By: John Furste
.Perhaps you noticed the recent New York Times article: Christian Couples Guru, Now Divorcing, Is Sorry for Bigotry. The Times reports: A former relationship guru and megachurch pastor who advocated premarital purity in his million-selling 1997 book "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" now says he's "not a Christian" — and he hopes gay people will forgive him for contributing "to a culture of exclusion and bigotry."
Here's a bit of context: Back in the 90s, many conservative churches promoted a sexual purity movement for teens that included things like abstinence ceremonies and pledges. The apex was the mega-selling book which argued that not just pre-marital sex, but any pre-marital romantic entanglement had the power to derail God’s perfect plan for your future marriage. Then author Joshua Harris stunned many people with a recent post on Instagram saying, ". . . I have undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus. The popular phrase for this is 'deconstruction...' "
Many of us have been wrestling with the implications of this interesting news. We too have undergone a shift in how we regard faith (learn more about the River's decision to become LGBTQ inclusive and how it impacted us). A couple of years ago a long-time River member and youth leader Tim Abrahamsen wrote a provocative piece entitled, "I Kissed Dating Hello" where he describes the negative effects he experienced from the purity movement. In addition, Tim appeared on the popular Blue Ocean World Podcast hosted by author Dave Schmelzer for a freewheeling discussion about the effects of the purity movement. Tim shares:
"I didn’t begin to learn healthy relationship skills until I unpacked and let go of the fear and shame surrounding dating and sex that I had internalized as a teenager . . . the church at large needs to take responsibility for these ideas that have led to so much harm. But I also believe that we can learn from the mistakes of the past, pursue healing and reconciliation with a message that combines God’s boundless love and acceptance with a healthy and positive view of our sexuality."
How does this all strike you? Were you familiar with the purity movement? Do you have any thoughts about "deconstructing" faith? What have you experienced?