Kissing Nonsense Goodbye

A slew of recent dating books are asking the wrong question
Well, I kissed dating goodbye. But it sure wasn't by choice. For the last four years, I have lived in a very conservative Midwestern town of 35,000. Jefferson City, Missouri, is a place where it's harder for a college-educated, twentysomething, professional, Christian man to find a date than it is to find a good coffeehouse or bookstore. And Starbucks and Barnes & Noble are nowhere near this town, if that tells you anything.

Joshua Harris hasn't made my life any easier. In fact, thanks to him, my future wife—wherever she is— may very well have given up the idea of ever dating. Harris's surprise 1997 bestseller, I Kissed Dating Goodbye (penned when he was only 21), has caught the attention of hordes of young women of my generation—particularly those who are evangelical Christians.

In his book, Harris encourages young Christians to look beyond our Western culture's dominant paradigm for developing serial intimate relationships (namely, the process of "dating") and instead commit to "purposeful singleness." Romantic relationships, he suggests, should exist only as a means to preparing for marriage—what's commonly called "courting." Harris avoids that quaint-sounding term in I Kissed Dating Goodbye, but the idea is implicit in his promotion of relationships that emphasize long-term commitment and the supervision of the community of believers over and against traditional dating, which he feels emphasizes self-centered emotional and physical satisfaction.

Harris's book struck a chord with an entire generation of young believers. The book far exceeded the sales expectations of Multnomah, its publisher, and has spawned an entire genre of works on how to do relationships in a "Christian way." Recent titles include Dating and Waiting ...

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