Re: An interesting essay for evangelicals

From: Robert Schneider (
Date: Tue Jan 21 2003 - 02:43:40 EST

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    To follow upon the comments of both Keith and Jon (below), whose sentiments
    I endorse: some scattered but I think related thoughts:

        When (in "The Man for All Seasons") Henry VIII asks Sir Thomas More,
    "Dost thou love me?" and More replies, "Sire, you knowest that I love thee,"
    they were not holding a gay conversation. Their use of the term "love"
    (surely used between them historically and not merely in the dramatic
    imagination of the playwright) was more political than personal (much as the
    word "amicitia" ["friendship"] was used among the Romans to denote a
    political alliance). If my memory is correct some male characters in
    Shakespeare speak their love for each other, and in those instances "love"
    denotes the deep and abiding affection, loyalty, etc. between two men.

        Now to David and Jonathan. Jonathan loves David as he loves his own
    soul (1 Sam. 18:1; 20:17). This must has been reciprocated not only from
    the fact that when they secretly met, far from the rage of Jonathan's
    mentally disturbed father the king, they embraced and kissed, and David wept
    even more than Jonathan (1 Sam. 20:41-42). When David learns of Jonathan's
    death, he mourns, "I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; greatly
    beloved were you to me; your love to me was wonderful, surpassing the love
    of women" (2 Sam. 1:26).

       Given the sexualization of emotions our Jonathan referred to, it would
    not be surprising that some men today, especially homosexuals, might
    misunderstand and read into these statements a homosexual relationship. But
    in the ancient world, as both Cicero's and Aristotle's treatises on
    friendship attest, male-male bonds of friendship had a deep emotional
    component. In fact, Aristotle questions whether women are capable of
    friendship, and he lists friendship between men as a higher order than the
    relationship between a husband and a wife. He was wrong, of course, but
    given the character of social relations in ancient mediterranean cultures,
    in which marriages were arranged (Cicero's were both political and
    economical) and the access of women to men was restricted, his views were
    understandable; male-male friendships were the one place where men were
    allowed to express the deep emotions that we moderns routinely express in
    our marriages and other male-female relationships. So, when David says that
    Jonathan's love to him surpassed the love of women, I believe he was
    expressing a truth that males in these ancient cultures would understand and
    appreciate. The friendship may have had a homoerotic component but was not
    necessarily expressed sexually or even thought to be so. When the poet
    Horace said that his friend the poet Virgil was "the other half of my soul"
    he was speaking other than sexually.

        In modern mediterranean cultures men routinely express their friendship
    with one another with embraces and kisses. I have seen male friends in
    Greek cities holding hands. In Italy I have seen male friends greet one
    another with an embrace and a kiss. Once on Capri I saw three handsome
    Italian men at an outdoor cafe table with their arms around one another--and
    ogling every attractive women who walked by. These men are lucky: their
    culture allows them to freely express their love for one another in physical
    ways that have become problematical to us males in the US or Australia. I
    believe love always has a physical dimension to it--we need to touch one
    another. We are whole beings, not simply souls in a body, and so it stands
    to reason that our emotional life should have and needs a physical
    dimension. A handshake is simply not enough.

        Read nineteen-century diaries and other personal literature by American
    males, and you will find similar expressions of deep emotion and these
    affections expressed in physical ways. In the US it was common as late as
    the fifties for female friends to walk about holding hands. It is truly
    tragic that the politics of sexuality has vastly complicated such

        Finally, the word "love" has so many dimensions of usage and the
    phenomena for which we use it are sometimes so complex that I'm not sure C.
    S. Lewis' neat categories solve the problem.

    Grace and peace,
    Bob Schneider

    ----- Original Message -----
    From: "jdac" <>
    Cc: <>
    Sent: Monday, January 20, 2003 9:25 PM
    Subject: Re: An interesting essay for evangelicals

    > One problem has been the sexualisation of emotion between persons over the
    > past few decades. There is a widespread assumption that strong affection
    > between people must be sexual in nature. This says more about the
    > impoverishment of our society than it does about human relationships.
    > The negative consequences of this are many, and not just confined to
    > relationship between men or women. Relationships between opposite sexes
    > become fraught with difficulty because of this assumption. Men (and
    > some women, although it seems to be less of a problem here) who feel such
    > feelings towards other men may well be pushed in homosexual association
    > because they believe that is what their feelings indicate. Other men will
    > pushed to avoid any kind of relational intimacy with men because of fear
    > being considered homosexual.
    > Jon
    > Keith Miller wrote:
    > > > For instance, gays are often damned with the adjective "unnatural".
    > > > They,
    > > > not unreasonably reply "unnatural for whom?" The potential for
    > > > covenant love to exceed heterosexual marriage in its capacity to
    > > > generate
    > > > personal devotion and self-sacrifice is clearly attested in story of
    > > > David and Jonathan. Was their friendship "unnatural"? The Church
    > > > replies
    > > > that by "unnatural" it does not mean homophile affection as such, but
    > > > the
    > > > genital acts to which such affection may lead.
    > >
    > > For what its worth, I did not interpret the above as claiming that the
    > > relationship of David and Jonathan was homosexual. It seems the author
    > > is asking for a clear distinction between a deep and profound brotherly

    > > love between people of the same sex, and a homosexual love proscribed
    > > by scripture. What exactly is being condemned by scripture? Is it
    > > just the sexual act? How do we respond to those who feel attracted to
    > > someone of the same sex but remain celebate? How do we distinguish
    > > between deep feelings of love toward a fellow brother or sister, and an
    > > affection that is homosexual? I think that these are all valid
    > > questions. I also think, that as in all of life, we may not find
    > > clear black and white answers.
    > >
    > > Keith

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