The passing of the baton to Gen X by Baby Boomers is underway, and our hollowed-out generation knows little of the stability that our predecessors enjoyed (and threw away). We have been grappling to make sense of the rubble we found ourselves in at the conclusion of two world wars, one ongoing cultural revolution, and several self-mutilating escapades in the Far East and Near East.
Leaders such as former pastor Joshua Harris and Sen. Kamala Harris (no relation between the two) have risen to tell us their respective views on what is wrong and how to make it right.
Josh Harris identified the problem as sexual promiscuity. His landmark 1997 book I Kissed Dating Goodbye framed the problem of sexual impurity in a larger culture that, to his credit, he decried as run amok. Josh Harris was correct in his critique of America’s ever-increasingly hypersexualized culture. He was correct to show that it infected the private lives of people within, and without, the institutional church. Statistics gathered in the intervening years have borne out his contention. Self-identified Christians consume pornography at about the same rate as non-Christians. Sexual abuse is not just a major public relations problem for the established churches, but a moral problem, a failure of self-governance, and a failure to understand their proper relationship with the state. The Roman Catholic Church has a problem of sex abuse by predominantly homosexual clergy on laity. Protestant churches of both the mainline and evangelical variety have similar problems. The seemingly simpler problem of hook-up culture had already taken hold in the ‘90s, and has only accelerated the degradation of Western whites since then. Harris wrote from this context, plus his personal experience with sexual impurity.
Thus it was that the young Josh Harris advised the world to kiss dating (and all sexual activity) goodbye until marriage. He urged relationships with the opposite sex only at arm’s length and via intermediaries such as relatives, pastors, and church youth groups. His solution was later twisted by many into a new form of legalism, and birthed a new form of sexual dysfunctionality. This was unfortunate, as his book was mainly intended to cure a form of sexual dysfunctionality by pointing people to a holy Christ who could give them purpose, love, and acceptance.
Twenty years, one megachurch pastorate, and one young fatherhood later, Josh Harris has recanted. He has discontinued the publication of his books and has publicly apologized for spreading the message of purity that, in his words, harmed millions. His public repentance comes with a big financial hit courtesy of the loss of future royalties and his pastoral salary.
Like his Gen X peers and younger Millennial cohorts, Josh Harris set out to fix a broken world with little to guide him in the effort. Leaders of our generations are like handymen sent out to fix something with only a tool belt, but few tools. The cultural revolution stripped them of their tools. Old notions of race, gender, work, duty, country, and more went into the trash during the 1950s-80s. Half of these leaders’ job is to find some tools to use. The other half of the job is to apply them. The leaders of our generations have to hope to get the job done right, sometimes in spite of the tools used to do the job. Josh Harris came to a breaking point and decided that he didn’t have the right tools, and should quit his job.
As Josh Harris said upon leaving his pastorate in 2015 to go to seminary, “I’ve had many people over the years tell me what God’s purpose for my life is,” he said. “But I’m learning that only Jesus can place a call on my life. I can’t live someone else’s plan for my life. I can’t even live my plan for my life. I need to live Jesus’s plan for my life.”
In view of his recantation, if Josh Harris had to define the problem today he’d probably stay firmly within the boundaries of mainstream liberalism/evangelicalism: the problem is people not being nice to other people. Jesus would fit in there somehow, but the solution would be to act nicely to other people, and use state power to enforce niceness when people were unwilling to do it freely.
The issue with Josh Harris’s recantation and abdication from the pastorate is that it’s part of a larger pattern with post-Baby Boomer thought leaders. Without the anchors that Baby Boomers inherited from their parents, Gen X, Millennial, and Gen Z leaders are building the plane while they fly. This isn’t a criticism; it’s observation of a fact. They either have to revert to older rules or synthesize some of their own. The solution to the problem of the fall of the West seems to be either a return to ancient Byzantium/Rome/Teutoborg Forest/Westminster or a drive towards some futuristic endpoint. The only middle ground is to wallow in the postmodern, individualistic, multicultural zeitgeist that presently dominates the West. That’s what evangelicals such as Josh Harris seem to be doing. An evangelical pastor turning to postmodernism, “humility,” and European-style socialism is apparently not just a cliche.
With Kamala Harris, the problem is traditional white Western civilization in all its forms (church, state, family, property, culture, etc.). The solution is Menshevik-style communism applied to race, gender, and of course class. Kamala Harris will never privately leave her left-wing, black revolutionary framework, but she will publicly evolve as situations dictate. So it always goes with this and other communists.
We say that our morality is entirely subordinated to the interests of the proletariat’s class struggle. Our morality stems from the interests of the class struggle of the proletariat.
— “The Tasks of the Youth Leagues,” V. I. Lenin
Once our generations fall out of the grip of leaders like Josh Harris, we end up in the hands of leaders like Kamala Harris.
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
— “The Second Coming,” W.B. Yeats
Our generations have to do better than either of these options. To do that, our leaders must have an accurate understanding of the problem we face today, and the conviction to implement the solution.