The Homophobic Bogeyman

I've noticed a theme lately in some of my reading in blogs, magazines, and books. Basically, guys can't have close, dare I say vulnerable, friendships with other guys or they will lose their man card. 

Carl Trueman recently shared something Scot McKnight posted on Charles Marsh's biography, Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. With the overwhelming evidence of a kind of biblical friendship that many would envy, Marsh suggests that Bonhoeffer was gay, and that he pursued such an intimate friendship with Eberhard Bethge to satisfy his romantic feelings. 

And then last week, I get the latest issue of Christianity Today in my mailbox. This is interesting because I do not subscribe to Christianity Today and have no idea why it was mailed to me, but the cover story caught my attention: "Why Can't Men Be Friends?" Well, dang, I was just wondering the same thing, so I thumbed through the article. In it, Wesley Hill shares a study social scientist and author of Deep Secrets: Boy's Friendships and the Crisis of Connection, Niobe Way, conducted revealing how boys share intimate friendships with other boys until adolescence, and then they sadly disengage from such a close level of friendship with other guys as they age, because they do not want to be perceived as feminine or homosexual. 

And just last night as I was reading reading through The Company We Keep, Jonathan Holmes has a section on The Homophobia Bogeyman in his chapter, "Threats to Biblical Friendship." That about sums up the problem: there's a bogeyman in the closet of every male friendship!

Trueman comments on our society's whole concept of friendship:

We live at a time when the complexity of concept of friendship is under huge pressure, from the attenuation of its richness through the cheapening of the term 'friend' by things like Facebook to the need of some to read everything through the simplifying lens of the politics of sexuality, just like stand-up comedians who need to find double entendres and innuendo in everything. 

I agree. On one hand we have completely cheapened the relationship by numbering our friends like notches on our social media belt. And on the other, our culture has become so hyper-sexualized that we cannot handle the intimacy of true friendship without suspecting scandal.

The guys have it the worst. They can't have close male friendships without suspicion of being gay. And while you certainly would have a different kind of friendship with a woman, including respectful boundaries, this is also next to impossible without being accused of having an affair. I think this puts far too much expectation on a man's wife to be his everything.

And one more thought: maybe all this barbed wire wrapped around the possibility for healthy, biblical friendships is a factor in the pornography epidemic that is even plaguing the church. If you can't pursue healthy friendships, people become dehumanized. It's also a breeding ground for affairs because we tend to lump all feelings with sexual ones. And if you find yourself being sneaky about your friendships, it becomes easier to cross the line into the inappropriate behavior that accompanies deviousness.

So what is the church to do? I think it's imperative to discuss what our friendships will be like on the new heavens and the new earth. We are new creatures in Christ. And while we certainly still need to be on high alert in battling our sin, we also need to live as we are called. We have been reborn so that we may have Christian relationships, with God and one another. Maybe we should focus more on what that really means.