Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Shadow Across Friendship

Writing in the 1980's, Sheldon Vanauken (“Van” to his friends, which I was lucky enough to be) observed the increasingly militant partisans of the homosexual “movement” pushing for more and more social acceptance. As an orthodox Christian Van didn't condone unchastity of any type, but he also sympathized with the legitimate point that all people should be treated with dignity and respect – particularly because he knew people with homosexual tendencies who'd been mistreated.

But allowing for that basic charity with which all men should be treated, Van was opposed to the widespread acceptance of homosexual behaviour as a social norm. A major reason he offered was one that I have never seen anyone else advance, but have seen come true in my lifetime. He contended that once homosexual attitudes and behaviour became accepted as normal, it would spell the death of normal, healthy same-sex friendships that had no sexual component. And he was dead right about that – as homosexuality has become more “mainstream”, close friendships between two men, or even two women, have become increasingly rare, and where they do occur, they are suspected of being – ahem – something more.

This was driven home to me recently when watching the holiday classic White Christmas. Most people know the story, but this time I took special notice that the film's plot pivots around the friendship and business partnership of two men, Bob Wallace and Phil Davis. These guys were unmarried well into their '20s and possibly '30s, but nobody seems to question that, and romantic interests with women are a major driver of the plot. Their friendship is close, even intimate, but nobody thinks anything unusual about it.

Try telling me that a movie could be made these days with two male leads who were intimate friends, single well into their third or fourth decades (and in show business at that), that wouldn't have people assuming things about the nature of their relationship. This has been a poisonous side effect of the social push to mainstream homosexual behaviour – it has destroyed even the idea of simple friendship.

Van predicted this effect, and lamented it. Being classically educated he knew that close friendships between members of the same sex are not only healthy and normal, but the pinnacle of human relationships and one of the cornerstones of true civilization. In fact, there's something liberating about having the sexual dynamic removed entirely from a relationship – it enables partners to relate in perfect charity, without either seeking to exploit the other for anything. (This is one reason why cross-sexual friendships are more difficult – they always carry a germ, however small, of tension within them.) Van knew, because he had both seen them and experienced them, that solid friendships could exist alongside the most passionate love a man and woman could know, and the two would enrich each other.

I've had many good male friendships in my life. In fact, for a year before I was married, a friend and I shared an apartment just a few blocks from the college I was attending. We did almost everything together – attended church, went on outings, washed dishes, shared our problems, encouraged each other in our Christian walk. He even helped me through difficult times in my engagement, and was best man at my wedding. That was in the early '80s, before a shadow had fallen across such simple, generous friendship. These days, such closeness might still exist, but not without an occasional raised eyebrow or questioning glance. In generations past it was normal, common behaviour for men or women to share living quarters or close friendship with others of the same sex, for economy, companionship, and common goals. How many modern people will forego that enriching experience because they're afraid of what people will think?

What a loss that is! The highest and noblest of human relationships – simple friendship – is darkened by the political agenda of the radical homosexuals. They've even tried to stretch the shadow backward through history, suggesting (or presuming) that close friendships in past ages had to have had a sexual component. Van knew this was wrong, as do I. I pray that the deep reality of true friendship will survive the night which this culture is entering.


Evan said...

Interesting post Mr. Thomas. C.S. Lewis addresses this same problem in his book, "The Four Loves" -- which I'm sure you've read.

PrinceOfTheWest said...

I have read it, but I'm ashamed to admit it's been decades. "The Four Loves" is one of the few Lewis books I don't have in the house, and I need to get a copy.