At 22, Gen-X evangelical Joshua Harris became a star of the Christian right when, in 1997, his book, “I Kissed Dating Goodbye,” was published and he advocated strict celibacy for unmarried couples. Even kissing and holding hands, Harris insisted, was off limits outside of marriage. But these days, the former megachurch pastor (now in his early forties) is totally renouncing his fundamentalist past and admits that he was once an extremist. On top of that, Harris is asking the gay community for forgiveness for the homophobia he used to promote.
Harris was not only mocked by atheists and agnostics in the late 1990s, when “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” was selling millions of copies — some Catholics and non-fundamentalist Mainline Protestants considered his ideas to be extreme and over-the-top. Far-right white evangelicals certainly don’t speak for all of Christianity, and Harris was controversial even within Christianity back then.
Harris has not forsaken far-right evangelism for a less severe form of Christianity. At this point, he doesn’t consider him Christian at all.
“I have undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus,” Harris recently declared on Instagram. “By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian.”
The Harris of the 1990s and 2000s was blatantly homophobic. But now, he is asking the LGBTQ community to forgive him for promoting “a culture of exclusion and bigotry.”
In his Instagram post, Harris wrote, “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.”
Harris continued, “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.”
In 2015, Harris resigned from his position as senior pastor for the Covenant Life Church in Maryland. He has since left the United States and now lives in Vancouver, Canada, where he operates a marketing firm.