This Slate Magazine article explores the history of male/female friendships. By way of being provocative – I wonder why these more interesting views/insights and frankly honesty usually have to emerge from outside the realm of what is normally called Christian thought. Given that the founder of our movement provided more than enough evidence to his ideological enemies to indict him of being a radical feminist why are his (so-called ) followers today so timid on the topic?
I think it’s INCREDIBLE that my secular day-job has a higher view of human capacity to cultivate and maintain dynamic, growing, intimate, ongoing relationships between members of the opposite sex than the church does.
Our Evangelical world is so terrified of the “appearance” of sin or of providing a “dangerous” scenario that leads to temptation, that it undermines Christ and makes us all a bunch of scared little adolescents – apparently all on the brink of orgy! And sadly, BECAUSE that’s how we treat ourselves and each other, that may be what’s more likely to occur when normal, real-world intimacy enters the unnatural cloister of Evangelical subculture: dontthinkaboutsexdontthinkaboutsexdontthinkaboutsexdontthinkaboutsexdont… uh oh!
How do you NOT obsess over the thing that’s beat over your head day in and day out? How do you NOT covet “the forbidden fruit” when the FRUIT is all anyone can talk about?! (that is, without ACTUALLY ever really talking about it… if that makes sense).
If Christians really take equality seriously, we have to do a better job of cultivating horizontal relationships between men and women who are not romantically involved. And then we have to leave them the hell alone – not eye them like hawks, waiting for signs it isn’t working.
It’s atrocious that attractive women in particular have no place in equalized relationships. A commenter on the Off The Map blog joked that his wife allows him to have friendships with women - as long as they're "fat or ugly." Really nice. A good friend of mine (an attractive female) had a pastor tell her, somewhat apologetically: “the men here aren’t going to be your friend because you’re too attractive and they’ll be worried about stumbling.”
That is not a compliment, it’s oppressive and it's shaming.
For the church to actually change its direction and make a difference in equalized male-female relationships, it’s going to have to accept collateral damage in the beginning. It’s an unfortunate inevitability, given the normative dysfunction of Evangelicial culture: relationships that are perfectly appropriate and acceptable in the secular/business world ARE going to cause SOME men and women to "slip up" and experience some sort of moral failure... we just can’t handle the eroticism of eye contact with someone we’re not married to (like seeing an ankle in Iran).
I would propose that this potential (likely) moral failure is worth the end result. In Matthew 10:16 Jesus exhorts, "Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves." We've rejected the shrewdness of snakes and made ourselves a bunch of scared little birds. We don’t become strong or wise or FREE in obsessive, sterilized environments. And we certainly can’t witness, experience or PERPETUATE the redemptive, healing, equalizing power of Christ if we’re hiding from ourselves and from each other.
Sometimes you have to amputate a gangrenous limb to save a life. Our gender dynamics in the Evangelical church are gangrene, and it’s killing us. It’ll hurt to cut it out, and some relationships will get infected, but if we’re brave enough, we just might survive.