I Kissed Dating Goodbye: A New Attitude Toward Relationships and Romance
by Joshua Harris
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.
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