I Kissed Dating Goodbye is a 1997 book by Joshua Harris. The book focuses on Harris’ disenchantment with the contemporary secular dating scene, and offers ideas for improvement, alternative dating/courting practices, and a view that singleness need not be a burden nor characterized by what Harris describes as “selfishness”.
By the late 2010s, Harris reconsidered his view that dating should be avoided, apologizing to those whose lives were negatively impacted by the book and directing the book’s publisher to discontinue its publication.
In I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Harris popularized the concept of “courting” as an alternative to mainstream dating. In so doing, he raised discussion regarding the appropriateness of his proposed solutions, as well as the foundations on which he based his reasoning.
According to Harris, people in dating relationships put up a façade in an attempt to appear to be what the other person wants, thus hampering the “getting to know you” part of dating. Harris said that it is more appropriate and healthier in the long run to participate in “group dates” in order to truly understand the way a particular person interacts with others; in a group setting, a person is less likely to be able to maintain a façade. Harris proposed a system of courtship that involved the parents of both parties to a greater degree than is usual in conventional dating. In an interview with Family Christian Stores, Harris indicated that “people have taken the message of I Kissed Dating Goodbye and made it something legalistic – a set of rules. That’s something that’s beyond my control, and it’s disappointing at times…”
The book has been cited as an example of belief in ‘benevolent sexism’ and ‘women as property’ as well as promoting ‘rape supportive messaging’ and ‘sexual purity teachings’ that emphasize a ‘hierarchical father-daughter relationship’ and reduces the agency of adolescent girls.
Christian psychologists Henry Cloud and John Townsend suggest that avoiding dating in order to avoid suffering, as Harris advises, causes those who do so to forgo opportunities to mature, especially through learning how to create healthy boundaries.
In 2016, Harris appeared to be reconsidering the claims that he had made in the book and apologized to several who publicly communicated how the book had influenced them to stay single or had been used by adults to impose stringent rules on them.
During a 2017 TED talk, Harris said his greatest regret about the book was him transferring his fears into the book. He said: “Fear is never a good motive. Fear of messing up, fear of getting your heart broken, fear of hurting somebody else, fear of sex… 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. 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 1997, Harris moved from Oregon to Gaithersburg, Maryland to be a pastoral intern. There, “C. J. Mahaney, a charismatic Calvinist and founding pastor of megachurch Covenant Life Church, took Harris under his wing and groomed him to take over the church.” Harris was lead pastor of Covenant Life Church from 2004 until 2015. Harris assumed the role of senior pastor at Covenant Life Church at the age of 30. In January 2015, he resigned from that role due to a desire to broaden his views and connect to other parts of Christianity. In an interview, Harris said the isolation of Covenant Life, and of a small cluster of churches of which it was a part, may have fed leadership mistakes, including the decision of pastors — himself among them — to handle a child sexual abuse case internally instead of going to police.
In 2016, Harris stated that he was reconsidering the content of I Kissed Dating Goodbye and apologized to people who said that they had been hurt by its teachings. In 2018, Harris disavowed I Kissed Dating Goodbye and discontinued its publication. His publishers agreed that I Kissed Dating Goodbye and two other follow-up books would not be reprinted once the current stock was depleted. Harris appeared in a documentary film called I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye, where he spoke to people who were critical of the book.
In July 2019, Harris announced that he and his wife were separating due to “significant changes [that] have taken place in both of us”. Subsequently, Harris revealed that he no longer considered himself a Christian and his wife began pursuing a career as a singer-songwriter under the name Shannon Bonne. In addition to his previously discontinued books, with Harris’s announcement of his loss of faith, the documentary film lost its distributor due to the negative reaction from the Christian market.
My guess is that his extremist views on sexuality, often called “purity culture” were so tied up with his Christian views that when he realized purity culture was bullshit, it also caused his faith to be destroyed as well. That’s what often happens to people with extreme religious views of any kind that don’t measure up to reality at all.
To illustrate the stupidity of purity culture, which is by nature sexist and unrealistic in its expectations of young people, I made this:
And I am confident that it will stand up to reality far better than Harris’ stupid book……or even his former religion!