Some Musings On The Re-Release Of “Boy Meets Girl,” Edits, And True Change

November 30, 2011 in Sovereign Grace Ministries

Some months back, Joshua Harris posted on his blog about the re-release of Boy Meets Girl, his book about courtship.  Although originally scheduled for re-release in early in 2012, it looks like the title does not appear in publisher WaterBrook Multnomah’s Spring 2012 Catalog.

When the discussion in yesterday’s comments meandered onto the topics of courtship and Boy Meets Girl, I mentioned that I was curious about just how the new edition would differ from the original.  At least one of the stories Josh used in the 2005 version (as anecdotal evidence for a key tenet of courtship – the idea that “godly character” and feedback from one’s friends and family about a potential spouse are far more important considerations than one’s initial gut-level attraction to the person) will need to be removed, as the couple in question (whose real first names were used in the book) are now in the process of divorcing.

This morning I received an email from a Sovereign Grace Ministries pastor who shared with me that yes, indeed, to the best of his knowledge, this particular story will not appear in the re-release of Boy Meets Girl.  Josh Harris is editing it out, apparently replacing it with another couple’s story that (thus far) has worked out better.

For obvious reasons, this change is a good thing, of course.

BUT, as with just about every twisted or harmful teaching SGM has backed away from in recent times, a simple edit job is really not enough.

While it’s true that – as Josh Harris purportedly said in response to people who asked him about whether or not he was going to change the new editions of his books to reflect the relationship failures – Boy Meets Girl never outright claimed that courtship was a formula for divorce-proof marriages, there is still throughout the entire book the underlying belief that courtship as Harris describes it is a far superior, more godly way to find a spouse.  And, because one of the major assumptions of courtship is that feelings and basic romantic attraction are not important and, in fact, are frequently just sin-tainted distractions, it seems like honesty would demand that Harris explain the reasons for the various edits he felt compelled to make.

Like, if Josh and his coworkers at CLC have noticed that many of the couples who married after subscribing to the principles of courtship as outlined in Boy Meets Girl ended up struggling, he owes it to his book-buying fans to own up to how his Bill Gothardesque ideas might have compounded those struggles.  For instance, if “godly character” (which in the book includes the person’s commitment to the “local church” and how the person is perceived by one’s parents and friends from the “local church”) is the main consideration in the spouse-finding process, what happens when, after marriage, the husband begins to question his particular “local church,” to the point where his father-in-law now no longer views him as having much “godly character”?  How would such a shift affect the way the wife feels about her husband?  If their whole relationship was built upon the foundation of their shared commitment to their “local church” and her parents’ and friends’ approval, what happens when those elements are removed?

I guess the bottom line is, editing out a divorcing couple’s story is just not enough.  It’s not enough to cut and then replace the stories that would not show courtship in a positive light.

Instead, with his books, Josh Harris needs to do the same things he seems to be asking the other leaders in his family of churches to do. He needs to pursue complete honesty and openness about the pitfalls of courtship…the problems he has witnessed…the legalism that can easily develop…the silliness of working so hard to deny one’s natural feelings while elevating a subjectively defined standard like what others think of a potential spouse’s “godly character.”

Awhile back, a reader asked me when we – the other commenters and I – would ever be “happy” with SGM. Here was my response:

I will be “happy” when SGM finally acknowledges all the many truths of its past that they have tried to bury. I will be “happy” when SGM actively and specifically repents of the multitude of constantly-morphing extra-biblical teachings over the decades, from legalistic approaches to courtship and homeschooling and “women should NEVER work outside the home,” to “glue-stick spanking” and “having a junk drawer shows a lack of integrity” and…well, you get the idea. Basically, everything that SGM has attempted to slyly “forget” about and pretend never happened needs to be expressly addressed and actively taught against, if SGM has truly moved away from the faulty teachings.

In my mind, the same holds true for any re-release of Joshua Harris’ books.  He is well aware of the problems his books have caused.  Taking out a story here or there is not enough.  I hope the new version of Boy Meets Girl contains entire chapters on courtship’s pitfalls, and the dangers present in ignoring our God-given emotions and putting so much emphasis on what those around us think…especially in a world where “constant change is here to stay.”

EDITED TO ADD:  The following message appeared on Joshua Harris’ Facebook page on December 3, 2011:

In June I announced that my publisher was releasing a new version of Boy Meets Girl. But since then I asked my publisher to postpone this re-release because I wanted to make sure I had the time to process the critique and concerns many people have shared with me about Boy Meets Girl and I Kissed Dating Goodbye (i.e., that they encourage a legalistic approach to relationships). I want to make sure I’ve carefully considered that critique and evaluated the book in light of new lessons God is teaching me and my local church (for more on that please see this webpage).  If there are significant edits or changes that need to be made I want to make sure and clearly explain those to readers.

But right now our church is facing a very unique season and I just don’t have the time to give the attention and focus to any writing project. My publisher was very gracious and agreed to indefinitely postpone any new edition.

For more on what I’ve been learning since I wrote both these books, see this post that features several messages I’ve given in the past few years.

Kris says:  I’m starting to have more hope that Josh Harris is one of the SGM leaders who actually understands that honesty and openness, along with full disclosure, are total necessities these days.