“Dating is not biblical and it’s not God’s plan for you. If you have to date, it’s because you don’t trust God. When you meet someone you’re attracted to, and they feel the same, and you both love God, then just get married.”
The young man in front of me was certain in his own head that what he was saying was true, like all evangelical Christians – they sound certain. He had read Joshua Harris’ book ‘I kissed dating goodbye’ and believed it to be doctrine fit for his version of the ‘truth’. I tried to challenge this guy, I tried to further the discussion. Unfortunately, with such staunch religious beliefs comes an immunity to change.
I am familiar with this immunity. In the 14 years I was a Christian preacher I was as guilty as any of them. What I demonstrated and learned during these years was that religious people have to dig their heels in so hard to resist natural internal growth, that discussions regarding truth are albeit impossible. For all their use of the word ‘Truth’ it’s actually the last thing they’re interested in. Their sole focus is a version of history that cannot be proven. And sadly, despite the gusto of this young man, his passion and wide-eyed mania, no amount of faith makes things fact. No amount of tingling feelings or sung worship, revival meetings or prayer will ever make something fact.
The Joshua Harris American dating doctrine had spread across the UK UCCF groups and churches alike. And ignoring the glossy cover, the personal testimony of the confident author (who has now kissed both his wife and his religion goodbye) there is one stark point worth considering. Following rules in a bid to become more religious is very much like crack to many evangelicals. Despite them preaching that ‘Jesus came to free us from religion’.
The encounter reminded me of my first time in City Temple, Cardiff, when a man at the door saw my new face and asked “Hey, are you saved?” What felt like the opening of a Beckett play became utterly farcical very quickly. “I think so” I replied. Grabbing my arm the man responded “But are you born again?” This encounter for me sums up the core of nonsense that underpins the cult of evangelicalism. For if they didn’t have new rules and regurgitated stipulations to enforce upon their paid up members, what else would they have? Very fucking little is the answer. Just emotive chords played to the accompaniment of a mid-Atlantic twang, the promise of the presence of an invisible Deity and text book emotional manipulations from the microphone.
I, alongside many other sceptics, predicted the evangelical collapse of Joshua Harris ten years before it happened. Like Harris, I too have thrown off my faith and religious beliefs in recent years, and I thank common sense for my last half a decade free of the notion of a ‘personal God’. The big issue is that Harris spoke things out loud as if they were fact, when in fact they were simply just fucked up. I know people who invested their emotions and actions into the doctrines of Joshua Harris, and have since become prisoners in their own relationships. And but for the shedding of the cult of evangelicalism entirely, they will never be free.
The arrogance to tell adults how to live behind closed doors is as repugnant as it is rife in western Christianity – fear-based manipulation disguised as gifts, blessings and growth. Let me be clear here, I said things from the front of churches that keep me up at night. I preached parts of the Bible that have been deemed nonsense by actual historians and scientists. I called horse shit fantasy ‘truth’ because I so wanted it all to be true. I wanted it to be true because the alternative was unnerving and humbling beyond all beliefs and religion combined.
The alternative that we are consciousness in human matter located upon a rock situated by chance in an albeit unfathomable canvas we call the cosmos. This removes any personal God. It destroys any ego and concept that an ‘almighty’ being is tailoring our life experience to glorify himself. Joshua Harris, like countless people before him, has finally thrown the shackles of Christianity off. However, his writings created mental prisoners for tens of thousands of souls.
I don’t believe holding grudges is beneficial to the human experience. And if I saw him in the pub I’d buy the guy a beer. But I hope for the rest of his life he keeps the apologies close to his lips, for there will be many, many people who plunged themselves further into the cult of evangelicalism because of his words.
My encouragement to those who signed away their sexual futures because of an American they would never meet, is this or a bible they’ll never prove, is this. Dethrone your religion. Ask Science, ask History, forget Christianity. As scary and offensive as that may sound, I can guarantee you it’s worth it. And for the young lad who told me that Joshua Harris was a prophet of relationships, he too is now an atheist.
Rid yourself of religion, read the works of Dr Richard Carrier and Dawkins. Submit to the reality of your life, it’s the most liberating exercise you’ll ever undertake. As an ex preacher and embarrassingly; a former bible believer, I can say with utter certainty that life is so much more wonderful without the fantasy of a God following your thoughts around.