Why Can't We Be Friends?

July 14, 2018

In 1989, Rob Reiner posed the question: can men and women maintain relationship as only friends? Must romance enter into the equation? Must sex?


When Harry Met Sally[1] stands as a romantic comedy classic and for good reason. The film explores many of the tensions felt by single men and women as they navigate friendships with the opposite sex.


What if he asks me out?


Should I ask her out?


I don’t think of him that way.


I think I need to think of her as a friend.


Having celebrated the completion of eight years of marriage, I do not miss such internal conflict and confusion. 


For all the confusion of friendly relationships between men and women, one thing remained fairly straightforward: friendships between members of the same sex. Such relationships possess the potential for complexity, such always proves true in a fallen world. Until recently, the quandary of romance did not enter into these friendships. 


Cue The New Yorker’s line from the hit Off-Broadway smash, Why We Can’t Have Nice Things, “Hold my triple non-fat mocha latte, sir!” 


In the recent article, “‘Frog and Toad’: An Amphibious Celebration of Same-Sex Love,” one finds the classic children’s book series, Frog and Toad, truly told a tale of love between two male amphibians who felt most content in one another’s company. If the reinterpretation of anthropomorphic amphibians wearing clothes, growing gardens, climbing hills, crossing off to-do lists, and feeling very brave together as gay romance doesn’t fill your heart with verve and happiness, then you are as ectothermic as an amphibian yourself, and I can help you not. 


In fairness, one must note, as the article explains, the author of these beloved books, Arnold Lobel, came out to his family as gay in 1974. The story goes on—Lobel tragically died in the late 1980s, an early fatality of AIDS. The article relies heavily on analysis of Lobel’s daughter, Adrianne. She believes these stories constitute an early phase in the process of her father’s acknowledgement of his own sexuality before his family. 


None of the above represents a hot take or news. When clicking the link on the article, one discovers the article dates to just before the Trump era when all things in America had a fine decency about them and literally nothing bad happened. (Had Eve even suffered deception by the serpent by this point?) Yet on July 2 of this year, The New Yorker tweeted the story out again, and out of the closet burst a fully formed adult amphibian, proud to shed the trappings of his tails and gills and ready for a brave new world. The repost likely occurred in the wake of the terminus of June, publicly named “Pride Month” by those with the power over the calendar.


One could dismiss all of banter on Frog and Toad’s sexuality as words carried away by the wind or characters dumped into the morass of cyberspace if the piece did not bear the marks of our culture’s pitiful, rush-to-post thinking. Please note such thinking and argumentation permeates every subset in our culture, and Bible-trusting, Christ-loving people fall into the trap if they do not take care. 


Note the following tweet, if you will: 



Did you read the article? I can show you one person who did not, and apparently that individual leads us to dine (or leads us in dining? Really, one can lead a group to dinner but can’t make them… oh, never mind). 


In contemporary parlance, “literally” means something like “really, really, you guys,” and sadly, even such a stretched usage of the word does not accurately describe the piece. Lobel does not say such a thing in the article. The idea of Frog and Toad as a homosexual couple comes from speculation from Lobel’s daughter. Lobel has a quote in the article one can certainly interpret as his verbal processing of his sexual inclinations as perhaps working through his art. However, the article does not state he made the comment with reference to our friends, Frog and Toad. The articles does explicitly declare Lobel’s lack of public assertion of the book series having a connection to his own sexuality. The emperor has no clothes, and Frog and Toad have no romantic attraction to one another. Unless, of course, one reduces all things to sex as one legally must per Hugh Hefner and the seventh grade boys who wrote the United States Constitution. 


How can so many people with more social connections than any other era before us have such lonely hearts? Perhaps the lost art of friendship plays a role. If one cannot read a children’s book and wonder if the characters crawl in bed together after the last page turns (they do not), we do not dare express shock or dismay at the apparent lack of sexual ethics or ability for rich friendship in our culture. Two males cannot apparently have a relationship the experts refer to as “being best friends” without analysis coming forth proving their perhaps secret desire for one another. 


To go a step further, we must remember we have no canonical command to publicly wail about what the liberals will ruin next. Nor does John the Revelator ever tell us about the multitude of the redeemed harumphed into the heavenly city. 


Instead of screeching at the purveyors of such counterfeit notions of friendships of any sort, let us take a moment to digest just how confused and broken we are as a people. A few thoughts to guide our processing:


1. Deviant sexualities weren’t invented in the late 1960s. God decreed homosexuality against the Law in Leviticus because it already existed. 


2. At its most pure, the church still exists in space and time. We do not live wholly separate lives from the thought patterns of the age. We must root around in our souls to see where unbiblical, Christless thinking affects us. How do we think on friendship, for example? 


3. Rather than rail to one another over the matter, would it not serve us better to recapture the practice of lamentation? Do we not have corporate sins, sins of our culture to lament before the Lord?


4. If we understand God as sovereign over us, we believe he tells us what to do, not the other way around. He commands us to make disciples of all nations, including our own. Muddled and confused thinking as represented in the piece from The New Yorker exists within those we seek to disciple. Our obedience to God will find itself attached to helping those who come from every walk of life to learn to think differently. 


When we see such lamentable publications, we have clear instructions:


Pray. Think. Evangelize. Disciple.



[1]The mention of the film does not constitute a recommendation or an endorsement. All people must discern if their viewing choices edify them. Whatever one’s judgment on a particular film, one should not fail to recognize many of them as cultural touchstones. 

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