Wednesday, April 07, 2010



Nathan Martin writes about "The Death of Friendship." He does so based on reading a magnificent article in the Journal of Higher Education by William Deresiewicz. Martin says:
And here’s the thing, I’m not going to try and summarize this 12 page opus.
He's right, to summarize this article would be to do it injustice, so please read the Deresiewicz article in its entirety. I want to focus on one very telling paragraph from that piece:
Friendship is devolving, in other words, from a relationship to a feeling—from something people share to something each of us hugs privately to ourselves in the loneliness of our electronic caves, rearranging the tokens of connection like a lonely child playing with dolls. The same path was long ago trodden by community. As the traditional face-to-face community disappeared, we held on to what we had lost—the closeness, the rootedness—by clinging to the word, no matter how much we had to water down its meaning. Now we speak of the Jewish "community" and the medical "community" and the "community" of readers, even though none of them actually is one. What we have, instead of community, is, if we're lucky, a "sense" of community—the feeling without the structure; a private emotion, not a collective experience. And now friendship, which arose to its present importance as a replacement for community, is going the same way. We have "friends," just as we belong to "communities." Scanning my Facebook page gives me, precisely
, a "sense" of connection. Not an actual connection, just a sense.That is brilliant analysis and I think oh so true. And I am overwhelmingly struck by how incredibly selfish it is. Elsewhere Deresiewicz says:
As for the moral content of classical friendship, its commitment to virtue and mutual improvement, that, too, has been lost.
And one must hit themselves in the head in the "of course you idiot!" sort of way. What we are doing is turning friendship from something that asks of us into something that asks nothing of us.

And what truly saddens me is that the church seems to be following the same path. We endeavor to make the church not about genuine community but about the kind of faux community that Deresiewicz bemoans about friendship. Slowly, inexorably, we move our lives in a fashion so that no one can demand anything of us. In other words we are completely self-involved. We don't have friends for friends sake, we have friends for our sake. How sad is that.

My life has been very hard in these last few years. Two of those closest to me have passed away. I struggle to replace those friendships. One cannot just replace decades of togetherness in a couple of years. I long to find friendship like that again. And yet I fear it. For part of the friendship of decades is knowing "where not to go." New friends challenge me in areas that the old friends "knew better." I become defensive. That too is selfish.

Lord save us from ourselves.

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