As a player, Harris might be qualified to do the evangelical church one last favor: He can expose the behind-the-scenes shenanigans—the money made by at least some of the leading lights, and the power wielded by an unaccountable few—of Big Evangelicalism. That would seem a more important contribution than emotive talk of personal journeys, gobbledygook about repentance detached from any notion of God, and the continuation of life as performance art.
Joshua Harris has abandoned his Christian faith, news that marks another blow to American conservative evangelicalism.
Harris authored the best-selling I Kissed Dating Goodbye in his early twenties, unleashing unnecessary angst on a generation of evangelical teens. In his early thirties, he served as pastor of a Gaithersburg megachurch. He was also an influential figure in the Young, Restless, and Reformed Movement (YRR). Now, he has denounced his famous book, announced he and his wife are separating, and repudiated Christianity.
While Harris seems to be making a clean break with his past, the style of his apostasy announcement is oddly consistent with the evangelical Christianity he used to represent. He revealed he was leaving the faith with a social media post, which included a mood photograph of himself contemplating a beautiful lake. The earlier announcement of his divorce used the typical postmodern jargon of “journey” and “story.” And both posts were designed to play to the emotions rather than the mind. Life, it would seem, continues as performance art.
In a sense, that is exactly how and why the YRR was so successful: savvy harnessing of fashionable idioms and marketing strategies, exceptionally clever use of social media, large and well-organized conferences, and professional-grade websites—all fronted by attractive personalities and brilliant communicators. Orthodoxy as performance art, one might say. And Harris was both a product of and a player in the YRR project.
Many Christians were helped by all this. The YRR theology was at best a diluted form of Calvinism, but it had a largely positive influence in the pews.
But the movement’s leadership was often arrogant. In public, critics were derided and then ignored; in private, they were vilified and bullied. An extensive informal network of individuals, institutions, and organizations who wanted a slice of the YRR action was happy to oblige the padrini by keeping critics on the margins. And one by one big leaders fell from favor: Mark Driscoll, James MacDonald, Tullian Tchividjian, C. J. Mahaney, now Josh Harris. On Friday the news broke that The Village Church, home of YRR megastar Matt Chandler, is being sued over alleged mishandling of sexual abuse.
Read another article on this topic: ‘I Can Only Imagine The Level of Relational Stress You Must Have Endured’: An Open Letter to Josh Harris
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