Poly & Christian -- a huge and diverse field
My last post ("Polyamory, The Next Sexual Frontier" – in Christianity Today?!) was about a prominent evangelical pastor urging his fellows, in America's leading evangelical magazine, to understand and respect their poly congregants who are in group relationships.
Of course the article stood out because it was unusual. But Christianity is a vast and varied thing, even within evangelicalism. (And no, I'm not a Christian. )
Here's my promised data dump of about 20 more items that I've been saving up for a "Poly and Christian" post. That's so many that I'll be brief about most of them.
● This was prompted by the person who posted on reddit/r/polyamory last month, "Recently came out to some fellow Christian friends and had an interaction that was fine, but a little discouraging. ... Are there any other Christian Poly people out there? What helps you? What encourages you? What is your perspective? I’m dying to know." Several folks chimed in.
● In Splinter News ("The Truth Hurts"), a progressive millennial online magazine: Even Christians Are Rethinking Monogamy (Aug. 23, 2017).
Soul Searching is our series about how the most secular generation in history is changing the face of religion.
By Jennifer C. Martin
I sat quietly in the wooden pew, discreetly toward the back. I try to attend church every week: It’s important to me to support small, progressive churches near my home in Virginia and to feed my spirituality. To my right sat my husband of nine years and our two children. To my left sat my atheist boyfriend, looking deeply uncomfortable. I looked around and thought: Even at my liberal, female-pastored parish, a part of the United Church of Christ, the first denomination to openly welcome LGBTQ members and clergy, am I the only polyamorous person here?
A few weeks prior, I had been sitting on the grass in a park with people in their twenties and early thirties at a polyamorous support group. One by one they told their stories. ... They seemed so much more worldly than me, with their fetish clubs, their devotion to the classic polyamory guidebook The Ethical Slut, their accepting families, and their open lifestyles. I looked around and wondered, Am I the only Christian here?
...But I’ve learned that I’m far from the only one. We tend to have gotten married young, felt trapped by the conservative bounds of purity culture, and wanted to explore the sexuality we never really got a chance to have. But it can be daunting to leap from the repressed Christianity we were raised with to the sexually open world of non-monogamy. ...
I found one of my first polyamorous Christian friends almost by accident. ... I’ll call her Sabrina, and she is 29 years old, like me. I’ve known her for about a decade. We grew up right outside of Chattanooga, with conservative, white, Southern values. We are both Christians raised in a Christian home. And, also like me, she married someone she’d been with from a young age.
About a year ago, I saw her secondary Facebook profile pop up in my “suggested friends” list, and out of curiosity, I clicked on the profile. It was full of photos of her and some guy in Europe. It wasn’t her husband. Desperate to connect with someone who might be like me, I messaged her and asked, “Are you polyamorous? Because I am, too.” It turns out she was, and had been for awhile....
Incarnation Institute for Sex and Faith, founded and run by Rev. Beverly Dale, the crackerjack "Rev. Bev" — for 21 years campus minister and de facto sex educator for tens of thousands of students at the University of Pennsylvania. From the Incarnation Institute's front page:
People will love their sexual bodies and those of others as God does.
To teach an inclusive, science-friendly, sex-positive Christianity.
Sexual Diversity is a natural trait to be celebrated.
Sexual Pleasure is a sacred gift to be treasured.
Sexual Freedom is a human right to be personally discerned & morally exercised.
● By Fr. Shannon Kearns on the Queer Theology site: What I’ve Learned From My Polyamorous Friends (undated).
I am not polyamorous ... the thought makes me feel exhausted. So when Brian proposed creating some resources for polyamorous Christians my first thought was “Sure. Won’t be much help to me, but go for it.” But as I’ve been privy to the resources he’s been creating and watched the conversation happen I realized something....
The Brian in question, also on Queer Theology, has posted a collection of resources, Polyamory and Christianity:
We’re developing resources, courses, coaching, and community to support Christians who are in open or polyamorous relationships — or who are interested in exploring them.
"For those who are in an open or polyamorous relationship here this morning who might be squirming, because this is an uncomfortable question to hear in church sometimes — I want you to hear me loud and clear as a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Your relationships are holy. They are beautiful and they are welcomed and celebrated in this space."
Here's a critical article with background on Robertson and the story: Polyamory “Holy” “Beautiful” says Progressive Christian Minister (on the site of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, in Washington DC, founded "for Christian orthodoxy").
● In their excellent, long-running Multiamory podcast, Dedeker Winston, Jase Lindgren, and Emily Matlack devoted their Episode 176 to Christianity and Polyamory (June 19, 2018). They interviewed Rev. Austin Adkinson and theologian J.D. Mechelke for an hour-and-nine-minutes show. You can watch here:
Too long? Skim the transcript.
Just yesterday (Oct. 15, 2019) the Multiamory crew put up Episode 242, Queer Theology with Brian G. Murphy of QueerTheology.com. "Brian G. Murphy is an activist, educator, certified relationship coach, and was raised as an evangelical Christian. Now he practices faith-based activism and social justice work, co-founding Legalize Trans, creating QueerTheology.com in partnership with Father Shannon Kearns, and speaking at countless colleges and conferences, and even [— insert blare of trumpets here —] teaching a course on the intersection of polyamory and Christianity."
The Multiamory podcasters call themselves "a recovering evangelical, a former seminarian, and a born-and-raised atheist." Less known is their rambling, alcoholic podcast Drunk Bible Study. They're working through every word of the Bible from the beginning, line by line, doing a lubricated and irreverent exigesis. As of Episode 72 they're up to Deuteronomy 8-10.
● Patheos is a huge blogsite for all things religious and spiritual. One of its blogs is Chuck McKnight's The Hippie Heretic in the Progressive Christianity section. Among his many articles there:
– It’s Time for the Church to Talk About Polyamory
– Southern Baptist Preacher Affirms Polyamory (Interview with Rev. Dr. Jeff Hood)
– Is God Polyamorous?
At the end of that last one are links to all 10 of his articles having to do with poly and Christianity.
● We can hardly skip Rev. Rachelle Brown. In Chicago's gay paper Windy City Times: MCC elder talks Cajun roots, faith and lesbian polyamorous relationship (Dec. 13, 2017). MCC is the Metropolitan Community Churches, founded in 1968 by and for gays when others would not have them.
"As our family considered how to refer to each other, the language of polyamory is always forming, so we decided a 'couple of three' best described the closed nature of our covenant and commitments. We have all learned so much each year together. It is not simple to be out, or even engage in conversations with traditional couples. I learned recently that when I say 'family,' some assume we are blood relatives.
"Back in the early 2000s when I was coming out as a lesbian, I did not know anyone that would be considered polyamorous. It has been a journey—one that MCC allowed space for me to discover and live in. ..."
Brown was the interim moderator of the whole MCC denomination from 2016 to July 2019. Accordingly, The Advocate published a much longer, deeper profile of her and her situation: What Happens When a Pastor Goes Poly? (July 13, 2017)
MCC Elder Rachelle Brown and family
The church leadership hasn’t wavered in supporting Brown. “I’ve found incredible support in the MCC leadership,” she says. “All of the elders, everyone that I went to. ...”
But not all of her parishioners are happy to learn she’s involved in a throuple. “We lost a lot of friends,” Brown muses. “A lot of friends. The most pushback I get are from lesbians who are in a coupled or a married situation. In a couple instances, it’s either jealousy or fear. They’re either jealous because they want that for their relationship or they’re afraid that their spouse or partner will want that for their relationship.”
● A triad family finally found an accepting Christian church in Baltimore, as described in the UK's tabloid Daily Mail: Christian THROUPLE who are raising a child together speak out to defend the relationship - insisting it is NOT a sin, despite their families and their church saying it is 'an abomination to God' (Aug. 2, 2019).
from Teespring. I dunno, I think it would strike most people as a plain Christian thing (the Catholic sacred heart?) even if they knew the infinity heart in a poly context. Ditto the more subdued one at the top of this page.
● There's the Bible-Believing Polyamory Facebook group, "for all Bible believing Jewish and Christian people who also believe in Polyamory as a viable moral and even biblical way of life." It currently has 275 members.
● Article by a self-identified Christian on the (big, friendly, useful) Polyamory.com forum: Poly-friendly Churches (Sept. 25, 2017). He describes several denominations to check out.
● And finally — the first glimmer of my own poly beliefs came when I was a little boy. I had a blessedly kind, loving mom who held general Christian beliefs of a non-dogmatic sort. I must have been about 5 or 6 when a neighbor, whose wife had died and gone to Heaven, remarried. My mom told me how happy she was for him. But I wondered: When they all finally meet up in Heaven, which one will be the wife and which will be left cruelly, tragically abandoned? The only answer, logical little me concluded, was that they would all love each other together, because this was in Heaven.
It was some years before I discovered that not just angels, but we poor humans, can sometimes do so right here.
Page Turner (see above) tells how she traveled with a partner to her grandfather's Catholic funeral. The priest who officiated seemed to be thinking like little-boy me, and Page wonders why the religious are scared to think the next logical thought.
A Polyamorous Heaven: Funerals Don’t Come With Trigger Warnings
By Page Turner
I’m sitting up as straight as I can on the pew while my mother sobs on my left. Skyspook is on my right, his hands folded in his lap.
We’re sitting in the front row. My grandmother sits on the other side of my mother. All 5′ 10″ of her in a gray pantsuit. My grandmother doesn’t cry. Not that I can see anyway. Skyspook later tells me that he can see it in smaller expressions on her face. ...
...The priest delivers a sermon about Christ and eternal life, inviting us to pray for my grandfather’s soul so that he may be reunited with all his loved ones in heaven and that we, too, may join him and all others we love in the afterlife.
Clyde Robinson / CC BY
All others? I wonder suddenly.
Because, you see, this is my grandmother’s second time being widowed. ... Any heaven that they’re part of will be filled with multiple loves.
The pastor knows all of this. ... In that moment, it occurs to me that the heaven the pastor describes is rather polyamorous.
And thinking back on conversations I’ve had with others — some of them very religious — few to none have had a problem with widowed folks remarrying (provided at least a short grieving period had passed). They don’t think of this eventual reunion in heaven as awkward for all involved.
Meanwhile, nonmonogamy on Earth — especially the consensual, honest kind — is regarded by those same folks as the work of Satan.
...As the pastor blesses the sacramental bread and wine, I wonder why we consider what is standard in heaven to be so far beneath us here on Earth.
Read her whole post (Oct. 23, 2017).
P.S.: If I ever go to a big football game that'll be on TV, I'm going to write on my forehead
to troll the biblical fundies. And what's that? God's instructions for multi-marriages:
"If he marries another woman, he must not deprive the first one of her food, clothing and marital rights." That last bit means sex. (In the original Hebrew: וְעֹנָתָ֖הּ (wə·‘ō·nā·ṯāh), sexual.)
If any fundie there gives me grief, I'll try to keep a straight face as I tell them "God said it, I believe it, and that settles it."
1. Nope. I'm an atheist, materialist Unitarian Universalist humanist, although with, thanks to psychedelics, a lifelong soft spot for emergent panpsychism. Sparkle Moose and I are pillars of our local UU church, literally — our names are on one of the lally columns in the basement that were installed to shore up the building. I'm on the church's governing board, and Moose is its past president.