Didn’t Christians use to avoid excommunication? Maybe the latest thing is to do it to yourself. In a new interview, Joshua Harris reflects on his career as celebrity pastor and ‘purity’ guru. “I excommunicated people,” he says. Not living the right way? Out you go. “I think I came to a point of recognizing, you know, I’m not living according to this.”
“And I excommunicated myself, essentially.”
Not long after declaring himself divorced and ex-Christian, Harris continue to amaze with a lacerating critique of the tradition he left. In his new interview, he questions the need for church hierarchies.
“The more chaotic the world is, the more people want someone to tell them what to do. And when people are afraid, they latch on to people who say, ‘I have the answers.’”
And he comments on the Evangelical alignment with Trump.
“I think it’s incredibly damaging to the Gospel and to the Church,” he says. “I don’t think it’s going to end well. And I think you look back at the Old Testament and the relationship between the prophets and really bad leaders and kings, and oftentimes it’s not something you unwind. It’s presented as God’s judgement on the false religion of the day.”
Trump is a judgement on Evangelicals?
“I think it is part of the judgement to have a leader like Trump. I think is itself part of the indictment of the leader you want and deserve, and represents a lot of who you are.”
In his new interview, with Axios, he continues to reflect on his long career as “purity guru” — an Evangelical standard-bearer for sexual ethics. “I was a leader and a spokesman and I called people to live in very particular ways, to sacrifice in very particular ways, and so for me to change in my thinking feels like a betrayal to them.”
In comments the news service transcripts, not in the released video, Harris reacts to those who suggested his attending the Vancouver Pride parade meant he had a personal sexual drama to expose.
“It’s like if the answer to the question of my sexuality puts me inside or outside of your circle, accepted or unaccepted . . . I don’t want to be friends, you know? F#ck you and f#ck your circle. That’s how I feel.”
As, in regular mini-sermons on Instagram, he’s been talking about themes like listening, journeys, and gratitude.
How do I explain that in spite of the messiness of my life and even my mistakes, I am so grateful for the journey that led me here, to this moment? I want to be here and so the events, the mistakes, even the hurts that delivered me here aren’t things I would reverse even if I could.
He says: “I don’t have to agree with you to love you.”
This is all very radical for an Evangelical—a culture where disagreements over even arcane matters of prophesy interpretation can lead to church splits.
Looking back I see now how often my tribe of Christians labeled and categorized people. It seems we label “the other” to write them off. To dehumanize. To excuse a lack of love.
There’s still so much I’m unpacking about what shaped and motivated this way of living. But I think at the root of it was fear and pride. Fear of being uncertain. Fear of wrestling with new ideas. Pride that finds security, not necessarily in God or truth, but in being better than, different than, separate from other humans.
‘Excommunication’ is not a concept found in the Bible. In Matthew 18:15–17, Jesus speaks of those whose lives are problematic. They’re spoken to in private, and if not heeding such warnings, to be regarded “a Gentile and a tax collector.”
As Jesus is called “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” in Matthew 11:19, this is the reverse of exclusion. Rather, as the Bible scholar Timothy J. Geddert notes, this kind of treatment would be: “Love him! Accept him! Invite him! Eat with him! And keep on challenging him to be transformed into a faithful disciple of Jesus!”
In calling himself excommunicated, then, Harris draws attention to a feature of Christianity not at all present in the teachings of Jesus, where there is no concept of permanent exclusion.
He could not, then, be leaving God—just a religious tradition?
I tune into Evangelical replies on Twitter!
“Why doesn’t he just say that he’s gay.? That’s what this is about.. Admit your gay and move on.. Jeez..”
“BEING GAY IS NOT A LIFESTYLE. #fuckingphony”
“Maybe he wants to be a good person now.”
“Sad, praying our Lord Jesus changes his heart.”