Former Pastor that Promoted Ultra-Conservative Christianity Announces He’s No Longer a Christian

Former Pastor that Promoted Ultra-Conservative Christianity Announces He’s No Longer a Christian July 30, 2019
Joshua Harris with his wife

A well-known pastor that preached against dating, homosexuality, and lust has announced that he is no longer a Christian. Joshua Harris announced in an Instagram post that thanked supporters for reaching out during his divorce. Harris wrote “I Kissed Dating Goodbye,” in 1997 which became a staple book for Christian youth groups around the country.

Joshua Harris shared the reason that he was divorcing his wife of 21-years. Harris has spent the bulk of his career working as a conservative Christian pastor that promoted the ultra-conservative belief of courting rather than dating for the youth.

Last week he announced on Instagram that he and his wife were separating. He alluded to changes that occurred within them to contribute to the divorce.

“We’re writing to share the news that we are separating and will continue our life together as friends. In recent years, some significant changes have taken place in both of us. 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. We hope to create a generous and supportive future for each other and for our three amazing children in the years ahead. Thank you for your understanding and for respecting our privacy during a difficult time.”

 In the post, Harris shared his gratitude for many people reaching out to support him through a difficult time. Additionally, he stated that people of all walks of life reached out to him, including atheists, evangelicals, Christians, and LGBTQ+ people.

“This week I’ve received grace from Christians, atheists, evangelicals, exvangelicals, straight people, LGBTQ people, and everyone in-between.”

For decades, Joshua Harris spoke out against the LGBTQ+ people and their “sinful” behavior. In his book, he wrote about a time that gay men checked him out. He said that the encounter left him feeling “filthy.”

However, most surprising in the statement is that Harris said he is no longer Christian. The once devout pastor stated that he is now in a phase of deconstruction and does not believe in Jesus. Harris did not outwardly state he was an atheist but said that he had fallen away from God. His movement, away from faith contributed to the end of his marriage.

“The information that was left out of our announcement is that I have undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus. 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. Many people tell me that there is a different way to practice faith and I want to remain open to this, but I’m not there now.⁣⁣”

After sharing the shocking details about his life, Harris expressed remorse for the negative impact his book and views have had on the world. For two decades, his book was used in youth groups to teach the traditional values of Christianity. He instructed teens to not have sex outside of marriage.

Additionally, the book promoted the belief that dating is toxic and can lead to divorce. Instead, the book told the youth to wait for God to provide them with a partner. His book spread fear in the youth by telling them that lust was dangerous. He also told them that homosexuality was wrong.

In 2017, Harris denounced his book and removed the book from publishing. He’s spoken out numerous times about the toxic message he spread to millions of people. Since 2017, Harris says he has been working to repair the damage he caused by publishing the book.

In the Instagram post, Harris made an apology to LGBTQ+ people for the hateful beliefs he espoused about them over the years. He expressed his sincere regret for spreading bigotry and not supporting marriage equality.

 “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.

But I specifically want to add to this list now: to the LGBTQ+ community, 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.⁣⁣”

After expressing remorse to the LGBTQ+ people, Harris shared his final word with Christians. Since his departure from the church, many Christians have expressed their sadness for his decision. Despite the statements by Christians to Harris, he said he is not in a state of mourning.

“To my Christians friends, I am grateful for your prayers. Don’t take it personally if I don’t immediately return calls. I can’t join in your mourning. I don’t view this moment negatively.”

Instead, Harris described his deconstruction as a positive and hopeful time in his life.

“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 thing shall be well.”⁣⁣

While he may be remorseful for his book, the damage to the community cannot be undone. Books like the one written by Harris promote beliefs that treat women subservient, children as property, and promote toxic patriarchial homes.

Due to these extreme beliefs, women and children are treated as second class citizens and often abused. Additionally, these books cause intense hatred to spread towards anyone that is not heterosexual.

As he continues his deconstruction, he will need to remain transparent. Millions of people read and believed his book.

Another day and another conservative pastor is repenting for his lies and “sins.” Hopefully, his message will reach the people that are trapped in the abusive clutches of the Christianity he promoted. Perhaps, his recent statement will help some of them break free.

 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

My heart is full of gratitude. I wish you could see all the messages people sent me after the announcement of my divorce. They are expressions of love though they are saddened or even strongly disapprove of the decision.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ I am learning that no group has the market cornered on grace. This week I’ve received grace from Christians, atheists, evangelicals, exvangelicals, straight people, LGBTQ people, and everyone in-between.

Of course there have also been strong words of rebuke from religious people. While not always pleasant, I know they are seeking to love me. (There have also been spiteful, hateful comments that angered and hurt me.)⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ The information that was left out of our announcement is that I have undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus. 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. Many people tell me that there is a different way to practice faith and I want to remain open to this, but I’m not there now.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣

Martin Luther said that the entire life of believers should be repentance. There’s beauty in that sentiment regardless of your view of God. 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. But I specifically want to add to this list now: to the LGBTQ+ community, 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.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ To my Christians friends, I am grateful for your prayers. Don’t take it personally if I don’t immediately return calls. I can’t join in your mourning. I don’t view this moment negatively. I feel very much alive, and awake, and surprisingly hopeful.

A post shared by Joshua Harris (@harrisjosh) on

*Katie Joy is a columnist and hosts Without A Crystal Ball on Patheos Non-Religious Channel. She writes articles on parenting, disability advocacy, debunking pseudoscience, atheism, and crimes against women and children.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Friend

    Did he announce he is an atheist? Harris did say he is no longer a Christian, and mentioned “deconstruction.” That sounds like a process to me, and his views might still be in flux.

  • chemical

    Harris:

    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.

    (Emphasis mine)

    “Fear-based approach to life” is such a succinct phrase to describe Harris’s former beliefs.

  • updated the title

  • The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, as they say, so I suspect that, instead of rejecting religion altogether, he’s likely to adopt a more liberal form of Christianity. His words don’t indicate to me that he’s given up the woo altogether. I doubt he’s likely to stop being a part of the problem.

  • sadly dozens of people were thanking him for his “books” that “changed their lives”

  • Friend

    Thank you!

  • abb3w

    In Ebaugh’s terms, he seems likely to still be in the process of “Creating the ‘Ex-‘ Role”.

  • abb3w

    Some variant on “Spiritual not religious” may also be possible.

  • Raging Bee

    I have to say I’m very suspicious about this “I’m no longer a Christian” turn. I should think that’s the LAST thing someone in his position — whose entire social life and friendships have been defined by Christianity from day one — would want to say. Not only would it alienate him from just about everyone he’d known before, it would also totally undercut the credibility of all of his recent statements in the eyes of those who most need to hear them.

    Maybe I’m being a bit paranoid here, but is it possible he was pressured to say this by a coalition of people who desperately want to keep him from undermining his own early work in which so many Christians had such a deep emotional investment? If he’d said “I’m a different kind of Christian,” that would have been far more irritating to his original followers, and there would have been endless sectarian hate; but saying “I’m not a Christian” gives them an excuse to totally discount everything he’s said recently, and never have to question the beliefs he’d made his career reinforcing.

  • I actually grew up in a cult that promoted ideas like Harris’s (and escaped two years ago). For me, I appreciate the apology, since that was more than was offered at church.

    At church, for most people, the spouses never came. Some of the young women fear being Old Maids, and, when I was there, I feared being an Old Bachelor. I feared the rules essentially banned marriage for me, since my mom continued to think I was too immature and self-absorbed for an adult relationship, even into my late-20’s, and the church insisted on parental approval for romances. (This actually led me to become affirming of LGBTQ people.)

    I also feared that the courtship model would trap me in a provincial worldview: the cult was very insular, and had some very xenophobic views and later became very conspiratorial. (I did manage to escape single.)

  • Friend

    Guessing Josh’s beliefs has turned into a national parlor game. I’m willing to believe he truly no longer considers himself a Christian. He was a star, and he comes from a binary world. I think his choices were 1) to conform under scrutiny, or 2) leave under his own steam.

    Obscure folks can be shoved out, but his crowd would want this guy to stay.

  • Friend

    Glad you are out.

  • rationalobservations?

    And the scales of delusion of religion fall from the eyes of another recovering religionist and common sense acts as antidote to the poison of religion.