Process theology offers a cosmology of friendship. It does so with its vision of the universe as an evolving network of creatures that are internally related to one another such that they can live with intimacy and mutually enhancing relationships; and with its image of a Holy Love - God - who is Friend to each and all. In process theology God is the Deep Friend: an inwardly felt lure toward wholeness and creativity for each and all and a companion to all the world's sufferings and joys. God is not located in the sky, God is located in the heart.
At the same time process theology encourages us to avoid overly romantic images of the world. We rightly avoid the idea that the world is all about pure friendship and that all things unfold as there were meant to be. The Deep Friend is all-loving or amipotent, as Thomas Oord puts it - but not omnipotent. There are things that happen that even the Deep Friend cannot prevent. Witness, for example, predator-prey relations. The world is not friendly to the rabbit being chased by the fox. Nor is it friendly to the slave being beaten by the master, or to the child who grows up hungry, or to the aged grandmother abandoned by her children. There's no need to sentimentalize the idea of internal relations. Sometimes they are violent and cruel.
Process theology proposes that we walk with the Holy Love at the heart of the universe, not by hiding from violence, but by enjoying and promoting friendship: that is, by befriending others and creating spaces for friendship. A primary practice of process theology is friendship-enjoyment and friendship-facilitation.
The friendships that are facilitated can be twosomes, small groups, or compassionate communities: that is, villages and cities where compassion is a guiding ideal. Process theology also encourages us to widen our idea of what can be befriended in ways that include the more than human world: other animals, hills and rivers, trees and stars. As we befriend the Earth and one another, we walk with the Deep Friend and realize our deepest potential, which is to grow into the likeness of the Deep Friend in whose image we are made.
- Jay McDaniel, July 29, 2021
"For without friends no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods; even rich men and those in possession of office and of dominating power are thought to need friends most of all; for what is the use of such prosperity without the opportunity of beneficence, which is exercised chiefly and in its most laudable form towards friends?"
- Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 350 BCE, translated by W.D. Ross
Relationships are the spiritual web of our lives. The crucial strands of family, intimate relationships, marriage, friends, community, nature, and place and the wider world....The quality of our spiritual lives is measured by these essential bonds. Indeed, our relationship with God is reflected and expressed in these and other relationships....They are the essential meaning and miracle in our days. They are the arena in which we exercise our values and express our visions..
- Frederic Brussat, Relationships as the Spiritual Web of our Lives
Process and Friendships
Many people aren't sure what to think about God, but they believe in healthy friendships, God or no God. With its emphasis on relationality and non-coercive love, and its appreciation of richness of experience (John Cobb's phrase) emerging out of sympathetic relations, process theology offers a natural theology of friendships. Indeed, with its idea that the very heart of the universe - God - is a friend to the universe, process theology invites us to see friendships themselves as a place where God become incarnate. Or, or you prefer, where "initial aims," understood as God's own desires, become enfleshed in ordinary life.
Process theology adds that we humans can and should be friends of the earth and of other animals even as we are also friends to one another. We can and should extend the idea of friendship beyond the human and, for that matter, beyond the idea of mutual affection. We can befriend the earth and yet also recognize its dangerous elements as well (deadly viruses, for example.) And yet we need not and ought not leave the particulars of local intimacy behind: that is, local friendships. In the local intimacy of friendships we we meet the horizon of love in which we live and move and have our being. We meet God. We may or may not believe in God, but in the mutual support of a truly good friendship, God is very much present.
- Jay McDaniel, July 29, 2021
The Fabric of Friendship Celebrating the Joys, Mending the Tears in Women's Relationships
f I were to name something special that I would want to give every woman on earth, it would be the gift of a healthy relationship with another woman. Women who have strong, genuine friendships feel accepted, affirmed, supported, sustained, and loved, even in the most difficult times. Indeed, authentic relationships between women are enjoyable, beneficial, and powerful — almost breathtaking. It doesn't get much better than that." This is the wish of Joy Carol, an author, speaker, counselor, and spiritual director who leads retreats and workshops across the country on a variety of topics including women's issues. Founder of the Union Center for Women and co-author of the official report on the United Nations' Decade for Women, she was an international consultant on women and development for the Ford Foundation, Save the Children, the U.N. and other international organizations.
This inspiring paperback enables us to see the many ways women nourish their souls through friendship with other women. Those who take the time to give their best to others in this way are also rewarded with happier and healthier lives, according to a report on the Nurses' Health Study conducted by the Harvard Medical School. But friendships in these stressful times are not easy to maintain and a host of problems and challenges face women who choose to invest time and energy and love into friends of the same sex. Carol begins with an examination of the primal relationship women have with their mothers as their first friends. She talks about her own relationship with her mother and then outlines steps that can be taken when sparks fly and there is conflict, disappointment, and mutual hurts inflicted. It is never too late to transform this "first friendship." Sisters offer another experience of friendship in the family circle. The challenge in these relationships is to accept differences and celebrate commonalities.
The next three chapters deal with emotions that can hinder deep and lasting friendships between women: envy, competition, and anger. Dealing with these emotions is part of the inner work that must be done in any kind of intimate relationship. It takes patience. Plenty has been written about women in the workplace and finding ways to bring out both feminine and masculine qualities on the job. Carol comes up with some helpful suggestions for women about working well with other women. In chapters on the plus of boundaries, men and friendships, and recognizing needs and feelings, Carol hits high stride with solid insights and ideas for everyone. She shares five stories from the United States and two from India and Germany that "touched my heart and renewed my faith in the tremendous power of women's friendships."
In "Getting It All Together," the author acknowledges the formidable roadblocks and hurtles facing women who want to engage with their women friends in meaningful relationships. In a final wrap-up, she shares her own special recipe for better friendships that includes being truthful, kind, a good listener, and having a sense of humor. Joy Carol celebrates the abundant rewards of friendship among women, making it clear that those that last are usually based on abiding spiritual underpinnings. This book is a must-read for women of all ages!
- Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice
include shared values, share feelings, shared destinies
In open and relational (process) theology, as in the philosophy of Aristotle, an essential feature of the good life is friendship.
You might even say that Whitehead's philosophy offers a cosmology of friendship: that is, a cosmology in which mutually enhancing relationships among friends make more senser than in alternative cosmologies oriented toward mutually external substances. Even God, in Whitehead's philosophy, is friendly, fulfilled by relatonships with the world.
Recall the idea of internal relations in process philosophy. If one actuality is internally related to another, then that other actuality is essental to the very makeup, the very constitution, of the actuality at issue.
Friendships are instantiations of this principle. In a healthy friendship, the actualities at issue - the good friends - are internally related to one another, such that their feelings and ideas are shared even as they also have their own autonomy. The friendship itself is an incarnation of a relational universe; it is lovingly localized inter-becoming.
Of course not all friendships are ideal or healthy. A "healthy" friendship is more than a utilitarian transaction; it is more than "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours." It includes reciprocity but is more than this. It is also more than a joint enjoyment of shared pleasures, such as rock climbing or basket weaving, Again, it includes shared pleasures but it is more than them. A healthy friendship is an ongoing activity of sharing feelings, lives, and destinities and of sharing values such as goodness and truthfulness, justice and beauty, joy and sobriety.
I have a good friend who is recovering from addiction. In the days of her sadness, she had some close friends. But the friends were not good for her and they were not committed to worthy values. Their friendship was rooted in a joint love of getting high, but not a lot more, and they were not really honest with each other. She speaks from experience: healthy friendships need to be rooted in good values.
In a healthy friendship rooted in good values, add open and relational theologians, something of God is intuitively understood and embodied in daily life. When we understand the spirit of a healthy friendship, we understand God's spirit, too. God is love, and friendship is a beautiful form of love. The friendship is a sacrament: a window to the divine.
The sacramentality of the friendship is important to affirm, because otherwise we might be tempted to think of God as faraway and distance, but not also close at hand and nearby. The closeness of a healthy friendship is the closeness of God. It is good, but not necessary, for the friends to believe in God, because God is in the friendship.
Since God is found in friendships, it follows that making friends and fostering friendships is a process practice.