Joshua Harris, author of I kissed dating Goodbye and well-known apostate recently sat down for an interview with Nadia Bolz Webber, a tattooed, self-described “Bull-Dyke” and host of The Confessional Podcast.
Nadia, the former pastrix of House for All Sinners and Saints (which the church body refers to as an acronym – HFASS – and they pronounce it “half-ass” – an ELCA congregation). She left the church a few years ago and was replaced by a gay man married to a drag queen. Other than being known for her vulgarity and crudeness, she has been in the news for explaining that she would like to melt down all purity rings and form them into a vagina statue in honor of Gloria Steinem, along with advocating for the use of “ethically sourced porn.”
Naturally, Josh Harris would be right at home on her podcast, who himself has been on a bit of roll. Considered one of the most famous apostates in the last 50 years to publicly repudiate his faith, the LGBTQ advocate recently took to Instagram where he praised Cardi B’s song WAP, explaining that it’s “basically the biblical book of Song of Solomon set to music” and pledging to block anyone who disparages her or her music.
He likewise explained that he as an atheist feels “closer to Jesus when I’m pissing religious people off,” and by and large has been praising people who deconstruct their faith, explaining that he does it because he still “cares about Christianity and what happens to it.”
The two are a great fit.
In an interview with Bolz-Webber, who seemed as satisfied as a cat who got into the cream that the author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye was knocking it down, Harris explains that prior to his apostasy, he wrote the book after an encounter with God and pledged to cut out his sexual sins, while at the same time pledging to be even more radical than most speakers on the subject.
I went on a church retreat and had a very powerful encounter with God, where you know, I just was like, I want to be serious about God, I want to serve God, and this dating relationship kind of embodied the holdout of submission to the Lord. And so I broke up and I felt so much guilt around, you know, dry humping her, touching her boobs, saying that I loved her, and that we would be together forever and then breaking up. I basically kind of came back. It was like this prodigal son moment where all of the ideas about dating and betrothal and courtship that my parents had been pushing on me, that I had been completely rejecting.
Writing the book brought him fame, and he shares how proud he was that people were listening to him and that he was gaining wealth and influence, such as appearing on James Dobson’s program, something his dad had never done. Harris gives a brief overview of the book, while explaining that the whole time he was abusing scripture and taking it out of context.
The main message of I Kissed Dating Goodbye was…if we want to be prepared for marriage and make the most of our single years, then dating is a distraction and can even be damaging, because we end up practicing an insincere love where we use people and we put ourselves in the backseats of cars where we’re tempted to have sex, and we end up focusing so much of our energy on being a boyfriend or being a girlfriend that we’re not actually preparing to be a healthy adult and we’re not ready for marriage.
And so it was making a very strong argument, really misusing scripture, taking scripture out of context, using stories and examples that were so overhyped and appealing to emotions, but basically making a strong argument that dating is a negative thing. And if we want to be really on fire for Jesus and serious about serving him, we will kiss dating goodbye until we’re actually ready to pursue marriage.”
Harris would write several follow-up books on the same theme, including Boy Meets Girl: Say Hello to Courtship where he describes how he met, courted, and married his wife, whom he later divorced.
Incidentally, his ex-wife, Shannon Bonne, is writing a book about her experiences within what she describes as an “evangelical cult” that left her with PTSD-like symptoms.
Bolz-Webber tells Harris that the book was rife with false promises and pushed the lie, “If we just don’t have sex until we’re married, then the sex is going to be so much better. And they went through so, so many feelings of shame, and so much repression, and so much guilt about their impulses.” Harris readily agrees, exhaling that he heard so many stories of people who experienced that, and that “My regret when I think back on all of that is that I didn’t see the flaws and the massive problems in the book sooner and that I didn’t listen to people who were trying to share those stories.”
He explains further:
I look back there were some blogs that started to be written when people were sharing stories. And I just didn’t go towards hurting people soon enough with compassion. And I think I think the wrong motivations there were wanting to please my fan base, the wrong motivations were not wanting to cut off the book royalties that were, that allowed me to enjoy a certain lifestyle and all those kinds of things. Like it’s almost like I didn’t want to open that door because it’s because who knows, who knows what’s on the other side of it.
As far as what led him to kick his house of cards down:
It took me going through massive personal pain. It took me failing in my own church in different ways. It took my church melting down for me to kind of hit the pavement and go, maybe I don’t have all the answers here. All of that had to happen before I was willing to start listening to people. And even then, I was terrified.
Well, it actually took anonymous websites where people started sharing their stories and the things that had happened to them for some of these stories to start to bubble up, because that was the only safe place that they could actually do that.
And that was the beginning for me of realizing, oh, my gosh, like we say we’re about grace. But there’s like the exact opposite of grace happening in the actual cultural experience of the church.
And I started seeing how negative that was. And I and that was the first moment where I thought, is my book a part of that?
Essentially I came to a place where I was like, I have to get out of this context. I don’t know how to lead this church out of the problems of thinking, because I’ve been raised in these problems of thinking, I don’t know any other way of leadership and I need to to heal myself.
Harris concludes by sharing his deep regret over publishing the book in the first place, explaining that it has since been unpublished after selling over a million copies and apologizing to anyone hurt by it.
I’m really deeply sorry that those ideas and my misguided ideas about sex, about dating in any way just gave you a wrong idea of your sexuality, of God, and that’s something that I really regret and I hope that you would just experience healing and know that there’s life on the other side of a lot of these wrong ideas, and that’s the journey that I’m on right now personally.
After a bit more chitchat – where Bolz-Webber discusses the damages further, she concludes the interview with a personalized benediction, as she does with all her guests.
So I hope you and everyone else hurt by purity culture have passionately consensual, unselfconsciously joyous, deeply transformative sex.
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