My Two Cents on IKDG

Two friends this week sent me this article; it’s about how Josh Harris is re-thinking what he wrote in “I Kissed Dating Goodbye.”

I have already written about my relationship with IKDG and other courtship books in general, and I’ve already written about courtship culture, so I don’t want to re-hash those things. I just have a teensy bit to add in response to the article that came out this week.

We HAVE to lay off Josh Harris for his book. Love or hate it, it was part of the courtship culture – and he wrote it when he was 21. No one has love figured out at 21. No one has life figured out at 21. He did a bold thing by publishing this book, and it happened to come out in a time when it would be widely received.

While I respect Mr. Harris’s humility in publicly re-thinking what his role was in courtship culture, I really don’t think anything he says or does about it at this point is going to help or hinder anything. People are looking to him for answers, healing, an apology, or a total recantation. But I guarantee that whatever comes out of his pen next is not going to be enough. It won’t be, because Jesus is the only one who is truly enough. Until we understand that, we’ll only be disappointed.

Hear me here. It’s time to put down our pitchforks and pick up our Bibles.

It’s not Joshua Harris’s fault if we feel guilty about our sins. It’s not his fault if we feel shame about our bodies. It’s not his fault if courtship didn’t work for us.

If we feel guilty about our sins, it’s because we, well, sinned. If we feel shame about our bodies, it’s because the people around us told us lies about our bodies. If courtship didn’t work for us, it’s because God had something else planned.

If you feel guilty about your sins, look to Jesus who lived a sinless life.

If you feel shame about your body, look to Jesus who bore all the shame of the world in his body on the cross, so that the truth could set you free.

If courtship didn’t work for you, look to Jesus who is the only good provider of what we need – including His resurrected self as our spouse in eternity.

Jesus, not Joshua Harris, is the one with answers, healing, and total satisfaction.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather meditate on the Crown of Thorns than on that fedora any day.

That’s my two cents. What’s your experience with Harris’s book? With courtship culture in general? I know there are a lot of emotions and feelings and experiences surrounding this book, and I’d like to hear yours.

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4 thoughts on “My Two Cents on IKDG

  1. While I understand and respect your approach in laying off the author of this particular book, I think the backlash and response from individuals reflects a larger problem with christian culture that shouldn’t just be so easily dismissed. It’s easy to just blame “purity culture” and say that “he was young” and was a product of the cultural zeitgeist. It’s also easy to say “just ask Jesus for forgiveness”. Problem solved. No, I think this reflects the bigger problem that, time and time again, christian culture, the church, and its leaders and figureheads unapologetically ignore fundamental principles of human psychology, behavior, and mental health. The fact the the church and chiristian culture at the time held up a book written by an inexperienced and uneducated 21-year-old as the gold standard for understanding human relationships and sexuality is not only embarrassing but a travesty. No, we can’t blame the author – but we can certainly blame the church and it’s leaders for not calling out this book and culture for what it was: an uneducated opinion piece based on one person’s interpretation of biblical text, without any support by already well-established research or facts. The philosophies this 21-year-old was preaching were unfounded, unsupported, and harmful. It is no surprise that over the course of development we are now seeing these individuals struggle with issues that require serious psychological care. You can’t just “pray away” this kind of shame, guilt, and depression that has developed over the course of childhood and adolescence, affecting all social relationships and social cognitive development. The fundamental importance of our social cognitive development, of building healthy and supportive relationships, of socially developing without this kind of guilt and shame, cannot be stressed enough for ALL humans, even christians. Being christian doesn’t make your brain work differently than others. Understanding social development and how our brains actually develop and function should be of great importance to the church and its leaders, not ignored. Our minds – the most complex thing in our universe – should be a priority for the church to attempt to understand better so that we can better help and support one another in a healthy and constructive way. The bible is not a biological textbook nor is it a guide to mental health care and psychological development. You won’t find how to perform open heart surgery in the bible and we would never trust an uneducated 21-year-old to tell you how to do it. Likewise, you won’t find the complex symptoms and causes of schizophrenia or the treatment of PTSD in the bible, either. So why do we continue to trust uneducated christian figures and their “opinions” on critical psychological issues, continue to ignore principles of human psychology, and treat psychology, mental illness, and psychological development like “just a bad attitude” that just needs to be prayed away? That is the bigger issue that this backlash is reflecting. As one reader stated: “And I believe our diligent commitment to your ideas, and our “failing to stay pure until marriage” has permanently damaged our relationship. Years of truth and counseling later, I cannot get the subconscious idea out of my head that I am doing something wrong. Damn you.” When will the church begin taking some responsibility?

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    1. I agree with you that my post is simplistic and doesn’t begin to cover all the nuance of the courtship culture. And I agree with you that anyone suffering psychological damage from it should get professional help.

      I’m glad you brought up that quote from the article, though, because that’s what prompted my processing in the first place and made me want to respond.

      The guy who wrote that response sinned. He had premarital sex. Harris said that was wrong, the Bible says that’s wrong, most of evangelical Christianity says that’s wrong. But that guy and his girlfriend did it anyway. And now he blames the person who told him it was a bad idea? He blames the person who pointed out their sin? That’s like shooting the messenger.

      I understand that shame is a big deal, and I understand that I’m terrible at empathizing with it (I’m working on getting better). What I want to get across on this article is that shame is not going to be dealt with by going after Josh. It’s going to be dealt with by going after Jesus.

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      1. Yeah, my response was not necessarily directed to your post – its a blog, I understand keeping it simple – more of the general response of the church community whenever these kinds of issues come up. And again, I think this is a reflection of a much deeper and bigger issue in the community beyond one person having sex before marriage or even this one book author.

        As for the quoted individual, he doesn’t blame Josh for his sin – he never states that. Instead, he blames Josh for touting his opinion as some proven and wise path to healthy social relationships. And when he messed up (or sinned) on this golden path, he was met with the harsh criticism, perceptions of failure, ostracization, and unrealistic expectations by the church community that had adopted this “purity culture”. The thing is, this purity culture leaves no room for error – the key to happiness is purity. So what happens when you mess that up? The christian culture around sex and relationships is one of perfection. Just look at the word they use to describe it – “purity” – and think about what that word really means. What kinds of expectations and standards that attitude builds. And this path to a successful relationship (ironically) leaves no room for forgiveness. you are tainted the moment you mess up. Not, of course, in the eyes of Jesus – but in the eyes of your very own community that is supposed to be supporting and helping you. When these kinds of schemas are so ingrained in your psyche for what are CRITICAL points in development, the affects seen even into adulthood can be damaging. Depression, anxiety, social isolation and avoidance of intimacy, even with your spouse into adulthood have all been symptoms of this “purity” culture.

        One of the main lines you used that I was responding too was also “It’s time to put down our pitchforks and pick up our Bibles.” I agree, lets put down our pitchforks, but lets also start treating relationships, sexuality, and human psychology as a very real issue within the christian community that needs to be approached with careful understanding based on biology, science, and research. Its fine to put down the pitchforks and pick up the bible, but how about the church leaders also start picking up a textbook and some scientific articles so that they can actually understand these issues better, and be able to call out something like the “purity culture” and the harm it might be causing, and rather offer wisdom and guidance instead of opinions disguised as truth.

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  2. Yes, I agree with you there.

    I agree that there was too much “this is bad, don’t do it” and not enough of the grace of the Gospel within the culture. Not that it wasn’t there; it just was usually a footnote or an after-thought.

    And I agree that resources beyond the Bible – good, scientific, proven resources – are what we should be turning to before we turn to opinions. Absolutely.

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