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Blog

Recovering Masculine Friendship

Gavin Peacock

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The picture above is of me with my former teammate Paul Furlong after one of his goals during our Chelsea days! One of the things I miss most about playing football is the camaraderie in the dressing room, where men are friends together in a common cause with big risk and big reward. Those playing days are over for me, but against the press of the sexual revolution in our culture today there is a great need to encourage masculine friendship: to cultivate godly virtue and noble manhood – for ourselves, our families and for the church and its mission. This is the first of a series of articles I am writing on this topic.

In the September 2005 edition of Touchstone magazine, Anthony Esolen Professor of English at Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island, wrote an article entitled: A Reqiuem For Friendship: Why Boys Will Not Be Boys & Other Consequences of the Sexual Revolution. In it he proposes that the breakdown in natural sexual order and relationships has led to the death of friendship and particularly masculine friendship.

Here’s an excerpt of the article where he reflects on a scene from Lord of the Rings:

“Sam Gamgee has been fool enough to follow his beloved master Frodo into Mordor, the realm of death. To rescue Frodo from the orcs who have taken him captive and who will slay him as soon as he ceases to be of use in finding the Ring, Sam has fought the monstrous spider Shelob, has eluded the pursuit of the orcs, and has dispatched a few of them to their merited deaths.

Finally he finds Frodo in the upper room of a small filthy cell, naked, half-conscious, lying in a heap in a corner. “Frodo! Mr. Frodo, my dear!” he cries. “It’s Sam, I’ve come!” With a bluff tenderness he clasps him to his breast, assuring him that it is really he, Sam, in the flesh….He cradles Frodo’s head, as one would comfort a troubled child.

At that a snigger rises from the audience in the theater. “What, are they gay?”

Esolen goes on to attribute a redefinition of language to a pansexual agenda. He asserts that if you redefine words like “male”, “female”, “friend” and “love”, you can normalize “sexual confusion and anarchy”.

In other words, if you redefine sex, and gender is fluid, and masculinity has no fixed meaning, and the sphere for sexual intercourse is not marriage alone between a man and a woman, and transgenderism and homosexuality is normalized, then you distort or lose proper masculine friendship.

I think Esolen is right. And one result of this loss of true masculine friendship is that insecure boys then view women as potential sexual conquests that prove their manhood. And those who don’t follow that pattern are considered effeminate or sexually repressed and are then marginalized. Surely being effeminate is wrong for a man. But in today's sexual confusion manhood gets morphed to machismo or passivity. 

In Puritan New England the most significant social relationship was between a father and his sons. Anne Lombard (Making Manhood: Growing Up Male In Colonial New England) says, “Because of this bond most Anglo-American boys in New England learned to become men by learning to identify with their fathers or other adult male mentors”. Friendships with older men cultivated manhood in younger men.

And so we need to teach the next generation of boys what masculine friendship looks like, because too many are left fearfully scrambling around in the dark. In order to do this today’s men must step up and cultivate a father’s heart for younger men. Furthermore we must recover true masculine friendship in our own generation, so we might teach and model it for the next.

King David was a warrior – a fighter - but he was also a musician – an artist. He also shows us that it can be good and true to say to another man that you love him, and to show culturally appropriate physical expressions of that love: a handshake, a hug, an arm around the shoulder, a cradle for the head that weeps. Masculine friendship can speak like David spoke on the occasion of the death of Jonathan. “I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; very pleasant have you been to me; your love to me was extraordinary, surpassing the love of women” (2 Samuel 1:26).

This is not homosexual love as some suggest. It is normal non-sexual brotherly friendship. The kind that makes winning teams. The kind that gives strength to families and churches. The kind that honors God and benefits the world. And the kind that follows after the ultimate friend and true man – Jesus Christ, who laid his life down for his friends (John 15:13). There is no greater love or friendship than this.

Next time we’ll look at aspects of masculine friendship.