Why Can't We Be Friends?

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 23 Aug 2018

Member Reviews

This is one of the most frustrating books I’ve ever read. It took me a while to finish because I didn’t want to read it. I kept at it because the author used to be one of the very few “good” female authors out there, and I was really hoping it would get better. I used to listen to her podcast with Truman and Pruitt, but stopped when I started reading this book.
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I appreciate Byrd's book on the importance of friendships with the opposite sex - her way of writing helped me see the importance of cultivating friendships based on brotherly love and used Scripture well to tie it together. I've already recommended it to others!
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Aimee's book comes at the perfect time. In a culture where the relationships between men and women can often be tricky to navigate, her insight into friendship is refreshing and helpful for the Christian who is seeking to build strong relationships with those around them, regardless of gender. Her writing style is easy to follow and flows well. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants a good look at the biblical view of brotherhood and sisterhood.
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I continually wrestle with the cross gender relationships, having seen so many situations that have affected me personally where this has gone wrong. Being reminded that God created me to first have communion with Him then to build relationships with others is helpful. I know I am encouraged to verbalise these struggles and seek God's wisdom in relating across the gender divide. I feel that balance is what I need, not going from the extreme of no personal cross gender relationships to being too open with the opposite gender.
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Aimee Byrd gets perturbed when men say they won't ride alone in a car or go out to dinner with a woman who is not his wife.  In Why Can't We Be Friends: Avoidance is Not Purity, she expounds on Christian friendship and the sibling nature of the body of Christ, but I'm not sure she gets any closer to bringing down the "Billy Graham rule."  Graham said he would not "travel, meet, or eat along with a woman other than [his] wife."

Byrd's problem is that the Billy Graham rule, followed by many others, pastors and laypeople alike (including Vice President Pence), sexualizes relationships according to the Billy Crystal rule.  In the movie When Harry Met Sally, Crystal's character says that "men and women can't be friends because the sex part always gets in the way."  Byrd argues that this idea that "all women are reduced to a means of sexual gratification for men, that a man cannot control himself from thinking about conquering every woman he is 'friends' with" has taken over culture and should be rejected.

The strength of Byrd's argument is that we are brothers and sisters with our fellow Christians, and should relate to each other as such.  Certainly the love and support of our siblings, as well as the permanent nature of our relationship, speak to the importance of intimacy and companionship that do not include sexual relationships or conquests.  But I'm still not comfortable with where she wants this to end up.  If I'm hundreds of miles from home on a business trip, a quiet dinner alone with my biological sister is perfectly appropriate.  We might even share a hotel room if we're on a trip together.  But with my sister in Christ--no way.  (I checked with my wife.  She does not want me to share a hotel room with any women from church.)

Similarly, Byrd talks about the importance of table fellowship, and the centrality of meal time to Christian fellowship, to friendship and to community.  She rightly points out that meal time has been used as a time to exclude others, and that Jesus used meal time to welcome others, for which he was criticized.  But I don't agree that choosing not to have a private meal with a person of the other sex reflects the same kind of prejudice or ignorance that other exclusions do.  We can eat meals at a church fellowship or with a group, sitting with and enjoying the company of people of the other sex, but one-on-one dining is a different thing.

Byrd doesn't completely ignore the reality of temptation that may arise when spending time along with a friend of the other sex.  She writes that "some adults are not in a good place to interact well within friendships. . . . Even people in your church may have become so caught up in sin and lust that they need pastoral care and accountability in their lives--maybe for a long period of time."  So if you're going to be friends with someone of the other sex, before you spend time alone with them, be sure to vet them, making sure they are not "caught up in sin and lust."  (Let me know how that works out for you.)  Again, I'm going with Billy Graham.  Byrd is right to say, as she does in the book's subtitle, that simply avoiding the other sex does not equate to purity.  But that doesn't mean that avoidance is sometimes appropriate.


Look, I have good female friends, at church and at work.  I enjoy conversation and interaction with them as my sisters in Christ.  But I'm not going to call one of those women up and ask her to meet me for dinner, or go camping for the weekend, or meet for drinks after work, just the two of us.  Byrd has some good material here on friendship and Christian community.  I agree with her that the Billy Crystal rule is absurd and should not guide our relationships.  But I (with my wife's support and insistence) will abide by the Billy Graham rule.  I think my Christian sisters, as well as their husbands, would agree and appreciate the boundaries and respect that engenders.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!
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There will be a much longer review forthcoming on an official blog, but suffice it to say that Byrd's thesis is weak and entirely unconvincing. Immanentized eschatological siblinghood run amok.
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This is the first time I've been introduced to Aimee Byrd's work. Her work caught my eye when I was scrolling through books available for review on Net Galley, as the topic is so relevant in todays' world. The rise of the #metoo movement, the debate about the Billy Graham rule, and male-female relationships in the church and workplace are prominent everywhere you turn, so a theological treatment of opposite sex friendships immediately grabbed my attention.

Aimee's work is incredible. Her theological work is intensive. Instead of simply treating the issue at hand with opinions and the work of others, she dives deep into theological truths including anthropology and eschatology. The way she applies them to opposite sex friendships - particularly in the church - was poignant and challenging. Beyond her theological work though, her work is also practical. The way she offers application of these truths in the lives of church families and marriages is very helpful.

My only hesitancy with Aimee's work is her complimentarian viewpoint. While it doesn't permeate much of the book, she does address it specifically in some sections. As a female pastor, this book would have been strengthened for me if there was a perspective offered for women in leadership as well. This is missing from Aimee's book particularly, though her truths could easily be applied. I encourage anyone in the church to pick up this book and read it!
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I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley and P and R publishers.

Having enjoyed Aimee Byrd's previous books I was excited to read her latest offering "Why Can't We be Friends?" and I was not disappointed . In summary the book argues strongly that men and women can be friends. Not only can they be friends, as brothers and sisters in the Lord we ought to be friends with each other and not see the opposite sex as a threat to our marriage relationships and purity. On starting to read the book some may be offended and feel that she is on a dangerous path but her arguments are strong and rooted in scripture.

Not only does the author outline the importance of brother/sister friendships she also outlines how we as a church should be interacting with each other. It was this focus that I found the most encouraging and hopeful and it gave a glimpse of what a true church should look like.
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