Over the next couple weeks a group of people will be reading and responding to the book Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions by Dan Brennan (my earlier review). A chapter will be discussed each Monday, Wednesday and Friday until we are done. Please come back and interact with us. You do not have to have read the book, but it will likely help in the discussion.
Brennan understands that he is working against the grain to suggest that not only is it possible, but it is important to have friendships between men and women that are ‘non-sexual’, but still intimate and deep. The classic movie When Harry Met Sally has the line “…Men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.” And most of us believe, and are taught, that Harry is right.
The hard part is testing the idea. No matter how many cross-gender friendships exist in the world, if one moves to romance, especially if it breaks up a marriage, then all cross-gender friendships are suspect.
Throughout the book, Brennan tries to illustrate positive examples and reasons for cross gender friendships to break the dominance of Harry’s worldview.
The first biblical example is the concept of the Trinity. Jesus’ prayer, “I ask…that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you… (John 17:20).” The concept of God as one, “the Lord is our God, the Lord is one (Deut 6:4)” is the same word used to describe Adam and Eve, “and they shall be one flesh (Gen 2:24).” And the same concept is in Gal 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Brennan’s point is that we as Christians have been instructed to be one as God the Father and Christ, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one. And while, marriage and genital sex are one way of expressing that oneness, it is obviously not the only expression of oneness. Christianity is not a sex cult, so if we are to understand the oneness in Christ, then it need to be understood as something different than simply marriage and sex.
The problem with this illustration is that we do not often emphasis, or even desire, a sense of oneness within the Body of Christ. In fact, some have suggested that John 17 is an example of an unanswered prayer. In general, American spirituality is viewed primarily through a lens of individualism (private prayer and quiet time, a personal decision for Christ, individual spiritual growth). So while I understand the illustration, I do not think it will move many people. Brennan acknowledges the individual focus of much of Christianity, but he hopes that the desire for more will help us understand that the mystery of God can be explored at least in small part by the exploration of the mystery that happens between men and women.
I do think how he hints at the mystery of the oneness at the end of the chapter is useful. The opposite sex is nothing, if not mysterious. And while we often joke about it, there is real depth that can be found by intimately knowing another person and allowing that relationship to expand your view of the world and of God.
What do you think? Is oneness in Christ a model for friendship (whether cross gender or not)?
I will choose one person who comments (randomly) and send you a copy of Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions to help you participate in the discussion. (The book winner has been chosen, if there is not a response or they do not want a copy I will go to the next person.