After 20 Years, ‘I Kissed Dating Goodbye’ Author Kisses His Book Goodbye

If you were a Christian kid in the late 90s and early 2000s (like I was), you have no doubt heard about, and most likely joke about, the book I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris. The book, written at the height of the True Love Waits abstinence movement in the late 1990s, immediately rose to HUGE popularity among evangelical teens—or at least among their parents. Lucky for me, the book came out while I was in my early college years; I was already dating my now-husband, and had dated a couple of nice Christian guys before him. I did read the book when it came out, though, and immediately smelled a rat. Dating, I had seen in my own life and the lives of many others, wasn’t all bad; if done in a healthy manner, it ultimately ended for a lot of people in the choosing of a good marriage partner.

Though I agreed with the book’s assertion that one should save sex for marriage, I didn’t agree with the hardcore I Kissed Dating Goodbye tenet that it was necessary to not kiss before marriage or only ever “give your heart”/fall in love with ONE person. In my own life, I’d been able to date with the intention of choosing a marriage partner; for me this meant dating more than one person, it even meant falling in love more than once. I truly believe God used some of my young relationships to make me more aware of what kind of man I should choose as a marriage partner, and when I found him, I knew.

I disagreed with most of Harris’ non-dating laws set forth in his book that a friend and I even did a video project for a communications class at our Christian college on why the book was bad (we got an A, we were SO ahead of our time! This was in 1998 or 99).

Yesterday I happened to see (in a Facebook forum I’m part of about 90s Christian music) a person post a link to this Relevant article about Josh Harris. The person who posted it was like, “UGH nice. Did anyone else get married WAY TOO YOUNG because of this book or just me?” The comments that followed are sadly typical of Christian kids who were raised to follow this model. “And divorced!” said one commenter. “Married at 19, divorced at 21,” said another. Still another said, “I am angry about the guilt I felt for kissing my fiancé. I feel like this culture stole the joy of young love. This culture also pushed us to marry way before we were ready. We are still together and thriving, but it’s despite this past and not because of it.”

Now I am not saying that ALL of this relationship trouble is because of Harris’ book, because all of humans are capable of turning our relationships into a crap show.

BUT. The truth is, this movement was unhealthy, and it pushed a lot of well-meaning Christian young people into a rocky relational start.

Jenny Rapson
Jenny is a follower of Christ, a wife and mom of three from Ohio and a freelance writer and editor.

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