The author of a bestselling Christian book on purity in relationships has renounced his conclusions, his marriage – and his faith.
In 1997 a young Joshua Harris tried to figure out a better way to date. He laid it out in his book called I Kissed Dating Goodbye, which sold millions of copies and influenced an entire generation of high school kids to go "courting" – a more intentional form of relationship that has marriage as its end goal and is strongly supervised by parents or a youth pastor. Then last year, he reevaluated:
Harris: "I need to take a journey of asking hard questions and letting the answers lead me wherever they will. In this whole process there are a lot of people that want me to just throw out everything. They want me to throw out all the Christianity."
Those voices won out, and two weeks ago Harris announced his marriage of 21 years was over. Last week, he left the Christian faith:
"… I have undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus …. 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," he posted on Instagram Friday.
In that same post, Harris addressed the LGBTQ+ community, apologizing for the views on sexuality that he taught in his books and while a pastor:
Harris: "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."
Jason Burtt of Unaltered Ministries has been a leader in the purity movement for years.
"I met with Joshua a little while ago. He seemed broken; he seemed wounded; he seemed kind of jaded and down," Burtt shares with OneNewsNow. "I was very surprised [to see him] as somebody who really almost listened too intensely to the critics [and was] kind of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak."
Burtt says he's sad about where Harris' journey has taken him. But he acknowledges that, yes, the purity movement needs tweaking.
"There was the right message with the wrong motivation," he says of Harris' stand for sexual purity. "I do believe in traditional biblical sexuality – however, I think that the motivation of the purity movement was, as some people called it, almost a prosperity purity. [A teaching] that if you honor God with your purity, then God will give you the perfect husband or the perfect marriage."
But Burtt says the answer is certainly not to abandon the God who designed sex in the first place.
According to USA Today, Harris stepped down in 2015 from his position as lead pastor of a megachurch in Maryland following a child sexual abuse case involving a former church member that was not reported to police. He stated at the time he felt a need to go to seminary (Regent College in Vancouver, BC) for formal education and training and more exposure and connection to other parts of Christianity.