In my last post, I promised another post with expanding thoughts about how our hyper-sexualized culture has contributed to a decline of friendship. In that post, I briefly review the book Washed and Waiting by a celibate gay Christian, Wesley Hill. It served as a springboard for thoughts about what I refer to as a crisis of friendship in our society – as well as in the church. There is an idolatry of family that contributes to a neglect of friendship. We have disregarded certain biblical passages or misinterpreted others in a way that exalts marriage, family, parenthood while friendship and fellowship with other believers is neglected and downgraded.
In the October 2017 issue of Christianity Today, an author (Todd Wilson) was interviewed about his book: Mere Sexuality. In part of the interview, he states:
“We need to recover the significance of friendship in the church. Friendship has been on the decline in both church and society, as all relationships are subsumed under the erotic and romantic. We use the language of ‘bromance’ for deep, male friendship, while husbands and wives have supposedly married their ‘best friend.’ If marriage is just formalizing an agreement with your number-one person, then friendship loses its distinct dignity and grace.” – page 73
It goes on with thoughts similar to Wesley Hill, connecting this to the struggles of celibate gay Christians. Recovering friendship will require turning to the person of Jesus and the teachings of Jesus:
“Here we find a fairly substantiate critique of this ‘focus on the family’ suburban evangelicalism, where the nuclear family is the central thing in God’s economy. Unless we change this, same-sex attracted people who want to walk the road of chastity will always be falling short of the ideal, and they won’t be included in the central culture of our churches.” – page 73, Christianity Today, Oct. 2017
Not only does this obsession with family effect celibate gay Christians, but also those single for other reasons, and those married without children. A comment left after my post said “Protestant churches hate heterosexual celibates too.”
These “other” types of people (I am one) are a growing segment of the population. The church is alienating or frustrating such people with its obsession on the nuclear family. We have forgotten about the family of God!
But to move back to how our hyper-sexualized culture has contributed to a decline of friendship. It has. Friendship has lost its distinct dignity and grace. It has gotten all mixed up with sex and sexuality, whether it is friendship between two men or two women or between a man and a woman.
Truly, so much has been sexualized. The blogger over at A Daughter of the Reformation reviewed Aimee Byrd’s latest book: Why Can’t we be Friends? about the need for men and women in the church to be friends. Read her review which summarizes key points. Her post begins:
“Sex is what everything is about these days. We’re so saturated in it that we don’t realize how much sex has influenced even the meanings of words.
Relationship? Euphemism for sex
Attraction? Precursor to sex
Friendship? Euphemism for sex (friends w/ benefits), a brief stop on the way to sex, or a demotion from a sexual relationship (“just” friends, the friend zone)
Purity? Not having sex outside marriage.”
It is sad. I left a comment after the review.
Well, hopefully my excerpts and own thoughts have made a coherent point? I guess that obsession with our nuclear family and the hyper-sexualization of our culture have combined to downgrade friendship.
Yet, according to Jesus, there is no greater love than the sacrificial love of one friend for another (John 15:13)!
But I will throw a third thing into the mix when it comes to the decline of friendship and the too-often shallow and superficial relationships that people have within the church…the busyness epidemic. We are too busy for friendship. But that heads off in another direction and I have already blogged several times about busyness, such as here.
→ A part 3 summary post on friendship and sexuality here: More on friendship.