Michael Brown: Don’t Kiss Marriage Goodbye

It was sad to see the news that Josh Harris, who became famous for his 1997 book I Kissed Dating Goodbye, has announced that he and his wife Shannon are getting a separation. But that doesn’t mean the principles he once stood for are outdated and outmoded. And it certainly doesn’t mean that we should give up our ideals and dreams about purity and marriage. Perish the thought.

First, though, let me state clearly that I’m not here to judge or condemn Josh or Shannon. I pray that God would surprise them with an amazing reconciliation that would bless and delight them and their kids and their friends. God is able!

At the same time, I realize that the news about Harris’ separation has serious repercussions.

Earlier this week, NPR ran a story on Harris with the headline, “Evangelical Writer Who Influenced Purity Culture Announces Separation From Wife.”

The story notes how Harris came to prominence in evangelical circles through his 1997 book, which urged couples to stay pure until marriage. He even discouraged kissing before the wedding day.

But, NPR reports, “In recent years, Harris has apologized for some of the ideas he promoted and publicly wrestled with them in a documentary.”

It was as if Harris and his readers believed that, by following the right formula before marriage, then a happy and lasting marriage would be guaranteed.

Not so, Harris acknowledged: “I think it’s made us realize how there’s heartache and there’s pain no matter which pathway you choose in life. There’s no path that you can choose that can protect you from that.”

NPR interviewed Ruth Graham, asking her why Harris’ book was so important in its day. She explained that, “It was a huge influence on really a whole generation of evangelical young people who came to see this idea of premarital abstinence as a core part of faith, not just a good habit or a good idea, but really something very important to their faith, and as they grew up that started to change for a lot of people.”

As for Harris’ separation from his wife, Lotz said, “The significance of this is that here’s this person who held himself up not just in I Kissed Dating Goodbye, but in at least one book to come, as proof of concept that if you waited, if you did everything in the right way, you would have the perfect marriage, essentially. And for that to be proven not true, for his marriage of all marriages to end in divorce, I think it’s a sort of coda to the purity movement.”

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Michael Brown