LOS ANGELES - In 1997, Joshua Harris published his famous, "I Kissed Dating Goodbye," an evangelical bestseller which argued that dating should be avoided altogether because it was the best way to practice abstinence from premarital sex. It also argued that modern dating was a fast track to divorce.
Harris announced in an Instagram post Saturday that not only are he and his wife of 21 years getting divorced, he also doesn't consider himself Christian anymore after a fundamental change in his beliefs. The post also served as an apology to those he feels he has wronged through pushing the ideals of "I Kissed Dating Goodbye," including the LGBTQ+ community that he once vehemently denounced as immoral and sinful.
"I have undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus," Harris wrote in the post. "The popular phrase for this is ‘deconstruction,' the biblical phrase is ‘falling away.' By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian."
The announcement has garnered mixed reviews — some people have expressed disappointment, and others have cheered Harris on. Among those supporting him are many people who were once forced to read Harris's book as part of their Christian upbringing and found the ideals within to be damaging and hurtful.
"Martin Luther said that the entire life of believers should be repentance. There's beauty in that sentiment regardless of your view of God," Harris explained of his decision. "I have lived in repentance for the past several years—repenting of my self-righteousness, my fear-based approach to life, the teaching of my books, my views of women in the church, and my approach to parenting to name a few."
Harris went on to extend a specific apology to the LGBTQ+ community, writing, "I want to say that I am sorry for the views that I taught in my books and as a pastor regarding sexuality. I regret standing against marriage equality, for not affirming you and your place in the church, and for any ways that my writing and speaking contributed to a culture of exclusion and bigotry. I hope you can forgive me."
Harris published "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" when he was only 21 years old, and over 1 million copies have been sold since.
The book became a staple of many Christian youth groups and was embraced by many churches and single, evangelical men and women due to its strong push for purity, abstinence.
Harris is now a father of three and was married for 21 years — a marriage that he announced was ending in an amicable divorce via a prior Instagram post on July 17.
"In recent years, some significant changes have taken place in both of us," Harris wrote, "It is with sincere love for one another and understanding of our unique story as a couple that we are moving forward with this decision."
In recent years, Harris says that he has committed himself to re-evaluating his strong-held beliefs by talking to people who are different and hold different beliefs, inviting the criticism of those who don't agree with his book, performing an in-depth study of issues surrounding his book with the help of one of his graduate school professors and by participating in a documentary film that chronicled his journey in shifting beliefs.
"To my Christian friends, I am grateful for your prayers," Harris concluded his post. "I can't join in your mourning. I don't view this moment negatively. I feel very much alive, and awake, and surprisingly hopeful. I believe with my sister Julian that, ‘All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.'"