Wednesday, April 23, 2014

I can’t tell what Stackhouse intends with the sentence just before the parenthesis. Is he implying that if Marsh had ruminated a bit more, he might have concluded that a pursuit of friendship as intense as Bonhoeffer’s must have been fueled by sexual desire (thus lending credence to the idea that Bonhoeffer was gay, albeit celibate)? Or is Stackhouse rather suggesting that more interrogation on Marsh’s part would have shown our suspicion of Bonhoeffer’s being gay to be a post-gay-rights-era preoccupation, all too ready to classify people as either “gay” or “straight” and not attuned enough to the complexity, even for “straight” people, of desire in simple friendship? As I say, I can’t tell, but I’d like to continue the conversation.

In any case, as I’m nearing the end of working on my friendship book, I can say that reading Bonhoeffer and Bethge’s correspondence was one of the richest experiences I had in the course of my research. Other than Pavel Florensky’s The Pillar and Ground of the Truth, I doubt there was a book that taught me more about friendship than Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison. What struck me in reading it, perhaps in contrast to Marsh and Stackhouse’s views, was how unwieldy our categories are—either “homosexual” or “just friends”—when it comes to classifying a relationship as profound as Bonhoeffer and Bethge’s was.

Read it all.

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