Monday, June 28, 2010

Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions: Chapter 1, Part 1 - Friendship

 “Friendship between the sexes may take us not out of ourselves but beyond ourselves…we are being prepared ultimately for that vast friendship which is in heaven in which we…all share in the love of God.” Gilbert Meilaender

In Chapter 1, Brennan explores sexuality and friendship and the question of whether or not sex gets in the way of friendship across genders. Many Christians could quote this line and think of it as near-biblical:

“What I’m saying—and this is not a come-one in any way—is that men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.”

However, this line is not spoken by a biblical author, but rather by Harry from the 1989 film When Harry Met Sally. But is Harry right? Should we take Harry’s view and see it as the end to any further conversation about the topic? Brennan, of course, says no. He suggests that our Western culture has taken sexuality and reduced to merely genitalia. Of course, some of us can’t imagine sexuality meaning anything other than, well, sex. So what does Brennan mean?

First of all, he suggests that we must re-evaluate what friendship really is. Because of the West’s obsession with sex, we tend to say things like “they are just friends.” Just friends? Isn’t that trivializing most of the relationships we have with people? Victor Luftig points out that the awkwardness of speaking of male-female relationships because we define them by “what it is not.” He says, “To begin defining friendship according to the absence of sex may be to say much about one’s expectations concerning gender relations, but it is also to offer little hope for being able to say what friendship actually is.”

And according to John Scudder, in our culture “it would make no sense to say that couples became friends in order to not have sex.” So we are forced to ask the question—have we unnaturally forced friendship between the sexes to be “a merely temporary stage on to the way to something…scarcely nameable as thing unto itself”? (Luftig).

Brennan points out Christianity’s need to be counter-cultural. We must not assume cultural norms simple because they are cultural norms. “Is it possible that Christian friendship between a man and woman is an authentic, embodied witness pointing to a greater reality than the image offered by romantic comedies?” He even points out the example of Jesus who “intentionally met with women…traveled with them…shared intimate, private conversations with them. In the presence of others, he pursued new social possibilities thought inappropriate by religious leaders.”
Lilian Calles Barger suggests, “…people are looking not for a no-holds-barred sexuality but for a sexuality to be defined more broadly than erotic…people are longing for a broadening of what it means to be a sexual person.”

What do you think? Has Western culture reduced friendship as a merely a stepping stone to sex? And have reduced a Biblical view of sexuality to simply intercourse? Is it possible that Christian friendship between a man and woman is an authentic, embodied witness pointing to a greater reality than the image offered by romantic comedies?”

Friday, June 25, 2010

Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions Introduction

Over the next few posts I will be giving a summary and (eventually) analysis of Dan Brennan’s book Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions. Brennan’s book is about the necessity of intimate yet non-physical male-female relationships in Christian community.

His opening paragraph in the introduction summarizes his purpose quite well—

What would our marriages, our friendships, our churches, and our communities look like if men and women were not afraid of connecting with each other in deep ways? What if men and women could really know each other without sex getting in the way? What if we did not have to be so afraid of our own and other’s bodies that we cannot trust ourselves with them.

He continues that in our contemporary culture “friendship love between a man and woman is poised to become...a love coexisting with marriage not a rival love to it” (emphasis original). And again he posits that “[c]communion between sexes is not solely contained between husband and wife” (emphasis original).

Brennan’s book wants to suggest that “the possibility of deep spiritual friendships between the sexes” may actually decrease the divorce rate among Christians, that “cross-sex” relationships can help us in our journey closer to God (Brennan wisely avoids the phrase “nonsexual.” Humans are embodies sexual beings; it is innate in their crated nature; therefore intimacy can be chaste, but it can hardly be nonsexual).

In Chapter One Brennan makes it clear that if you are looking for a “’Focus on the Family’ value system with safe, predictable, cut-and-dried boundaries to protect marriages and ‘family values’ then this book might prove terrifying.”

What do you think? Does this book have any potential to ask interesting questions, or is it simply treading on holy ground that no one should dare question? 

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Some Updates

Summer is in full gear here at the Lakes and Emily and I are loving it. Saturday and Monday we spent the day on a boat. I even tried wake-boarding! I managed to fall on my face a magnificent number of times and yet had fun doing it.

Good News Community Church has been meeting at the Tabernacle for well over a month now. It's been a lot of fun. Everyone just seems more (for lack of a better word) "clappy" at the Tab. And not in a cheesy, fake sense. There's a true sense of worship going 'round and that is always, always exciting.

The folks at GNCC have been wonderful to Emily and me. The transition from "this is new" to "this is home" has gone much more quickly than I think either one of us could have hoped for. This is perhaps one of the great joys of working for a church: you are immediately part of a community of brothers and sisters, being loved and accepted for the simple fact that you love Jesus too.

In April I had the privilege of preaching at Good News. Preaching is one of my great loves (right up there with Emily, playing piano really loudly, and Walmart chicken strips). I hope one day to be able to do it much more often.