Book Reviews -- By: Matthew S. DeMoss
BSac 173:692 (October-December 2016) p. 492
By The Faculty Of Dallas Theological Seminary
Spiritual Friendship: Finding Love in the Church as a Celibate Gay Christian. By Wesley Hill. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press,2015. xx + 137 pp. $14.99.
Hill is assistant professor of biblical studies at Trinity School of Ministry in Ambridge, Pennsylvania. In his earlier book, Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faith and Homosexuality (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), he tells his story of wrestling with same-sex attraction and defends a biblical call to celibacy. Among the issues this lifestyle choice creates is the challenge of loneliness and the need for healthy friendships. This book deals more specifically with that challenge. It is part memoir, part historical theology, part cultural criticism, part spiritual reflection, and part biblical exposition. Hill provides a helpful summary of his thesis: “Friendship is a good and godly love in its own right, just as worthy of attention, nurture, and respect as any other form of Christian affection. That’s what the Christian tradition has mainly said. And that’s what I want to say—from a fresh angle of vision—in this book, too” (p. xx). The subtitle of the book does not limit its audience to those who share Hill’s sexual orientation. Rather, this book is an excellent primer on friendship for all Christians.
The book is divided into two parts. “Reading Friendship” focuses on “the cultural background, history, and theology of friendship” (p. xviii). One of the challenges to same-sex friendship among Christians in the twenty-first century is the myth that “sex wholly explains the depths of our most profound relationships” and thus the fear that deep friendships must be rooted in sexual attraction (p. 10). This is a severe hindrance to deep relationships between men, as well as creating a hardship for friendships between men and women. Another challenge is the “myth of the ultimate significance of marriage and the nuclear family” (p. 11). This myth is a particularly difficult challenge for Christians with same-sex attraction who choose to follow the biblical ethic and thus remain single and celibate. They will never experience marriage. As evidence that these myths are relatively recent, Hill discusses the friendship between Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Eberhard Bethge, the writings of the twelfth-century Benedictine monk Aelred, and, perhaps most surprising, the Reformation era practice of “wedded friendships.” Rather than evidence of same-sex marriage, these ceremonies of “permanent, honored, church-sanctioned, same-sex friendships were a recognized thread of the fabric of society. But those days have passed” (p....
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