Why Can’t We Be Friends: Avoidance is Not Purity
Philipsburg: P&R, 2018.
Available at Amazon.com
Fresh from her takedown of Trinity and marital subordination, the latest offering from Aimee Byrd (aka, The Housewife Theologian) is about male and female relationships.
In an age of pastoral sex scandals, #MeToo, and #ChurchToo, is following the Billy Graham Rule (where men don’t dine alone with women other than their wives), the only game in town concerning how Christians can have platonic relationships between the sexes? Is it true, as was said in When Harry Met Sally that “men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way”? Aimee Byrd says “No.” Byrd declares that men and women can be friends, close friends even, in a model that she calls “sacred siblings.”
In particular, Byrd makes a good point that some churches teach a very weird view of female sexuality: “The church sent messages that a woman’s attractiveness serves the purpose of landing a husband, then becomes a threat to all other men.” And further: “Evangelicals in the purity culture have moved from discussing sexual behavior as a fruit and outworking of being made in the image of God and of Christian holiness, to focusing on sexual purity commitments as the core of our identity.” The antidote to that is not some puritanical segregation – everyman is a Harvey Weinstein and every woman is Jezebel. Instead of depicting cross-sex interaction as a potential threat to sexual purity, Byrd advocates a call to healthy relationships between the sexes, without a reduction of men and women to their sexual potential. She makes a very good point about friendship too: “Friendship is not a downgrade from erotic love. Unlike our marriages, friendship will last to the new heavens and the new earth.” The problem with adultery is not dinner, texting, or offering a friend a lift. The problem is deeper, Bryd says that “Sexual impropriety arises from affections that are not rightly ordered. When this is the case, then yes, ordinary activities such as lunch, texting, and traveling in the same car can be avenues for bad behavior. But the table isn’t the problem. The problem is the heart.” In a nutshell, sanctified friendship, not idolized purity is what Christians should pursue.
Byrd cites some good people along the way like Kelly Kapic, Karen Jobes, Cynthia Westfall, Tim Chester, James Dunn, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Charles Chaput. It is an informed, sensible, and lively discussion of something that is a very practical topic.
I’ve written on an adjacent topic as to whether men should mentor women, I give a qualified “yes.” In a similar vein, Byrd offers a good corrective about the possibility and sanctification of platonic relationships between men and women in the context of Christian faith, one that I thoroughly recommend.