Exploring friendship

Well, dear readers, I’m happy to be able to announce that over the weekend I signed a contract with Brazos Press to write a book about the theology and practice of Christian friendship.

The goal of this writing project is to take some of the themes we’ve been exploring on this blog (see, for instance, Ron’s very clear and helpful post here) and make them more widely accessible, with a special emphasis on the questions and concerns of gay and lesbian Christians. Over the next year and a half or so, this is what I’ll be working on.

During the writing process, I’ll be really eager to try out ideas here and receive feedback from you. And if any of you have resources — books, poems, stories, articles, talks, blog posts, etc. — on the theme of friendship that you think might be useful for this project, please don’t hesitate to mention them in the comment section.

Thanks for celebrating with me! Your prayers and well wishes are especially welcome.

27 thoughts on “Exploring friendship

  1. Two things come to mind: Gary Chapmans book about the four love languages and the poem New Friends and Old Friends by Joseph Parry. Otherwise I am very excited about your new work. All the best.

  2. Congrats, Wes! I love your writing.

    I think Emerson’s friendship poem and essays are valuable to consider. Lewis on male friendship is interesting. And…almost nothing draws me in like fictional depictions of friendships, from Sam and Frodo, to Ender’s jeesh (Ender’s Game), to Aubrey/Maturin, and on and on. Loyalty in fiction gets in my soul. Cheers!

  3. Wes,

    Congrats on the book contract! One book you should check out is: The Naked Soul, by Timothy Alan Gardner. Obviously, there are aspects of the book I wouldn’t fully endorse, but his comments on friendship as a means to be known deeply are insightful. Also, watch Good Will Hunting one more (or 10 more) time(s) just for fun.

  4. I remember Tim Keller gave a sermon at Redeemer Presbyterian Church back in 1998 titled “Spiritual Friendship” and based on Paul’s relationship with the Ephesian elders. Probably one of the best (and, unfortunately, one of the only) sermons on Christian friendship that I’ve ever heard. I highly recommend it!

  5. Congratulations, Wesley! I look forward to your contribution.

    Are you aware that Brazos Press has published a fine book on friendship by Paul J. Wadell (associate professor of religious studies at St. Norbert College) entitled, Becoming Friends: Worship, Justice, and the Practice of Christian Friendship”?

    Here are my favorite treatments on friendship:

    * Plato’s dialogue “Lysis”
    * Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics
    * Augustine’s Confessions
    * Montaigne’s essay “On Friendship”
    * Thoreau’s A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers
    * Emerson’s essay “Friendship”
    * C. S. Lewis’ chapter on friendship in The Four Loves
    * Allan Bloom’s Love and Friendship
    * Gilbert Meilaender’s Friendship: A Study in Theological Ethics
    * Diogenes Allen’s Love: Christian Romance, Marriage, and Friendship

    Be sure to check out Allen. His work doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves. I’d be curious to hear which of the above titles you’ve read.

    While browsing a seasonal catalog of Oxford University Press, I noticed a new paperback edition of Daniel Schwartz’s Aquinas on Friendship, which may be profitable to consult.

    Have you come across Christopher L. Heurtz and Christine D. Pohl’s Friendship at the Margins: Discovering Mutuality in Service and Mission (IVP, 2010)? Interestingly, the first chapter is entitled, “The Vocation of Relationship.” Walter Brueggemann’s endorsement piques my interest:

    “In a world of aggressive economics, cynical politics and excessive ideological certitude, everyone is an adversary. Such aggression, cynicism and certitude, moreover, produce unbearable alienation. Here Heuertz and Pohl offer a quiet, honest probe of generous friendship as an antidote to the great social pathology that devours us. With narrative particularity and acute neighborly sensibility, they witness to the cost and risk of friendship, which at its best cannot be done wholesale. This account concerns the truth of human life made fleshly–immediate, face-to-face, dangerous and transformative. They offer much to ponder about how, in a world of too many adversaries, the practice of friendship among the weak and unnoticed may be our hope for the future. A tall order, likely our only alternative!”

  6. Yes! I have been waiting for this ever since you mentioned on your blog some time ago that you were hoping to write a book on friendship. Can’t wait to read it! Prayers will definitely be lifted on your behalf. All the best, Wesley!

  7. Hi, Wes. I must admit that I haven’t (yet) read your book, though it is currently loaded in my Amazon cart, but I have been intrigued by your thoughtful dialogue via your writing in Christianity Today. You are the first person I’ve come across who shares the same opinion as myself on Biblical orthodoxy and orthropraxy and homosexuality. Thank you so very much for bringing your struggle and your commitment to Scripture into the public arena. That has to feel somewhat raw. God bless you.

    In my *other* life I lead (besides that of homeschooling mother of two brilliant children, and struggling with being called by God to matrimony while feeling more drawn toward celibacy myself–funny that), I am a historian of medieval history but I also dabble in all sorts of ecclesiastical and women’s history. Unfortunately, women’s perspective (both modern and historical) is often ignored, especially among evangelical writers (alas), and in the hopes that perhaps you would like to rectify this injustice or at least like to explore it a little even privately, I thought of a few historical sources that may be pertinent to your theme of friendship.

    1. The account of the passion of SS. Perpetua and Felicity. http://www.amazon.com/Passion-Perpetua-Felicity-Thomas-Heffernan/dp/0199777578/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1353897890&sr=1-1&keywords=perpetua+and+felicity.

    2. The concept of “sisterhood” in early American history. A good place to start for this is Nancy F. Cott’s work, _The Bonds of Womanhood_, which devotes a chapter to exploring the depth and breadth of female camaraderie and friendships in early American through an examination of letters and personal diaries. Very interesting read. If you are interested in further primary documentation and exploration of friendship in early America, women’s periodicals from the time period, such as Godey’s Lady’s Book, are a good place to start. There are oodles of essays on themes such as “friendship” and “devotion” written for a female readership and reflect the cultural and emotional needs of the period.

    3. Oddly enough, Jane Austen of the late 18th century deals quite a bit with misperceptions of female friendship during her time period, in which it was often thought that women could not share as deeply in friendships as their male counterparts (Austen, obviously disagrees). I can’t recall exact passages off the top of my head at the moment, but Northanger Abbey I believe deals directly with this theme in a comical tete-a-tete between Catherine and Henry Tilney. Jane Austen in all of her novels vividly portrays female friendships as central to women’s happiness and in such depth that it’s remarkable for the time period in which it was written.

    4. In medieval history, the Beguines are an interesting religious confraternity of women in the 13th and 14th centuries that reflects an unusual outburst of lay piety, feelings of reform, and a desire for deeper spirituality within a communal context of women. Unlike traditional female religious, Beguines were not cloistered and did not take life-long oaths to the community, but membership was completely voluntary. Naturally, these women pushed the cultural boundaries of the time period and so were eventually suppressed. The concept of sisterhood as religious friendship is most pronounced in the Beguine movement simply because of its voluntary nature.

    Whatever you choose to do, I wish you the best.

  8. Hey, so delighted to hear that you’ll be writing about friendship. A terrific book is “A Bigger World Yet,” written by Tim Timmerman who is an art professor at George Fox. Tim believes that our current construction of homosexuality is based in sexualizing same-sex needs. Much of his book is an exploration of the history of same-sex friendships, and all that we’ve lost in the modern era.

    Also want to second the recommendation of Paul Waddell’s work. We use his academic exploration of the topic “Friendship and the Moral LIfe” as part of the curriculim for apprentices here at the Church of the Sojourners, an intentional church community in San Francisco. His vision of what friendship can be is spectacular.

    Happy reading reading and writing Wesley. Thank you for your service to the kingdom.

  9. Pingback: Book Recommendations on Friendship

  10. I TOTALLY concur with Allison. I hope this won’t be just a “men’s book”. Avoiding that would mean including women authors to gain insight from as well as women as examples too. But by all means please avoid stereotypes! Evangelical writers–male and female tend to be rife with them. I am thinking more of how friendship can be discussed in such a way that transcends gender–and using both male and female voices to speak to that unified vision of friendship.
    I will try to think of specific possibilities. I am wondering if any of the medieval women mystics might have anything on this.

    • Karen: You bring up a good point. A lot of books on friendship are written by men. The irony, I would add, is that women tend to have more enduring and intimate same-sex friendships. Do you have a favorite book on friendship written by a woman? Out of curiosity, have you read Elizabeth Stuart’s “Just Good Friends: Toward a Lesbian and Gay Theology of Relationships”? I have no idea whether it is any good.

  11. Christopher–thanks for the book suggestion. I have never heard of it, but it sounds interesting. I am trying to think of what books I like but coming up a bit short. The first thing that comes to mind is a book on interpersonal communication called “Reaching Out”–which gets more into the psychology of things–how to actually relate to others which, of course, is the basis of friendship.

  12. Congrats, Wes! I look forward to reading it when you finish up.

    Eugene Peterson has a chapter on Friendship in his book Leap Over A Wall. It is focused on the friendship of David and Jonathan.

    Tim Keller also has a few good sermons on friendship at the Redeemer NYC website.

    Other than that, I haven’t read a whole lot on this important topic. Excited about you taking this up.

  13. What a fascinating topic! My experiences with friendship have been so varied, with the childhood friends who were just taken for granted (lived nearby), the school friendships that had a lingering hope of permanency to them, the ministry friendships that were based on…well, ministry, and the searching and desire for friendship now in mid-life and in ministry, and finding it quite difficult to navigate. I’ve reached a place in my life when I say to myself sometimes, “I’m surprised I don’t have the friends I had in my younger years, since I am fairly socially driven.”

  14. Wes,

    Couple of additions to the increasingly long list of books of friendship:

    I think I came across Andrew Sullivan’s ‘Love Undetectable’ through you anyway but, if not, it’s one of the first places I would recommend you’d go.

    For a beautiful portrayal of a friendship in action have you come across: ‘What there is to say we have said: The Correspondence of Eudora Welty & William Maxwell’? I’m enjoying creeping my way through it.

    Other places I’ve found good stuff on the subject can be found at:

    http://edshawcommonplaceblog.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/FRIENDSHIP

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  18. While I wouldn’t want this to be just a “men’s book,” I’d like to recommend Niobe Way’s Deep Secrets: Boys’ Friendships and the Crisis of Connection. Not theology, not Christian, but excellent for the guys.

  19. While I don’t want the book to be just “for the guys,” one book I would recommend “for the guys” is Niobe Way’s Deep Secrets: Boys’ Friendships and the Crisis of Connection. Not theology, not Christian, just great material.

  20. Pingback: Friendship Means “Living Each Other’s Death” | Spiritual Friendship

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  22. Pingback: Friendship Means “Living Each Other’s Death” » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog

  23. Recommended book for you:
    Against an Infinite Horizon: The Finger of God in Our Everyday Lives
    by Ronald Rolheiser

    I am just starting it myself but I noted that there are two or three chapters I think you would find helpful.

    Prayers and well wishes!

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