Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Mere Orthodox/Alastair Roberts play with friendship and a pitiless rumination from WtH on the "friend zone"


There's about 35 minutes of podcast linked to up there and Wenatchee The Hatchet is not necessarily going to sum all of it up, being about a week late anyhow.

What was discussed, briefly, was a concern about the low estate of friendship in American evangelicalism in general and among men in particular. Per Roberts:

... The elevation of a companionate model of marriage has a lot to do with the current shape of society and the economy, which uproots us and atomizes society. Choosing a spouse has increasingly become about choosing the only person with whom you will have a close friendship for the rest of your life. For the married, this means bearing the immense weight of the majority of one’s partner’s need for human companionship (is it any wonder that marriages buckle under such pressure?). Those without such a life companion are frequently condemned to lonely lives as, outside of the nuclear family and sexual relationships, relatively few deep and meaningful social connections remain.

As C. S. Lewis famously wrote in The Four Loves, ours is an epoch that has elevated erotic attachment to heights of imagined transcendance that earlier eras would have found implausible.  Many marriages across time and space were arranged and not entered into out of mutual twitterpation and butterflies and yet, look, here we are!  One of the problems with the "friend with benefits" model of marriage is that it fails to account for a blunt historic reality, that lots of people married who were not friends in the ways that people might understand friendship now or even at other times. 

The propensity to read the erotic onto all other types of relationship in our time can seem nearly universal in contemporary Western thought.

Take the weird discussion about the animated Frozen being queer.


For people who insist on reading that subtext there's the matter of the text.  The sisters are sisters. 

Rambling along to other fields of discussion, let's take Frank Schaeffer's declaration that Bonhoeffer was flamingly gay because of his friendship with Bethge. 


Are we completely sure there isn't a confirmation bias afoot here?  Not that Wenatchee The Hatchet takes Frank Schaeffer particularly seriously but the case in point is a case in point, the tendency to read sexual politics of all sorts into topics that may not have much immediate reason for it seems to be characteristic of our time. 

Had Schaeffer had the inclination he could have known enough about Mark Driscoll to point out that Bonhoeffer being 27 and financially dependent on his parents would make it pretty ironic that Driscoll has at any point sung the praises of Bonhoeffer as a theologian.  But then again, so far as Wenatchee The Hatchet can tell Frank Schaeffer specializes in cheap shots to about the same level as Mark Driscoll. 

Though not uttered by Mark Driscoll to Wenatchee's recollection the term "friend zone" was something heard over the years at Mars Hill.  It was the dreaded friend zone and so far as Wenatchee The Hatchet can tell the kinds of men who complain most loudly about the "friend zone" probably deserve to stay there until they can get over the perceptions they have about such a designation.  Call it a resolute lack of pity but it does not stem from not knowing what it is like to be unmarried.

Mars Hill was probably not really unique in evangelical terms and it might be common enough to hear someone say "I'm not gifted for singleness" and by that simply mean ever being horny.  It might also not be uncommon to talk about how in marriage there's intimacy.  But Wenatchee, perhaps a bit skeptically, proposes that if you don't find intimacy in your relationships outside of marriage why on earth should you expect to find intimacy within marriage?

This would be reflected a bit in the numbered rankings Driscoll made a point of listing for levels of friendship back when he was producing content for A29 blogs. Of course since A29 has divested itself of Driscollian content to actually go see the numbered ranking system ... .

But you don't really need to go read that to know Driscoll listed spouse as 10 and enemies as 0.  Driscoll isn't that unusual in placing the spouse at the pinnacle of friendship.  And while Song of Songs has a celebration of erotic attachment that praises the beloved as friend there are ideals that are celebrated because they are recognized as not necessarily normal.  Many a couple married over the history of humanity for pragmatic reasons.  It's possible that in our time we have so overvalued the erotic attachment it damages our appreciation of other relationships.  "Forsaking all others" in a marriage vow could refer to other potential sexual partners, not everyone else with whom you might build a life. 

I met a handful of guys in Mars Hill history who had this idea that basically the man and woman could be against all their respective clans as long as they were for each other.  "Us against the world" sounds romantic until normal day to day problems come up.  To the extent that we elevate the erotic bond may be the extent t owhich distortions and mutations of the expectations of such a bond become more terrible.  There's supposed to be some film out now with Rosamund Pike in it that some say is a kind of horror film about a marriage that goes awry.  Maybe so.  Wenatchee's attention has shifted more to music lately.

But perhaps that film and that theory about it highlights what Roberts has pointed out, that the expectation of marriage is freighted with the kinds of burdens it would not have, in earlier periods of human history, have been expected to bear anyway.  Wenatchee has privately beaten this drum for decades but evangelicals in the United States had best abandon a commitment to family values as being a commitment to the nuclear family.  Consider the nuclear family as we've gotten used to it in American popular culture as a short-term freak aberration based on a post-war industrial/manufacturing boom that is not likely to return, particularly not since we exported so much of our manufacturing base overseas in the last thirty years.

That's probably enough rambling on this subject but perhaps it is a sign of the low estimate of friendship in American culture as a whole that one of the insults taken by men about women is that when their erotic interest is spurned they complain that they have been put into the indignity of the "friend zone"?


chris e said...

There's more than just the parallel between Driscoll and Schaeffer. As someone says in the comments:

"Your father was a self-promoting right-wing ideologue who used to pronounce scathingly on things he could not be bothered to read up on. Do you really think that breaking free from his shadow means becoming a self-promoting left-wing ideologue who pronounces scathingly on things he can't be bothered to read up on?"

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

ouch, though it's worth having said.

I was really into Francis Schaeffer in my teens and twenties but I came to view his reactions to modernism in the arts to be far too parochial. I own too much music by Stravinsky, Messiaen, Shostakovich, Hindemith, and others to see modernism in music the way Schaeffer did. And Schaeffer's engagement with avant garde jazz was clearly cursory and shallow at best.

Then again ... Wenatchee The Hatchet is seriously overdue to write about music again. This year has been so explosive on other topics extensive blogging about music or `toons might have to wait until 2015. At least there's the tenth anniversary of the Cadmus arc on Justice League Unlimited as a suitable excuse ... .