Josh Harris, who wrote the incredibly influential evangelical purity culture book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye before later renouncing it and admitting that yeah, premarital dating is probably good, has announced that he is getting divorced and, furthermore, that he has ceased to be what he recognizes as Christian. He has also apologized to the LGBTQ+ community.
Harris was famous in the evangelical world for his book, published when he was 21 after a childhood spent in the cloistered Christian conservative homeschooling world. I Kissed Dating Goodbye urged not just garden-variety premarital abstinence, but went even further, encouraging a commitment to parent-guided “courtship” rather than dating. It helped foster the turbo-charged evangelical purity culture of the last 20 years. It made a lot of people completely fucking miserable.
But he renounced the book last year. “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 at the time, the Guardian reported. Then, on July 17, he announced—in a sequence of events unlikely to be totally shocking to skeptics of the courtship model—on his Instagram that he and his wife are separating; “In recent years, some significant changes have taken place in both of us,” he said.
Today he went into more detail with another Instagram post. In a captioned picture of the back of Harris’ head, staring seriously off into what appears to be a river, he wrote:
The information that was left out of our announcement is that I have undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus. The popular phrase for this is “deconstruction,” the biblical phrase is “falling away.” By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian. Many people tell me that there is a different way to practice faith and I want to remain open to this, but I’m not there now.
Martin Luther said that the entire life of believers should be repentance. There’s beauty in that sentiment regardless of your view of God. I have lived in repentance for the past several years—repenting of my self-righteousness, my fear-based approach to life, the teaching of my books, my views of women in the church, and my approach to parenting to name a few. But I specifically want to add to this list now: to the LGBTQ+ community, I want to say that I am sorry for the views that I taught in my books and as a pastor regarding sexuality. I regret standing against marriage equality, for not affirming you and your place in the church, and for any ways that my writing and speaking contributed to a culture of exclusion and bigotry. I hope you can forgive me.
Unfortunate that this series of revelations did not come before an entire generation of evangelicals had been subjected to I Kissed Dating Goodbye and the harsh ideology that flourished around it.