Interview with Jonathan Merritt

Over at his Religion News Service site blog yesterday, Jonathan Merritt interviewed yours truly about my new book Spiritual Friendship: Finding Love in the Church as a Celibate Gay Christian.

The interview started off with my saying,

According to Christian writers of the past, spiritual or Christ-centered friendship—the kind of friendship I’m writing about—is a bond between two (or more) people who feel affection for each other. But it’s also a bond that has a trajectory. It’s a relationship that’s about helping one another along towards deeper love of God and neighbor. I like that but would add that as those sorts of friendships mature and deepen, they often start to become more committed and permanent. It’s almost as if the friends want to become more like spiritual siblings.

And it goes on from there. Read the whole thing.

2 thoughts on “Interview with Jonathan Merritt

  1. Wes,

    I just downloaded the Kindle version, and am looking forward to reading it while on vacation in the Caribbean next week.

    I do wonder how we can give practical effect to this idea. The idea of a traditional Ozzie-and-Harriet marriage has never been attractive to me. I’m pretty driven professionally, and have no desire to raise kids. I’m not heterosexual, but have difficulty defining myself beyond that. As an evangelical Christian, I’ve remained single and celibate. And, in an evangelical church context, that means I’ve remained pretty lonely (at least in that context). My closest friends are all non-Christian professional colleagues.

    I’d love to share my life with someone else, whether male or female, and to enjoy the benefits of having a committed partner. But I want the relationship to be largely friendship-like. I don’t want kids, and tend not to have a strong interest in sex.

    But I’ve had difficulty figuring out how to navigate that in a conservative Christian setting. Nearly all women I meet at church are single-mindedly focused on living out the “nuclear family” model, which holds little attraction to me. I’m looking for more of a committed friend with whom I could enjoy life (dining, travel, etc.). And pursuing anything of the sort with a guy would be asking for excommunication. But as the economic and social pressures to marry and procreate give way, the church has to be able to offer something besides the “nuclear family” to those of us who don’t feel called to follow that course and who simultaneously don’t want to spend our lives in abject loneliness. But I sense that most Christians like me have simply given up and walked away from the church.

    So, I’m looking forward to the read. But I’m also looking forward to how these ideas can grow legs, and how we can make a positive difference in how the church addresses these kinds of issues.

    So much of evangelical culture takes the bourgeois assumptions of the industrial age for granted. Much of our “biblical worldview” amounts to little more than fetishizing the 1950s (or our conceptions of what the 1950s were like). But that’s not the world that many of us live in. I had a phone interview this morning for a new job. The position would be based in Zurich, but I’d need to spend 25% of my time in Chicago and 25% of my time in Singapore. If the Hungarian economy remains stable, the Zurich piece will move to Budapest in the next 12-18 months (as Hungary just slashed its corporate tax rate for certain types of holding companies). I’m going to pass on the job. But these kinds of job descriptions aren’t that uncommon for corporate professionals today. Such arrangements would have been unthinkable in 1955. So, unless we’re going to limit church membership to those who can carve out a fairly bourgeois existence, we have to do better.

    Peace in Christ.

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