Part 3: Sacred Unions by Dan Brennan

This is a series written by author Dan Brennan (you can buy his book here) on sacred unions and friendship. 

Here is Part 1

Here is Part 2

Part 3:

“There was no question the biblical narrative speaks of a distinctive oneness in marriage where God calls Adam and Eve to enter a communion of “one flesh.” But it became obvious that physical or sexual oneness in marriage is not the only oneness or union the Bible speaks of. Marital or sexual union does not exhaust the richness of oneness in God’s story. Jesus’ prayer that we might be one just as he and the Father are one, suggests a rich, deep relational oneness.

In Christian spirituality, we could name marriages and these deep friendship stories, sacred unions. These friendships were not marriages. Yet, the witness of these stories is clear that friendship love can be as profound and passionate as any marital love. In fact, many of these friendships lasted much longer than many contemporary marriages.

In summary, deep friendships for hundreds of years were embraced as powerful, robust expressions of oneness coexisting with another sacred union, marriage.”

Much love.

www.themarinfoundation.org

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About Andrew Marin

Andrew Marin is President and Founder of The Marin Foundation (www.themarinfoundation.org). He is author of the award winning book Love Is an Orientation (2009), its interactive DVD curriculum (2011), and recently an academic ebook titled Our Last Option: How a New Approach to Civility can Save the Public Square (2013). Andrew is a regular contributor to a variety of media outlets and frequently lectures at universities around the world. Since 2010 Andrew has been asked by the United Nations to advise their various agencies on issues of bridging opposing worldviews, civic engagement, and theological aspects of reconciliation. For twelve years he lived in the LGBT Boystown neighborhood of Chicago, and is currently based St. Andrews, Scotland, where he is teaching and researching at the University of St. Andrews earning his PhD in Constructive Theology with a focus on the Theology of Culture. Andrew's research centers on the cultural, political, and religious dynamics of reconciliation. Andrew is married to Brenda, and you can find him elsewhere on Twitter (@Andrew_Marin), Facebook (AndrewMarin01), and Instagram (@andrewmarin1).

  • Teresa

    “In summary, deep friendships for hundreds of years were embraced as powerful, robust expressions of oneness coexisting with another sacred union, marriage.”

    Bravo! Dan, where have you been all my life? Thank the Good Lord, I started reading Andrew’s Blog a short while ago.

    Ruth and Naomi is the Biblical story that rings true in my life. (Book of Ruth, 1: 16-17) “or whithersoever thou shalt go, I will go: and where thou shalt dwell, I also will dwell. Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. [17] The land that shall receive thee dying, in the same will I die: and there will I be buried. The Lord do so and so to me, and add more also, if aught but death part me and thee. ”

    When my somewhat elderly Aunt came to live with me, I, with the Grace of God, made the commitment that Ruth made to Naomi. We became best friends … I received so much more than I ever gave … she was my mentor, my model, my opportunity to know commitment and sacrifice. We were together for 23+ years, until she passed away at the age of 98.

    I, in no way, want to take away the glory of marriage, or its pre-eminent value to society; but, I sure would like it if our society made room for committed friendships, or, at least, acknowledged the possibility, without thinking commitment couldn’t possibly exist outside marriage … on any level.

    • http://www.meredithefken.com Meredith Efken

      That is a beautiful story, Teresa, on so many levels. I love the depth of commitment, the friendship, and the intergenerational connection of it. Thanks for sharing it. :-)

  • Matt

    Thanks to Dan & Andrew for a thought-provoking series; I’m looking forward to the next posts! For me as a gay Christian, these questions are very real, complex, and weighty. I know of many gay and lesbian couples whose relationships are monogamous but intentionally non-sexual, and I too have had such a relationship. People in these situations express relational intimacy in various ways, but many of them find it important to draw a distinction between the love of friends and the love of spouses, believing that same-sex relationships are faithful to God’s call for the former but not the latter.

    From what you’ve read so far, my guess is that you would affirm the deep love of committed but intentionally celibate same-sex partners as a good and Godly thing. In your view, would that also extend to committed, monogamous, lifelong same-sex partners who have consummated their relationship?

    I don’t at all intend this to come across as trying to paint you into a corner; rather, this is a major question that I face at this crossroads in my life. Do you believe there is a meaningful distinction between deep friend-love and spouse-love, and do you believe that the gender of the partners involved is relevant to the moral valence of those relationships?

  • http://danbrennan.typepad.com Dan Brennan

    Matt,

    I’m so blessed you are enjoying the series! I do understand these issues are complex for you. Yes, I do understand this is a weighty issue for gay Christians such as yourself, Matt. They are complex issues for me! As you note, there are many within the gay Christian community who have chosen monogamous, nonsexual relationships. Then, as you say, there are others who have consummated their relationship and perhaps now are seeking marriage (at least in states where they are able to). I will plug Sacred Friendship Project (FB page and blog) at the end of this series; I would love to hear of stories of gay friendships. I would love to hear your story Matt.

    As you know these are huge hermeneutical (i.e. Bible interpretation) issues. To be honest and vulnerable with you, I’m not where I once was, 10 years ago on this question. I have considerably sought to take a posture of Christ in recent years and listen to stories with an authentic intention to hear and love the other. The ironic twist in my journey is the fact of how much my views of sexuality, friendship, and marriage began to be questioned when I started developing close female friendships. This opened me to read some wonderful gay scholars on the issue of friendship.

    Andy himself has been such a great model to me in modeling friendship-love to gays and stirred in me a longing to know Christ and others in bigger-picture thinking, complex, committed relationship to peacemaking in the kingdom of God. Sara Miles, too. Her first book was deeply thought-provoking for me. Wendy VanderWal Gritter has also shaped me in this subject.

    Yes, I do support monogamous, same-sex gay couples who are committed to nonsexual/relational intimacy. I would call these friendship-unions (although friendship-unions does not necessarily entail the “coupling” part–could be deep paired friendship intimacy with no-sex intent in the relationship).

    I also believe there is a distinction between spousal love and friendship-love–two different unions with the same quest for beauty, truth, and goodness in love. One though, is a spousal love, and I believe there is only one spouse. I think there is a fullness, a wide-open, no limitation range in spousal love in relationship that one does not have in friendship unions. At the same time, there is obviously a rich depth in friendship union where deep intimacy, deep commitment can flourish over the span of an entire lifetime. I think in the history of Christian spirituality both of these two loves can be deeply satisfying, happy, and abundant life-giving and beautiful.
    Its quite clear that one does not need to have a sexual relationship to have fulfilling, satisfying, deeply abundant relational life. I believe the Protestant church has missed out on a deep spirituality of friendship and this has impoverished both singles and marriages–especially since Freud.

    You mention Matt, you are facing this major question at a “crossroads” point in your life. I want you to know I hear you, brother. I understand there is a sense in which gay oriented people would feel some sense of completion or fullness if they consummated their relationship–and that its not about a focus on genital behavior so much as it is the fullness of intimacy with their partners. There is a fullness of intimacy in spousal love that includes sexual intimacy but it doesn’t entail that no sex in friendship union means one is having a friendship equivalent to a sexless marriage. The difference between spousal love and a sexless friendship is not that one has genital behavior and the other doesn’t.

    Yet, it seems that Scripture itself does not put sex as the summum bonum of relationship or union-love. Indeed, many people (gay and straight) have had “great sex” but unhealthy or poor relationships outside the bed.

    Well, I see this is getting long, and I need to wrap this up because this answer is becoming a post in and of itself! I have come to understand Matt, that I am not God (I know you already knew that! ;-) in the sense that my view of Scripture lines up with God’s eye. The Scripture itself, would suggest there is room a hermeneutical humility when it comes to the Kingdom, God, and sexuality. I used to have an airtight case (so I thought) believing the Scripture was unequivocally clear. Then, I have witnessed so many areas that good and sincere Christians thought were “unequivocally clear” in history according to God’s design and eternal law (slaves, women, etc.) are now something drastically different.

    Same-sex partners who consummate their relationship doesn’t fall into the realm of a Gospel essential for me, Matt. It would fall under the category of “disputable matters” between me my gay brothers and sisters in Christ. For gay Christians who choose to consummate their relationship, I choose to honor their dignity, deeply respect their choices and think big-picture in the kingdom of God and desire their friendship.