Baby, It’s Cold Outside

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So let us discuss some profiles in profiling. Suppose that some bank in our area was robbed by a Caucasian guy, around 6 foot 1 or so, brown hair and beard, and it also happened that he was driving a pick-up truck. Now let us suppose further that as the cops were scrambling all over town, looking for a guy of this description, they pulled me over for a bit of questioning.

Suppose further that I, trained by this generation’s sentimentalist dictates and imperatives, assumed the role of one who was deeply hurt, wounded, aggrieved and offended by this treatment. I simply cannot believe that people would think that simply driving around in a pick-up truck meant that some people had the right to just assume you might have been robbing a bank. And where does the Bible say that you can’t be 6 foot 1?

Breaking Bread with Boys (or Girls, as the Case May Be)

In this chapter, Aimee takes up the subject of a guy sharing a meal together with his friend who is a girl (not a girlfriend, mind you, at least not as far as we know). And frankly, given the naiveté displayed in the way she treats all of this, the problem with profiling here is not so much like owning a pick-up truck in a small town where a bank was just robbed by a guy with a pick-up. No, it is more like walking into a bank with a ski mask on. “No, what? No, it’s cold outside. So I was cold. Sue me. Where does the Bible say it can’t be cold outside?”

Aimee reminds us that “Jesus got himself crucified by the way he ate” (Loc. 2564). This is very true and also, as appears to be her standard routine, quite beside the point.

“In the present age, Christ’s table is inclusive. His invitation goes out to all sinners and misfits, including us” (Loc. 2579). “I wonder how close this woman was to being the absolute worst person to be seen with at a meal” (Loc. 2569).

This is all of it true. But here are the reasons why it is beside the point. When Christ was establishing His new community, His new humanity, the fact that He roped in “the loser table full of misfits” (Loc. 2572) meant that He was establishing a brotherhood that really was inclusive. This brotherhood is not the same thing as friendship. Brotherhood includes all my brothers and sisters, any who are in Christ. All the brother/sister responsibilities we may glean from the Scriptures are responsibilities that Aimee and I have toward one another. But friendship includes my friends; friendship includes her friends. The brotherhood is inclusive. Friendship is not inclusive. If the whole, entire world is your friend, this is just another way of saying you don’t have any friends.

Aimee just does not seem to grasp the simplest distinctions between the simplest categories. But we must distinguish them—we must be able to tell when they are separate circles and when they are overlapping Venn diagrams. For example, Nancy is my sister in Christ. Nancy is also my closest friend. Nancy is also my wife. She is also a partner in ministry, counseling women in the church. She is also one of my best editors, red-penning stuff I write. These are all overlapping categories, not synonyms.

But, muddling everything all together, Aimee says this:

“It’s okay to have favorite dining partners. Even Jesus did” (Loc. 2634).

Yes, Jesus had close friends. But that was not a function of the universal brotherhood He was establishing. And yes, Jesus had a circle of close friends that included women—think Mary, Martha, and Lazarus (John 11:5). But Jesus was never spotted at that upscale Bethany Bistro having a cozy tête-à-tête with Mary, or with Martha either. The love that you have for friends, and which Scripture tells us Christ had for Mary and Martha, is not the kind of thing that can just be plugged into other kinds of relationships, and work just as well.

So Aimee keeps triumphantly proving things that nobody denies, and then goes on to blithely assume that what she has thus demonstrated has something to do with what we are actually talking about. But we are talking about a married person having a tight personal friendship with someone of the opposite sex and also not their spouse. For that she has no Scripture, despite all the brothers and sisters she might appeal to.

A Bit Gnostic

And when she does get to the sort of scenarios we are talking about—say, a married man having dinner with this special friend—she apparently wants to exclude all circumstantial evidence from our calculations, and reduce the whole thing to motives, which are conveniently tucked away in some invisible spot.  

“Having lunch shouldn’t feel like a challenge to marital fidelity. Eating together is a platonic practice intended to bring joy to our friendships” (Loc. 2672).

“They don’t plot to be alone with the other sex just for the sake of it, but they also shouldn’t be suspect if they share a meal with a man or a woman” (Loc. 2722).

In the place just cited, note that the potential problems for her are all located in the motives and intentions (“plot to be alone”) and never in the external circumstances (“share a meal”). So let ramp up these external circumstances, and see what it takes to get into problematic territory. They are sharing a meal. No problemo! This is a platonic practice, practiced by all the high-minded individuals. It is the most expensive restaurant in town. Okay. Plato is still just a friend, and has the hots for no one. So it is a dimly-lit restaurant, with a couple of candles on each table, and a wandering violinist, wending his way between the tables. All right. We here at Mablog are starting to feel a little uncomfortable with mere external circumstances, bad motives or no bad motives, for just as there is “more to food than fuel” (Loc. 2706), so also there is more to sensuous and romantic candlelight than a lousy light source, making it hard to read the menu. But we are probably reacting this way because of our brooding legalism, and the couple involved is only muddled on the point because of the lady’s mistake of confusing the intimacy of fellowship with romantic sexuality, see below, and his mistake of confounding her décolletage with one of the entrées.

“But we need to be careful not to mistake the intimacy of fellowship with romantic sexuality” (Loc 2671).

In Aimee’s book, it is possible to stray into forbidden territory. It is possible to fall prey to sexual temptation. It is possible to cause scandal in the church. And to her credit, she is against all of that. But on this subject, she is more than a little bit gnostic. As far as she is concerned, as long as you heed her repeated exhortations to keep your internal alignment the way it ought to be, things are good. Ask your secretary out to talk about the office dynamics. What could go wrong? If your motives are pure—and who are we to say they aren’t?—then your wife can be eight months pregnant with three other little ones at home, and you can still enjoy a glass of wine at Antonio’s after work with your secretary because we can’t find a Bible verse that says you can’t, and it is not her fault she’s cute. We can’t find a verse that says you are a jerk either. Some truths are not in the Bible.

“Sexual impropriety arises from affections that are not rightly ordered” (Loc. 2720).

“But the table isn’t the problem. The problem is the heart” (Loc. 2722).

Got that? According to Aimee, the table is not the problem, the heart is. Affections that are not rightly ordered are the problem, not that seduction center called Antonio’s. But I would want to add that the heart has an obvious problem when it can’t read the tables properly. The affections are not rightly ordered when they cannot see sexual improprieties in the casual joke, in the seating arrangements, in the unkindness of neglecting a spouse, and in all the solicitous concerns expressed in that seduction anthem Baby, It’s Cold Outside.

Living in community—where there are real brothers and sisters who really care about you—means that they can ask you hard questions on the basis of knowing your wife is at home and your car is at Antonio’s. A brother can come to you and say, “What are you doing, man?” This brother is not asking about your motives in the first instance, although he will likely get there. He is asking you in the first place about your actions, which are a tell.

The way Aimee has set this up, she doesn’t want the externals to be a tell of anything. If you are going wrong, which she allows you might be doing, you are doing so in the realm of your affections, motives, and intentions—all places where your brothers and sisters in community are not allowed to see.