Book Review: Why Can't We Be Friends? (Joshua Torrey)
Author: Aimee Byrd
Publisher: P&R Publication
Reading Level: Low-Moderate
"This is a book that I didn’t want to write—until I really wanted to write it. I couldn’t not write it." (11)
“Men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.” — Harry Burns (Billy Crystal)
It takes guts to write a book about sexuality for the conservative church. Though the relationship between sexuality and lust has always been a plight upon mankind, it seems unarguable that the sexual saturation of technology-driven media has greatly influenced the church to the degree that it regularly does not address the issue. As a result, conservative evangelicals have allowed themselves to be inundated more by what culture says about cross-sex relationships or knee-jerk reactions than what Scripture says about human anthropology and the resurrection power of the risen Jesus Christ.
In a climate where nearly everything is sexualized in some venue, the publication of Aimee Byrd’s Why Can’t We Be Friends? has drummed up significant applause and frustration. Herself a proven conservative Presbyterian, Byrd has written a challenge to the church to put aside secular influence (i.e. the “Harry Burns rule”) and question the wisdom of legalistic attempts at purity (i.e. the “Billy Graham/Mike Pence rule”). Far from providing leniency for licentious engagements, Byrd presents a mature view of male-female relationships with an emphasis on our anthropology (“the study of human beings”) in light of what Christ has promised and is presently doing for His church. If, in the eschaton, brothers and sisters will be united with Christ and together in perfect harmony and intimacy why should they not pursue the maturity and true purity of the church now?
In the first seven chapters of the book (which make up “Part 1: Why Can’t Men and Women Be Friends?”), Byrd addresses these anthropological, Christological, and eschatological influences on how the church should view and encourage cross-gender friendship and accountability. From a deeply Christological reading of Scripture, Byrd shows why men and women must view each other holistically and not as mere entities of potential temptation (chapter 2). This is possibly especially within the church as is increasingly recognizes and glorifies the relationship of brothers and sisters who are joint heirs with Jesus Christ (chapter 7). With this acknowledgment, the church can strive to develop a Biblical purity found primarily in the work of Christ and not the law (chapters 4 and 5).
The second half of Byrd's (titled "How Do We Live as Sacred Siblings?") is equally valuable as a challenge and encouragement to church membership and leadership on equipping men and women to strive one another up to good works. This includes not only an increased emphasis on Christ as the joint "elder brother" (chapter 8) but the sacred gifts of table fellowship (chapter 11) and suffering (chapter 12).
In conclusion, Why Can’t We Be Friends?: Avoidance Is Not Purity is a worthwhile introduction to the pressing need for deeper Christian fellowship and friendship. The church is uniquely those called by the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus Christ to be united with one another; but through over-sexualization, it has allowed its members to be severed one from another. By grounding her thesis in the humanity and unity found in Jesus Christ, Byrd provides the stable blocks for further discussion and application of deeper fellowship among the members of Christ's body.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.