Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Monday, July 11, 2016

The big move of Joshua Harris

It is a fascinating story, in part because it's such an odd religious story. Josh Harris, who (improbably) wrote THE evangelical book on dating (I Kissed Dating Goodbye) when he was 21 and unmarried (that's almost Trump-ian in naivite), determined more than a year ago already to quit his really successful mega-church ministry in Maryland, and go to seminary, something he'd neglected when he was a kid (who needs earthly wisdom when you've got the Holy Spirit?). 

Today he's actively questioning what became an evangelical handbook on dating when it was given to literally thousands of kids in the last couple of decades. Today, he says, "I think the problem when I wrote I Kissed Dating Goodbye is that I had not walked through that relationship yet myself. 

Well, duh.  

But the issues connected to his changing visions are probably bigger than just dating because Josh Harris, evangelical super-star, quit the 3000-member megachurch he led to become more (shudder) "mainline." You read that right. He willfully tossed in his evangelical credentials to become one of those his people most thoroughly disdain--something, at least, of a liberal (gasp). 

"One of the things that I'm changing in my own thinking is I just think people - myself included - it's so easy to latch on to a formula," he told a reporter from National Public Radio yesterday. "You know, you do these things and you'll be great. You'll be safe and you'll be protected and you'll be whatever. . . .And I just don't think that's the way life works." 

It wasn't simply a changing view of dating and marriage that de-commited him to the code of Christian moral imperatives he'd created, then preached, it was a larger issue. "When we try to overly control our own lives or overly control other people's lives, I think we end up harming people. And I'm - I think that that's part of the problem with my book."

It's gutsy of him to do an about-face, and I probably don't need to say that I sympathize greatly--with him and with what he's says he's learning:
It's really easy for Christians to take truths from God's word and principles and then in subtle and sometimes not so subtle ways add extra human regulation onto it. For example, there are clear things in statements in Scripture about our sexuality being expressed within the covenant of marriage. But that doesn't mean that dating is somehow wrong or a certain way of dating is the only way to do things.
I suppose I'm writing this because I like what he's done, where he's going, what he's discovered. And it is a rare story because Lord knows, for every Josh Harris, for every evangelical who walks away from the kind of prescriptive faith that Harris espoused, there are a dozen--maybe a hundred--who move toward the opposite pole, from "whatever" to "thus saith the Lord to me and you, brother."

Making Josh Harris's pilgrimage prescriptive, which I'd love to do, is being just as judgmental as he was when he was 21 years old. I'd love to suggest that millions of evangelicals should be similarly struck on the road to wherever they thought they were going, similarly about-faced when they discover that the way of Jesus is way more than a handful of commandments or that the most repeated biblical injunction of all is "fear not."

I'd like to say that, but I can't because Christianity has divine elasticity. It truly is one huge tent, despite our efforts to make it compartmentalize. There may well be room for Franklin Graham and Jim Wallis, even if our humanness would just as soon not admit it or either of them. 

And that's why the way of Jesus is so hard. The only real commandment is to love. And that's hard--well nigh impossible. 

All of that being said, and for reasons entirely my own, I suppose, let me just say that I think Josh Harris has seen the light. Forgive me!

 You can listen to the NPR interview here. 

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