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Jessica Van Der Wyngaard Shares Vision for "I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye," Her Upcoming Documentary

July 28, 2017
We have been inspired by our Regent experience to consider a broader vision. One that all believers can relate to, one that doesn't end with a wedding but ends with a community.

Regent student Jessica Van Der Wyngaard is currently in the planning stages of filming a documentary which traces her fellow Regent student Josh Harris's process as he re-evaluates his popular 1997 book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye. The book, which Josh wrote when he was 21 years old, became the go-to romantic relationship instruction book for evangelical teens. Now, 20 years later, Josh is well into the process of re-assessing his book, and delving into some of the strong reactions that are still being elicited by the hardline stance he took against secular dating culture as a young Christian man. In the film, entitled "I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye," Jessica will follow Josh as he encounters both fans and critics of his book, and as he seeks new, fruitful, and faithful ways of talking about relationships within a Christian context. Most of the filming, audio, and technical work will be done by a team of Regent students and alumni. Jessica is taking the project on as her Integrated Project in Arts and Theology (IPIAT) to complete the Arts concentration for her MA Theo Studies degree.

Naturally, considering the ubiquity of the book in late '90s and 2000s conversations around dating, the project has developed some substantial buzz. Both NPR and Christianity Today have interviewed Josh about his process of re-evaluation. Last week, Convivium interviewed both Jessica and Josh about the project. 

Read our short interview with Jessica about her project below. If you're interested in learning more, you can check out the video for Jessica's Kickstarter fundraising campaign at the bottom of this article

How did you get the idea to do this film with Josh as your Integrated Project In Arts and Theology?

The idea to do my thesis project as a documentary that addresses issues around Christian dating and relationships was already my goal even before I met Joshua Harris. In those early stages, I wasn't sure exactly how it would look, I just knew it could be significant. These issues were affecting me, my fellow students and so many others and I wanted see these realities addressed in a fresh way. Not in another book, website, teaching series, but a documentary—something accessible that hadn't been done before. When Josh began studying at Regent in the Fall of 2015, it seemed like he would be an ideal partner for this project. And it just so happened he was ready to evaluate his conclusions in I Kissed Dating Goodbye, now 20 years after its release. It felt like a student partnership God had orchestrated. 

After this process of re-evaluation and deconstruction that Josh has gone through, does this film aim at presenting a reconstructed vision for what Christian dating culture should look like? Can you give us a sneak peek into what this vision is?

In reconsidering I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Josh has realized that providing the next generation with a new "how to" wasn't where he wanted to land. And as someone who followed the "how tos" of IKDG as well as Josh's other early books, and found them less and less helpful as my circumstances changed and I got older—I was glad to move away from simply crafting a new set of guidelines for relationships. Other individuals Josh and I respect greatly have already provided this, including Debra Fileta (True Love Dates) and Thomas Umstattd Jr. (Courtship in Crisis) and these are people who you will see in conversation with Josh and myself in the film. 

Instead, we have been inspired by our Regent experience to consider a broader vision. One that all believers can relate to, one that doesn't end with a wedding but ends with a community. Romantic love is a wonderful gift from God but it's not all there is to love. The reality is that many of us may never see a wedding in our life story. As believers we are not a collection of separate nuclear families, peppered with singles and others—we are the family of God, centred on Jesus, and no one should be excluded from experiencing love in that community. 

IPIATs typically involve an artistic project that involves a theological component. In what ways is the film exploring theological aspects of romance, sexuality, and marriage?

Yes! This is something I'm very excited about! In researching and preparing for this project both Josh and I have read extensively and consulted many authors, theologians, historians and pastors in order to develop a thesis/storyline that is scripturally based, compelling, and challenging—in the best way possible. Both Josh and I have have found our time at Regent to be deeply formative. And here I can only speak for myself, but my perspective has been changed for the better in how I think of and relate to God because of my time at Regent. My desire for this film and why I am so excited is that by making a documentary, we are able to share some of our own theological learnings and faith-expanding experiences with a wide audience in an accessible format. That is something I'm hoping friends of Regent can get excited about too!

Thanks for your time Jess! Best of luck with the project. 

To keep up-to-date on "I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye," check out their Kickstarter page, and their website.

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