Deconstruction, Deconversion, Joshua Harris, and the Awful Christian Reaction
Josh Harris is a guy who wrote a book about sexual purity and dating in the 1990s (“I Kissed Dating Goodbye”) when he was in his late teens or early 20s – it’s a book that upset a lot of Christians who claim now that as teens, that book stunted their relationships and harmed them in other ways.
In the past couple of weeks, Harris announced on his social media he’s divorcing his wife and is “deconstructing” from the Christian faith.
In one of his social media posts, Harris said something or other about apologizing to women and to LGBT persons he may have wounded with some of his former teachings and beliefs.
At no time (that I recall) did Harris say he is now a flaming liberal who is a big time pro-LGBT- lifestyle- affirming SJW.
But some Christians are assuming he is now such.
Some are assuming either he is now a liberal, or else that he was seduced to (possibly) rejecting the faith because he was seduced by liberals or liberalism.
It’s not immediately clear to me if Harris rejects Christ now or is merely reevaluating the faith.
Before I continue discussing Harris and the Christian reaction to Harris’ comments, I will point you to a few off-site articles or editorials, so that you may gain any additional background information you may be wondering about (I’m not interested in covering all the nitty gritty in my own post here):
Author Joshua Harris Kisses His Faith Goodbye: ‘I Am Not a Christian’ – via CBN News (Christian site)
Joshua Harris falling away from faith: ‘I am not a Christian’ – via The Christian Post
‘Purity’ advocate dumps Christianity, apologises to gays
– Via Patheos, non-religious blog
Regardless of where Harris is faith-wise, I am disturbed, angry, and horrified to see how 98% of professing Christians are reacting to Harris and dealing with the subject of leaving the faith.
I have not seen many Christians demonstrate kindness or understanding.
I’ve instead seen some Christians who seem almost gleeful or happy that Harris may be rejecting the faith, some have this very obnoxious “good riddance, glad to see him go” type attitude, and a somewhat significant percentage of Christians seem to assume he’s only wobbling on Christianity now because he must have been swayed by liberal arguments or liberal values.
I used to be a very devout Christian until a few years ago.
I find myself questioning the faith and not wanting to be a part of it any more for various reasons – and one reason, among others, I am repelled by the faith now is seeing how all the Christians on social media and blogs are shaming, scolding, lecturing, or harassing Joshua Harris for questioning the faith.
Though I question the faith and don’t really want to be a part of it any longer, I remain a conservative.
I am not a liberal. I am not a “SJW” (Social Justice Warrior). I am not a Democrat. I do not identify as a feminist.
I was even a Republican for many years.
Some Who Deconvert from Christianity Do Not Do So Due to Liberalism or Liberal Causes
It is not true that everyone who leaves the Christian faith (or thinks about doing so) is deconstructing or deconverting due to liberals, liberalism, liberal influence, or liberal arguments or concerns.
Goodness knows that none of that played a role in my own on-going quasi-deconversion status.
I will say that in my own deconstruction process – where I am willing to question everything, or almost everything, about my life, my faith, and my political views, that it does make one more open and willing to listen to groups of people or world views and give them more serious consideration than one did before, and that would include listening to liberals (if one’s starting point is conservatism) and to atheists.
Does this mean I am a liberal now or agree with all their views? No, it does not.
Does this mean I agree with atheists or atheism on all points? No, it does not.
Does this mean I started out listening to atheists and liberals and found their critiques of (conservative) Christianity convincing, and that is what’s driving me from the faith? No it does not.
I find that many conservative and liberal Christians each remain stuck in their own little bubbles, where they each tend to approach the Bible, politics, theology, and relationships in a very particular and predictable way, and they view anyone who doesn’t share their exact world views, political or moral views, or biblical interpretations as being an enemy.
You can’t just merely be someone who is on a journey, someone who admits to not having all the answers any more, nope.
You cannot be someone who finally realizes that nobody has all the answers to everything, and that Christianity doesn’t have all the answers, either. Nope.
Neither the conservative or liberal Christians will be kind to you.
You will be viewed with suspicion by both sides. You are an enemy to be destroyed or banished.
Never Enumerate or Bullet Point Your Reasons
One piece of advice I can give to anyone who is leaving the faith, or thinking about it, is to never, ever lay out all your reasons to inquiring Christians as to why you are leaving the faith. Or at least try to resist doing so.
To the Christians who are still in their Christian-bubbles, no reason(s) you cite to them for why you find the Christian faith unsatisfying or unhelpful will ever be good enough.
Most Christians will always play ‘Defense Attorney’ for God.
Christians really want to believe that Christianity – and their particular “flavor” of the faith, or their particular interpretation of the Bible – has all the answers to life, to trials, to pain.
And the fact that you don’t buy what they are selling and have even maybe walked away from that is threatening to them. They take it as an indictment of Christianity itself.
If you cite your reasons for why you are doubting the faith, you will have your reasons turned back on you by the Christian you are conversing with, and you will be accused of all sorts of things you are not guilty of.
For example, if you say you were turned off to the faith because of recurrent news stories of Christian pastors who were “outed” for being child molesters, embezzlers, or adulterers, the average Christian will accuse you of “making men into idols,” rather than making Jesus the center of your faith, and you will get pat answers such as “just keep focusing on Jesus, not on people.”
Christians never want to explain or defend the notion that the Christian faith apparently doesn’t change people for the better and positively impact the people who profess it, as so many of them continually advertise. But that is just one example.
Each and every reason you give to explain why you gave up on the faith (or are considering doing so) will be met by a smug or highly defensive, argumentative, haughty Christian who wants to treat your very personal, painful, and emotional journey out of the faith as nothing but an intellectual exercise and something over which to flog you and beat you.
You will not be shown grace, understanding, patience, or compassion by 99% of Christians you try to talk to about why the faith is not working for you, and why you want no part of it.
Additionally, at least for me, there is more than one reason I don’t want any part of the faith any more. I cannot really point to one, lone reason.
It’s more like a combination of reasons that led me here, and I suspect this is probably true for many others in my position.
Christians don’t seem to understand or care it’s the totality and mixture of reasons and life events that led me (and those like me) here – they want to take each reason I (or you) may offer on a one- by- one basis and play apologetics with each and every one. It can become an exercise in tedium.
I am not interested in defending or rationalizing to Christians why I don’t want to be in the faith any more.
I am not out there trying to de-convert people who are happy being Christians.
If you are happy being a Christian and it happens to be working for you, more power to you. But the faith does not have all the answers for everyone, nor does it work for everyone, or provide comfort for everyone.
Deconstruction is Painful and Can Be Frightening
A lot of Christians assume that leaving Christianity, or thinking about leaving, is an easy, quick, and simple thing. It is not.
Leaving a faith you were raised to believe in since you were a child is an extremely painful thing, akin to a family member dying.
One goes through a long, painful and frightening psychological process.
I can no longer rely on Christianity, prayer, God, or the Bible to provide me with comfort, solace, peace, guidance, or with answers when I face painful trials in life (Christianity, the Bible, etc, sure didn’t help me before).
I’ve had to find a way to deal with the heartaches, disappointments, losses, and trials of life by other means, without turning to a deity and expecting a deity to step in on my behalf.
Deconverting and deconstructing is not an easy, fun, quick, or simple ordeal for a person to endure, but a lot of Christians who are still in their little Christian bubbles act like walking away from the faith is no big deal for those of us who do, or who may do so.
Dee of Wartburg Watch
Dee, who maintains the Wartburg Watch blog and Twitter account, has been tweeting criticisms, rebukes, or whatever one would call it, against Harris the last few days. She charges Harris of being aware of, or involved in, in child sex abuse coverups at SGM church(es).
You can view some of Dee’s comments about Harris on her Twitter account here / here / here / here / here / here / here / here / here / here – and she apparently retweeted this by some other lady because she agrees with its content.
One tweet by Dee reads as follows (Link):
(By Dee of Wartburg Watch):
The machine functioned in part because of Harris. SGM has a despicable reputation when it comes to the allegations of sex abuse coverup. He [Joshua Harris] was there when this happened. Harris is no innocent victim.
I have no idea if Harris was involved in any child sex abuse cover ups or not.
If Harris was involved, certainly, he should do something to make amends for that.
However, I am not comfortable with how Dee is going about this. I don’t think the time is right, for one thing.
I find this whole thing, odd, too, because Dee says on a pretty regular basis on her own blog that she is loathe to judge other people’s motives. But here she is judging Harris’ motives, intents, or his heart – as though she can read his mind.
I was scolded by the moderator of Dee’s blog, GBTC, months ago, because he alleges I was judging the motive of some contrarian who routinely pops up to visit that blog.
(I think it was Seneca Griggs – and I did not really ascribe a motive to him so much as ask him, when he posted there yet again, why he continues to post to or about a blog he obviously cannot stand. Do I think I know his motive? Yep, but that’s another topic for another day.)
So, Dee bristles when I or someone else supposedly judges someone else’s motives, but she’s been assuming she knows Josh Harris’ heart and motives the last few days.
Dee seems to be assuming Harris’ motive for not commenting about the SGM scandal on his social media at this time is due to cowardice, greed, or irresponsibility.
If I understand Dee correctly, she assumes that at some later date that Harris will brand himself as a woke, liberal Christian – he may turn up months from now with a pro-SJW type book he wants to sell to progressives.
Or, she seems to think, maybe Harris is going to open his own progressive church at a later date.
In other words, Dee thinks all this is a stepping stone to Harris trying to make bank off Jesus at a later date by switching up the brand of theology he sells.
Dee may be right about that. It’s a move that has been pulled off before by other self-professing Christian leaders who get caught in adultery or what not – they simply hide away for about a year, then pop up later with a new book to sell.
Maybe Dee will turn out to be absolutely correct, and Harris is merely using this public disclosure of his falling away from the faith as a bullet point on a new marketing gimmick a year or more from now.
But at this stage, we don’t know what is going on with Harris, outside of what he says in his social media posts.
From what I know and understand right now, Harris is going through a divorce, or is about to go through one, and he’s lost his faith.
If that is so, I don’t believe it is appropriate to pile on the man now.
Harris is already dealing with obnoxious, rude, hate-filled, idiot Christians screaming at him on social media that he’s going to burn in Hell, and quoting condemning Bible verses at him.
Someone who is going through a divorce and a loss of faith is in no place emotionally and psychologically to also contend with other parties online screaming at him that he’s a cowardly, wussy, loser, jerk face who is not owning up to any role he played in a church’s sex abuse cover-ups.
I say, assuming he’s being honest about losing his religion and getting a divorce, to back off and leave him alone for about twelve months. Give him time to sit back and reflect on his life and what he thinks and believes.
If Harris is going through an honest to goodness faith crisis – as I’ve been doing the last approximate five or six years – he’s actually going to need longer to deal with it than twelve months.
I have to say I am disappointed and shocked that Dee of Wartburg Watch is behaving this way towards Harris. I would not have expected her to go after this guy at this time and in this manner.
I understand Dee wanting justice and accountability for victims, I really do, but I cringe every time I see her tweet (and I think she said to someone she will be doing a blog post about this shortly) reprimanding Joshua Harris for not speaking up how or when she thinks he should, regarding SGM abuse cover-ups.
The man has a lot on his plate right now – I don’t think it’s anyone’s place to demand and insist that he must speak to this, that, or some other issue to someone’s satisfaction before that person will absolve him.
I’ve been in a faith crisis myself the last several years, and most Christians do not handle people such as Josh Harris and myself well at all.
We’re met with hatred and condescending assumptions, Bible verse quotes, and etc., about how we must never have been “real” Christians to start with, how we are going to Hell when we die.
We get subjected to some of the most disgusting vitriol, and from people who claim Jesus is a loving person.
Well, you wouldn’t know Jesus is a loving person judging the behavior of those who claim his name and based upon how they treat those who are leaving the faith, who have left it, or who are thinking about leaving it.
There’s probably a lot more I could write about this topic, but I will leave it there for now.
How To Respond Without Pushing The Person Away Further
If you are a Christian who’s wondering what to say or how to react to someone who is struggling with holding on to the faith (and regardless of what their reasons are), or one who may be leaving… it’s really quite simple.
While some who are doubting and considering leaving may want answers – they may barrage you with questions such as, “if there is a God, why does he allow suffering,” and so on – the vast majority of us need and want what anyone going through a difficult time in life over anything (death in the family, job loss, divorce, whatever) need and want: non-judgmental emotional support and empathy.
What does that look like? It is mainly just listening to the person. Your presence is all that is needed and required.
Do not judge. Don’t warn of Hell Fire. Don’t quote Bible verses.
Don’t lecture, sermonize, scold, and “wag your index finger” in the face of a doubter. Just be there for the person. Listen. Resist the urge to “fix” them, “fix” their problems, or try to reason them back into the faith.
Be forewarned that some of them may never return to the faith, no matter what you say or do – and if that’s the case, just keep loving them anyhow.
People who are deconstructing don’t need or want your lectures, platitudes, Bible lessons, warnings, or rebukes.
You’re most likely dealing with someone who is emotionally scarred, in a lot of pain, and they need love and acceptance, not to be challenged into religious debates on Twitter, or to be forced or expected into justifying their rationales.
And if the book of Job in the Old Testament tells you anything, and the New Testament says, you are to weep with the one who weeps, not grill them as though they are on a witness stand, you are God’s defense attorney, and demand they defend their reasons for doubting.
What Others Online Are Saying
Here are a few comments or tweets from people I so far agree with concerning Harris and Christian deconstruction:
by Kyle Johnson (tweet)
Dee [of Wartburg Watch blog], I love what you do for those in the church. But your tweets the past day push away the deconverted. Harris may be avoiding responsibility. Or he may be going through what everyone who deconverts goes through.
by Kyle Johnson (second tweet to Dee) (tweet)
Absolutely call for him [Harris] to speak about what he knows of SGM abuse. But that can be done without the appearance of needless stereotypical Christian tropes such as “the deconverted are avoiding XYZ.”
by Julie Anne (tweet)
While Christian leaders have been publicly responding to Josh Harris’ shipwrecked faith, others who are struggling in their faith are also watching these leaders. I’ve read several say they want nothing to do with Christ if this is Christianity. Are you leading people astray?
by Steve Sensenig (tweet)
I’m in Camp Don’t Dictate Repenting Process. Otherwise it just becomes about trying to appease critics instead of working through issues genuinely. If he’s not voluntarily addressing this stuff, he’s not there. Insincere apologies won’t help victims.
If I can think of anything else to say about any of these subjects, or if I find new links about any of this, I might amend this post to add that content at a later date.
Edits (these Edits are NOT in Chronological order)….
Just check out the rude, mocking, uncharitable comments by self professing Christians about Harris and speculation about his exit from the faith here:
I actually agreed with much of this post at the Wartburg Watch blog by a guy calling himself “Connect the Dots.”
I am not having an easy time understanding why Dee is so incredibly perturbed at Joshua Harris, and that is something the Connect the Dots guy was also asking about.
I don’t think Harris is the worst of the bunch in the SGM fiasco. He seemed like a side player.
It looks to me that merely because Harris’ name is in the media lately (over his divorce announcement), and he was at least marginally involved with SGM churches, she is wanting to hold him accountable for the entire thing. But why now?
Why not be this angry at him three months ago, or three weeks ago? Nothing has changed from now to then, only that he’s on social media saying he’s leaving the faith and he’s divorcing. Nothing else in the mix has changed.
I also don’t agree with Dee’s false dichotomy in the comment box (where she was replying to Connect The Dots) that if one doesn’t agree with her attitude or expectations towards Harris that one is anti-sexual-abuse-victim.
I can assure anyone reading my blog right now that I too am disgusted at how so many churches cover up abuse or enable it to continue, whether it’s sexual or spiritual, but, that doesn’t mean I have to agree that Harris should be raked over the coals and at this very time. I can be anti-abuse and also not agree with how the Christian community is raking Harris over the coals right now.
This being a Harris thread (Harris of the sexual purity culture book IKDG), several people in the comments at the Wartburg Watch thread were arguing in favor of pre-marital sex, saying God is fine with it, because there is no Bible verse explicitly condemning it (a view which I don’t entirely agree).
I’m waiting for the pro-fornication Christians to show me the Bible verse that says God accepts pre-marital sex, and God has no sexual behavior standards in place for people.
I did leave this comment for Max on TWW blog, and one thing I mentioned is I don’t know why, on a blog where nobody is allowed to question motives (which I find odd), that a lot of people on that blog are never the less ascribing all sorts of motives to Harris.
They’re acting like they know Harris’ motives for quitting, getting a divorce, etc.
Julie Anne of SSB posted a screen cap of a comment by a Brent Detwiler – she says she’s sort of friends with this guy, and I don’t know him myself (heard of him but don’t know him), and I thought his comments about Harris were unloving and obnoxious.
View Julie Anne’s Tweet with Brent Screencap here – or view it below (tweet is embedded below)
I mean, really, to state that the guy is an “enemy of Christ” is over-kill. Does the Bible actually contain that kind of language about someone who has doubts?
It’s been awhile since I’ve read the Bible, but I don’t recall off hand the Lord Jesus treating doubters (such as Thomas) like enemies and like garbage, or instructing Christians to do that.
In his comment (which looks like it was made on Facebook), this guy says nobody should empathize with Harris? Is he serious?
You know, I’ve mentioned a time or two in older posts on this blog that one of my biggest problems with the faith – one reason why I have partially walked away and debate with myself whether I should make a clean break – is this lack of empathy.
After my mother died, I got no empathy from self-professing Christians – I was either ignored, or, if Christians spoke to me, I was shamed, victim-blamed, my pain was dismissed…
Here we have a Christian who is flat-out advising other Christians to with-hold empathy from a guy (Harris) who probably is going through a lot of emotional turmoil lately.
Why would anyone want to remain part of a faith whose adherents behave in this fashion?
Julie Anne’s tweet with a screen capture of Brent Detwiler’s Harris-bashing screed:
The other night, Dee at the Wartburg Watch blog made a post about Harris here:
I left a comment or two in that thread, including this one to someone named Eli (link to my comment to Eli).
I also left a response on that blog for someone named Max here (Link to my Comment to Max).
I left a comment for Muff Potter here, one pertaining to sexual purity vs. fornication.
Here is a post Julie Anne added to her blog: