Here’s Why Christian Mating Is So Messed Up.

As discussed last time, the doctrine represented within I Kissed Dating Goodbye and the popularity of that book. While much of the results of the doctrine have already been addressed in numerous posts here, it is useful to address it in a more formal way. It’s always good to note that practice always begins with moral doctrine, and this post will address that.

(2015-08-17) I-Kissed-Dating-Goodbye

Lowering the Bar
Much of the whole issue brought up in the entire book is typified in what Harris presents in the first chapter. He begins the first chapter with the story of a marriage ceremony. But it takes an interesting turn:

But as the minister began to lead Anna and David through their vows, the unthinkable happened. A girl stood up in the middle of the congregation, walked quietly to the altar, and took David’s other hand. Another girl approached and stood next to the first, followed by another. Soon, a chain of six girls stood by him as he repeated his vows to Anna. (1)

Harris then goes on to describe the source of this scenario.

Anna told me about her dream in a letter. “When I awoke, I felt so betrayed,” she wrote. “But then I was struck with this sickening thought: How many men could line up next to me on my wedding day? How many times have I given my heart away in short-term relationships? Will I have anything left to give my husband? (2)

Note the bar is lowered from sexual purity (Hebrews 13:4; 1 Corinthians 6:18) in dealing with the opposite sex to an emotional one. In other words, it is taught in Christian circles (over the last 2-3 generations now) that if any emotional attachment is generated, then it becomes a breach of the sanctity of marriage.

Emotional Purity
Harris couches this in terms of the selfish pursuit of short-term romance and calls it “sinning against one another”. (3) While it makes sense from a certain point, practicality negates it. Much of what Harris writes is in terms of maintaining purity and blamelessness before God in terms of opposite-sex interaction. He goes on to define this purity by the idea of seeking commitment before intimacy (4), going on to say that intimacy is the reward of commitment (5) and that intimacy “costs” commitment (6). In this sense, he goes on to describe this purpose to be marriage. (4) In other words, commitment is marriage, and commitment is required before any emotional attachment or interest can take hold.

Regular readers of this blog will be reminded that this is exactly how pornography is treated within marriages in the church.

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. (Matthew 5:27-28)

Using this Scripture, marriage breaking adultery in these circles is reduced to an emotional feeling of lust towards a woman. If the wife even thinks the husband is looking at another woman, it becomes grounds for her to break up the marriage.

Retroactive Marriage
Harris applies this to the seeking of a mate, creating a retroactive state of marriage. In other words, you may be committing adultery with someone else’s wife and against yours, if you hit on the wrong woman. In effect, much of the attitude of the EAP with overly high standards who are told that God has the perfect man for them out there (Harris also echoes high standards – 7), and the marriage with Jesus.

Since emotional purity is considered paramount in Harris’ paradigm, the idea of “guarding one’s heart” is brought up. This comes in the form of not only maintaining emotional purity, but watching out for others in the same way (8). As one might be able to figure out, it is a bit different than the Scriptural meaning (Proverbs 4:23; Matthew 15:17-20). This is done by appropriating examples of physical intimacy and writing emotional intimacy over them (9). While much of what is indicated is appropriate, such as avoiding situations where sin is possible (9), and that big sins take little steps (10) by using the example of David and his sin with Bathsheba, the conflation of thought with sin becomes a problem when it is coupled with the paradigm of emotional intimacy.

This is especially true in looking at Harris’ material. While he points out that physical intimacy can easily be “mistaken” for love (11) and that David’s problem was that he “lusted” Bathsheba, the conflation of emotional and physical confuses matters:

Next, the relationship often steamrolls towards intimacy. Because dating doesn’t require commitment, the two people involved allow the needs and passions of the moment to take center stage. The couple doesn’t look at each other as possible life partners or weigh the responsibilities of marriage. Instead, they focus on the demands of the present. And with that mindset, the couple’s physical relationship can easily become the focus. (12)

The mere fact of being attracted to a member of the opposite sex becomes “mistaking lust for love”, which makes being attracted to a member of the opposite sex a sin in the name of guarding one’s heart. Given this expectation outlined by Harris, since attraction can lead to infatuation, which is displacing God as the focus of one’s affection (idolatry), avoiding attraction becomes incumbent. (13)

Harris further states that “guarding one’s heart” involves preventing lust. As he writes of lust: “For example, when I as a single man look on a woman who is not my wife (which right now means every woman) and immorally fantasize about her, I am lusting; I am setting my heart on something God has placed off limits.” (14) While the linkage between lusting and coveting is obvious in Scripture (Exodus 20:17; Romans 7:7), the concept of sexual possession gets lost in Harris’ text when bounced against emotional intimacy. Guarding one’s heart against lust becomes eliminating even the possibility of lust.

So in other words, being attracted to the member of the opposite sex that’s not your spouse becomes sinful to act upon. Therefore, in children (2-3 generations now), parents, youth pastors, leaders, and the like drum these kinds of things into their heads continually, enforcing them vigorously as well. Here’s why Christian dating is messed up . . .

Legalism Supporting Traditional Feminism
Much of the problem with looking at Harris’ material is, that like most false teaching, it seems reasonable, and in a certain way is good in isolation, taken in the proper way, evaluated against Scripture. But bounce them against this emotional intimacy error (extra-Biblical), and it then becomes an issue where mating and attraction becomes stifled in the fear of God, even to the point that single men and women fear each other to the point of obvious sin. Take people running with the things written to extremes and you get legalistic requirements to “maintain purity” before God which are far beyond His expectation. It seems obvious given our physical natures and requirements that attraction is not sinful, but a necessity in making marriages happen. Again, for those Christians reading this: Being attracted to a member of the opposite sex is okay. Attraction is not sinful.

Traditional feminism seems to play a part in this as well, which Harris reinforces (15). The fantasy of the damsel in the tower isn’t so pure and preserved if multiple princes leave the Princess there instead of rescue her and give her a “and they lived happily ever after.”

Continuing . . .
The desire of the parents to make the fairy tale come true at all costs, among their other desires, has unfortunately burned the whole thing down for those who have been indoctrinated in it. Given the 2-3 generations, we now have 20, 30, and even 40 year olds paying the price for this. Unfortunately, rather than fixing this and the other problems introduced by the “leadership” regarding dating, their only answer is to issue hateful man-up rants to the men. The next post will investigate Harris’ paradigm in practice, along with the effects of it upon those who are “Christians”.

(1) I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris p 17-18. (2) ibid p 18. (3) ibid p 26. (4) ibid p 23. (5) ibid p32. (6) ibid p77. (7) ibid p135. (8) ibid p97. (9) ibid p19. (10) ibid p88. (11) ibid p35. (12) ibid p36. (13) ibid p141. (14) ibid p143. (15) ibid 214-215.

26 thoughts on “Here’s Why Christian Mating Is So Messed Up.”

  1. Legalism I think is rooted in wrong motive:

    [B: Indeed. I find the question of motive on this one very interesting, and plan to investigate that in the future.]

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  2. Did none of this young man’s homeschool teachers instruct this young man on the importance of HUMILITY? How is writing a book about scriptural doctrine, especially a doctrine concerning an institution with which you have ZERO firsthand experience, not an act involving a good measure of arrogance?


    [B: If you look into the history of the father, it should be no surprise that the son would turn out similarly. Not to mention, much of the Churchian motivations hold to this one too where fame is more important than truth. Even more so, the bigger interest is the lack of humility of the adopters: Listen to a 21 year old lifetime homeschooler and then hold what he writes as legalistic doctrine of how the institution should be formed? Arrogance!]

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  3. To be fair, this type of “culture” around “Christian dating” would have existed with or without Josh Harris’ book.

    That doesn’t absolve him of responsibility for the influence the book caused: mostly not coming back and clarifying it with another book as probably no one could foresee the horrible aftermath. However, we can know for sure that it would be like this regardless. Someone else would’ve filled the void of righteous false humility like Boundless or another organization or person.

    [B: It’s only him coming up because he’s the one that popularized it. Given the doctrine’s existence in True Love Waits and other fora such as homeschooling (where he comes from, every indication is that this is what was taught him more than anything of his), if not him then someone else would have.]

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  4. Great post again, B.

    If I may post a link, here’s what happens when a man marries a woman to whom he has no sexual attraction:

    https://brokendaughters.wordpress.com/2013/03/09/guest-post-a-mans-words-on-sexual-attraction-and-failed-courtship/

    I fell victim to these kinds of Gnostic teachings of sexuality and my walk with God was shipwrecked as a result, but He thankfully restored me to Himself seven years later. While God certainly doesn’t take pleasure in our suffering, I think He may allow us to go through trials to strengthen our faith and to offer fellowship to those in similar predicaments. I think that’s why the Holy Spirit may have moved upon Paul to call out the legalistic “dogs” in Philippians. Paul was the “Pharisee of Pharisees” and as such he knew the methodologies and motivations of people like them. He knew that many of them were about making their cogregants as afraid, jaded, and sexually repressed as they were, hence folks like Harris, Gothard and Lookadoo. (Although, to be fair, if I had that last name, I’d probably be jaded from all the childhood teasing too.)

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  5. To clarify something, which I’ll edit into the main post if it gets republished in any form:

    While the linkage between lusting and coveting is obvious in Scripture (Exodus 20:17; Romans 7:7), the concept of sexual possession gets lost in Harris’ text when bounced against emotional intimacy.

    The linkage of lusting to coveting (Romans 7:7) involves possession.

    Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.
    (Exodus 20:17)

    Coveting is desiring and wishing for something that belongs to someone else. Harris using David as an example of lusting is correct. What he did wrong was coveting a woman who was someone else’s wife (i.e. not his), not looking at her and being attracted to her. (the consequence of poorly stated doctrine with the goal of furthering this “emotional purity” falsity) This is the confusion created by Harris and other advocates of this doctrine, as was quoted in that original paragraph. They do not recognize that a single person belongs to nobody. Had Uriah not existed to Bathsheba, David could have rode right in and claimed her without sin. The fact that she was Uriah’s wife is what made David qualify as “lusting” her, not that he desired her.

    In other words, you can desire a unmarried member of the attached sex just fine without sinning against the Lord. The only thing you need to do to be pure in His sight becomes avoiding fornication or physical intimacy as Harris puts it.

    As I was reminded, it would be good to take this back to Matthew 5:27-28.

    Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. (Matthew 5:27-28)

    It’s also good to note the presence of the word “lust” here (G1937), which also appears in Romans 7:7 with Paul’s linkage to covet (G1939 – in Greek these are more or less the same word). As looking at Exodus 20:17, one can not lust what is and can be legally theirs. Also, one can see “lust” can be for things as well as a mate.

    As a different example, I can look at someone else’s car, say what a cool car is, appreciate it and even thank God that He extended the grace to that person to have the car, and in doing this I am not sinning (and most Christians by contrast find this acceptable, even in getting car mags and doing the same). I can even desire to possess it, and have it not (necessarily) be a sin. I can make the plans, if it’s the Lord’s will, to save the money and purchase one of my own, even purchase the car from this someone else if this person’s willing to sell. Again, none of this sinful. If I start having it occupy my mind over God, and resolve to acquire it at all costs, then this starts coveting. The point behind the valid interpretation of David/Bathsheba and Matt 5:27-28 is that coveting is the gateway to sin (“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” 1 John 2:16).

    In other words, it’s okay to desire and purchase. That single person out there can be desired and desired to be possessed. This is not sin. She can be purchased Scripturally by marrying her. Now, if it wasn’t a single person, then this starts becoming a problem.

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  6. If David has observed Bathsheba and appreciated her beauty, thanked Yahweh for making women so lovely and arousing, and thanked the Lord for showing grace to his servant Uriah in giving him such a beautiful wife, but did not approach Bathsheba – some would still say David sinned because he looked. It is shameful that two thousand years after the resurrection the church is still fighting the dualism cancer. The cancer has many names like Gnosticism, Manicheism, Platonism and Neo-Platonism. Currently it classifies male sexuality as sinful and devalues female beauty. The offshoots of these heresies are heard by the words of those claiming that “women tame men”, that “women are spiritual and men earthly”, that “sex is dirty”, and that women should dress to hide their beauty under the guise of modesty. What God has called good – the church has too often called evil.

    [B: Indeed. This is much of my struggle in dealing with “Christian” women, and these environments in general. “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.” So much of a blessing of beauty and grace the Lord has given in women (who take care of themselves anyway), and it is made sinful to appreciate what God has done.]

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  7. Oh wow, did Little Lord Harris also equate FORNICATION with PHYSICAL INTIMACY.
    Speaking only from my personal experience, the people i have
    known who conflated these two, or even conflated physical intimacy with sex within a marriage, tend to be on the side of what the secular shrinks call “love avoidant.” Once in a relationship, they physically withdraw because they have a mental hangup which causes them to feel extremely phobic of doing
    simple acts of physical intimacy, like holding hands or going for a walk together. So they conflate all sex with those more routine acts of intimacy, and in so doing, they more easily withdraw from ALL forms of intimacy, be it sex, or holding hands, or even having dinner together, etc.
    For the sake of any woman Harris might get involved with, i do hope that’s not a mental issue he has.

    [B: This kind of thing is why Harris’ history of sexual molestation as a child becomes important in considering whether his perceptions about mating are correct. Note if you search, you’ll find there’s a whole scandal about this happening repeatedly in his church environs (SGM), which I haven’t addressed because it’s probably off-topic.]

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  8. Oh, but they don’t want out of the relationship, i should add. They do everything and anything to distance themselves in a relationship, but are terrified to leave it. That is the other part.

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  9. “Note if you search, you’ll find there’s a whole scandal about this happening repeatedly in his church environs (SGM), which I haven’t addressed because it’s probably off-topic.”

    I think it’s pertinent. The fact that Harris is obviously someone with such an obvious problem with the whole “gnats and caels” thing should is another in a list of reasons for him to be considered unqualified for any sort of leadership position.

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  10. Bingo, Ballista. Child molestation is the number one way (though not the only way) that “love avoidants” are created.
    Unfortunately, having been in the situation i was in, i have now read much about the phenomenon of this mental problem, and i could cite quite a few (secular psychological) sources on this.
    Wow. I thought originally that this might be peripheral to the Harris fallaciousness. Now i am thinking this is more central to his errors than peripheral.

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  11. I don’t know the age of your readership, Mr. B., but the book in my generation analogous to IKDG was Elizabeth Elliot’s “Passion and Purity”, bolstered by that paean to her martyred husband Jim in “Shadow of the Almighty”. As a young believer and a romantic, “Passion and Purity” formed the basis of my dating outlook for years [cue references to the music of Wyld Stallyns forming the basis for future society]. From a Red Pill perspective, however, for one who was no Jim in the eyes of his Elizabeth, it was a disaster.

    Elizabeth was not an Alpha widow so much as an Alpha fiancee, who allowed Jim to string her along for five years without so much as a kiss, while he made up his mind whether they were meant to be. Not sure what he saw in her, judging by the pictures, but whatever.

    Of course, she went on to become the ultimate Christian Alpha widow after he was speared in the jungle, and she was able to hold up to generations of young Christian men the impossible standard of Jim Elliot, the ultimate Christian, missionary, MAN, martyr. She had two subsequent husbands I kind of feel sorry for, trying to follow that act.

    [B: Harris speaks very highly of this book in his (p12)]

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  12. I read this book years ago. I was blue-pill to the max and, at best, a Churchian true believer. Even then, without knowing about Harris’ background, I found much that was off-putting. The worst was a permeating smugness. What was the color of the sky on his world? Having read your analysis thus far and the subsequent comments, I believe you and your readers have nailed it. For that I thank you. It has been an itch in the back of my mind every time I see the book on my shelf. As regards Harris’ life these days, I believe he is married and I heard part of an interview with his (future?) wife and him a while back. There are those who hold him in the highest regard. Wishing him no ill will personally, he is still ultimately wrong.

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  13. So who should get shot, the dog or the squirrel?

    This is what I think of when I ponder this messy ideology that Harris promotes. Instinctively dogs and squirrels are just dogs and squirrels.

    Along the path of this walk, we may stop and smell the roses, we may take a pee in the bushes, or drop in and have a drink at a strange bar, or chill in an out of the way hotel overnight.

    No doctrine is fit to tell me not to do those things or go to those places. It’s my attitude and heart and motive for doing such is what the Father is concerned about.

    I used to think that serial dating did take a toll on us emotionally, even when chaste. All of these faces and emotions and feelings and expectations and stuff…am I doing this the right way? What is the easiest way to do this without being an emotional burn out? If I do just happen to cum in my pants during heavy petting…was it actually sex? But wait…heavy petting, dry humping…does this mean we’re exclusive? Pastor said that if any one does have an orgasm, it’s sex. (TRUE STORY) To me, we were just caught in the moment, having fun..but wait…what is ‘fun”, and did i just spill my seed in my Levis. Oh shit. I hope nobody sees the spot on my pants. Well maybe they’ll think I just spotted after I peed. Ewww..that’s gross. What to do?

    Oh, I know… I’ll “date with a purpose”. What’s dating with a purpose? Being as spiritually deep and spooky as possible and trying my best not to do anything that makes either of us FEEL less spiritual or deep. What shall i do if I fall off into a daze because I just had an image flash across my mind of what it would be like to grab that ass.

    REPENT. You can’t be thinking about that girls booty!

    Look at those lips…I wonder how she would respond if I touched her chin and stuff my finger in her mouth?

    FALL ON YOUR FACE NOW! You little freak. Who does that ‘finger in the mouth’ thing anyhow? You’ve been backsliding, you creep!

    Can she tell I have an erection? Is this allowed?

    NO, GO CUT YOUR DICK OFF!

    She’s is a nice girl tho’, and she gives great hugs.

    DEFINE ‘GREAT. HUG’. MISTER!

    Gives one a headache.

    I think that’s why the old school people on the other side of the tracks used to just say ‘just don’t be bringing no babies to my house”.

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  14. I posted on this elsewhere and ended up looking up love avoidance, as JF referenced it up above. Fits Harris to a tee. From this:

    1. Evades Intimate and Emotional Connection

    In romantic relationships evading intimacy and getting too close emotionally is the name of the game for a love avoidant. Emotional intimacy is a vital component of healthy relationships. Intimacy involves allowing oneself to ‘be known’. Intimacy is about trust, vulnerability, sharing reality of self, communicating wants and needs, as well as expressing genuine feelings and emotions. When there is authentic love, intimacy is at the core of that love.

    Yet, intimacy and emotional closeness is the love avoidants greatest fear. Because of early childhood experiences, they learned to associate intimacy with engulfment, suffocation, and being controlled. So the closer you try to get to your partner- their response is not to reciprocate, but to distance and run. Instead of healthy boundaries to protect their sense of space and themselves (something intimacy also requires), they use thick emotional walls- that makes intimate connection impossible.

    They are emotionally like a turtle that repeatedly pulls into his/her rigid shell when one attempts to get too close and connect emotionally. You may get occasional glimpses of his/her real self, openness, or vulnerability– only to see them retreat once again behind their walls.

    3. Uses Distancing Strategies to Avoid Intimacy and Closeness

    You eventually feel a shift in your partner’s attitude. You sense your partner is not really ‘showing up’ in the relationship. And it is true- because a love avoidant is busy with their behavioral or emotional distancing strategies which are used to impede closeness and squelch intimacy. [B: Like using what Harris lays out in the book]

    For example, the love avoidant will compulsively focus outside the relationship. Instead of seeking intensity in the relationship, they seek intensity outside the relationship with the use of various behaviors and distractions (i.e., staying very busy with activities, hobbies, internet, partying, gardening, gaming, playing sports, shopping, spending all their time volunteering, or much more time with friends or family, etc.).

    Some will use the distancing strategy of “no commitment” and never fully commit to the relationship. They may say, “I love you, I care about you, I want to be with you, but I’m not quite ready for a relationship.” They may use the distancing tactic of avoiding ‘I love you’, and make excuses for why they do so. They may avoid physical closeness (i.e., not wanting to have sex, or share the same bed; or avoid touching or caressing; hugging, kissing or holding hands; walking ahead of you or at a distance, etc.).

    Another strategy commonly used to sabotage intimate connection is by creating a lot drama in the relationship such as starting arguments, or constantly complain about you, people, the world, or grumbling about their personal problems they never seem to resolve. They may sabotage closeness by criticizing, judging, being condescending, being passive-aggressive, attacking, lying, making threats, even by being accommodating (in certain situations) without being honest.

    With a partner using strategies to avoid intimacy and closeness- a healthy loving relationship is unattainable.

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