Tag Archives: dan brennan

The friendship is the benefits (on Christian egalitarianism and cross-gender friendships)

I haven’t been blogging much lately apart from last weekend, but I seem to be full of thoughts that need out, and I’m trying to rely less on Facebook than I used to do -battling an addiction and winning?-, so I might return to blogging here more.

I’ll start with saying that I’m not following everything that’s going on in the US or in US Christianity, but I’ve been following a bit of the situation with the megachurch of Willow Creek from here. and the possible sexual misconduct of Bill Hybels -a man who always seemed rather respectable to me by the way- .  I am by no way qualified to say something about that situation, but the legendary blogger Andrew Jones has a good overview here with some important questions at the Tall Skinny Kiwi blog. (glad to see him blogging again by the way!)

One of the links that Andrew has collected in his post is a very interesting analysis of Dan Brennan here. Dan is one of the biggest experts in this age on Christianity and cross-gender friendships in the world as far as I know, at least in the English-speaking world. (See all my posts about his book ‘sacred unions, sacred passions’ here) HE has some interesting observations about a certain kind of ‘anxious’ egalitarianism that he sees as quite pervasive in certain American circles:

I was in for a big surprise when I started to go public about my friendships with women a little over ten years ago. I thought evangelical egalitarians would enthusiastically see all the benefits of intentional spiritual friendships out in the open. It was quite a jolt to me when I began to run into skeptical egalitarians.

To say I encountered spiritual anxiety among these unconvinced Christians would be an understatement. It was not that they were opposed to cross-sex friendships. They had plenty of opposite-sex friends.

What, then, were they anxious about? It soon became clear to me: my intention to practice dyadic opposite-sex friendships before a watching world. They were highly anxious in men and women sharing authentic power and risk in one-on-one relationships with no one else around. Friendship was not foundational to any Willow Creek model. It was not even up there on the high priority list.

Again, note here I can’t comment on whether this is actually true for certain circles, and my goal here is not to point my finger to certain groups that are on another continent from me, but to find out what the most Christlike way of living and interacting is, and which examples should be emulated and which examples are lacking. And what we can learn from that, either by seeing what we should do, or what we shouldn’t do.

Let’s first say that I certainly am an egalitarian and strongly believe that cross-gender friendships are a healthy thing, for several reasons. When it comes to the reasons that some Christians want to hear first, the ones derived from the bible and the Christian tradition, both more or less have the same foundation:  Jesus who broke all rules of gender segregation that his culture had is an important one to start with. Think of the Samaritan woman at the well, the story of Mary & Martha, and as I pointed out in my last post Mary Magdalene in the garden-. Paul speaking of ‘no male and female in Christ’ is another one. And just the idea of calling each other brother and sister is also a quite powerful -that’s not just a metaphor, people-. Every person is our brother and sister, and needs to be treated as such, with the same love and respect we would treat an actual sibling. (Yes, looking at our sisters as sex objects would be creepy and evil if looked at it that way.)

I also am naturally inclined by my personality type to friend women as easily as men, and any person who will tell me than male-female friendships are impossible is more or less doing something like telling Mr. beaver of Narnia that animals cannot talk.

I’d also say people who are unable to have equal cross-sex friendships are missing something in their humanity, and that New Testament Christianity quite easily leads to the conclusion that all people of all genders should be treated as friends. And that looking at people as sexual objects, either as a prey in our fantasy or as a temptation that we should get away from at all costs is, is a serious disregard of the humanity of our sister.

(Note that I’m speaking as a straight male here but that you can fill in whatever gender  or sex you are that fits for yourself and whom you’re attracted to. It’s applicable to all genders and sexual orientations)

I’m not the only one who has picked up on Dan’s important observations. The internetmonk blog also extensively quotes his blogpost in a post called “Friends without benefits“. Chaplain Mike ends his post with the following points:

In our sexualized society, it is easy to understand why some people might want to erect strong, rule-based boundaries about cross-sex relationships. I have news for you. Those boundaries haven’t stopped or even slowed down immoral behavior, and if I read Paul correctly, trying to control sin by implementing law only exacerbates the problem (Romans 7).

I believe God calls us to maturity and wisdom in all of our relationships. I have long been “egalitarian” in my theological position (I’d rather say I believe in full partnership and mutuality between men and women). But this article has caused me to question a huge blindspot in egalitarian teaching and practice. We have not truly learned to welcome each other, live with each other, and serve one another as true brothers and sisters until we can learn to be friends. Without benefits.

Very important points again, although I have some quibbles with his title. I’d say that the friendship itself is enough of a benefit, not? I already don’t like the expression of just friendship’. There is something very wrong if there’s an actual friendship going on and you call it being ‘just’ friends, a if being friends is not something worth celebrating in this superficial lonely culture… So as my own title here says, I’d say that ‘the friendship is the benefits’!

In a world where people of the other sex (or any sex you find attractive) are so often reduced to a commodity to satisfy your lustful thoughts actually seeing people as humans like us made in Gods image, and treating them as friends, and sisters and brothers of equal value as we have ourselves might be a revolutionary way of living. But in the end it’s just a very logical application of ‘love your neighbour’.

Not dehumanising people into sex objects -to abuse or run away from as a temptation- and just being friends with them are two extremely basic ways of loving your fellow human I would say… And that’s the core of the question. When we grow on our spiritual Path with Christ -who friended all kinds of women including prostitutes, which were never referred to as sex objects of either category by Him, but as fellow human beings in need of love- we should  be able to go much deeper than that. Just being brothers and sisters is the beginning, like learning the ABC when there are whole libraries to read, and all of us will add our own book to them.



See also on this blog:
Mary Magdalene, Apostle to the Apostles, and the Risen Jesus
Jesus against the sexism of his time: Martha and Mary
10 old traditional and/or biblical Christian ideas that are sometimes mistakenly seen as ‘progressive’…
Some thoughts on the myth that ‘men are visual’
On nudity in game of thrones, and some American bloke again…(the ‘bloke’ being John Piper)
On similar misandry in Christian fundamentalism and consumer capitalism?
‘Male christianity’ vs Mother Teresa
A Christian reaction to porn that doesn’t dehumanise the objectified further?
sexual dominoes vs the fruits of the Spirit
on sexy porn models and human dignity
Meditating on sexy models

Interesting links elsewhere (summer 2015 edition)

Summer break is over, and so is my blog silence, so I better make up for my IMG_1899missed link-list… The featured picture is one with 2 types of stuffed ‘olive cucumbers’ as we call them in Dutch, or achocha (Cyclanthera pedata on the right and under, cyclanthere brachystegia on the left). Which is a very interesting addition to our assorted tapas… These ‘stuffing cucumbers’ are an easy to grow and very cool but rather unknown vegetable…

So what did I see on the internet that was worth reading while in ‘inactive mode’?

In which she underfines femininity by Rachel Heston-Davis  on Jesus creed.

A very interesting impression of 2 wiccans at the hypercharismatic church of Bethel that I’m still processing and might blog about later. part I part II part III. Check also the prophecies she received at Bethel. (makes one think, not?)

The true story of Kudzu, the vine that never ate the South. Lies, media, tall tales and shifting baselines…

Heart-breaking piece by David Bentley Hart about a man who was able to see the spiritual realm until modern psychiatry and medicine messed with him. “Sometimes it is difficult to exaggerate how strange, barbaric, and superstitious an age ours really is.”

Are plants intelligent?

New plant species discovered via facebook. One of the biggest Drosera-species on the planet, and already almost extinct…

A church grown from trees…

Secret Belgian operation to save 244 Christians from Aleppo.

How C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien responded to ‘envirenmental holocaust’

Interesting angle from India: Yes, men get raped too, and they mostly  suffer in silence.

Sensationalist title, but interesting fossils nonetheless: Stunning Fossils Rewrite Evolutionary History of Life on Earth

20 priceless monuments lost in war.

When I came back on the internet, I learned what Ashley Madison was. I wishI had remained ignorant about the existence of that kind of  #@&% but now that I know about it I can as well share some perspectives by Tall Skinny Kiwi and Dan Brennan about it…

that’s it for now…

see you all later


Nothing more natural than cross-gender friendships?

This post is part of the February Synchroblog “Cross Gender Friendships”. The list with the contributions , which I recommend you to read too, can  be found at the end of this post.

I am one of those calvin-and-susie-25895people whose mere existence can be a threat to some peoples worldview…

I really don’t get certain (sub)cultural taboos for example, and they actually are quite unnatural and illogical to me. One of them is the way American conservative people are offended by the word ‘shit’, but that might be for another time. Today it’s about the idea that ‘men and women can’t be friends’. This is something that seems to be a doctrine in certain Christian circles, but I’ve also encountered it in other places that were completely unchristlike, and actually have thought it  to be misogynist worldliness for a long time. And moreover, everything I know in my life points to the obvious fact that this is just nonsense…

If we skip the discussion about the segregation of the sexes that exists in certain Muslim context for example, and just look at the cultures I more or less align with, we still find enough examples. I remember as a teenager that I was watching a Flemish talkshow on the subject, and there were people for whom it was natural that such friendships were possible, but also some kind of weird loud working-class guy who said that it was impossible for men and women to be friend, with some reasoning about sex and gender roles and a lot of stuff I could not relate to. I think that was the first time I realised that some people had the idea that cross-gender friendships are impossible, or even harmful.

Maybe for some personality types it is harder, I don’t know, I suppose so. I also wonder if you’re used to watching women as lust objects it is harder to relate to them as friends… at least that was my explanation for the phenomenon that some people were unable to be friends with the other sex. I had noticed early enough (and seen it again and again) that the type of man who likes to boast about watching porn and make remarks about women passing by on the street was less likely to have ‘just’ friendships* with women (the sort of women they found attractive that is, they might be friends with the old lady behind the bar or so…)

The thing is that I was the kind of boy who always found it easier to make friends with girls than with boys. And there was no ‘hidden agenda’ for me, I’ve always tended to friend girls whose presence I liked, but to whom I did not have romantic attraction. (At that age I was too shy to friend girls I was in love with anyway, it made me uncomfortable and stuff. Poor me…) So anyone who ever tells me it’s impossible to have friends of the other sex is like someone telling a Martian that aliens don’t exist. Not in a million years it will ever be convincing unless you destroy my identity…

As a Christian teenager I  liked to hang out with girls more than with boys, and was friends with several of them, and never heard (or at least did not understand from what I heard) that it could be wrong. I heard a lot of stuff about relationships, but since I’ve been single until I was 21 or so, that stuff wasn’t relevant. what I did hear was that friendship was important in a relationship, and I never conceived that a friendship with a person of the other sex not leading to a romantic relationship or a marriage could ever be a problem…

Maybe I sometimes encountered stuff like stories of pastors who wouldn’t even be alone with a woman not their wife, or of the dangers of meeting other women alone if you had a relationship, but that did not apply to a single person who was not at all such an exotic thing as an American pastor… And to be honest, not much difference happened (except for a shift in priority) when I started a relationship, or even when I married.

Later when I was in my late twenties I saw some signs that it was actually a taboo, especially for married people, to have cross-gender friends. But I was actually married by that time, and both me and my wife still had good friends of the other sex, so I just found it weird, and couldn’t relate to the idea. Upon investigating the subject it turned out a lot of people would find my life and friendships unnatural and dangerous, or just not possible. (Americans seem to like to quote some movie about Harry and Sally on the subject, but I’ve never seen it, and I don believe in the cannonisation of Hollywood movies at all… I also find it quite nonsensical from the viewpoint that a lot of people are bisexual. Should they have no friends?)

But it became a subject that held my interest. I learned a lot about the subject from the blog of Dan Brennan, (and his excellent book sacresacredd unions, sacred passions) who did come from a point of view where he had to defend his positive views about cross-gender friendships all the time, which was not always as relevant to me, but he also laid out a beautiful history of cross-gender friendships, and a quite interesting positive theology of cross-gender friendships in the already-and-not-yet Kingdom of God.  He only confirmed my conviction that friendships are part of the command to love one another, and that this does not exclude people of the other gender.
(Something that’s quite obvious in the way Jesus relates to women in the gospels, sometimes completely contrary to the culture he lived in!)

So, what’s my conclusion: cross-gender friendships should be natural to those who followed Him who called us to love our neighbor as ourselves. It is part of the already and not yet of the inbreaking Kingdom of God in our world. I also think that learning to develop friendship-love towards the other sex is a very good antidote to the toxic tendency to  objectify women (and men!) in our society as sex-objects. My life and my faith would be poorer without them, and even my marriage would never have been what it is without what I’ve learned through cross-gender friendships.



The other synchroblog participants:
Chris Jefferies – Best of both
Jeremy Myers – Are Cross-Gender Friendships Possible
Lynne Tait – Little Boxes
Dan Brennan – Cross-Gender Friendship: Jesus and the Post-Romantic Age
Glenn Hager – Sluts and Horndogs
Jennifer Ellen – A Different Kind of Valentine
Alise Wright – What I get from my cross-gender friend
Liz Dyer – Cross-Gender Friendships and the Church
Paul Sims – Navigating the murky water of cross-gender friendships
Jonalyn Fincher – Why I Don’t Give out Sex like Gold Star Stickers
Amy Martin – Friendship: The most powerful force against patriarchy, sexism, and other misunderstands about people who happen to not be us, in this case, between men & women
Maria Kettleson Anderson- Myth and Reality: Cross-Gender Friendships
Bram Cools – Nothing More Natural Than Cross-Gender Friendships?
Hugo Schwyzer – Feelings Aren’t Facts: Living Out Friendship Between Men and Women
Marta Layton – True Friendship: Two Bodies, One Soul
Kathy Escobar – The Road To Equality Is Paved With Friendship
Karl Wheeler – Friends at First Sight

Doreen Mannion – Hetereosexual, Platonic Cross-Gender Friendships–Learning from Gay & Lesbian Christians
Jim Henderson – Jesus Had A Thing for Women and So Do I

Elizabeth Chapin – 50 Shades of Friendship

See also on this blog:

Jesus against the sexism of his time: Martha and Mary
On cross-gender friendships and Christians…
teenage flashback: I’m not flirting, but I might need a hug…
christians and cross-gender friendships
sexual dominoes vs the fruits of the Spirit
sacred unions, sacred passions (musical prelude)
sacred unions, sacred passions I: beyond the romantic myth
Sacred unions, sacred passions II: Freud and the irresistible sex drive
on sexy porn models and human dignity

* There is no such thing as ‘just’ friendship. A real friendship is a very valuable relationship that is not at all less valuable than a romantic relationship or a marriage. This expression just shows that our culture has a too low view of friendship!

Top-ten posts in 2010

For those to whom it may concern, these were the most popular, or at least most read posts in the year 2010 on this blog. I have no idea if my readers liked them at all, but I do pray my writings would be able to enrich peoples lives… Maybe to some my thoughts are only weird and controversial, and to others they are boring and theoretic, but like a wise man once said, there are too many people, and they’re all too hard to please…

The first one on this list is most likely the most dissapointing for people to land on, since it’s popularity is mainly from people who google for porn…

so (drrrrrumrollll) here is the top-ten:

1) on sexy porn models and human dignity
2) On praying for president Obama’s death and Christian black magic…
3) On cross-gender friendships and christians…
4) the emerging Joneses and my anarchist marriage…
5) Michael Gungor Band – God is not a white man
6) sacred unions, sacred passions I: beyond the romantic myth
7) Love your enemies, bless those who persecute you..
8) Rob Bell on atonement or the bible versus (reformed) tradition
9) Post-human broken sexuality… vs the beauty in this innocence
10) Reclaiming supernaturalism: on evolutionary creationism and angels..

[I always love how the code makes a smiley out of the 8 in this kind of lists…]

other posts worth reading from 2010:
Avatar and the core of the christian view on marriage
‘Male christianity’ vs Mother Teresa
Rethinking my childhood atonement theory
Christian music as a genre?

I hope to meet all my readers and commenters again in the new year for new discussions, and for growing towards Christ together. We all can learn a lot from each other…

peace and love


sexual dominoes vs the fruits of the Spirit

(Now that’s a name for a first blog post of the new year, isn’t it?)

I was reading a blog post by Dan Brennan[1] about ‘sexual dominoes’, which got me thinking about how much we actually believe the bible and take it serious as a basis for our lives as evangelical christians, as we’d claim we do when someone would ask us.

So what are ‘sexual dominoes’? The article by Josh Hunt Dan refers to is a good example. It basicly boils down to the good old ‘slippery slope’ argument applied to the fear of having a affair: all affairs start innocently and then instantly progress like the collective pieces in the domino game. Once one tips over one tile, all the rest of the tiles follow suit. Don’t come near to other women as a man, it is dangerous and flirting with infidelity. A quote from the Josh Hunt article will make it more clear how far this kind of thinking goes:

I’d invite you to make it a part of the culture at your church: around here. . .

  • We don’t share a meal with another woman
  • We don’t get in the care with another woman
  • We don’t counsel another woman
  • We don’t talk about anything personal with another woman.
  • We are never alone with another women ever for any reason.

You will be glad you did. So will your kids, your church, your friends and your God.

Impractical as such a thing is in most working contexts, it is probably is possible for a pastor… And it’s nothing new, Billy Graham had policies like this, and Rick Warren still has. The idea is that one can’t be careful enough… So apparently we are not capable of self-control, and just should avoid any situation in which we **could** be able to sin with someone of the other sex. Nevermind that such way of thinking is devaluating the person of the other sex to just a ‘temptation’, supposing the worst of them. Nevermind that our big example Jesus, who was even unmarried, broke all this kind of unwritten laws and taboos (which were really strong in his culture) with the Samaritan woman at the well, and probably with Mary and Martha too… which is an important subversion of all these kinds of thinking, but not what I was planning to write about… Maybe later…

But then I got thinking about self-control. The pop-Freudianism which gave us this framework might not believe in it, but what about us Christians. Shouldn’t the word ‘self-control’ automaticly ring a bell -and especially for me as a charismatic Christian-? Do we or do we not actually believe in the fruits of the Spirit?

Gal 5:22-25 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ45 have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also behave in accordance with the Spirit.

Back to my question: Do we really take the bible seriously as evangelical Christians? Do we actually want the Spirit to transform us according to the fruits of the Spirit? Do we really want to follow Jesus’ example, and the law of love for our fellow human, regardless of their sex? Or do we follow the wisdom of pop-freudianism, which makes us unable to have any unsuspect relationship in the end.

And yes, we should be realistic, and not go there where we know we will be tempted beyond what we can handle. But that does not mean that we as Christians in any way can agree with the worldly way of thought that devaluates humans, created in the image of God, to either dangerous tempting sexy creatures or lust-controlled animals who cannot resist them. This is a very unchristian way of thinking, which goes against all Jesus stood for, against the whole Spirit of the New Testament! (It might be compatible with some muslim thought though) We should love our neigbor as ourselves, regardless of sex, and to really love someone will never go together with sexually abusing them (in real life or in thought). A good cross-gender friendship is a much better way to learn how to cope with the other sex than any kind of segregation tactics can ever be…

When will we really believe in the power of the Spirit, in the seriousness of the first law of love? When will we follow the example of Christ and love our fellow human, regardless of sex, income, social class, color of skin,… De we really believe that in Christ there is no male or female, no jew nor greek?

Or are we more inclined to believe the theories of this world? Pop-psychology, freudian reductionism, etc… If that is the case, we better stop using words like ‘evangelical’ or ‘biblical’. There’s nothing biblical at all about this. It’s just fear, and disbelief in the words of Jesus and Paul, in the Love of Christ in us, and in the Image of God that we all share.

Is it true that perfect love drives out all fear, like the bible says? do we really believe such things?

Let there be more of You, Lord
and less of our silliness,
More Holy Spirit and less ZeitGeist
so that Your Kingdom come
and Your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven



[1] Author of the much-needed book ‘sacred unions, sacred passions‘, about Christians and cross-gender friendships.

Sacred unions, sacred passions II: Freud and the irresistible sex drive

So right now I’m blogging about Dan Brennans book ‘sacred unions, sacred passions‘, subtitled ‘engaging the mystery of friendship between men and women’. I’ve started this series with a musical prelude, and part 1: beyond the the romantic myth but I had already introduced the subject in another post earlier this week.

So Dan writes in his book about cross-gender friendships, a topic that is naturally to me (and him) but still it is very controversial for some christians, and some others in this world. One of the reasons for having problems with the idea of cross-gender friends  is the way we view sexuality as an all-controlling power in our post-Freud age. Freud himself reacted rightly againt the repression of sexuality in his victorian age, but what he gave in return was the other evil side of the pendulum… He sexualised and genitalised every form of human tenderness, and interest between the sexes and even within the same sex(even between mother-son and sister-brother pairs) and this myth has been deeply injected in the fundaments of our modern western way of viewing relationships, even for conservative christians.

If you combine this with an almost medieval worldview on creation order, that is still alive in some more conservative strains of evangelical christianity, you get a very deterministic view on any kind of relationships, which does in fact not differ much from St-Augustines, who was so affraid of women that he didn’t let his widowed stepsister stay in the same house as himself. but those were they days the church was absolutely negative about both sex and women (which is not very biblical, just read the song of Solomon…) and I don’t think anyone wants to go back to that time…

Like Dan points out: For many conservative believers, sexual drive towards the other sex is almost embraced as a nonnegotiable part of the created order. A number of Christians, like my former pastor (who told me I was playing with fire), believe men and women are hardwired for sex, as if that is the sole purpose for female-male relationality in Christ’s Kingdom and the world. It is “natura!” and therefore predictable for men and women who enter into any kind of close relationship with each other to take it to the next and ultimate level—which would mean having sex. Romantic and sexual coupling is in our genes as a man and a woman get close to one another, according to this interpretation.
Nature takes over and overrides the best of intentions between the sexes with irresistible force. Conversation, then, about male-female relations before marriage or in addition to marriage immediately goes toward temptation, lust, avoidance, rules, and boundaries. The discussion quickly degenerates into finding a list of rules to stave off powerful sexual urges. This common approach, however, is in danger of reading into the divine order a narrow, Freudian view of human nature as well as the romantic myth.

And from elsewhere: When Christian communities make Freud’s view of sexuality (even modified) and the romantic myth “compatible” with their biblical principles, the idealization of marriage becomes coherent with the rejection of intimate male-female friendship beyond marriage or outside of marriage: all the gestures, pleasures, emotions, and desires of nonromantic love are genitalized on this side of Freud. (..) As Lisa McMinn comments: “Although Freud has been misunderstood and criticized for saying so, hè saw sexual energy as the life force that motivates all human behavior. When conservative Christians adapt a modified Freudian view of sexuality and conflate the romantic myth with the meaning of one flesh, one wonders how Christian husbands and wives are able to pursue deep intimacy and become companions on the marital journey. Perhaps the greatest enemy of marriage when the notion of one flesh has been made synonymous with the romantic myth is the one flesh vision of marriage itself. When the romantic myth makes sex and romantic passion the end of marriage, it creates impossible standards. As Tallis notes, in romantic idealism “we unwittingly expect love to deliver the kind of happiness that was associated with a direct experience of the numinous. In effect, we look to another human being to give life meaning and purpose.

So what is the problem? First that those 2 cultural myths are adapted and used as foundation of bible-exegesis, on which we build our view of relationships. And worldviews and expectations are really self-fulfilling. If you just believe self-control does not exist, and that it’s only logical to look at women like sex objects, it will be that way. I am reminded here in a scene of the narnia book ‘the magicians nephew’, where the evil uncle Andrew, who does not believe in talking animals, tells to himself they are just making animal noises. And in the end he isn’t able to hear anything but animal noises, even if he would try (and the speaking animals don’t recognise his speech as language either.) I believe it is the same with the way how we look at the role of our sex drive: if we genitalise it all, all will be genitalised. If we start from friendship, mutual respect, and love, we will end with them…

It is not true that when I’m in love with a girl, that I have to start a relationship with her. Au contraire, even if you’re both in love you can decide to not start a relationship if you know it wouldn’t work… Like I did once. Neither is the sexual drive ever irresistible. If you really cannot fight temptation, you have a problem, and might even be a danger to society. There are enough people whose life proves that the irresistible sex drive is just a lie, christians and non-christians alike. And others who’ve made it truth in their own universe…

And especially we as Christians should not fall for such determinism that gives our flesh so much power! Don’t we believe in the fruits of the Spirit, including self-control? Don’t we believe that we are called to love each opther (a command which is never sex-segregated) and that in christ we as brothers and sisters live in a new reality, in which there is neither ‘greek’ or ‘jew’, nor male and female? We may do like the bible as a source for abstract truths, but when will we learn to live inside it’s new reality? Did Jesus die in vain to reconcile us, if all we want to believe is exagerrated psychological and biological determinisms, and the power of our flesh? shouldn’t we be living in the law of love, the resurrection and the new life?



sacred unions, sacred passions I: beyond the romantic myth

Right now I’m blogging about Dan Brennans book ‘sacred unions, sacred passions‘, subtitled ‘engaging the mystery of friendship between men and women’. I’ve started this series with a musical prelude, but I had already introduced the subject in another post earlier this week.

so now it’s time to start talking about Dans book itself. And what I like a lot about it, is his thoroughly investigation of the subject.You get a lot of background information, history, bible verses, and quotes (somtimes it’s almost academically) of which you wished you’d know it before.

In the beginning of the book he identifies some of the underlying assumptions in how Western society (and thus, in modified form, Christian subcultures too) view sexuality, relationship and marriage. And the sad thing is that we most of the time don’t seem to be able to see through them… One thing Dan identifies as the foundation of a lot of our thinking is what he calls ‘the myth of romantic idealism’, which we all will recognise if I give you 2 quotes that were used in the book:

Our culture generally elevates the romantic experience of falling in love above religious commitment, teaching us that this emotional experience is both beyond our control and beyond all reproach! Idealizing romantic passion as the unique, one-and-only, exclusive form of love between a man and woman has created a pervasive romantic myth in our contemporary world when it comes to male-female paired relationships. (Laura Smit)

Romantic relationships are celebrated as an ideal woman-man relationship in our society. The myths of our culture secure a special status for romantic heterosexual relationships since these myths idealize romantic love and promote the notion that the emotional well-being of men and women is dependent upon their involvement in a ‘successful’ romantic relationship! (Kathy Werking)

So romantic love is seen as the most important and deepest form of love, and ones life will never be complete without it. A lot of movies and books and songs do have that idea as the basis of the underlying worldbview.

The sad thing is that ‘conservative’ christianity has absorbed a lot of this idea, and combined it with the biblical of “one flesh” (an expression used for both marriage and sexual union from genesis, which is referenced to in the new testament by both Paul and Jesus himself) to create something unrealistic. The “one flesh” relationship is supposed to satisfy all our deepest yearnings for oneness, sexuality and deep friendship. So every male-female interaction is viewed in this light:

The Christianized version of the romantic myth exaggerates, idealizes, and isolates the path of dating or courtship to marriage as the only prize in paired male-female relationships under the justification of “one flesh!’ Embodied knowledge, relational depth, emotional closeness, physical tenderness, sensual warmth and play, vulnerability, trust, fidelity, commitment, union, spontaneity, understanding, giving the utmost— these dynamic nongenital relational qualities are romanticized and sexualized under the evangelical rhetoric of one flesh. Some Christians who see these dynamics in male-female pairs presume this “couple” must be on the path toward romantic and genital intimacy.

Which is asking way too much of romantic relationships and marriage. Surely in this sexually broken world it is important that we point to marriage as a place of love, passion and sexual fidelity (also with our lives!), but that does not mean that all other ‘unions’ in our life are just peripheral…: To use Dans words:

Here, classical Christianity calls us out to something much more than the ‘much more” embedded in romantic idealism. God, who is love, calls us all—singles, husbands, wives, widows, widowers, divorced— into a spirituality of love and friendship in marriage, beyond marriage, and outside of marriage. While God honors and blesses the marriage bed, God does not confine delight, goodness, passion, attraction, beauty, sensuality, spontaneity, or creativity to the boundaries of married love. Jesus himself embodied these realities as a single man. The spirituality of love and friendship in classical Christianity does not give us a stark contrast between great mystery of marital love and uninspiring platonic friendship outside of marriage. Both in the Bible and in tradition, the spirituality of friendship is presented as hungering for the good, the beautiful, and the true.

The whole romantic myth is not something we should swallow as truth as Christians. We follow a single man as Savior, and most of our new testament was written by another single man. How could we ever believe that ‘being in love’ and having a romantic relationship is the highest good to pursue without which we’ll never be complete? This is very denigrating to singles, and to all non-romantic relationships too. While friendship and brotherly love have been honored throughout a lot of church history (and in lots of other cultures) we seem to not value it very much in our society. Only the expression ‘just’ friends tells us enough, as if a friendship in itself is not enough to be meaningful…

So the first thing from the book that I think everybody should think about is this romantic myth. It doesn’t matter if it’s the christian or the non-christian form, we shouldn’t fall for it!



sacred unions, sacred passions (musical prelude)

I’m going to blog about Dan Brennans higly recommended book ‘sacred unions, sacred passions‘, a book which I think is needed in soms Christian circles. But before we go to the book i’ll start with a song that I once made, about how I felt when I was a lot younger and a bit lonely. My apologies for those who don’t like lo-fi music… (and yes I know it is weird and slightly out of tune and will never make the charts, but I do happen to like this kind of music)

(yes the video is not that much…)

That’s how I felt, lonely and stuck on the wrong planet and hopelessly trying to get attention. I may have even instinctively tried to flirt on occasion, in my own clumsy way, but the last thing I would’ve been interested in would’ve been sex. The dark part of me filled with stupid sexual teenage fantasies was just so shallow that it ceased to exist when there were real persons around and I hated that part anyway. All I needed was love in the form of friendship; sex would just have destroyed me and everything I wanted and needed. But friendly love  was something I needed. And there were periods when I easier connected with girls than with my own sex.

Maybe the female friends that I had (and still have) in a way were in part a replacement for the romantic absense in my life, but also they were the sisters I never had. It’s not that the reason I seeked the companion of girls was because I was longing for something that would end in a romantic and later sexual relationship. I tend to start friendships with girls I’d never fall in love with anyway. No, those girls were and are friends, and to add the word ‘just’ before that would be an insult to our relationship. A friendship is complete in itself, and being ‘just’ friends with a girl was all I needed at that moment.
I wouldn’t have been ready for a relationship anyway.

That was in my late teenage years and young twenties, but later there was a girl who became my best friend and even more, and then my sexuality got born again very slowly while we came closer in more dimensions than a friendship has… But my relationship with my wife was not something to replace any other friendship, only a new one, with more depth and a sharing of parts of me that had never been shared with anyone… But we both have good friends of the other sex, and our lives would be a lot poorer without them.

For a lot of people my age and younger there isn’t even a question about that kind of friendships, but for others (and especially some christians) it is unthinkable or risky and dangerous. Like you would guess, all I’ve experienced in my life does place me in the first category. I don’t need anything to justify myself, I just feel blessed with all my friends and I know God enjoys it. I never thought of it as subversive anywey before I got into discussions with some people… And I still believe that this kind of ‘friendly love’ can overcome sexual brokenness and hurt about the other sex in peoples lives, if we open ourselves up for it…

So I’m glad that someone has written a book about the subject from a christian perspective… Thanks Dan

Next time I’ll highlight some insights the book has to offer that are really important for us to consider!



On cross-gender friendships and christians…

hi readers;

Sometimes I am amazed how some things, while they are totally non-issues to me, can be such big issues to others. I suppose that this statement may mean that I’m just an unworldly weirdo, but the only perspective I can speak of is just mine. So if I’m not convincing in my arguments, listen to me as a native of another world… One of those issues, and the topic for this post today is that of cross-gender friendships, non-romantic friendly relationships between men and women or boys and girls. Everything I know and have experienced says that this is not only possible, but also good and healthy, and something we as Christians should offer to this lost and broken world. But yet some people live in a world where the opposite truth is proclaimed and lived and even institutionalised, and to my big surprise and frustration a lot of them appear to be christians.

Currently I’m waiting for a very interesting book to arrive in my mailbox: Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions: Engaging the Mystery of Friendship Between Men and Women” by Dan Brennan. I’m glad to finally see a book like this on the Christian market. I will definitely be writing more about it when I have read it. I think it’s a very important subject, when we talk about love and following Jesus and overcoming the brokenness of this world in our own life.

But some christians do think differently. They are affraid to be seen with a member of the opposite sex, because ‘people might think something’. They are affraid to be alone with a woman that’s not their wife, and will refuse to be wlone with a woman in an elevator or a car. There probably are good explanations for all this stuff; but to me it’s as alien as a little green man mith antennas flying a saucer-like vehicle… And not very Christlike. and very sexist, and mostly I’m just shocked by hearing about such things.

It has always been a total non-issue for me… And for most of my friends, who were mostly somewhere between students, artistic/hippy and middleclass people. Maybe it’s me who has always connected with like-minded people, but I’ve hardly ever seen male-female friendship considered a problem for people people my age and younger (I’m turning 30 in october) And yes, I’m the kind of guy who tens to friend girls more easily than guys… Mostly even girls that I would never have a relationship with. I Have always been this way, and getting married didn’t change much in that area. My wife is my best friend, and we both do have friends of the opposite sex, and it would be very strange in a world where such a thing would not be possible. And it would be a stupid world and not much fun.

But I know it’s not the same for everybody. It was a big clash for me when I worked with working class people,  the way the sexes were segregated. There were indeed guys for whom it would be unthinkable to be friends with a woman, or even true to look at a women that where even the least bit attractive without thinking about having sex with her. Some of these guys were so porn-minded and women-unfriendly. Men who were hurting and hurt by women because of this big division and misunderstanding between the sexes, and I think it must have been the same at the other side of the great divide with the females… I only saw hurt and brokenness and nothing I would ever want in my own life or the life of anyone I love. Nobody should be so sexually fucked-up, broken and disconnected and there are big groups of people for whom this seems to be the norm. (This is not meant to be judgenmental on working class people, it only was in such an environment that I encountered this. But there also are lots of sexually fucked-up and disconnected people who are middle class or higher class, and there are fanstastic loving people in the working class)

So… This kind of disconnect between man and woman is not very healthy… And the christian version to me seemed to come out of a similar worldview, with a reduction of the opposite sex (mostly the female from a male perspective) to merely an object of sexual desire in the first place. And this alone is a big evil that hurts and destroys people and makes a lot of money in our entertainment and advertisement industry. But no woman on this planet (even if they themselves are hurt so bad that they can only believe it that way) is just a body a man can have sex with. Even sexy lingery models on a billboard are persons like us. Just think about this the next time you see one of these billboards… Think about this girl, her hopes and dreams, and how heartbroken and hurt she might be.

The answer to this is not to run away from every woman we see that is not our own wife. The answer is to see and appreciate women as the persons that they are. I would think that for a Christian such a thing is 100% logical, but how naieve can I be sometimes…

Jesus was a very cool example for me. His talk with the woman at the well crosses all this kind of taboos and barriers like they existed in his culture. So why don’t we break loose of this nonsense? We are called to love. Friendship is a form of love.

Like I’ve said at the beginning of this piece, some people live in the opposite world, where heakthy cross-gender friendships are taboo, unhealthy, dangerous and a very subversive idea. It might be like a self-fulfilling prophecy, and if that’s the case, I choose the side of love, the side of friendship, and the example of Jesus, even if it would be against the whole world, to love every woman as my sister, mother or daughter…

Isn’t that just basic for us followers of Jesus?



ps: there is more that can be said about this subject. I hope to blog more on this when I’ve recieved and read Dan Brennan’s book.

christians and cross-gender friendships

One of the things of american christianity, which sometimes get copied in this part of europe but seems totally alien to me, is the way some people seem affraid of the other sex, and use theology to justify that.

Now, I do know some people just can’t get along with the other sex. In working class circles I noticed that there sometimes was a really large gap between the sexes that I could not understood, but I always noticed that such a disconnection was almost always paired to a porn-like objectification of the female. which is very evident: the more you treat female humans as sex objects, the less you will relate to them as human beings that you can be friends with… So I’m not that surprised when that kind of men would tell me that it’s impossible for them to be just friends with a woman. It is a deep and grave wound in their sexual human-ness, but totally understand, even though it’s sad and evil and it does no goed for man neither woman and brings lots of hurt to both…

But I’ve always seen Christianity as something which goes beyond that, something which bridges the gap between the sexes (‘in Christ there is male nor female’…) and cures the disconnections bethween people. But some people seem to totally disagree with that. I know some ‘true love waits’ type of people disapprove of being alone with the other sex at all, just like some ministries have rules for pastors to never be alone with someone of the other sex. Like this one from saddleback church. For reasons of temptation or reputation if you’d be seen with someone and stuff… But all of this looks so cramped in my eyes….

My whole life is opposed to that anyway, I am the kind of guy who sometimes makes friends with girls more easily than with other guys, even though the girls I like to be friends with are not the type of girl I would be romantically interested in. (Except for one interesting exception, who is now my wife…) I like to be friends with girls and women, and nothing of that did substantially change when I passed from celibate singleness into a relationshop into marriage, au contraire: she likes about me that I see girls and women as humans to be friends with, and not just sexuals things that could tempt me or that I could sexual fantasies about or something like that. Yike! Women are people to be friends with, and sisters in Christ.

In the end, doesn’t common sense and basic ethics tell us that we should consider every woman as a sister, mother, or daughter, depending on age? Or am I too naieve in thinking such things are a matter or logic? maybe I am. Maybe the disconnect is rooted too deep in our societies, and it may be growing with the explosion of porn and R&B-videos…

But still: that has nothing to do with Jesus And reading through the bible I see Jesus also acting against all that cross-gender paranoia. Jesus breaks all taboos when talkin (alone!) to the samaritan woman at the well: a rabbi doesn’t speak to women, and a jew doens’t speak to a samaritan, and one does not speak to people with the sexual history she has when one wants te be respected. That kind of logic is what I recognise in the Saddleback story, but it’s exactly what Jesus opposes.

Besides, I find it sexist and degrading, the idea that being with someone from the other sex should be considered unsafe. Very insulting even if I would be a woman offering to drive some speaker to somewhere, and he would refuse for that reason. Even autistic maybe. But totally unchristlike. Indeed Christ would not be hired at all in such ministry with the attitude he had towards women, if we look at the samaritan woman, and his friendship with Maria and Martha…

I still don’t get the christian intersexual disconnect, it is totally alien to me, and every time I read things suggesting that it is a controversial subject, like this zoecarnate blog-post, I am amazed again.

May we all learn to love…



ps:  for people interested in the subject, I do recommend the blog of Dan Brennan, who writes a lot about cross-gender friendships and related subjects from a somewhat post-evangelical perspective…