We resolutely promote the idea that religion can be a force for good. But unfortunately, it’s often the case that the power of faith is successfully subverted for less noble purposes. This week on State of Belief, Interfaith Alliance’s weekly radio show and podcast, we’ll take a look at a celebrity evangelical culture figure who came to believe his influential teachings were not as universally helpful as he had thought. We’ll also consider the unique challenges of coming out publicly as transgender at the intersection of religion and culture – and what is sometimes accidentally revealed about the lasting scars of sexism and toxic religion.

When 20-year-old Josh Harris published I Kissed Dating Goodbye, which sold over a million copies and profoundly influenced many young Christians and their parents, leading to what is today known as the “purity movement.” Harris established himself as the leading voice promoting purity culture — that is, until 20 years later, when he decided his absolutist teachings had harmed many. Jessica Van Der Wyngaard, director of the documentary I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye, joins Welton to discuss how Harris reexamined the book and ultimately halted its publication. Today, Josh Harris and his wife has separated, and he no longer identifies as a Christian.

Earlier this year, State of Belief hosted a scholar of religion and politics who coined the phrase “ex-vangelical” and spearheaded the social media campaign #emptythepews as a rally against what the activists termed “toxic religion.” On this week’s show, Welton will be joined again by Dr. Chrissy Stroop to discuss her experience as a transgender woman and of coming out in the past several months. Unexpected criticism has come from some progressive corners, revealing that dogma and judgementalism can be found in all communities. Chrissy addressed the experience in a ReWired News Religion Dispatches article headlined, When Fundamentalism Follows You Out the Door: Transphobic Statement Exposes Exvangelical Trauma.

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