On July 17 the former best-selling author and pastor Josh Harris announced that he was separating from his wife. On July 26 he confirmed that this separation was in fact a divorce and–in bigger news–that he no longer considered himself to be a Christian.
On July 19, in between Josh’s two instagram announcements, Sojourners published a long interview with Josh Harris. I know from experience that interviews like this are completed months in advance. The timing of their publication is often designed to maximize exposure.
The interview included this exchange:
Villarreal: You say in the documentary that there are a lot of people who want you to throw out everything that was kind of the basis for your book. But I’m curious when you say “everything,” do you mean your belief in Christianity as a whole or about premarital sex in general? I’m curious what you include in that.
Harris: I think that there’s a push by some people to say being sex positive means — the kind of the historical sexual ethic related to sex outside of marriage, related to homosexuality, is basically laid aside, and embracing a healthy view of sex means just accepting all that as fine within the Christian tradition. … I do think though that, for me, in that change of interpretation of such a fundamental level when it comes to sexuality, it’s just hard for me to … In a way it’s almost easier for me to contemplate throwing out all of Christianity than it is to keeping Christianity and adapting it in these different ways.
I don’t know if that makes sense, but I think I’ve just been so indoctrinated in a certain way of interpreting scripture and viewing sexuality that it’s just hard for me to see the scriptures and its kind of overall, you know, commands and principles and so on and see how that can be consistent.
I think that I probably need to engage with some of those people — like I have people send me their e-books showing why premarital sex is fine, and I just don’t have the energy right now. Like, I do not want to read your book. I do not want to. I do not want to engage in a massive, you know, theological expedition to think about all these things. So it just sounds really exhausting to me, honestly.
But I think what you saw in that moment in the film is it is a real struggle for me. I’m really struggling with — I think that rethinking some of these things and having had my faith look so specific for so long that now as I’m questioning those specifics, it feels like I’m questioning my entire faith.
A week later we’d learn that Josh did, in fact, no longer consider himself to be a Christian. In response, I wrote him an open letter. I forwarded the link to several people who know Josh personally. My letter defended Josh’s (imperfect) writings on dating/courtship, though I acknowledged that some of his teachings lacked nuance. But I also tried to convince him that he may have had a formulaic approach to his marriage and to the Christian faith–leading him to abandon both when the formula no longer “worked.”
In my letter I also asked Harris to not start a podcast. To use this time instead to reflect upon the message of the New Testament, particularly the gospel accounts of Jesus Christ.
A day later Josh clarified that he would not be writing a book or starting a podcast. I doubt Josh read my letter, but who knows, maybe he still will?