One Person’s Historical Account of the “Kissing Dating Goodbye” Fad

I found the following story written on another blog at:

Account of Kissing Dating Goodbye

With permission I am posting it here. It gives one person’s perspective of the “kissing dating goodbye” fad that Harris spawned. I highlighted certain sentences in bold.

Anybody remember this book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye? I remember it very well. It was a very trendy evangelical book when I was in the Navigators and Campus Crusade back in 1998 and 1999. The basic thesis of the book is that dating is wrong, and that you shouldn’t even be alone with a member of the opposite sex until you are married. Thus, the author Joshua Harris distinguishes between dating, which is bad, and “courting,” which is good. The problem is that he doesn’t do a very good job of distinguishing between the two, and apparently he didn’t even follow his own advice, going on a “date” for bagels with the woman he is now married to. I wrote a fairly negative review of the book for, a review which just happens to be the first review most people see when they visit the book’s page on Amazon. I tried to be balanced in my review of the book, which I found superficial, and largely based on the personal negative dating experiences of the author.

My negative impression of the book developed because of what I witnessed before I ever read the book myself. It was all the rage in the evangelical circles I was a part of. You couldn’t go to any retreat, meeting, or whatever, without hearing about this book, and its philosophy, as if it really was the gospel. New converts to Christianity I knew often owned multiple copies of the book and would pass it out to anyone and everyone they met. People would go to dinner and a movie with someone of the opposite sex, but bend over backwards to call it anything but a “date,” because they had been taught, and believed, that “dating” is sinful. Of course, these new converts couldn’t tell you much about who Jesus was, or what he did for us, and hadn’t even begun to read the Bible, but they had the details of this book memorized. Perhaps I was cynical, but I often wondered how some people I knew could claim such sure knowledge of “biblical” love, without ever having opened a Bible.

My review on doesn’t mention this, but Harris’ attitude toward love strikes me as rather Gnostic-like. Even something as mild as holding hands was seen as violating “biblical” principles of courtship, so people I knew literally were getting married within months of meeting, because they craved any type of physical contact with that person (and I am not talking about sinful contacts, but simply holding hands or being alone outside of a group). It created an environment that essentially said “before marriage, no contact, after marriage, do whatever you want,” or at least that is how I heard it presented. I certainly agree that physical contact before marriage must be kept within certain boundaries of chastity, but to suggest that an unmarried couple cannot even spend time alone denies people important bonding time, including time to pray together.

My biggest gripe with the book, and the movement that followed, is not the basic underlying point, which is that the way secular society goes about finding love is very, very, screwed up. I can agree with this. My biggest complaint is the way that this book and movement dominated people’s lives, far surpassing virtually any other aspect of Christianity, including the Bible, basic doctrine, and social justice. New converts I knew learned nothing of the Trinity, helping the poor, Church history, the Bible, the person of Christ, etc, but became fully immersed in one 21-year old’s interpretation of “biblical” love, which was in reality based on a few proof-texts taken outside of any cultural context. “The Trinity? That’s boring. Let’s get back to Joshua Harris.” In other words, this method was the evangelical “flavor-of-the-day,” like the Prayer of Jabez was awhile back. I think following Harris’ principles is spiritually healthier than finding love the secular way, that is for sure, but the movement certainly had a “flavor-of-the-day” feel to it.

No matter what your opinion of Catholicism and Orthodoxy, we have a long and thoughtful tradition that is suspicious of flavor-of-the-day type movements. This is one thing that drew me to both of these Traditions. What I read of Catholic and Orthodox authors (including the Fathers) was far more deep, thoughtful, and enduring than the “flavor-of-the-day” stuff I was often exposed to as an evangelical. Granted, many evangelicals themselves criticize this tendency among some of their brethren, so I am not saying that evangelical=flavor-of-the-day, but many secondhand stores are littered with yesterdays’ “flashes-in-the-pan.”

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6 Responses to “One Person’s Historical Account of the “Kissing Dating Goodbye” Fad”

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  3. labtech Says:

    It seems your main objection to the Harris-caused fad of “biblical courtship” is that it was too popular. Of course its bad that new converts are not interested in discussing the trinity, or that dating practices are considered more important than discussing social justice…However, that doesn’t mean Harris is wrong! I could just as easily say “how lucky we are that new converts are interested in Christian dating views, since they are not interested in the trinity. How wonderful it is to be able to conect on their level of Christian maturity to begin a discussion of courtship and marital love, which after all Jesus used to symbolize His relationship with the Church.”

    Harris never said touching before marriage was evil. He merely gave an example of an extreme couple who did not touch, and used it to describe the beauty of purity. It is always easier to make a point when using extremes.

    Harris was not “dating” when he went out for coffee with his eventual wife. He was “courting.” Harris defined “dating” as: shopping without money/seeing the opposite sex with no intention of marriage. Harris defined “courting” as: shopping with money/seeing the opposite sex with the intent to get to know whether you wish to marry them or not, and if you do not => then break up! and move on. Furthermore, he went to a public place, and sat across a table. How many teens go to the back of a dark movie theater?! or hang out alone in a bedroom?!

    As for all those unmarried Christian couples who can’t pray together, because they can’t be alone…pfft. Consider the spirit of the law. Harris posed that unmarried people with strong attractions to each other should not be alone, so that they are not tempted to do evil. So, go to a church and pray together in the back row (where you’ll probably not be tempted to cuddle w/ each other). I seriously doubt Harris would condemn a couple who prays alone. However, I bet Harris would be suspicious (as I am) that any couple who is so attracted to each other as to be considering marriage, might do better to pray to God where their minds are not tempted to stray from God to focus on their attraction to each other. Unconsumated love is pretty strong stuff.

    Harris wrote a book condemning a culture that holds eros love as a guide for the boundries of their passions, he challenges Christians to a higher level of purity. He attempts to offer practical guidelines. Do you think Harris is wrong, and God would approve of popular culture’s dating practies? Or do you agree with Harris’ basic premise? If you agree, then what practical guidelines would you give the unmarried Christian?

  4. steve240 Says:


    I am not sure how you conclude that my big issue with Harris’s “kissing dating goodbye” WAS its popularity (I think it was more of a fad vs. something that remained popular). Have you read any of my other blog entries? My big issue with Harris and “kising dating goodbye” is that he doesn’t share the problems that “kissing dating goodbye” has caused though he is quick to share all the problems he sees with traditional dating.

    I would also remind you that the article in this blog entry was written by someone else. I just reprinted it. Harris might not have taught the extreme thoughts that people practiced as a result of his book but his book certainly produced some extremes that he has done little if any to try and moderate these extremes.

    Sadly I am sure a lot of Christians have dismissed the entire “kissing dating goodbye” philosophy since Josh Harris didn’t admit the problems with this approach.

    What I have seen happen in groups where his approach is taught is that single avoid relating with those of the opposite sex vs. learning how to relate. Also, Harris was a teenager and IMO his approach is more designed for teenagers vs. older singles.

    I would again suggest you read my other blog entries to try and understand my thoughts on “kissing dating goodbye.”

    I would also suggest that you watch out for people who show how some abuse a system and then reason that the only option is to not use that system. They will say that there is so much abuse in how the world dates that the only option is to not date. Maybe they should use the same philosophy on teenage driving?

  5. POA Class Says:

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    […]One Person’s Historical Account of the “Kissing Dating Goodbye” Fad « I Kissed Dating Goodbye: Wisdom or Foolishness?[…]…

  6. Book Review: I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris | The Society of Phineas Says:

    […] Waits” movement. To add to that, it’s interesting that while Josh is married today, it appears that he did not follow his own advice in the course of doing this upon […]

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