Kissing dating good-bye

By Isabel Lyman
web posted June 12, 2000

Once upon a time I interviewed a nice young man who had weird ideas.

Josh Harris was the then 21-year-old editor and publisher of New Attitude, a magazine for teen-aged homeschoolers. He was also writing a book entitled I Kissed Dating Goodbye. Josh's thesis is that casual dating is a self-serving endeavor that largely results in broken hearts and promiscuous behavior.

Harris hopes to encourage fellow singles, through Scripture verses and war stories, that the wisest course is to reserve romance for marriage. Friday nights, he thinks, can be better spent volunteering in soup kitchens or cultivating one's spiritual life.

I thought the book would be as popular as a door-to-door salesman peddling Elizabethan corsets to soccer moms.

I was wrong. Way wrong.

To date, the paperback has sold 700 000 copies. It skyrocketed to a number one spot on Christian paperback lists and has been translated into several foreign languages, including Korean, Swedish, and German. As a result of his literary success, the young author has become a relationship guru of sorts - a kinder, gentler Dr. Laura. His seminars draw thousands of Gen Xers and Yers, and he's been a guest on the television shows, Politicially Incorrect and Dateline NBC. And, in an amusing twist, by those who assume that if you're a staunch no-dater you must have won a Bill Gates' lookalike contest, he's been dubbed a "major babe" by the Baltimore Sun.

Hannah Gunn, 14, of Oklahoma City is reading the book and says it is reinforcing her beliefs. The homeschooler has no plans to date during her teen years and largely socializes with family friends. "I liked the story in the book where Eric and Leslie, a husband and wife, did not kiss each other until their wedding day. It made it so much more special," shares Hannah.

Hannah does want to get married, someday, but via the process of courtship, a practice which is making a comeback in some church circles. (As I understand it, courtship involves a mature, young man declaring to a young lady's father that he would like to be considered a potential marriage suitor. If dad and the daughter dig him, he then spends time becoming better acquainted with his sweetheart in a chaperoned setting.)

Margo Hampton, of Guthrie (OK), the home schooling mother of four active teens, took her three eldest children to hear Harris speak in Wichita, Kansas and also likes what he has to say. She agrees that the single years are better spent interacting with groups of friends, rather than isolating oneself with a boyfriend or girlfriend. "Not dating keeps kids from the heartache of breaking up and moving on to the next relationship, which is just another way of practicing for divorce," she states.

Well, I say if this Harris fellow is successfully motivating young people to get a grip on their romantic inclinations long before they say "I do," and use their single years to pursue more wholesome activities, then his ideas deserve serious scrutiny by family-values activists. Especially those activists who take federal government grants to bring cultural changes. One of these days the fam vals crowd will learn that that's the least effective way to usher in cutting-edge reforms.

Meanwhile Josh Harris is no longer a solo act. He and his wife, Shannon, are the parents of a baby and are writing a book about their courtship. And Hannah, he didn't kiss her until he was at the altar.

Isabel Lyman frequently writes about home schooling and is the mother of two teenagers. She is the author of Home Schooling: Back to the future? for the Cato Institute and has a book on the topic coming out this summer. She can be contacted at ilyman7449@aol.com.

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