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This article is from Issue 61: Jan/Feb 2013

Breaking the Ice

How Christian singles are rethinking the search for love

Renee Fisher read Joshua Harris’ I Kissed Dating Goodbye when she was growing up—back when she was Renee Johnson. This was when she was being homeschooled in Nebraska.

“I was raised with the mentality of ‘Don’t date until you’re 35.’ I just thought dating was wrong,” she says. She felt bad—like she wasn’t godly—when she did go out on dates. Then she felt bad—like something must be wrong with her—when no one asked her out at all.

Fisher tried online dating with little more success. Her yearlong subscription to eHarmony.com cost $250 and 12 months of awkward, stilted conversations that were generally about as romantic as a paper bag.

“The second date I went on with the same guy, he tried to force me to sleep with him,” she says. “I ended up basically running out of his apartment—from a guy who supposedly said he was a Christian.”
And blind dates, she declares, were the absolute worst.

By the time Fisher was 28 years old, God still had not introduced her to anyone approaching Mr. Right. She felt frustrated that it hadn’t happened yet, but she also felt guilty for wanting it so badly. She tried to enjoy the “gift of singleness,” but she was desperate for a chance to give it away.

After trying everything she could think of, Fisher realized there were ideas about dating she needed to shed, as well as new ideas she needed to explore.

And Fisher isn’t the only one realizing this.

It’s been about 100 years since Americans commenced the social institution of dating as we know it, and it’s been 15 years since Christians entertained kissing dating goodbye.

It’s been about 100 years since Americans commenced the social institution of dating as we know it, and 15 years since we kissed dating goodbye.


In 1997, Harris’ book went viral—back before “viral” was even a thing—and initiated the DTR between Christians and dating. It has sold more than a million copies and spawned a wider genre that includes titles like When God Writes Your Love Story, No Sex in the City and The Thrill of the Chaste.

Some would say the subculture that surrounded Christian dating in years past—purity rings, abstinence pledges and a heaping amount of parental supervision—was a fruitful movement, guiding young men and women into God-honoring relationships. Others saw it as a cringe-worthy franchise of good intentions gone wrong. Still others saw it as a complicated blend of both.

Whatever it was, it was certainly countercultural. And it hasn’t changed much over the years.