A new word has entered the English vocabulary, which looks to me to have originated from the LGBT community, and more especially from gay men, and that is the word Bromance. Apparently it is so unfamiliar to everyday usage that while typing, my computer has underlined the word in red, indicating a spelling error. And this is from an American spellchecker, ironic as it seems, as without doubt the word looks to have its origin in the States. Yet anyone with a mild knowledge of semantics would see straight away that Bromance simply means brotherly romance. The gay community defines such a relationship as a strong bond between two males, but falling short of any sexual involvement.
After having received unsuccessful seduction attempts by gay men back in the 1970's when I was a strapping young man in my twenties, I have always held an interest in the homosexual world, and that from a Christian perspective, having being converted to Christ just a few months after my twentieth birthday in 1972. So I can claim to have enough knowledge of it to demonstrate what Bromance is not. For a start, cruising (out looking for a sex-partner in hope of a one-night stand) is not Bromance. Since the diagnoses of AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) was discovered to have originated from the HIV virus infection within same-sex relationships between men (and later became widespread among promiscuous straight sex as well), the habit of cruising has become far less widespread among homosexuals since the 1980's. Cruising was far from being a joyful experience. It was purely about sex, without building any interpersonal relationship with the potential partner. By the following morning, the two men were just as much strangers as if passing each other on the street. Also with cruising, there is always that lingering fear of being picked up by a macho butch who inflicts physical pain in an attempt to gratify his own sexual urges. Such brutal acts are well recorded, in a quest for more, more, more, but never finding ultimate fulfilment. None of these have any love between such partners, and therefore aren't anywhere remotely classed as Bromance.
I type this blog while a referendum had just taken place in Ireland whether to legalize same-sex marriage, which is already legal here in the UK. The idea of long term same-sex relationships, I believe, was a development from the AIDS scare of the 1980's, and reflects the need for the two partners to get to know each other, and particularly their sex and medical history, before consenting. But again, that is not Bromance. Rather, it is homosexuality, a dire world where unfulfilled desires, rejection by other gays, stereotyping and physical beatings by heterosexuals, loneliness, alienation from God, want of a flesh-and-blood family, unhappiness, and a very high suicide rate, all dominate in one way or another. Although the term Bromance was coined in the LGBT community I believe, it is not what it is.
Yet it is coming from gay men that the Biblical relationship model between David and Jonathan is quoted, and they see this as a good example of Bromance, and to a certain extent I share their opinion. But as some homosexual men would like to include these two as engaged in secret sexual activity behind King Saul's back, just by reading the Scriptural narration is enough to establish that both these guys were straight, and kept their sexual activity confined to their wives. But the case of David and Jonathan is an excellent case of Bromance. And no other verse in Scripture highlights this than in 1 Samuel 20:41:-
After the boy had gone, David got up from the south side of the stone and bowed down before Jonathan three times, with his face to the ground. Then they kissed each other and wept together - but David wept the most.
It is easy to imagine their parting scenario. These two were in a tight hug which lasted for a considerable time - maybe twenty minutes? And that is what I believe Bromance includes - hugging, the end result of a strong brotherly friendship. Apart from David and Jonathan, I can easily refer to two other men who actually were biological full brothers: Joseph and Benjamin, the sons of Jacob and his favourite wife Rachel. In Genesis 45:14 the narrator records Joseph and Benjamin locked in a tight embrace, and both weeping on each other's necks. Then there is the Bromance between the fisherman John, and Jesus himself which was manifested during the Last Supper, found in John 13:23 in the KJV, which reads:-
Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved.
Unfortunately, the word bosom (Greek, kolpo) is not used in the NIV or other modern translations, where it just says that John was reclining next to him. I think much as been missed from the one reading the New International Version, and other modern translations. To read about the head of a future apostle resting on the Lord's chest speaks volumes of emotion. It was when Jesus himself acknowledged the sadness his disciples felt over the news that he was leaving them to return to his Father, e.g. John 14:27. Like Joseph, Benjamin, David, and Jonathan before him, John sought comfort through physical contact with Jesus himself. And the very dynamism of such tenderness together at that table is vividly contrasted with Revelation 1:17 where the same apostle took a glimpse of the resurrected Lord, and fell down as if dead. The very same bosom where he rested his head so many years earlier appears in such brilliant glory that he could not barely look at, let alone rest upon.
Then how can I not mention the intimate eternal Bromance which had always existed within the Godhead. The three "Persons" of the Trinity - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each having a perfect love for each other which is entirely free from any disagreement, sorrow, or tears. Probably locked in an eternal embrace, the Father loves both the Son and the Holy Spirit with equal intensity. Likewise the Son loves the Father and the Holy Spirit with equal intensity. And the Holy Spirit himself have the same love for the Father and the Son. It is a wonderful, beautiful setting, absolutely perfect, without even an atom of sin whatsoever. And it has always been God's intention that his radiant triangle of love be shared among mankind, which has always been the chief reason why we exist.
Contrary to our British culture, there is nothing amiss about two men locked in a tight hug. It is the rest of us, who deem such an act as wrong, homosexual, or sissy. Here in the UK, we prefer, at best, to merely extend our hand in an (often limp) handshake. Our local culture, particularly in Southern England, does not even allow anyone to just walk into a neighbour's home without an invitation for an appointed time, let alone walking into another's personal space for a hug. We even have a saying, "An Englishman's home is his castle." That is not the language of Heaven! But, as I have recently found out, prolonged hugging is actually beneficial for health. It is due to the hormone Oxytocin, produced in the Pituitary Gland as a result of intimate human contact.
Due to a recent research, I have found out that oxytocin, among other benefits, has the ability to reduce depression, a cause of many known illnesses, including cancer, and even cardiac arrest. Its benefits, originally thought to be confined to breast milk production and feeding, it seems that something such as a prolonged hug - more than twenty seconds in duration - enjoys a level of benefit from the same hormone, which is also found in males. If Biblical characters, such as Joseph and David (Joseph lived to 110 years, and David saw his 70th birthday) had enjoyed health to a level of never having to visit a Doctor's surgery, then they must have done something right. Could the showing of emotion without the British reserve be the clue here? It is food for thought.
Now I want to imagine what our national health would be really like if everyone was far less selfish, far less reserved, have a trembling lower lip instead of a stiff upper lip, have a far greater love for each other, and there were no issues with prolonged hugs. How would the National Health Service fare? Would it be so under-used, that there would always be a hospital bed immediately available should anyone fall ill? Rather than being so overstretched, as it is at present? In fact, would the N.H.S. be a lot smaller, with smaller budgets and not so much spent on staffing and administration? If there is less depression in the individual, would this result in a happier lifestyle as well as a healthier one? Really, what I'm asking is: If Bromance and prolonged hugging were more socially acceptable, would this become a better world all around?
As a married man, I guess that I'm one of the more fortunate ones. I can prolong-hug my wife as much as I want, and she likewise. But one needs to take into consideration that I didn't marry until I was 47 years old, which is well beyond the national average age to marry. Throughout my long single life, other than the privilege to travel - many, many times I had a longing for a prolonged hug every day. Amazingly enough, during my bachelor days, I had persistent back trouble - forcing me on several occasions to crawl on the floor instead of walking. Thinking about it, over a period of time, my back problems all but disappeared since I married Alex. But I could have remained single throughout my life, as I know a few who has. Generally speaking, medical records show that not only married people enjoy a fuller life and better health, but they tend to live longer than those who remain single.
God does not only have love, he is love. Any breach of this love is sin. In order to enjoy perfect health eternally, we need to love God and each other as intensely as the three "Persons" of the Godhead. But because of the sinful heart, often shaped by culture (emotions bottled, no hugging, etc.) - sickness and death will continue until our final redemption arrives.