Against Evangelical Victim Culture (Stop Blaming Josh Harris for Your Problems)

1.) A victim mentality

It’s Josh Harris’ fault that I hate sex. It’s Josh Harris’ fault that I never got married. It’s Josh Harris’ fault that I think of myself as “damaged goods.” It’s Josh Harris’ fault that I interpreted purity as a bargain with God (“if I am good, God will give me the perfect spouse and lifelong happiness”). It’s Josh Harris’ fault that I was so awkward with girls. It’s Josh Harris’ fault that my old pastor turned sexual purity into a prerequisite for salvation.

You get the picture. Name the accusation, and I have heard it. I’m sure Josh Harris has, too, and I’m sure twenty years of it is coming very close to driving him insane.

First of all, we need to recognize a very important truth. Excluding cases of real abuse (Bill Gothard’s and Doug Philips’ sexual victims fall into this camp) and heretical theology (I’m sure there are plenty who fall in this camp, too), the buck for how we live and think stops with us. We are all adults, and at some point, we need to accept our God-given agency, take responsibility for our own lives, and stop blaming our problems on authors we read in the seventh grade. I think twenty years is probably a reasonable statute of limitations on Josh Harris’ crimes, but hey, that’s just me.

It’s not unreasonable at all to name this genre after its victim posture. So much of it, whether it’s the pathetic complaint by the man who can’t stop feeling guilty about having sex with his wife because Josh Harris damaged him, or the woman who blames Josh Harris for her ongoing singleness (or the expectation that she shouldn’t be single anymore) treats human persons as passive receptacles of whatever ideology their parents and church leaders decided to shovel down their throats. I don’t think these charges against “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” or the broader “purity culture” are even remotely true. I think they’re emotionalized grandstanding. The point is that even if they were true, these folks still would not have a reasonable excuse to be complaining about their wounds decades later. Get over it, everyone. Move on, grow up, and take control of your lives. Plenty of folks who grew up in abusive cults have done quite well for themselves. I’m sure you can recover from not being allowed to date (or–gasp–not getting to attend prom).

Second, much of this posturing depends on what Doug Wilson rightly skewers as a “zero sum” view of the world. This is the idea that if anyone dares suggest young women dress modestly, they’re blaming those women for the sins of young men. This absolutist fallacy lies behind much rancor in the news, from the hysteria over “rape culture” (“TEACH MEN NOT TO RAPE”) to the outrage when anyone hints that certain African American men concerned with police brutality might improve their lot by not robbing convenience stores. It’s silly, vaguely Marxist, and not how moral reasoning is done in the real world.

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