One-Time Purity Culture Advocate Joshua Harris Now Says “I Am Not a Christian” July 26, 2019

One-Time Purity Culture Advocate Joshua Harris Now Says “I Am Not a Christian”

In the span of about a week, two major bombshells have now dropped in the life of Joshua Harris, the author of the infamous 1997 pro-abstinence, pro-“courtship” book I Kissed Dating Goodbye.

Harris recently announced that he and his wife were separating after nearly two decades of marriage.

Today — perhaps even more surprising for his fans — he announced that he is no longer a Christian.

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My heart is full of gratitude. I wish you could see all the messages people sent me after the announcement of my divorce. They are expressions of love though they are saddened or even strongly disapprove of the decision.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ I am learning that no group has the market cornered on grace. This week I’ve received grace from Christians, atheists, evangelicals, exvangelicals, straight people, LGBTQ people, and everyone in-between. Of course there have also been strong words of rebuke from religious people. While not always pleasant, I know they are seeking to love me. (There have also been spiteful, hateful comments that angered and hurt me.)⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ 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.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ To my Christians friends, I am grateful for your prayers. Don’t take it personally if I don’t immediately return calls. I can’t join in your mourning. I don’t view this moment negatively. I feel very much alive, and awake, and surprisingly hopeful. I believe with my sister Julian that, “All shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

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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.⁣⁣
⁣⁣
To my Christians friends, I am grateful for your prayers. Don’t take it personally if I don’t immediately return calls. I can’t join in your mourning. I don’t view this moment negatively. I feel very much alive, and awake, and surprisingly hopeful. I believe with my sister Julian that, “All shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

Harris doesn’t elaborate much on why he is no longer a believer or when that “massive shift” occurred. It’s not clear if it was the feedback to his book that led him there, or if he suddenly began reading up on atheism, or if it was something else entirely.

There were a lot of people who criticized his recent “apology tour,” during which he claimed to regret the nasty effect his book had on people while clinging to many of the theological beliefs unpinning his book. Maybe he really was listening to everyone’s feedback.

It’s unusual (but very welcome) to see a conservative Christian (a one-time poster boy, really, for that movement) issue such a heartfelt apology to the LGBTQ community, going so far as to admit he was wrong about marriage equality. It’s possible he still thinks it’s immoral and that evangelicals are right to oppose it in their churches, even as he supports LGBTQ rights in general, but again, we don’t know the full extent of what his beliefs are at this point. It’s possible he doesn’t know either.

Many Christians probably saw this coming when he began distancing himself from his older books, but plenty of Christians have criticized purity culture without compromising their faith. That won’t stop the conservative Christian blogosphere from speculating that his faith started going downhill the moment he realized that telling young people to marry the first person they ever have a crush on may not have been the best advice.

There is, undoubtedly, more to the story. Maybe Harris will reveal all that in another book. Though at this point, whenever he’s ready, he should really stop selling his ideas and just let people know what he’s thinking.


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