Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan M.

October 28, 2007

Religion & poly: "Three's not a crowd; it's just the start"

Religion News Service

Last August, freelance religion writer Andrea Useem impressed a number of people favorably when she went asking around for poly people "who have strong religious ties" to interview about their beliefs. Three days ago the Religion News Service issued her article. A little more than half of it appears in today's Seattle Times (Sunday, Oct. 28, 2007):

By day, he's an Atlanta real-estate investor, a self-described political conservative, a member of a Methodist church, son of a Southern Baptist pastor.

After hours, he's known as "Mr. Big," a columnist for PolyamoryOnline.org. His family — a wife and five children — lives with a couple who have four children. Each husband is romantically involved with both wives, and vice versa.

As "Mr. Big" and his wife entered the polyamorous relationship with the other couple two years ago, he said he began to study the Bible more closely and "found something fishy."

"I still haven't figured out when Christianity and Judaism went from being polytype religions to strictly monogamous ones," said "Mr. Big," who asked not to be identified to protect his children's privacy.

Because Old Testament figures such as King David had multiple wives, he said, it was only logical that in today's society, in which men and women are equal, that women should be allowed multiple partners.

That doesn't mean it's at all respectable. "Our family has to keep things behind a little bit of a veil," he said. "Nobody wants to hear about your sex life at church."

That veil may be lifting — however slightly and slowly — as faith-minded polyamorists come out of the sexual closet. Mr. Big is just one of many polyamorists who say their multiple romantic relationships are intimately linked to their faith and values....

..."Ironically, some resistance has come from members of the gay and lesbian community, who have said we are 'muddying the waters' and diverting people from the goal of legalizing same-sex marriage," said Kathleen Reedy, 71, a divorcee who heads the Washington, D.C.-area chapter of Unitarian Universalists for Polyamory Awareness.

Read the article. The Seattle Times cut it off after about 750 words; the whole thing is about 1,200 words long. Right now the full version is available only as a trial-subscription download from the Religion News Service for personal use. I'll swap in a better link if the full version appears elsewhere.

One quibble: The article, as it was edited, might give the impression that Biblical theology is the main orientation or justification among spiritually-minded polys. Of course this isn't so. (See the author's remarks on how her article was edited, in the Comments section below.) Neo-Paganism is a larger influence in the poly community, even though just a tiny fraction of the U.S. population identifies as Pagan or Wiccan. And a larger contingent, I think, qualifies as general-purpose "spiritual": believing that some supernatural force for good is operating in the world, or is trying to... and that by widening romantic love out of the narrow couple-box to make it more inclusive toward people generally, we move into closer alignment with that force.

Another large contingent is the atheist/ rationalist/ humanist wing, which is also represented out of proportion to its numbers generally. At poly conferences, it can be funny to see the tension at times between the highly educated scientist types intermingling with the airy New Age types.

Combining both tendencies are the many Unitarian Universalists, who provide a disproportionate number of poly leaders and organizers even within the movement.

Updates: The author writes in to say, "Thought you'd be interested in my expansion on the topic on Religionwriter.com" (her blog).

She later posted a related article, Polyamory and the Same-Sex Marriage Debate, on Religionwriter.com. Another good piece of work.

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Blogger Unknown said...

I would have to agree that it seems like this movement would muddy the waters for the gay/lesbian same-sex marriage movement. If there are religiously-minded poly folk using the Bible to back their sexual habits, then it makes it difficult to argue against the that the Bible is incorrect in assuming that homosexuality is a sin.

In my opinion, there are a lot of things in the Bible that have changed dramatically in the last 2000 years, and both poly and homosexuality (along with a host of practices) have moved well beyond the need to be reinforced by some religious means.

Good post, Adam. Thanks. JB

October 28, 2007 4:04 PM  
Blogger Andrea Useem said...

Hi Alan,

Thanks for calling attention to my article for the Poly community. I certainly understand your criticism that the article, by leading off with Mr. Big, may give polyamory a more Christian tinge than it actually has. The article as I wrote it led off with Harlan White talking about the family values of polyamory, with Mr. Big some ways down. My editor liked Mr. Big better, however, and I agreed, with some reservations, that the article could start with him -- I also felt it gave an incorrect impression that there are somehow lots of conservative Christians out there practicing polyamory, when in fact most of the people I spoke with and learned about tended to be on the left wing side of the religion world, if they were in the religion world at all. Anyways, I'm glad you at least had access to the original text of the full RNS piece -- hopefully the whole thing will be picked up elsewhere in full. Thanks for your critiques.

October 28, 2007 8:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not a question that poly or homosexuality need to be reinforced by religious means. It is that people who are both religious and poly (or gay) need to reconcile the two. If you don't need that, fine, but different people live in different contexts.

October 29, 2007 1:41 AM  

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