At Least One More Fact
I grew up in the heart of the evangelical movement. I went to Awana and Christian summer camp, listened to the Newsboys and Plus One (actually, I still do, sometimes). I also read books.
From an early age, I was fascinated by romantic relationships. I looked forward with great anticipation to the time when I would meet someone, and start a life together. I still look forward to that, with hope.
There were a lot of books about relationships produced when I was coming of age. I read them all as a pre-teen and young teenager, even taking notes. There was a book called I Kissed Dating Goodbye, which was very popular. The premise appealed to nostalgia, and to the idea of courtship. Joshua Harris, the author, suggested that Christians didn't need to date the way the world did. I agree with that, but as I formed ideas about how I would like to order my romantic relationships, I found that I did not agree with many of the conclusions he presented.
I am not proud of the way that I tore down that book, even more as I got older, and actually reached a point where dating was within reach. I was not gracious or kind, merely critical. The situation did not help when he released a book called Boy Meets Girl. It's the story of him meeting and marrying his wife, and it is based on a lot of practicality. I think that he found that some of his ideas were difficult to carry out in the real world, making the second book a more balanced view, based on real life. I still didn't agree with everything in it, but I found it much easier to read.
Many years passed.
I talked with people who had been in the same kind of circles of faith culture, sometimes joking about "kissing dating goodbye," and thinking about all the copies sold which didn't end up reflecting what the author did.
I didn't think about it much.
I try to stay current, when I can, about what is going on in the world, and in the Body. Recently, I was reading about some lawsuits filed against Sovereign Grace Ministries, in some cases of sexual abuse (if you're unfamiliar with the story, you may want to look into it). A familiar name caught my eye: Joshua Harris.
In an article on Christianity Today's Gleanings section, Joshua, now the pastor of the (former) flagship church of the ministry, urges victims of sexual abuse to go to the police, no matter what they should hear, even from those supposed to be shepherding them. The article quotes him in a sermon: "Reading this past week about the allegations of sexual abuse was very difficult," he said. "I know it is for anyone. But it is very personal for me because I was a victim of sexual abuse as a child."
Slowly, these words sunk in. Joshua Harris, who kissed dating goodbye before he was the boy who met girl, had lived his life with the burden of abuse.
I think that being in his shoes might make me want to kiss dating goodbye, too.
All of a sudden, I regretted the careless words I spoke about his writing and his conclusions. I grieved the things I'd said and thought about someone I'd not met, not known, not considered as a part of my family.
The thing about writing, which is hard and beautiful, is that it flows out of who I am. A book is just a moment in time, like a blog post, and cannot be taken as complete in itself. I can consider the source, based on what I know, and even draw conclusions, but, more often than not, I don't know the whole story.
If I had known this thing about Joshua Harris, I hope that I would have been more gracious, more understanding, even if I didn't agree with his conclusions. However, I don't want to be a person who requires knowledge of the struggle to realize that there is one. My job as a believer is not to mock, but to weigh, discern, and grow. I don't have to agree with Joshua Harris to remember that he is a person, created by God in His own image, and that he is worthy of my esteem for that reason alone.
As I read, I want to remember that I am reading the words of a person who doubts and cries and hopes, just as I do, and who is worthy of respect, dignity and grace, as well as constructive dialogue.