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Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions: Engaging the Mystery of Friendship Between Men and Women Paperback – February 16, 2010

4.2 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Dan, you're onto something here. Cross-gender friendships are here and no one's talking about them--certainly not in the evangelical church. You take a volatile subject and handle it provocatively, yet pastorally I think (the writing's good too!). Even if your readers don't agree with all your conclusions, this book needs to be read. Nothing less is at stake than our full liberty, creativity, love and apprenticeship to Jesus Christ in the 21st century. I feel that strongly about it." --Mike Morrell, KedgeForward

Brennan's treatment of the subject matter is robust, "thorough, balanced, well-researched, and thought-provoking. Brennan offers a biblical foundation for his thesis, which I think is most important." --John Fortin, Catholic Philosopher

From the Back Cover

"Dan Brennan opens a spiritual treasure chest and peers into an untapped resource that has been largely hidden from our sight: the gift of agape between the sexes. In Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions, he encourages Christians, with tenderness and thorough scholarship, to reach beyond fear of sexuality and engage the cross-gender friendships in in their life that can help ignite their spiritual growth." Rev. Carole Hallundbaek, award-winning author of Saints in Love, theologian, and spiritual director, and was consultant to PBS series Religion & Ethics Weekly.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 186 pages
  • Publisher: Faith Dance Publishing (February 16, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0982580703
  • ISBN-13: 978-0982580707
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,375,910 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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This book hits the nail right on the head. Brennan exposes the travesty that is the modern western church's understanding of "cross-sex" relationships. For the longest time sex was seen as a dirty word, and thankfully much of the church has woken up and realized that sex is a gift from God, something to be cherished, not looked down upon. Unfortunately its understanding of cross-sex relationships hasn't come around just yet.

The church is so focused on avoiding unhealthy sexual relationships and fostering healthy sex that it has done so to the detriment of friendships. What is left is a view of friendships that is impoverished, anemic, and legalistic. So many have bought into the influence of Frued and other cultural influences which have contributed to objectification, dehumanization, hyper-sexualization, and hyper-romanticism. We have bought the lie that men and women can't be friends, that all non-familial cross-sex relationships must always lead to sex, that we are just beasts that have no self-control.

Brennan rejects these beliefs. Using scripture and many examples of tradition he shows that this is simply not true. Men and women, even those who are married, can, and do, have healthy one on one relationships that doesn't lead to sex. The ideas in this book are exactly what the church most desperately needs. Legalistic boundaries cause more problems than they solve, and lead to the exact problems that they are trying to avoid. Boundaries are meant to encourage healthy relationships and vulnerability, not to build up a wall to protect people from these things. The problem isn't lack of boundaries, but lack of intimate relationships where men and women can know one another...only then will things such as pornography addiction, objectification, hyper-sexualization, etc be broken.

This book is a must read.
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I've underlined and written notes on nearly every page in this book. I wrote a three part series on my blog inspired by this book; it really is a must read!

This book has forced me to consider the beauty of cross-sex friendship, to address feelings of shame in my own life, and to desire to push back against the Evangelical church teachings I experienced during my formative years. While the book offers more questions than answers, that's one thing I loved about it. Brennan invites us to consider the hard questions and wrestle with what the answers may be.
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I was one of Dan Brennan's first cross-gender friendship "experiments" and it is time for me to speak up. I am not against cross-gender friendship; I have had several cross-gender friendships, but the one I had with Dan has been the most unhealthy. He had taken the teachings of Leanne Payne and distorted and misused them, creating unhealthy emotional attachments with women. I did not realize until it was too late just how controlling he was or how painful this would be. I shared a significant amount of personal information with him, and when the relationship turned sour I did not feel that I could share in public what had happened. I felt I had to protect his methods (which should be public) in order for him to protect my personal information (which I shared in private). BTW, he also shared personal information from woman to woman, so that I knew too much about the other women he was "counseling."

I have not read this book because I know that he is able to present information in an appealing way and he can be very convincing. I have given this book one star to help counter the positive impressions from people who have read the book but who don't know Dan at all or not very well. There may be some helpful information in the book; I know that he has read a lot and he depends on quoting others in order to support his ideas. I used to defend him, and then I protested to him and to a few others and then I finally went away feeling that I was the crazy one. Then I was simply silent for a very long time.

If you plan to read his book, please keep in mind that there are women who know him who are not represented in the book because they are the negative examples of his ideas turned painful in their lives. (See J. Roach's review as another example of a positive relationship turned negative. I have added some comments in response there are well.)
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Our church had a sermon series a few months ago on setting up 'guard rails' around different areas of your life. These 'guard rails' were to keep us from verging into areas that would cause sin. While I don't disagree with the basic idea. The idea, misused and placed on other is essentially Pharisaical. Our pastor was careful that the guard rails should be constructed for ourselves and not for others.

The problems is that there was an assumption that at least one of the guard rails would be to prevent any real friendships between men and women except marriage. I disagreed then, but did not have the language to express the problem until a few months later when I read this book.

Part of the calling of this book is for deep friendships, regardless of gender. But there is a special place where cross gender friendships affect us.

The central image of why male/female friendships can occur without romance is one of siblings. We are called brothers and sisters in Christ and Brennen calls us to actually think about and use this imagery to deeply relate to others.

There are some pretty big caveats that the relationships need to be among healthy people and chaste and open (if either are married) but I think even with those caveats many will protest.

I have hosting a discussion on my blog starting April 18, 2011 about this book. I don't think it has all the answers but I think it is a needed call to the church.
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