Former evangelical megachurch pastor Josh Harris said Sunday that he “excommunicated” himself from the religion that propelled him to fame.
Harris, who renounced his Christianity earlier this year, told “Axios on HBO” that he ruined lives and marriages while he served as one of the country’s most well-known evangelical pastors.
“If you’re not living according to the teaching of the Bible, and you’re living in unrepentant sin, then you have to be put out of the church,” Harris, 44, told Axios. “I excommunicated myself, essentially.”
Harris is famous for his 1997 book, “I Kissed Dating Goodbye,” in which he encouraged Christian teenagers to abstain from even dating and shunned homosexuality. He eventually stopped the book’s publication and apologized for the harm it caused in promoting purity culture among millennials, though by then the book had sold 1.2 million copies.
“It was a long process for me,” Harris said, according to Axios. “I started seeing that the book really had misled a lot of people.”
Harris, the former pastor of Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland, announced in July on Instagram that he was divorcing his wife. Just over a week later, he announced that he was no longer a Christian.
“To the LGBTQ+ community, I want to say that I am sorry for the views that I taught in my books and as a pastor regarding sexuality,” he wrote in his July post. “I regret standing against marriage equality, for not affirming you and your place in the church, and for any ways that my writing and speaking contributed to a culture of exclusion and bigotry. I hope you can forgive me.”
In his first interview since renouncing his faith, Harris told Axios he was “really just trying to be honest about the fact that all the ways that I had defined faith and Christianity, that I was no longer choosing to live according to those.”