I recently finished Dan Brennan’s book Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions:Engaging the Mystery of Friendship Between Men and Women. The book explores the possibility that friendship between men and women is possible and that, contrary to Harry in When Harry Met Sally, sex does not have to get in the way. Indeed, Brennan argues that our culture (including the church) has reduced sexuality to simply something that we do rather than part of who we are. In other words, there is little room given to see sexuality in a broader perspective, as our post-Freudian world has limited sexuality to eroticism. The book argues for a post-Freudian recognition that humans were created as sexual beings while also being wired for relationships and, while still recognizing the sanctity of sex within a marriage covenant, a man and woman not married to each other are capable of healthy, deep, abiding, and spiritual friendships.
Brennan raises a great question when he asks “what stories of sexual formation are we telling people in our communities?” (56). For many Christian communities, Brennan argues (and I agree) that the stories being told are often those characterized by a romanticized myth of relational exclusivity within a marriage that will satisfy any and all relational needs. In contrast, Brennan suggests that the church should recognize and embrace the need for deep friendships between men and women and that living out these relationships may be part of our call to participate in a new creation.
I appreciated this book on many levels. First, the book is well researched and documented. Brennan complements his own words with support from psychology, theology, history, etc. Second, while he argues against the relational exclusivity in marriage, he has a high view of marriage and the importance of purity, sanctity, and fidelity (I believe hearing even more about marriage in this book would have strengthened the book’s argument). Finally, the book is challenging. Christian culture has, however well-intentioned, created an unhealthy barrier between genders based less on the scriptural witness and more on Freudian psychology. In light of these barriers, any alternatives suggested require significant reflection, deconstruction, and reconstruction of how men and women interact. Yet, with Brennan, I agree that it is a challenge worth facing, as restoring the health of our relationships – our sacred unions – both inside and outside of marriage is an essential task in the journey towards living as a new creation. This is a book I will recommend to others, particularly those in Christian communities who are seeking to understand what it means to live life together in healthy, God-and-other-honoring ways.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review from TheOOZE Viral Bloggers program.