Fifty years ago, when a generation of seminarians was cutting its theological fangs, friendship was a disdained term. Anders Nygren’s classic Agape and Eros ruled in classrooms and pulpits, and Nygren had little use for philia—the Greek word for the kind of love friends share. Nygren stressed that divine love, agape, is different from other forms of love.
"What people find out in time” writes Meg Greenfield, “is that the false self they are inhabiting isn’t much of a friend after all. Nor is it any great shakes as a refuge or consolation. They begin to live lives of pantomime, in which gesture is all.
Picking up where he left off in Faith Beyond Resentment, Alison, a Catholic priest, continues to expose the subversive potential of the gospel message, especially regarding the situation of gay Christians. In three sets of essays he rejects a patronizing Christian love that does not include liking the persons concerned.
As I sat in a South African retreat center, I was struck by the differences between the two church leaders who were speaking. One is a well-known retreat leader, a contemplative person who stresses the importance of the deep, inward journey of the soul with God.
Toward the end of Toni Morrison’s Beloved, a powerful novel about slavery and its aftermath, one of the characters reflects on the impact one woman had on his life: “She is a friend of my mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order. It’s good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind.”