Sometimes ideas are so closely linked that it is hard to know which came first. One of the problems that has arisen with the normalization of sodomy is the death of intimate male friendship. Which came first? Sodomy and the sexualization of male friendship? Or male friendships being viewed with suspicion? Did the sexualization of all things lead to the death of male friendship or did male friendship die and that led to sodomy? Did fathers stop showing physical love and this lead to sodomy and sexual abuse? Or did the rise of sodomy and sexual abuse lead to the decline of male physical affection?
These questions are not easy to answer. But physical, intimate, male friendship is often viewed today with suspicion especially by conservatives. Deep male friendship is at best weird and at worst a threat. Feminism seeks to destroy male friendship by making sure women are always around. Often conservative women do the same thing by again making sure a woman, in this case MOM is always around to keep the boys in check. Whatever the reasons, men showing affection physically is weird. Two men with their arms around each other in public is odd to us. Men who kiss each other on the cheeks are odd, unless you are from the Middle East. In an older movie, Mrs. Brown, numerous British soldiers swim naked. How would that be viewed today? The truth is that many men fear physical affection with other men. They fear they will be viewed as latent homosexuals or it will just be awkward. There are two major exceptions to this, war and sports. In war men form deep bonds and expressions of physical love are frequent. In sports, slapping each other, hugging one another, jumping into each other’s arms, and weeping with one another are expressed without concern for what the world may think. As women continue to mingle with men in these fields no doubt even the physical affection shown there between men will diminish.
All men in every generation need the physical affection of other men, such as our grandfathers, fathers, brothers, sons, pastors, and other Christian men. But our generation is starving for this. With the rise of sodomy, the rise of physical abuse, the absence of fathers, and the false idea that true masculinity is devoid of emotion, we need perhaps more than ever for men to express physical love and affection with other men. Physical affection among men needs to be de-sexualized and re-normalized, especially among Christian men.
What can we do? It is not complicated. Men need to hug each other. We need to put our arms around each other. We need to wrestle with our sons and grandsons and even each other. Our teenage sons need us to tackle them, hug them, and kiss them good night. Our boys need our hands on them in a way that says I love you and I will protect you. We need to tussle their hair, hold them in our arms, tickle them, and give them piggy back rides. We need to have areas of our lives where there are only men, where the women do not come. Is it any surprise that the deepest bonds of male friendship are often formed when they are no women around, such as sports and war? We need to fight side by side in battles with other men. The battles I am thinking of are things like hunting, theology, sports, building a house for a widow, fixing a car, landscaping, or war. We need a return to the “smoking room” where after dinner men would meet to smoke and talk. We need to weep and laugh with each other, not afraid of compromising our masculinity by such actions. We need to sing with each other and pray with each other.
At the end Lord of the Rings when Sam and Frodo are ascending Mt. Doom, Tolkien, a war veteran, puts many little examples of the physical affection Sam and Frodo had for one another. He says, that Sam “kissed his hand.” When Frodo was cold Sam “tried to comfort [him] with his arms and body.” Later, near the top, Tolkien says, “Sam took his master’s hands and laid them together palm to palm, and kissed them, and then he held them gently between his own.” There is another scene where Frodo lays his head on Sam’s lap and Sam strokes his hair. As men we need to become more comfortable with this type of love and affection. Until we can love one another through physical affection we will continue to see counterfeits dominate our world such as sodomy, effeminate men, and the celibate gay Christian movement, as well as the hyper-masculinity often seen in sports, superhero movies, pop-music, and guys like Mark Driscoll. Until we can love one another with physical affection we are half-men, gaunt, weak, and starving. Brothers, let us strive to cultivate a masculinity among ourselves and our sons that includes physical affection. Let us love not in word only but with embraces, kisses, and warm affection. It is part of what it means to be a man in this world.
I highly recommend Tony Esolen’s essay “A Requiem for Friendship: Why Boys Will Not Be Boys & Other Consequences of the Sexual Revolution”. It provides one of the most thorough and convincing explanations of how the push to normalize homosexuality in the culture has pretty much doomed authentic masculine friendships. He also explains the consequences for this loss in the maturation of future generations of men.
I found this essay disturbingly pessimistic, and privately challenged Esolen on this. He remained pessimistic, for reasons I did not ferret out of him with further badgering. It seems to me that there ought to be significant resources in the gospel and the ministry of Christ’s Spirit to ameliorate the very real damage Esolen describes in his essay.