In 1997, Joshua Harris wrote a book called I Kissed Dating Goodbye. The premise was that the American system of dating was broken and led to bad marriages. He proposed scrapping it and replacing it with something called "courtship." I still don't know what courtship is, but I think it's where you're always under adult supervision, you don't get to touch the opposite sex, and you wear frumpy clothes. Jail, basically...
Harris's book was a runaway hit with evangelicals. Worried mamas, gun-totin' daddies, eager youth pastors, and youth group kids across the land couldn't buy it fast enough, and they all agreed: Dating...bad. Courting...good.
Our youth group was right in step with the IKDG craze because I remember this book being talked about a lot. I remember the kids who swore off dating were a wee bit more holy than the daters and a LOT more holy than the serial daters. "Dating" became a dirty word.
Harris's book was great for me because I had absolutely no desire to date. None.
By ninth grade, I had some girls who were friends, but they were just friends. The idea of going on a date with a girl felt very weird to me...I'll go play basketball w muh bros k plz thank you.
Kiss dating goodbye? I'm in, Josh.
A few years earlier, in junior high, I first noticed that I looked at the boys more.
It was very subtle and innocent. It was like I envied them...I wanted them to like me. It didn't feel like a sexual attraction back then, but they definitely caught my eye. It never crossed my mind that this could be ho-mo-sex-u-a-li-ty. But I knew what the "h" word was by then because the Christian culture had already schooled me in it. I knew allll about it...
Since my dad was a Southern Baptist minister, our family would sometimes go to the Southern Baptist Convention.
The SBC was a big multi-day meeting that met every summer in a different city. Some years there were tens of thousands of Baptists in attendance, so they met in enormous convention centers. At these meetings, the Baptists would debate things and listen to speakers. I think there was some music, too.
The only part I really cared about as a kid was the exhibition area which was like a huge tradeshow. There'd be every manner of Christian vendor in there—book publishers, bus salesmen, hymnal companies, missions agencies, and tons more. And every vendor gave away gobs of promotional trinkets.
And if there's one thing you should know about a young Brett Trapp, it's that
As a kid, I'd get a little plastic bag and go booth-to-booth collecting all the free Christian swag I could...
Oh, a keychain shaped like a Bible? I'll take it.
A miniature flashlight with Psalm 119:105 printed on it? Gimme dat.
A Psalty the Songbook yo-yo? Um...yes. FREAKIN' YES!
A bottle opener shaped like a dove THAT BAPTISTS SHOULD DEFINITELY NOT USE TO OPEN BEER? I'll take two please. And I'm too young to drink, sir.
A neon-green frisbee with Sandi Patty's face screen-printed on it? I'll take it.
SBC's were great fun for me.
If my memory is correct, I attended four different conventions as a kid—Vegas ('89), New Orleans ('90), Houston ('93), and Orlando ('94).
But it was a convention we didn't attend where the Baptists made a big gay scene.
The Southern Baptist Convention met in San Antonio in 1988. 32,000 messengers attended.
Messengers were delegates from local congregations who would debate and vote on new resolutions. Resolutions are defined as "expressions of opinion or concern." In '88, they passed 20 resolutions. And they pretty much covered it all: alcohol, tobacco, human organ donations, ministerial integrity, the "New Age" movement, and even the Soviets.
But it was the gays that really got put on notice.
Sure, the Baptists had passed resolutions on homosexuality before, but in '88 they used their spiciest language yet. The AIDS epidemic was rampaging through the news by then, and I suspect that's why they ratcheted up the language (but that's just my theory). You can read the full resolution, but here are the very salty parts...
"...homosexuality is a manifestation of a depraved nature"
"This deviant behavior has wrought havoc in the lives of millions"
"...we...deplore homosexuality as a perversion of divine standards and as a violation of nature and natural affections"
"homosexuality is not a normal lifestyle and is an abomination in the eyes of God."
Towards the end, they softened a bit and affirm that homosexuals, like everyone else, can receive forgiveness through Jesus.
The Southern Baptist Convention was then (and still is today) the largest Protestant denomination in America, and they exerted incredible influence over evangelical culture, especially in the 80s and 90s.
If the Baptists put you on notice, everyone knew about it. And, lest anyone was confused, they made it very clear in '88: Homosexuality is really gross and really bad.
I was too young to remember the SBC passing that resolution, but I very clearly remember their next big move on the issue, the 1997 boycott of Disney.
I remember it because it made big news. A CNN article describes the reason for the boycott...
"Many Southern Baptists object to Disney's policy of giving health benefits to same-sex partners of employees, 'Gay Days' at theme parks and the release by Disney and its subsidiaries of controversial books and films like 'Pulp Fiction' and 'Kids.'"
I read the newspaper every morning in high school, and I remember thinking this boycott was a great strategy to flex our Baptist muscles...
All we want to do is ride Magic Mountain in peace. Is that too much to ask? A boycott. Good! We're really giving it to 'em now. Disney can kiss our support goodbye. Take that. We'll give Disney—and those gays—what they deserve.
I clearly remember another incident where homosexuality came up back then.
It was in Bible class at the little Christian high school I went to. One day we watched a music video by this Christian singer named Carman. The song is called "America Again." It's very patriotic, very dramatic, and all about how America is going to crap. At one point Carman even suggests America might not "last this decade." Eek. Here it is...
There are a few things to love about this video: fluttering American flags, war reenactments, historical quotes, 80s hairdos, Abe Lincoln references, etc.
Few things I could have done without: Carman's terrible suit, awful turtleneck, condom references, the pseudo-rapping, the dangerous strutting on a very high wall, and Carman pronouncing "glory" with a long -o sound.
But, as I sat in my desk in that high school Bible class, there was one part of the song that really stuck with me...
While the spirit of Sodom and Gomorrah vex us all
When it gets to the point where people would rather come out of the closet than clean it
It's the sign that the judgement of God is gonna fall
I agree, Carman.
This is bad stuff...scary stuff.
Those gays need to clean their closets, or we can kiss this country goodbye.
Kiss it. Good. Bye... 👊
B.B.P.S. - Josh Harris has semi-recanted some of his I Kissed Dating Goodbye thoughts. You can read more here.
All photos by Sterling Graves. Copyright Blue Babies Pink & Sterling Graves.
B.T. Harman is the creator of Blue Babies Pink, a Southern Coming Out Story in 44 Episodes.
B.T. is a consultant, writer, and speaker living in Atlanta's historic Cabbagetown neighborhood. He was previously a vice president for Booster, an Atlanta fundraising company, where he helped the organization raise $150 million for elementary schools.
B.T. is passionate about storytelling, leadership, good design, Seth Godin, SEC football, Chick-fil-A, Taylor Swift, archaeology, European Travel and CS Lewis.
To learn more about B.T., visit his personal site at btharman.com.