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Why We're Glad Joshua Harris Is Rethinking His Dating Advice

Chelsen Vicari serves as the Evangelical Program Director for the Institute on Religion and Democracy.
Chelsen Vicari serves as the Evangelical Program Director for the Institute on Religion and Democracy.

It's been 20 years since Joshua Harris wrote I Kissed Dating Goodbye (IKDG), a book offering Christians a new approach to dating and romance. Namely, replacing dating with friendship-based courtship. The book exploded in popularity within Evangelicalism and rapidly climbed the bestseller lists. Harris was only 21 years old when he wrote IKDG. Now the author is rethinking his dating advice.

Stories of damaging consequences affecting many people who encountered IKDG served to highlight the book's shortfalls, according to Harris who addressed his reevaluation during a recent Tedx event

"My eyes have really been open," shared Harris. "I didn't leave room for the idea that dating could be a healthy way of learning what you're looking for in a long-term relationship. That it could be a part of growing personally."

I'll admit here that I couldn't make it past the first chapter of IKDG. That could be because I didn't attempt to read the book until I was in my early twenties. While I respect Harris' pushback against society's harmful hook-up culture, IKDG's overall concept seemed impractical to me. As a young woman working virtually non-stop for a non-profit in Washington, D.C. I just didn't have time for an interview-style, no-strings-attached coffee meeting, which I'd argue is an unhelpful result of IKDG culture. Instead, I found intentional casual dating a healthier approach.

Please note the purpose of this post is not to analyze the merits of IKDG. Obviously, I cannot in good faith step into that discussion, not having read the book in its entirety. My only intent here is to highlight why Harris' admission that he overlooked the benefits of dating is significant.

The best dating and romance advice I found during singlehood came from the experienced evangelical women around me. One of those mentors was (and still is) Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse, the author of Marriage Matters: Perspectives on the Private and Public Importance of Marriage and chair of the Institute on Religion and Democracy's board of directors.

In fact, it was a tweet by Dr. Crouse that first notified me of Harris' Tedx talk. So I reached out to Dr. Crouse asking her to expound on why she is grateful Harris is rethinking some of his early advice to single Christians.

"Having talked with countless young women about today's dating culture, I know the longing they feel for the days when a guy actually called and asked for a date, arrived to pick her up and took her to a planned evening of entertainment – a concert, dinner, ice skating, a movie, a formal dance or event, or just to sit, talk, get to know each other at a coffee shop," wrote Dr. Crouse in an email. "That's distinctly different from a guy saying he'll meet you somewhere and he feels no responsibility for seeing that the evening is a success."

There is a chapter in Marriage Matters titled, "Bring Back Dating," explained Dr. Crouse, where she argues intentional casual dating actually builds self-confidence and social skills. Seemingly,

"It also helps young people discern who they are in relation to the opposite sex, helping young people hone in on those characteristics that they want in a husband or wife, teaching young people good judgement in terms of assessing character and integrity and helping young people develop the antenna that they need in order to recognize when others are not who they present themselves to be," explained Dr. Crouse.

She continued, "I fell in love with my husband in part because our dates were carefully planned, very special occasions; he worked at planning them to make sure that I felt special and had a good time."

Harris seems to now agree with Dr. Crouse's observations on the benefits of intentional casual dating for Christians.

Originally posted at Juicy Ecumenism.

Chelsen Vicari serves as the Evangelical Program Director for the Institute on Religion and Democracy. She earned her Masters of Arts in Government from Regent University and frequently contributes to conservative outlets. Follow her on twitter @ChelsenVicari.

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