“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?”