Movie Distributor Drops I KISSED DATING GOODBYE Documentary After Author Renounces His Faith
By Jessilyn Lancaster, Managing Editor
The movie distributor behind the I KISSED DATING GOODBYE documentary featuring Joshua Harris dropped the movie after Harris publicly renounced his faith on social media.
“Unfortunately, Josh did not tip off his film team partners of these surprising changes before his public post–nor how this would change our company’s distribution efforts of the film he had worked with us on to promote,” said Exploration Films’ Stephen Penn.
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My heart is full of gratitude. I wish you could see all the messages people sent me after the announcement of my divorce. They are expressions of love though they are saddened or even strongly disapprove of the decision. I am learning that no group has the market cornered on grace. This week I’ve received grace from Christians, atheists, evangelicals, exvangelicals, straight people, LGBTQ people, and everyone in-between. Of course there have also been strong words of rebuke from religious people. While not always pleasant, I know they are seeking to love me. (There have also been spiteful, hateful comments that angered and hurt me.) The information that was left out of our announcement is that I have undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus. The popular phrase for this is “deconstruction,” the biblical phrase is “falling away.” By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian. Many people tell me that there is a different way to practice faith and I want to remain open to this, but I’m not there now. Martin Luther said that the entire life of believers should be repentance. There’s beauty in that sentiment regardless of your view of God. I have lived in repentance for the past several years—repenting of my self-righteousness, my fear-based approach to life, the teaching of my books, my views of women in the church, and my approach to parenting to name a few. But I specifically want to add to this list now: to the LGBTQ+ community, I want to say that I am sorry for the views that I taught in my books and as a pastor regarding sexuality. I regret standing against marriage equality, for not affirming you and your place in the church, and for any ways that my writing and speaking contributed to a culture of exclusion and bigotry. I hope you can forgive me. To my Christians friends, I am grateful for your prayers. Don’t take it personally if I don’t immediately return calls. I can’t join in your mourning. I don’t view this moment negatively. I feel very much alive, and awake, and surprisingly hopeful. I believe with my sister Julian that, “All shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”
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We’re writing to share the news that we are separating and will continue our life together as friends. In recent years, some significant changes have taken place in both of us. It is with sincere love for one another and understanding of our unique story as a couple that we are moving forward with this decision. We hope to create a generous and supportive future for each other and for our three amazing children in the years ahead. Thank you for your understanding and for respecting our privacy during a difficult time.
Exploration Films said the statements came as a shock.
“When director Jessica Van Der Wyngaard brought the film to us for distribution, she and Josh requested that a free version be available to the public for a period of time, highly unusual in our business, but we agreed,” said Exploration Films president Steve Greisen. “Regular interactions occurred with Josh and the film team on a daily and weekly basis to coordinate our efforts as part of the agreement. Exploration Films just finished recording a podcast with Josh slated for later release, so these statements only days later caught us off guard and damaged our efforts together.”
I KISSED DATING GOODBYE was a cultural phenomenon in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Harris’ book detailed the values of courting instead of dating. The book also encapsulated and fueled the purity culture, which places an emphasis on refusing any sort of sexual activity before marriage.
In recent years, Harris renounced the book and began to speak openly about the damage his book and the purity culture may have had on evangelical Christians.
The documentary of the same name chronicled this journey. According to Exploration Films, the documentary followed Harris as he listened to how the book affected readers and what he got right and wrong when he wrote the book more than two decades ago. The documentary also looked at Harris’ conversations with ministry leaders and authors about singleness, purity and marriage in the church.
“Personally, we still wish Josh the best. We know he is searching for answers,” Penn said. “But due to the lack of transparency from Josh, we have no other choice but to halt promotion of the film. Hundreds of DVD’s have already been returned as a result of his statements.”