"Sacrd Unions, Sacred Passions" by Dan Brennan

Dan Brennan, Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions: Engaging the Mystery of Friendship Between Men and Women. Faith Dance Publishing, 2010. 183 pgs. 

Dan Brennan's book, supposedly, makes one main argument: Men and Women can share in deep, passionate, intimate friendships without sex.  Or, contra Harry ("When Harry met Sally"), men and women can be 'just friends'. Along the way, Brennan makes some excellent points about friendship and intimacy, in general as well as in how they have been warped and distorted by our culture.  Thus, he rightly points out that (especially among conservative Christians, but also in the culture at large) focused all of our intimacy and friendship into romantic cross-gender relationships (whether in marriage or out) and that this focus is damaging both our ability to make non-romantic friendships as well as our ability to flourish in romantic relationships. 

Here's the thing: I would much rather discuss Brennan's side points than his main points.  I feel this way for a couple of reasons.  Intellectually, spiritually, and theologically I think Brennan is right on. But I feel like he missed his mark on the focus when we speak culturally, emotionally, or in terms of effecting positive change in our church. Let me explain.  

What our culture needs right now is a broader and more fleshed out idea of intimacy that does not necessarily involve genitalia.  This is a side point in the book.  What our culture needs right now is to be critiqued for the over-sexualization of intimacy.  This is a side point in the book.  I am glad Brennan includes these side points, they are almost what make the book worth reading.  Still, the main point is that men and women can be just friends, but in our culture even the idea of friendship is slipping away... 

Emotionally, Brennan holds out some tantalizing visons, but fails to engage at all in how individuals, who are damaged by our cultures distorted views of intimacy, can works towards these visions.   

Finally, in terms of the church, Brennan has a lot to say about the problems we have caused.  However, he completely ignores principals of change.  As an aside, I find most books do.  The cynical side of me wants to say that this is because controversy sells. I don't doubt many authors have much purer motives.  However, read any book on helping people change and you will find things like "move slowly" and "speak gently." I am not saying Brennan should not say what he said; but where is the humility and grace?  Where is the principle of the stronger brother submitting to the weaker, which we find so prevalent in the apostle Paul? 

In the end, this is an incredibly well researched book, a fairly well written book, and, perhaps, a poorly aimed book.  3.5 out of 5 stars, conditionally recommended. 


christine said...

Is this conditionally recommended if you're either a male or female, or for other reasons? :) I want to read it.

Andrew said...

Good point; I guess I didn't specify. No, the condition I would put on it is not about gender. The condition is that the reader needs to beware how they read the book. He really doesn't make any kind of provisions at all for how people affected by our cultures views on intimacy ought to move towards the ideal he holds out, and it would be very very easy to use his words as license.