review: i survived i kissed dating goodbye.

-ISIKDG-poster-landscape

courtesy I Survived IKDG / DOCSology

“just because something sells doesn’t mean that it’s giving people what they really want or need.”

joshua harris, i survived i kissed dating goodbye.

My mom introduced me to I Kissed Dating Goodbye when I was around thirteen by jokingly telling me that she’d originally purchased the book when I was in kindergarten.  I’d recently started hanging out with a boy named Ryan, told my mom I was in love with him, and – by the encouragement of his and other moms – called him “my boyfriend.”  Even if it was a joke, she and my dad still read the book together, highlighting and paper-clipping and underlining, trying to figure out how to navigate dating and maybe even spare their children of the mistakes they’d made when they were younger.

Remember, I was six.

As I grew up, my family and I became entrenched in the purity culture movement.  I’m pretty sure I’ve read every book on purity, and I’ve done quite a few Bible studies and traveled for conferences, too.  (I’ve even written so many blog posts on it.)  This movement shaped my teenage years, and Josh Harris’s book was the face of it.  After hearing back in 2016 that he’d apologized to a woman who said the book was “used as a weapon” against her and would step back to learn about the impact his book had on the culture, I was fascinated.  I knew it was something I wanted to watch unfold, even before a documentary was announced.

My family and I watched I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye together when it first came out, making comments and even pausing it for several minutes while we discussed.  The documentary is relatively short, but it covers so much ground that I had to watch it twice.

Team_ Joshua Harris vergical

courtesy I Survived IKDG / DOCSology

In I Survived IKDG, Josh travels around the country to visit people who were directly or indirectly impacted by either his book or the purity movement, speaking with influencers, pastors, and others who all had unique stories to share.  Topics covered included purity culture, catchphrases such as “guarding your heart,” the oversimplification of the purity message, cookie-cutter and a + b = c theology, and courtship versus dating.  Josh listened as others told him their stories and what they’d learned since first reading the book so many years before, asking hard questions and being incredibly receptive to the equally hard answers.

I think one of the things that struck me the most about the documentary was Josh’s vulnerability and humility.  I can’t imagine how much strength and prayer it took to go through something like this and be so honest and accepting of something so huge.  He didn’t – and shouldn’t – take responsibility for the whole movement that stemmed from his book; just the book and its impact on the culture.  (In case you missed it, he’s decided to discontinue the book and not let it go to another printing.)

While watching the documentary, I realized that the problem doesn’t ultimately lie with Josh or even his book.  The problem lies with the people who let a 21-year-old be an authority on a subject, the people who took it too far, and the people who used it to withhold from their children.  (Hence, the key “I Survived” in the title.)  I feel like all of this anger directed towards Josh isn’t warranted – as if he’s to blame for young adults missing prom or never having been on a date by their early twenties or being worried about being friends with the opposite sex.  But, like Thomas Umstattd (of Why Courtship is Fundamentally Flawed fame) says in his interview with Josh, just because IKDG became the face of a movement doesn’t mean Josh is entirely at fault.  The movement literally provided the framework for almost half of my life and caused some issues with how I view the world, but I’m steadily working through them and learning how to operate without these blinders on.  But I don’t blame Josh for this.  I blame all of the books, Bible studies, conferences, and the entire movement as a whole – and also myself, for believing that courtship really was flawed but not saying anything for years out of fear that I’d be shunned by my conservative subculture.  (I was, but then I discovered grace and the fact that I couldn’t give a dang about what they thought.)

Team_On Location -Dale Kuehne, Josh Harris, Jessica Van Der Wyngaard

courtesy I Survived IKDG / DOCSology

Because my critical years were so heavily influenced by this book, watching as Josh learned about the impact his book had on the conservative Christian culture was… therapeutic.  I wasn’t as harmed by the book as others I know, but I would definitely recommend this documentary for anyone else who was affected by these ideas.  There’s an entire generation of conservative Christians that I personally know were shaped by it, and I know they would really benefit from watching it, just like I did.

Have you seen the documentary yet?  If you have, what are your thoughts?  If you haven’t, what are you waiting for?!  (Hint, hint – it’s free!)

(I received early access to the documentary in exchange for my honest review.)

10 thoughts on “review: i survived i kissed dating goodbye.

  1. Pingback: year in review: 2018. | inklings press

  2. I’ve been thinking about watching the documentary but having read your review, I’ll actually sit down and finally do it. I read IKDG as a sixteen-year-old who was trying to walk a tightrope between a very conservative, borderline legalistic church and an utterly lawless world (I was state schooled). Looking back, I was looking for help to work out the balance and although I agree with some of what Josh Harris said (we should be careful about who we date and we should certainly have wise boundaries of some kind) but some of it read like a bit of a knee-jerk reaction, swinging too far the other way in a desperate attempt to be as unlike the world as possible. Just because unbelievers sleep around isn’t a good reason for a believer not to hold hands with their s/o.

    Josh Harris can’t be blamed for purity culture, it existed before he ever began writing, his book was just a convenient thing to take hold of and use to push the view. If it hadn’t been his book, it would have been someone else’s. They should have waited till he was older and wiser before considering publishing him, I think.

    The other thing is that I have no idea how helpful it was in the USA but in the UK, his book did confuse the issue somewhat. It was used to promote purity but folk didn’t stop to consider that we have such a different culture here that much of it didn’t work or wasn’t relevant. I worry that some of the older generation read it to help their children and got this idea of what things are like from all these American examples when actually culture, expectations, and relationships are not the same here. The thing I’ve struggled with most in UK conservative Christianity is that if you date a guy (seriously) but don’t marry him (even for good reasons), it feels as if the girl takes the brunt of the blame. There’s a bit of an attitude of ‘well he seems nice and he’s a Christian, what’s your problem?’ Thankfully the folk around me now aren’t like that though. Anyway, thanks for the review, I’ll sit down and watch it soon 🙂

    • Aww that makes me happy! It’s an incredible documentary & I think you’d really like it. I completely agree, though – our parents aren’t to blame for wanting better for us than what they grew up with, but it was definitely a bit of a pendulum swing, as my dad calls it.

      Exactly! People took the book and ran with it, and therein lies the problem (which is why I agree that he shouldn’t be blamed).

      The way the different cultures reacted to the book fascinate me! I have that exact experience, though. I was in a semi-relationship (we were just testing the waters before deciding that it wouldn’t work out), and I distinctly remember a friend’s mom looking at me like I was insane. “But he’s so nice! He has a great job! He’s got a house! Are you crazy?!” Thankfully, like you, I’ve surrounded myself with people who are like-minded, and I’ll continue to learn from my past. And date – intentionally, of course. Let’s not get too crazy. 😉

  3. I’m thankful my parents were never into that whole movement, but many people in our circles were and I feel like I was somewhat indirectly influenced by the ideas of the movement. I’ve been working on reshaping my mind to get rid of those ideas, but it’s tough not to swing into the other extreme. Balance is hard.
    Thanks for the great review! Honestly I admire Josh Harris for admitting his mistakes. It takes a lot of courage. I’ll have to watch the documentary when I can!

  4. I haven’t seen it yet, but I have watched clips of interviews and videos of Josh talking about IKDGB. I definitely agree that nothing other people did/did not do because of the book is Josh’s fault. I think his intentions were good, and some people took it to a whole new level.

    Personally, I think the book may have affected how I viewed friendships with guys. Not in a ‘Oh, be careful. This could be the guy you marry’, way. More like I was hesitant to be friends because of that possiblity. I didn’t try to develop real friendships with them like I did with girl friends – and I’m sure I missed out on some wonderful friendships because of that. But that’s my own fault; no way do I blame Josh or IKDGB.

    • You should!!! And I can definitely understand that. For me, I was always friends with guys & had no problem with that. My parents even didn’t mind that I was friends w guys (mostly), but I was definitely looked down on by some people because I did – and still do!

  5. okay but this is an absolutely fascinating point that I’ve never really considered before.

    I’d always looked at Josh Harris as “the bad guy” because he wrote THAT BOOK . . . and because I’d heard so many people [adults!!] citing THAT BOOK as their Bible, essentially. Using it to shape/warp/control their children’s lives and worldviews. But, like you said, that begs an excellent question: why did all those parents listen to Josh? Why did they let a 21 year old dictate their framework for raising their own sons and daughters?

    The answer, I guess, is . . . they didn’t. They just used Josh as a convenient mouthpiece for everything they already believed.

  6. My parents had this book, but along with many things, we just don’t really seem to be strict systems and plans people, nor very fundamentalist (1 boy, 5 girls all had college savings, all expected to work for example). Two of my siblings are married and they dated; granted, there were boundaries. I don’t understand/appreciate a lot of what is “against” the purity culture, I have to say. I think there is as much twisting of it as there was twisting in it, to be frank. I think a lot of parents (not all, there are some crazies, I grant you, and they hurt their own children more than anyone else) who became Christians as adults were trying to protect their kids from their mistakes. But there is a pagan/pharisee sort of generational divide that cause a LOT of issues in a LOT of areas.

    I skimmed much of Josh’s book and only remember 1. The idea of intentional relationships, which I still agree with and 2. He seemed too frankly sex-obsessed/lustful/creepy (that can come out in some purity books, ironically).

    I never professed to be a Christian, so my whole understanding of dating and my background is frustrating.

    As a history lover and major this historicity issues bother me. This modern idea of courtship being historical/traditional, um, no, do some research (for starters, courtship is a generic term!!!!). Some of these courtships are extremely controlling (this is my main problem with anything is this fundamentalist style, controlling and cookie-cutter rigidity). But then the anti-courtship people don’t acknowledge that the dating model comes from prostitution (see the paper “From Front Porch to Back Seat: A History of the Date” in Magazine of History, Vol. 18, No. 4, Sex, Courtship, and Dating (Jul 2004), pp. 23-26) (that’s why I would definitely be paying my fair share of anything, it’d be hanging out, not being taken out for me!).

    I think the problem is everyone publicly discussing their own opinions and standards (we are free do so, but not always wise to do so), some people expressing these opinions as rules, some people taking these opinions as rules (NOT the same thing, some people complain about everything instead of taking or rejecting as needed, see all complaints about capsule wardrobes), and not realizing that not only is every family different, but every person, every relationship is different. And we can’t go back to the past or recreate select traditions that don’t work in a modern situation. Sure, Christians need to be different from the world, but it has to work in the modern world.

    I’m trying to look at the world I grew up in and measure it with what I want. I want to see what is a misinterpretation of scripture (don’t get me started on the obey your parents thing or, similarly, the submission thing), what is just plain wrong, what should/could have been done instead, etc. I guess growth and change is the main thing. Sorry for rambling!

    • For the most part, totally agree with you. Basically I think it’s a misinterpretation or extra-Biblical rule (based on opinion), just like you said. (And I can probably correctly guess where you stand on obeying your parents & submission & have to say I agree!)

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