized practices (not dating, not kissing before marriage) and concepts (giving your heart away) that are not in the Bible. In trying to warn people of the potential pitfalls of dating, it instilled fear for some—fear of making mistakes or having their heart broken.

“The book also gave some the impression that a certain methodology of relationships would deliver a happy ever-after ending—a great marriage, a great sex life—even though this is not promised by scripture,” he continued

But he still seems to be so immersed in a very specific interpretation of American Christianity and what the bible says that he can’t see anything in between a very extreme fundamentalism and completely abandoning Christianity.

And I don’t mean to be dismissive, it’s just like from an intellectual standpoint, it actually feels more intellectually honest for me to say I don’t know that I agree with the Bible in general than it is to get it to say these things. And maybe that’s just because I spent so much time in a very conservative environment judging all these more progressive people that I’m now tempted to go past that [and] be like, forget it all.

But it can get to feeling, like, what are you holding onto in Christianity? Why do you need it still? …

Which is a bit concerning but completely unsurprising to me, a lot of the American postfundamentalism I’ve seen is just a negative picture of what it left behind, and has in no way broken free from the toxicity of what it tries to escape. See also On my problematic relationship with American post-fundamentalism…
if you like to see my thought processes about that.

(Yes, there is also a factor that the same ‘Christian’ tradition that gave the extreme purity culture also gave rise to a creepy sex maniac president who is the opposite of everything I can recognise as Christian, let alone the extreme sexual standard of purity culture. That is only crazy cognitive dissonance to me.)

When I wrote a review of ‘ongekust en toch geen kikker’ years ago there were a lot of problematic things, also with his gender role ideas, that I could put aside as ‘American nonsense’, but I doubt people in the US had that luxury. See also my older post Some old critique to ‘true love waits’ and Joshua Harris…)

I never understood what US people meant with ‘courtship’ and I still don’t and I’m not even trying anymore.
Even the whole idea of ‘dating’ itself to descibe a form of relationship as is done in English is still a bit weird to me and, while it’s probably imported from Hollywood now in this part of Europe it’s not the way I would ever have framed a relationship. It is part of a relationship, but to me ‘dating’ says nothing about a relationship. You can have a ‘date’ with anyone for almost any reason. I’ve hung out with female friends one-on-one without it being romantic in any way (I’m an introvert who doesn’t like group settings) and it’s weird to frame a relationship with ‘they are dating’. That can mean almost anything. I’m having a da with my wife sometimes.  I’ve been hanging around and going to the caf or cinema with female friends when I was younger in what some people would interpret as a date but without any romantic element to it, just as friends too.

(What I find extremely creepy is expecting a kiss or even sex on a first date before you even have a steady relationship. Such cultural expectations are just a creepy kind of rape culture, at least I can’t interpret them otherwise. You need more relationship in the most basic sense, friendship, knowing each others mode of communicatio before intimacy can be safe.)

To translate a Flemish expression from my teenage years ‘it’s either on or not on’. (‘aan’ en ‘af’ in Dutch) And when it’s ‘on’ you’re in a relationship, serious or not, the word is even used by children, you can have a date but that’s not what defines a relationship. And if the relationship doesn’t work then you break it off and it’s ‘off’.

I would think that (unless you’re in a literally ‘bandless’ subculture) once you’re having a certain form of intimacy a relationship can be presumed to just be there and needs to be named as such.  And yes, you can date to get to know each other, before and in a relationship, so that’s not a definition of being in a relationship or not. But those last paragraphs were just a linguistic problem I have with the word ‘date’.

(I’m not going in the courtship thing, but the whole ‘ask parents’ thing sounds medieval to me. And it goes against our laws even I think and against the universal human rights declaration to let other people decide with whom you marry.)

To go back to Joshua Harris, I find the whole story very tragic, especially for all the people who trusted his promises and ended up with a broken marriage nonetheless.

So I end with pne more tip: Don’t let young unmarried people whith a lot of theory about relationships but no actual experience lead a whole crowd with their relationship advice that promises a lot and is full of very grave warnings about dangers that might not even be so big. It’s a recipe for disaster.

What do you think?

peace

Bram

See also:
A purity culture I don’t know…

On similar misandry in Christian fundamentalism and consumer capitalism?

A purity culture I don’t know…


Seems like there’s a lot of critique of the ‘evangelical purity culture’ in the blogosphere lately.  I grew up here in Belgium as a pentecostal/evangelical Christian, and I always thought I’d seen a lot of talk about sexual purity and stuff in my life. But when I read critiques of the North-American version of ‘purity culture’ (Very interesting ones from the latest blog storm are Sarah Bessey, Elizabeth Esther for example, or find a bigger list in Scots challenging article at faith and food, and some more commentary from Richard Beck) and  I must conclude that I don’t seem to know much about it myself when I see some of the details mentioned. Seems like there are 2 possibilities:

A) I’ve never been paying attention and did get a slightly different message than what was communicated.

or

B) What I’ve been taught is not at all as toxic as what appears to be taught in certain corners of the Christian subculture in the good ole Us of A.

What I’ve never heard  in all of this was stuff like the following, all of which I would’ve disagreed with then as much as I would do now:

– female virginity is for some unclear reason much more important than male virginity.

– Men are supposed to take the initiative and always be the leaders, otherwise you have some kind of abomination going on.

– purity rings or rituals for girls involving the father.

– Non-virgins will by definition have a bad marriage.

– Never be alone with someone of the other sex that you’re not (yet) married to.

– if you’re single after a certain age something is wrong with you.

– You must give your first kiss on your wedding day, not earlier.

 (Okay, the last whole ‘first kiss on your wedding day’ idea  was something that some people might choose to do I suppose, but not at all something that anyone (except maybe for some teenagers who never had had a relationship but liked to talk about those rules a lot) would ever see as normative over here. It’s quite an exotic idea in our culture actually, not even recognisable as ‘conservative’… Maybe something for followers of Joshua Harris)

(And oh, the rule of never being alone with someone of the other sex might also be something I read in Joshua Harris, but which I rejected as otherworldly, as being someone who had all his life had female friends and had never had any problem hanging out with them alone at all the idea just didn’t have a chance with me…)

Even though I might disagree with  some details of what I’ve been taught and the way it was communicated, I never encountered most of what those people and others I’ve read are critiquing. What I picked up from sex-talk in church, on teenage camps, and even from the people of wareliefdewacht.be, with was the local true love waits* but does not seem to exist anymore, and from imported  wisdom from people like Rebecca st-James (the Christian rock-singer, who was very clear about both ‘true love waits and her intentional singleness at the moment) was something like:

– Sex is something important that you need to wait with until you’re married. Sex is beautiful in the right context and it is powerful, so it will do much good in the right context, and damage people in the bad context.

– Speak about boundaries in a relationship, which was mainly about the ‘how far will you go before marriage’, but the issue of consent and not being pushy was also communicated clearly…

– Virginity and sexual purity is  equally important for boys and for girls.

– Love and friendship are very important in romantic relationships and marriage.

– Singleness is something to be embraced, and does not have to be a problem. For most it will be a season in their life that they will learn from, for others it might be a calling.

– Sexual sin might be serious, but there is always forgiveness, whatever you have done. (The weird term  ‘recycle virgin’ was also used.)  Anyway there’s no need in shaming those who have made mistakes.

ongekust en

When I was in my early twenties that Joshua Harris’ ‘I kissed dating goodbye’ (a book of which the Dutch title can be translated back as ‘unkissed, but not a frog’) was making the rounds, and that most people I knew found it ‘too American’. I can’t remember much of it, actually, I just know I wasn’t impressed at all.

Now I don’t say I would agree with everything if I’d have to hear one of those sex-talks again that I heard as a teenager, but I do not recognise the big problematic things at all… And really, I do not understand the asymmetry in which rules for women would be different from those for men. That’s just nonsense… (especially in a heteronormative frame, where sex requires both a man and a woman…)

So, my question is; those things that I do not recognise, how common are they?

And how do we frame talk about love, sex and marriage? I do believe that sex belongs in a lifelong monogamous family-forming relationship (which is not necessarily the same as a state marriage, I would think the sacramental part and the reality -2 people form one life-unit- more important), but there seems to be so much ballast on the concept of marriage and on all this ‘no sex before marriage’ stuff…

Bram

* they have nothing to do with this beautiful radiohead song.