Joshua Harris writes about abstinence and purity in I Kissed Dating Goodbye. Instead of traditional dating, Harris recommends that singles commit their life to God and wait for God to bring a partner into their life. He argues that courting is a much better model because traditional dating destroys the emotional purity of a person.

Furthermore, much of his argument is framed in terms of a question, “How would you like your future mate to be treated by other men/women?” Using this golden rule-like standard, Harris concludes that we should avoid even acts like kissing to maintain purity.

This book advocates a silly and unjustified limitation on behavior. The extrapolations made from the Bible are stretches at best and more than likely contrary to the intent of the text. Recently, a couple that followed this model spoke with me. They struck me as an incredibly unhappy couple that had little equality in their relationship. I do not recommend this model for relationships due to its exorbitant extremism.

I Kissed Dating Goodbye: A New Attitude Toward Relationships and Romance
by Joshua Harris
Multnomah Publishers, Inc.
ISBN 1576730360

When this little paperback first came out in 1997, it was sensationally popular among Christian teenagers. Not just among fundamentalists, either; it got passed around my Presbyterian youth group a good bit. Most of us were not won over to the book's rather extreme position, but still found much of the material insightful, and recommended it to friends.

Josh Harris is a conservative, orthodox Christian writing for orthodox (but perhaps less conservative) Christians; thus, he presumes that both of the following are wrong and ultimately destructive:

  • Having sex with someone unless you're married to each other and of nonidentical gender.
  • "Lusting over" someone unless you're married to...you get the picture. (What's lust? If you have an odd hungry feeling in your gut and you're imagining them naked, you already know.)
The book's content can be reduced to two points: (a) Don't try before you're ready to buy, and (b) Dating is a lousy way to try.

Harris claims that many young people spend their teens in unnecessary angst, trying desperately to find a partner when they're far to young to marry--the only sexual outlet allowed a Christian (besides masturbation). (How many high school sweethearts really end up together?) He recommends that teenagers rein in their ardor and focus on living productive single lives...while they have the chance.

He also claims that, once marriage becomes an appropriate option, dating sets up an artificial environment that isn't conducive to accurately assessing a potential mate. He recommends getting involved together in more natural social settings that better exercise the personality. Once it's clear that there's serious mutual interest, a rather focused courtship programme is appropriate: working seriously together to determine whether this is a good lifelong match.

There are obvious benefits to conventional dating; for instance, learning how to talk one-on-one with a member of the opposite sex. Harris doesn't address these, obviously believing--from his own experience--that the risks outweigh the gains; that dating is a slope too slippery for a young person to negotiate without compromising Christian values.

The book spawned a lot of serious thought among Christian teenagers about where their romantic lives should be headed. It also spawned an obnoxious wave of IRC grrls who announced imperiously that they Weren't Going to Let Boys Distract Them From God...to said boys' great discomfiture.

"183 used & new from $2.90" -- amazon.com

I've grown to hate that book.

As a teenager reading I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Joshua Harris didn't quite persuade me to give up what I thought was 'dating' altogether. His strong suggestion to couples for them to save even their first kiss for marriage (that was the way I read the book, anyway) didn't quite win me over, but it did cause me to save even that for quite a while.
Having said that...you find ways around these rules if you have the desire to.

But my standards made girls I went out with (N.Z. slang for 'dated') wondering if something was wrong with them..."what straight guy would turn THAT down...he's obviously not that into me" was what I'm sure went through their heads. And it caused me a lot of problems in my relationships.

Naturally, in my second relationship, I moved very quickly away from the perspective I got from Joshua Harris. Didn't seem realistic aye.

I have to take responsibility and not blame all of my relationship issues on JH, but I really don't appreciate the influence his writing has had on my life. Having said that, I still think he does have a few good insights in his books. Maybe worth a read, even, but take it with a large pinch of salt.

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