What happens when a famous Christian denounces their faith? Well, some cheer and some mourn. Others are left very confused.
The cheering crowd, is of course, those who oppose Christianity. In the case of popular Christian author, Joshua Harris, the LGBTQ crowd was particularly pleased.
Harris became famous for his book, "I Kissed Dating Goodbye," which criticized the flippant practice of dating before marriage and encouraged single Christians to think with the lens of commitment.
The book also condemned homosexuality. Now Harris is apologizing for that message (he also earlier apologized for the entire book, saying it was too rigid), and the LGBTQ community is happy to hear it. In a lengthy Instagram post (following the public announcement of his separation from his wife, Shannon), Harris wrote:
"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, evangelicals, 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,'" ended Harris' message.
But not everyone is happy to hear of Harris' divorce and departure from the faith. His former church (that he helped lead) shared a heartfelt response to the news. Covenant Life Interim Senior Pastor Kevin Rogers wrote to his congregation, "These updates are hard to hear. We love Josh and Shannon. For most of us, Josh isn’t just some distant public figure. He’s a beloved former pastor and friend. So this news isn’t just a lot to process theoretically. It hits home personally."
Rogers reminded his congregation that wandering from the faith was nothing new. "Several times Paul mentions former Christian leaders 'swerving from,' 'wandering from,' or 'making shipwreck' of their faith. So while this is sad and confusing, it isn’t new. Christian leaders occasionally veered from faith at the very beginning. Paul says some had gone off course theologically. Others behaved in ways that violated Christian conscience. For others, it was greed. In every case, Paul’s hope was for redemption and restoration," wrote Rogers.
"So, Covenant Life, pray for our friend Josh," encouraged the pastor. "Pray with sincere hope for a redemptive end. And ask the God of all grace and power for fresh resolve in your own fight of faith. 'Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called (1 Tim 6:12).'"
What do you think of Harris' denunciation of faith and his former church's response to it? Share your thoughts and prayers with us in the comments! Thank you!