Joshua Harris’ “Deconstruction” is Opening Old Wounds

Warning: this post is all over the place. Many of you said I publish posts even if it’s hard to follow or theres is no conclusion. Well, you get what you asked for so…Good luck?

This whole Joshua Harris thing has thrown me into a tizzy and opened up old wounds. If you don’t know, Joshua Harris wrote a book in the 90s called “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” in which he advocated courtship over dating, not “giving your heart away” and no intimacy (even kissing!) before marriage. His book was the cherry on top of the True Love Waits movement, which I was oh-so lucky to have been a teen and in my early 20s at this time. The age when you are developing your ideas about sex and romance.

Joshua Harris has recently announced that he has separated from his wife (oh, the irony!), no longer considers himself a Christian, and is ‘deconstructing’ his faith. And I am mega pissed.

Being an (allegedly) self-aware person I asked myself why I as so angry at him. You think I’d have some sympathy, considering that the TRUE CHRISTIANS are eating him alive. More on that at a later time. The issue for me is that these teachings destroyed my life.

Really, Quix, destroyed? Hyperbolic, much?

I just sat here for 15 minutes staring at the blinking cursor, wondering what and how to share. My brain plays the devil’s advocate and loves to judge and berade me. Does this default of mine come from my upbringing? Is it the fault of church doctrines that I embraced? Is this part of my mood disorder, causing distorted thinking?

What if it is actually true that I didn’t do Christianity correctly?

I lost my best friend of 17 years over this question. I stopped talking to her a few years ago after she blamed my deconversion on the fact that my version of Christianity was too radical, that I had embraced teachings that were detrimental, all due to my mental illness.

Was my version of Christianity radical? Yes

Had I embraced teachings that were detrimental? Yes

Was this due to my mental illness? That’s a harder question to answer.

For those who have never believed it is easy to answer this: yes, these people are ‘mental.’ To believe delusions of a personal God intervening in your life is ‘crazy.’ And yet…millions upon millions of people believe this.

Let’s evaluate whether the average evangelical Christian would meet the criteria of a psychiatric disorder:

Do these beliefs deviate from the social norm? In a large part, no. Evangelicasm is so mainstream it’s influencing our politics.

Are these beliefs causing dysfunction and distress? Perhaps, but that’s a grey area. Because the amount of benefits that prayer, routine from rituals, and social support often experienced by evangelical Christians off-sets the negatives. Most religious people are able to go about their days as functioning members of society.

Does it cause harm to themselves or others? For evangelicals who are exploiting others for profit or committing violence, than yes. I think it can. And there is an argument to be made about how radical and toxic beliefs are negatively affecting our world and the planet.

By the time I had decoverted my best friend had become a progressive Christian and felt I had been doing this Christian thing all wrong. What my friend conveniently forgot was the time in college where she had a brief stint of worshipping with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the time that her Narcotics Anonymous sponsor brought us to another cult that she was tempted to join and how my reason and friendship brought her away from these cults. How we led Bible studies together. How many times over the years that she told me that I was her spiritual mentor, that I was her voice of reason, even up to the year that I deconverted. The most recent event being that her current church was being incredibly invasive in her life and creepily was trying to get her to go against her instincts.

Yet…when I deconverted she told me I had been too radical. I had been doing it wrong. And that the reason I had chosen evangelicalism instead of progressive Christianity was my mental illness (I have bipolar disorder).

What made this even worse is that she is a psychiatrist. She diagnoses and prescribes medicine to people with mental illness. She knows me well, and has known me since I was 18, and so her words have weight.

I still cannot talk to her because interacting with her makes me question myself and my sanity.

My therapist recently told me, “Trust yourself.”

Not in regards to this particular issue I’ve been writing about, but in general.

Trust myself?? But, but…

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. – Proverbs 3: 5-6

The above verse is so ingrained into my brain that my default is to not trust myself.

Trust myself??

But, I have bipolar disorder! What if what I’m thinking or doing is a result of my emotions?

Oh, heaven forbid! Nobody, I mean nobody, EVER makes emotional decisions! Never.

I’m much more aware of my emotions and how they affect my thoughts than the average person. How? Therapy, lots and lots of therapy. I mean, combined with my naturally reflective personality. When was the last time I made a major decision because I was having an episode? Hmm…can’t remember because it’s been so long. I am cautious, extremely cautious, overly cautious. Because I am afraid, deeply afraid, of being wrong. Of being considered crazy. Of acting crazy. Of being rejected.

Never-believers and former-believers like to say that when people “hear” from God it’s the answer they wanted to hear. That when God gives someone a “vision,” or a direction, it’s the direction they wanted to go anyway. You see this a lot with pastors and elders in churches. God told them to do this or that and if it’s from God (which is their own voice in their head), then they have to follow it. I have many examples of this, which I may write about at a later time.

As for me, what I “heard” from God was nearly always opposite from what I wanted. This, at the time, led me to believe that I must have a very sinful contrary heart and as a result, needed to deny myself more so I could follow the Lord. Maybe that makes me ‘crazier’ than the average Christian. In hindsight, what I see is a complete undermining of my ability to trust myself. Perhaps it did start out due to the worthlessness I felt from my mental illness, but I am certain that the Christian doctrines and community fed heavily into this.

I received praise on how humble and teachable I was. Many many times. Any time I’d assert myself or my actual way of thinking I was shot down, corrected, invalidated, and gaslit. Over many years this takes it’s toll on your ability to trust yourself.

What does someone’s life look like if they keep making decisions that are opposite from what they really want?


The obvious answer is an unhappy life, but it’s more complicated than that. There is no going back and undoing certain things. Just like my two pregnancies and births have left permanent scars and stretch marks on my body, my life decisions will always be with me.

As a Christian I used to believe that God was narrating my life, that my life was a story. If my life is a story, then it is a fascinating one, and if there is Someone in charge then all is how it should be. If my life is not a story, then I have wasted a lot of my life undermining my own thoughts and denying myself things I want.

What does one do with that? I can, of course, create my own story as it is actually I that is the narrator. This, however, does not take into consideration that there are things which I cannot control.

That is where I am currently at: a perceived helplessness. I feel trapped and I have had some very dark thoughts as of late, as a result.

Here is my current thought process. You can think of it as an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other for the visual, though of course I believe in neither angels no demons. It is my brain, which is currently in a loop:

Angel: Life is what you make of it.

Devil: But, it’s too late.

Angel: Too late for what, exactly?

Devil: Everything.

Angel: But, life is what make of it.

And so on… The thought cycle repeats.

Has my life been destroyed?

Trust yourself.

My life was going at a certain pace in a certain direction. Once I started trusting myself I realized, with quite some horror, that I was not liking this pace nor direction and suddenly it became so unbearable that I realized I had to put a stop to it. So I put on the breaks and tried to change direction, yet is seems that I am still in foward momentum.

I’m trying to think of a good metaphor. Okay, so I’m on an airplane and it’s just landed. But it doesn’t immediately stop when you land. The plane hits the ground hard and then you start feeling resistance that uncomfortably juts you foward in your seat.

Yep, that’s where I’m at. I’m not yet able to turn the plane around. So I’m bracing myself waiting for the plane to slow down.

Except, in reality, most of the time I’m not just waiting, I’m trying desperately to turn the plane around, which at this point is futile and exhausting. And is making me want to give up on everything.

Life is what you make of it.

It is a truth, but not the full truth. We all have limitations and things beyond our control.

I am afraid I’ve put myself in the situations I’m in by my decisions. That is true, but it is also true that I have been greatly harmed by toxic teachings and doctrines and people who exploited my weakness and these heavily influenced my decisions. The consequences which do not simply go away when you reject them.

Back to Joshua Harris. He was just one man who wrote a book. He had bad ideas that he shared and were embraced by the evangelical community. He has since said he was mistaken. He’s now showing support for the GSRM community. I prefer GSRM (Gender, Sexual, and Romantic Minorities) over LGBTQIA because I feel it’s more inclusive. That’s great that Joshua Harris is trying to make amends, BUT it is not enough for me. I expect him to completely denounce all of his former religious beliefs and expose their toxicity. His journey of “deconstruction” is not his own – he is a public figure who had a hand in negatively affecting millions of lives. Perhaps he does not know this. Or perhaps he does not know what to do with the realization. He purports himself to be a “storyteller.” Well, take up the gawddamn mantel and use your gifts for good, damn it.

I’ve seen many pastors “fall from grace” and I’m so sick of their self-victimization. Time and time, again. No, they don’t get my forgiveness. I’m no longer required to forgive others. However, I have also seen many pastors put aside feeling sorry for themselves and actually find some ways to undue the damage. For those pastors I can be their ally and maybe even their friend. I don’t want them falling at my feet weeping. I want them to get up and say, Okay, let’s tear this shit apart. Maybe Joshua Harris will get there someday, but I’m not holding my breath.

You may wonder what teachings specifically “destroyed” my life and in what ways. I have intentionally left this vague for the purposes of self-protection. However, I do plan on carefully treading through those waters on my blog as I am able.

Thanks for reading.


17 thoughts on “Joshua Harris’ “Deconstruction” is Opening Old Wounds

  1. Well this post totally hit home for me today. I had to attend the catholic funeral of my husband’s grandma…it was extremely stressful, to the point where I almost couldn’t hold it together during the mass. I was ushered into the first row despite my trying to pick a row further back. The priest kept making eye contact with me while preaching about people who reject christ, and then there was the HUGE crucifix hung right in front of us. Triggers everywhere! I was dripping with sweat and quietly crying, which I could thankfully blame on my grief over grandma.

    I finally fell apart on the way home when I heard the song “Only the Good Die Young” by Billy Joel (about a catholic girl cheated out of her youth by religion), and was reminded of how indeed, religion destroyed my life on so many levels. I think the word “destroy” is totally appropriate for many of us deconverts. It’s NOT hyperbole.

    I too have been totally pissed off….unreasonably pissed off…over this Joshua thing. Perhaps Josh is in a place where he’s newly deconverted and doesn’t understand fully what he’s done, but he is certainly not yet taking any personal responsibility for the harm of his teachings. Maybe he thinks to himself, “hate the sin, not the sinner,” but he needs to get to the point where he realizes the vast damage he’s done. I try to always acknowledge the harm I did by bringing people into the fold just as a catholic lay person…I was also a psychiatric counselor that sometimes used religion to “help” patients. I do see myself as personally responsible for that.

    Would an apology from him change my life? No. I just want some damn acknowledgement about the serious harm that has been perpetrated, even unknowingly, but those who used the “authority of god” to spread toxic teachings. Yet at the same time I do have a lot of sympathy for ex-preachers…they were duped like I was, even more so, and many suffered some dire consequences when they left. I don’t quite know how to sort out all those feelings…it’s just hard to have suffered so much under religion and to have no one to hold accountable (not even the imaginary god). 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Violet!

      I’m happy to ‘see’ you again. As I’ve said before, your comments are typically my favorite due to your emotional honesty and candor.

      I saw your comment right away, but was unable to respond immediately. I know funeral was very stressful for you and I hope you had a chance to recupe since then. I don’t know how close you or your husband was to his grandma, but regardless someone’s death is never easy and I’m very sorry for your loss. The fact that you had to endure a service where the priest was looking directly at you when he talked about rejecting Christ, especially in that particular scenario, is just…psychological torture. I likely would have had a panic attack and walked out. So kudos to you for sticking with it. Hmm…actually, to be honest, I think it may have been better for you to actually leave, though I don’t know the logistical reality and the effect it’d have had on your husband, especially in his grief.

      How fitting about the Billy Joel song! You know, I like that song and I’ve heard it on the radio dozens upon dozens of times and yet…I never realized what it was about. ::sigh:: It really does hit home. I guess I never made the connection because I was never Catholic, I never considered myself religious until I deconverted (!) and never considered myself to be missing out, really.

      You really touched on something there when you wrote: “it’s just hard to have suffered so much under religion and to have no one to hold accountable.” Yes! Realizing there is likely no justice in the afterlife makes justice in this life way more important. Yet, often there is no justice. And in this specific case with Josh Harris, what would justice even look like? He’s been completely beat-up by evangelicals at the moment which is expected but in no way satisfying.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thank you Quixie, it always helps me when we talk. Sitting in that church was as close to a panic attack as I’ve been in a looong time. I would have absolutely gotten up and left (nearly did at several different moments), but as you guessed I was trying to support my husband in his grief. It was his grandma and of course he was very upset, and I was trying desperately not to make it about “me.” Damn it though, that took me mentally down for days and I’m still not right in my head.

        I’m sorry to hear you’re feeling a bit depressed as well and I hope you can get through it in a relatively quick manner. I know it’s not easy, but girl, you have overcome so much in the last few years, I’m incredibly proud of you. You have developed some serious resilience under very difficult life circumstances and I’m cheering you on the whole way!

        I have been stewing about Josh for days and days, and I’ve decided he needs to give up his money if he wants to show some sincere remorse. He made MILLIONS of dollars by oppressing already marginalized people in the church (women/gays)…maybe he needs to give that money to some organizations/charities that support his victims. My guess is though he’ll keep living his rich, highly privileged life and not make any real amendments. I wish I wasn’t so bitter about the whole thing, but the more I think about his apology, the more I think it’s just NOT ENOUGH. Forgiveness? To hell with it.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I’d also really like to see him invest his wealth into undoing some damage. I just hope he gets to the point where he actually fully understands the damage he’s done. Going to a pride parade is…a start? Let’s see how this plays out. I’m not holding my breath. We’ll see!

          By the way, thank you for saying you are proud of me. I don’t feel resilient. I’m doing the best in the situation I’m in but it feels like there is no end in sight. Thinking about finding a different therapist as I’ve felt ‘stuck’ for a while. We’ll see.

          Liked by 1 person

      2. Forgot to say, I also didn’t consider myself to be “missing out” when I was devout….mostly because my reward was to be in heaven. It was only when I deconverted I realized the huge amount of losses I suffered, especially as a young person. One big issue: I have never experienced normal, healthy views of sexuality because the church makes sure to poison the well for women right from the get-go. Since there’s no heaven, I basically sacrificed everything fun for nothing. I’m not just talking about sex here, but other normal, fun activities: I was always busy volunteering/working for the church instead of socializing, and gave them all the money I made from my teenage jobs. My parents told me I was a admirable for being so serious about christ.

        Oh well, at least I’m not BITTER or anything (::extreme bitter expression on my face::).

        Liked by 1 person

          1. It was my teenage idea to give all my time and money to the church, as I was trying to please god (ie: desperately attempting to stay out of hell). One year I was given $50 whole dollars for Xmas (a hefty sum at the time) and I gave it ALL to the church. My parents were very pleased, thinking this showed special maturity. What it really showed was that I was brainwashed and stupid.

            I continued this pattern of giving until I decoverted just over 4 years ago. It breaks my heart than now I’m disabled and can’t work, and the THOUSANDS of dollars I gave each year to the church would have helped keep us out of poverty for years. But no. Jesus got the cash, and I just kept getting sicker. 😦


  2. I see Josh not just as a purveyor of the toxic “purity culture” but as a victim too. As the public poster boy for “courtship”, he’s lived his whole married life under the scrutiny of the evangelical world. He benefited from evangelical approval too, oh yes, but we see how quickly their support turned to hostility as soon as he started talking about doubt.

    I can understand why he’d want to lay low for awhile, while he sorts out his life and figures out what he’s going to do from here. That could take a while, and I hope he has a good therapist. (And if he’s not already participating in The Clergy Project, he should be.) I’m hoping he winds up being a spokesperson against the abuses of his former religion, much like Nate Phelps is. I don’t know if he’ll do that, but I know he recently showed up at the Vancouver Pride Parade, so that’s a start.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve re-written my response to this several times. The bottom line is that I don’t see him as a victim. I’m about to watch his documentary “I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye” on Amazon Prime, which may possibly change my opinion. It’ll likely make him some $, which pisses me off but I’m interested enough to know the story.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Quixie, I found an article today that did a good job of describing what Josh has done:

    “Without appropriate action to back [his apologies] up, Harris’ words feel like too little, too late — like he accidentally lit a house on fire, watched it and the multitudes inside burn for decades, and is now fleeing the scene with an apology.”

    Yeah, I can’t forgive him either. I do see him as a victim too…but that man did horrific amounts of damage, especially to women. All over the bathrooms at that catholic church I went to yesterday (also a catholic school), there were flyers everywhere in the women’s bathroom about purity and purity rings, abstinence, and the horrors of birth control and abortion. I asked my husband what the men’s bathroom looked like…he said there wasn’t a single flyer in there (f’ing figures). Josh didn’t invent purity, but he did arm the christian community with a purity sledgehammer.

    Link to full article:

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Violet. Thanks for the article link. I’m sorry it’s taken me a little bit longer to reply than I’d hope. I’m currently experiencing depression mind-mush (not even related to this topic).

      Edit: Oops, I clicked “enter” too soon (see above related to mind-mush)! I certainly hope that Joshua Harris doesn’t end up capitalizing on the exvangelical movement in some way, though I suspect he likely will.

      No posters in the men’s restroom reminding men to keep their purity, eh? That’s so shocking! (::extreme sarcasm:: if you couldn’t tell!) I remember from my church-going days the amount of pressure put on women to dress and act modestly in order to prevent men from ‘sinning’. Ugh, looking back I’m just so disgusted!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Thanks for posting this, Quixie! Very raw and real. Have you read what Neil Carter (“Godless in Dixie”) has written about how Christianity works, in part, by convincing people they are worthless sinners in need of a savior? This isn’t something I personally struggle with, post-deconversion, but Neil has had a hard time shaking off all the relentless negative “you’re a bad person whose judgment can’t be trusted” self-talk that results from a lifetime of Christian indoctrination. Like you said, it’s emotional, and can overwhelm the rational. Anyway, it has helped me a lot, reading what you and he have written, to understand what some people go through. It’s one reason I hate Christian indoctrination of children.

    As for Harris, I’ve been reading the shitstorm with interest. His former tribe, predictably, are using his deconversion to discredit his disavowal of purity culture. I’m old enough not to have been influenced by IKDG, TLW, all that stuff, but I know it caused a lot of damage, and I hope Josh goes a lot farther in acknowledging that harm. I don’t blame you for being angry; you have every right to be.

    Dee at The Wartburg Watch took him to task for something else that really angers me: Harris has not owned up to his role in the damage done to the victims of sex abuse at SGM while he was in leadership. He’s not even talking about that issue yet. It’s early days, and I’m sure Josh has more to say. We’ll see.


    1. Yes, I keep pretty much on top of what Neil Carter writes – I’m part of a private group on Facebook of deconverts and he often shares links to his articles. I can very much relate to most of what he writes, with the exception that I wasn’t raised in the church and none of my immediate family still goes to church. But yes, with the worthless sinner teachings, totally.

      The Wartburg Watch…I just went to their site and remembered that you had mentioned the site before a few years ago and I totally forgot about it. Bookmarking! Wow, Josh Harris definitely needs to own up to what happened under his leadership. I’m going to read more about it now. Thanks for the info.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. 90’s purity culture was very fucked up. I got the Dr. Dobson strain of it; prosperity gospel for getting laid is a very appropriate way you put it. I’m probably going to steal it, with your permission of course.

    As far as this guy is concerned, I really don’t know what to say. Harris seems like many other people who know they’ve fucked up but don’t really want to clean up the mess. His wife sounds like she’s prepping for the whole “unequally yoked” card so churches won’t judge her too harshly for getting a divorce. Because in 2019, that’s still a thing.


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About Quixie

Hi! I go by "Quixie." Quixie is a shortened version of "quixotic," which means: "exceedingly idealistic; unrealistic and impractical." It's how I described my evangelical Christian faith when I started blogging 7 years ago. Now I'm an agnostic atheist who is trying to find a balance between idealism and reality. I write about my mental health journey with bipolar disorder, my loss of faith (deconversion), parenting teens, reading, exercise/health, work-life, and my marriage separation/divorce.