July/August, 1998 Volume XIII Number 1

Dump dating?

Joshua Harris, a self-confessed hopeless romantic from Gresham, Oregon likes holding hands, going to movies and talking to girls.
But don't try asking him for a date.
He won't accept.
The 23-year-old assistant youth pastor is the author of "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" (Multnomah Books, $9.99). The book explains how five years ago he ended his last teen-age romance-and says other teen-agers and young adults should think about doing the same.
"I figured most people would assume, 'Dating kissed him goodbye.'" Harris says, "They would expect some geek."
But Harris never had any trouble getting a date. As his mother, Sono Harris, says: "He's a cute kid. Girls like him, and he likes them."
Five years ago he stopped dating, believing that God had a different plan for his life. He learned to write, practiced being a parent to his five younger brothers and sisters and became assistant to a youth pastor at a Gaithersburg, Maryland, church.
At 21 he wrote his book. And he expressed an idea that is gaining momentum among people ages 13 to 23.
His book sells more than 20,000 copies a month. Total sales are 181,000.
His "Searching for True Love" seminar is selling out auditoriums in six US cities this summer. "Dateline NBC" filmed his Baltimore seminar.
Last weekend he held two six-hour seminars at Northeast Portland's Bible Temple. Almost 4,500 attended, and another 1,000 were turned away.
His message reaches both the conservative Christians that he expected and the secular audiences he didn't count on.
He tells audiences: Dating is too tempting for people who are committed to celibacy. Don't date until you are ready to marry.
To secular audiences, he says: Dating interferes with your personal growth. Develop your personal hobbies and interests instead.
Randy Alcorn, a best-selling Christian novelist and speaker, says Harris has credibility with his audience because he lives what he preaches.
"There's a phenomenal response to this book and these seminars," Alcorn says.
"He has struck a chord in the youth culture. It's a chord that a lot of educators and Planned Parenthood people don't realize exists."
But Pepper J. Shwartz, a professor of sociology at the University of Washington, says "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" is a small drop in a big pond of books about dating, relationships and sex.
"I think there's a hungry minority who is looking for confirmation of their values," she says. "When something enters the public domain that says they're right, they rally around it. Imagine if there was only one liberal book about sex or marriage. It would be a huge best seller."
Most dating books are read by single adults who wonder what they're doing wrong, she said.
But Harris tells people who are too young to have much heartbreak yet how to avoid it.
Ironically, he says, people who give up dating relationships will be betrothed to their true loves sooner.
Until recently that was just Harris' theory. But last January he asked Shannon Hendrickson out after knowing her for a year as a friend in his Maryland church.
Over coffee he told her his intentions. They began courting, including chaperoned dates. On March 28 they became engaged.
"People say to me, 'I thought you kissed dating goodbye,'" Harris says. "I say, 'I didn't kiss marriage goodbye.'"

This article was written by Kara Briggs and reprinted from The Oregonian newspaper.

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