I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye (A Review)

Back in high school, I read I Kissed Dating Goodbye and liked it, mostly because I wasn’t allowed to date and it made not dating cool. It also gave me an excuse to hide behind rules after helping fuel the normal nervous jitters any teenager has about the opposite sex. 

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When a cool guy calls all Christians everywhere to be intentional about dating—date for marriage not for casual sex (as if you had to choose between one or the other)—and the Christian culture was looking for something to combat the aftermath of the sexual revolution, it’s no wonder the book caused the frenzy that lead to an entire culture built on extra-biblical rules, founded on fear and rooted in a promise for a happy marriage and an amazing sex life. 

I believed it, too. 

Many years later, however, I’ve got friends in miserable marriages (some of which ended in divorce). I’ve heard sad stories of awkward first nights after the wedding where the expectations were high the outcome didn’t match up. More than half my friends were single in their late twenties and early thirties and I’ve got many, many friends still riding that singleness bus.

While I’ve got just as many friends in happy—but real—marriages, it’s easy to say something went wrong—and maybe it did. Or maybe it was just coincidence. All I can say is, I’m grateful for the documentary I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye (currently on Amazon Prime) where Joshua Harris faces his critics and explores the present day dating and singleness world, asking the question, “Did I help create this?”

I’m sure those who have watched it have mixed feelings. However, there were dozens of books in my library growing up that caused untold amounts of damage. I wish those authors would do what Josh does and say, “I no longer agree with what I wrote there.” It doesn’t undo the damage, but it does help create a space to grieve and move on. 

The film itself touches on issues outside of (but not separate from) dating, such as SSA (Same Sex Attraction), prolonged singleness, and a Christian culture that puts far too much emphasis on sex. 

I appreciated the brief interview with Josh’s wife where she describes the book: “I can’t say it was a good book. But it was a well-intentioned book.” She also says, of the time she and Josh were dating, “I just liked him, and I really didn’t care. I probably would have done any dating model to get him.” Josh admits in this interview that the reason they didn’t kiss until the wedding day was because he’d put it in his book, almost as if he’d tied himself to his own rules but maybe wouldn’t have followed those rules if he hadn’t been a public figure. 

Josh explores the current dating scene and attends a hilarious show called “Tinder Tales” he meets a couple who met on Tinder and asked what the secret was. “Have no expectations,” the girl says. “You might be lucky, but don’t expect it.” In an emotional final scene, Josh says, “You can change your mind. It’s okay to get things wrong. There’s something amazingly freeing about being able to say, ‘I was wrong.’” 

All in all, I found the film to encourage it’s audience to seek Jesus while wrestling with God through the hard questions. I appreciated seeing a leader in the church exploring the possibility that a book he wrote might not have always led in that direction. 

Even if you never read I Kissed Dating Goodbye,if you grew up in Christian conservative culture, odds are you were affected by it. I’d recommend watching the film.