Joshua Harris (Sort of) Monetizes Deconstruction
Joshua Harris is one of multiple high-profile evangelical leaders who have made the news recently for deconstructing—that is, leaving the Christian faith, whether entirely or in part. Others include former Hillsong worship leader Marty Sampson, Hawk Nelson’s Jon Steingard, DC Talk’s Kevin Max, former Desiring God contributor Paul Maxwell, and John Piper’s son, Abraham Piper.
Some people use the term “deconstruct” to mean rejecting Christianity entirely, while others (such as Lecrae) use it to describe the process of rejecting certain cultural beliefs associated with Christianity while still holding to the core tenets of the faith.
Joshua Harris is arguably most famous for writing “I Kissed Dating Goodbye,” (IKDG) and other books on relationships, but he also pastored at a Sovereign Grace church in Maryland and was mentored in ministry by C.J. Mahaney. In 2015, Harris left the pastorate to attend seminary, where he encountered people who told him that his books, which contributed to the purity culture movement in the U.S., had harmed them. In 2017, Harris publicly addressed the idea that he was wrong about some of his past teachings, and in 2018, he released a documentary exploring the impact “IKDG” had on people. Harris apologized for the damage his book had caused and stopped publication of it.
In July 2019, Joshua Harris announced that he and wife, Shannon, were separating. Days later, he announced that he was no longer a Christian. Both Josh and Shannon (who now goes by Shannon Bonne) have since been publicly processing their experiences in the church. Now, Harris has created an entire course for people who want to question their religious beliefs.
“You don’t have to make a public statement, leave your faith or the traditions and community that you love,” says the site. “You don’t have to adopt a new label (Exvangelical? Agnostic?) or argue for and justify your change in beliefs. You do deserve the freedom to question, change your thinking and choose the life you want.”
People can sign up for the course for the cost of $275. Below the join button, however, is the statement: “A full scholarship is available to anyone harmed by purity culture and my past books. Use code GIFT at checkout.”
When users click on the button to join the course, they are then asked to enter their name, email address and a password. After that, visitors are invited to enter their credit card information—unless they click “Have a coupon?” and enter “GIFT,” which does in fact allow people to enroll in the course for free.
The course comes with a “Deconstruction Starter Pack” that includes resources from Nadia Bolz-Weber, Rachel Held Evans, Rob Bell, Richard Rohr, Bart Ehrman, Jon Steingard, Sheila Gregoire, and Derek Webb, among many others.
Some have reacted to Harris’ course with indignation bordering on outrage. Jake Meador, editor-in-chief of Mere Orthodoxy, tweeted, “A guide to deconstructing your faith as a lead magnet for a $275 online course. Your regular reminder that a ton of exvie [exvangelical] types are ditching the dogma but keeping all the capitalist crap, and it’s very very dumb and bad.”
Ian Harber, a Christian who deconstructed his faith, identified with progressive Chrsitianity for a time, and then returned to orthodoxy, tweeted, “J***** H***** put together a lead generating ebook for an online course to help people deconstruct their faith for the low cost of just *checks notes* $275. You wanna make me really cynical?” Other pastors responded in the comments, calling the monetization “disgusting.”
Harber continued, “Please chase down the questions you have about your faith. By all means do it. But just remember that narcissistic megachurch pastors aren’t the only snakes trying to profit off you.”