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Pastor Joshua Harris Apologizes for Problematic Advice in Bestselling Book 'I Kissed Dating Goodbye'

( [email protected] ) Jul 14, 2016 09:49 AM EDT
Joshua Harris, author of the bestseller "I Kissed Dating Goodbye," recently opened up about the the criticism he's gotten from Christians who grew up reading his book, and revealed that he's in the process of "re-evaluating" some of its "damaging" contents.
Released in 1997, "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" sold over 800,000 copies nationwide. Amazon

Joshua Harris, author of the bestseller "I Kissed Dating Goodbye," recently opened up about the the criticism he's gotten from Christians who grew up reading his book, and revealed that he's in the process of "re-evaluating" some of its "damaging" contents.

Released in 1997, when Harris was just 21 years old and had not yet been in a dating relationship, "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" discusses the problems with contemporary "recreational dating" and presents "biblical courtship" as an alternative. In his book, Harris also urges Christian singles to commit to "purposeful singleness," as romantic relationships should exist only as a means to preparing for marriage

The book quickly became a staple among the Christian community, selling over 800,000 copies nationwide. 

"'I Kissed Dating Goodbye,' with its inspiring call to sincere love, real purity, and purposeful singleness, remains the benchmark for books on Christian dating," reads the book description. "Joshua Harris shares his story of giving up dating and discovering that God has something even better-a life of sincere love, true purity, and purposeful singleness."

However, nearly two decades later, Harris, now a married father of three, admitted that over the years, a number of individuals have shared how his book negatively affected them and promoted a damaging and unhelpful view of sexuality, relationships, and dating.

"I'm hearing these different voices saying, here's how your book was used against me, here's how it was forced on me, or here's how I tried to - no one forced it on me, but I tried to apply it and it had this negative consequence in different ways," Harris told NPR during a recent interview.

"I'm trying to go back and really evaluate, you know, where did my book contribute to that? Where was it too stringent? And where was that me and what I was writing, and where was that - the families and the church cultures and so on? So I feel like I'm on the front end of a process to help people in some way if I can apologize where needed and re-evaluate where needed."

Harris, who went on to serve as senior pastor of Covenant Life Church for several years, also expressed disappointment that the message of "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" has been interpreted and used by many as being a legalistic set of rules.

"I know that that's not helpful," he told the outlet. "That was not my intention. But I think one of the things that I'm changing in my own thinking is I just think people - myself included - it's so easy to latch on to a formula. You know, you do these things and you'll be great. You'll be safe and you'll be protected and you'll be whatever."

"And I just don't think that's the way life works," he added. "I don't think that's the way the life of faith works. And so when we try to overly control our own lives or overly control other people's lives, I think we end up harming people. And I'm - I think that that's part of the problem with my book."

While the Bible gives "certain commandments and guidance" relating to sexuality and relationships, Christians often take truths from God's word and add extra human regulation onto them, the pastor contended.

"For example, there are clear things in statements in Scripture about our sexuality being expressed within the covenant of marriage. But that doesn't mean that dating is somehow wrong or a certain way of dating is the only way to do things," Harris said. "So you can kind of, like, back up and say well, because of this, then you should do this, this and this as well. And I think that's where people get into danger. We have God's word, but then it's so easy to add all this other stuff to protect people, to control people, to make sure that you don't get anywhere near that place where you could go off course. And I think that's where the problems arise."

In addition to "I Kissed Dating Goodbye," Harris, along with his wife, Shannon, has written several other books on the topics of relationships and dating, including "Boy Meets Girl" and "Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is)."