We have added an Articles page to our site where you will find some of the articles that we have read. As you will notice, not all are in support of abstinence or directly about purity. We will write here about such articles and how we are using them to better improve how we reach students and families.
Today's entry will address an article about Josh Harris, who wrote, "I Kissed Dating Goodbye," when he was 21 years old. This is actually a book that we recommend and used with our oldest son. The article's title, "Author of Famous Abstinence Book “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” Admits It May Be a Big Mistake" caught my attention because it seemed make it look like Josh regretted the whole thing. After reading the article, you can see that the thing that Josh may regret is the backlash from people feeling this was a "how to" book on having a good relationship or marriage. As if his book was setting a standard so high that they couldn't reach it and since they didn't they complained about the book. The approach to dating in the book is a good approach, but people are too busy looking for cookie cutter, 3-step programs that they can follow without thinking. People prefer the bad IKEA drawing instructions to thinking things through.
I know this first hand when I applied a generalized idea to a relationship when I was 21 instead of thinking things through. I had grown up seeing family after family that had started when the parents got pregnant before getting married and then married because of the pregnancy. The examples that I saw were ones where there was no love in the home. I took those examples and applied them to my situation when I got Jenna pregnant. I didn't want a home with no love in it. Using the examples of what I saw, and even applying the thought that getting married "the right way" caused me to choose to not marry or even stay with Jenna.
On the other hand, if I would have focused on the fact that any relationship takes work to build it up and maintain it, regardless of the situation you are currently in, then my choices would have been different. The same applies to the people who read this book expecting it to make their life happy if they did the actions. You can't just go through the actions of a happy relationship and expect a happy relationship. You can't fake it. You have to take what you learn as tools and then apply them through action.
When it comes to living a life of purity, it, too, isn't just going through the actions. You have to work on it, think things through and apply the tools you pick up along the way at the appropriate times. Apply tools means that first you have to recognize it as a tool. Second, you have to know what that tool is used for and why. Finally, you have to know how to use that tool.
Saving sex for marriage, or, as one of Josh's suggestions in his book, boys and girls not hanging out together one-on-one are tools to help you have the best foundation to build a healthy marriage on. If you don't recognize that these are tools, you won't even try to use them. If you, instead, see them as the way, then you will be disappointed when it doesn't do the job it was intended to do. It would be like expecting a tire iron to get you from here to there when you have a flat instead of using it as a tool so you can get to your destination.
Second, after seeing something as a tool, you need to understand why it is a tool and how to use. it. Abstinence is a tool because it is a form of protection, among many other reasons. It, like shield, protects you not only from unwanted pregnancies or STD's, but also it protects you from physically bonding with someone who isn't your spouse. If you wait for marriage to bond with someone, then your body won't ever be trained to break that bond. The 1=on=1 boy-girl concept is a tool because it protects you from potential confusion or misunderstandings. It also keeps you away from the cliff of our sinful nature. We are fallen and sinful and our flesh desires that physical contact that was designed for the marriage especially when we aren't married. Is it a sin for a boy and a girl to hang out 1-on-1? No. But is it safe? No.
If you see abstinence as something that is saying that sex is bad, then you are misapplying that tool. It is like trying to use a tire iron as a key. Instead of seeing it as a useful tool, you will see it as useless but yet you will keep misapplying it in your marriage. This leads us to applying, or using the tool correctly. Misusing tools leads to damage. Damage of the tool or the object the tool is being used on. Yes, I could use a tire iron to open my car, but my window will be busted. Using abstinence as a tool for protection will allow for a good foundation to build your marriage on. Using abstinence as a tool to say sex is bad will harm your marriage. Both ways may end up in looking the same on the outside, not having sex until marriage, but it truly comes down to a heart issue and why you are using abstinence.
The article concludes with, "The church is at a crossroads where it needs to step back, evaluate some of the teachings we’ve held about purity, sexuality and relationships, and carefully consider how God would have us revise." If this means that we need to teach people how to think through using tools and that there isn't a 3-step program for life, then yes, I fully agree. However, as the overall tone of the article suggests, it is saying that the church needs to change how it teaches people in order to allow them to give into their fleshy desires, then I wholeheartedly disagree. We need to teach God's word and also teach people how to have a heart like God as King David did. And just as King David wasn't perfect, we have to understand that we won't be perfect either. Our hearts just need to be going in the right direction.
Rob and Jenna Crenshaw are founders of Crossroads Club