Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Polygamy, polyamory and the bible

Um, sorry about this one in advance... the correct response to this post is "you really should stop listening to so many of that guy's podcasts..."

I listened to another of the Infidel Guy's podcasts yesterday. This was one of his 'Debate Hour' shows rather than a conventional IG show. The distinction is that the IG show generally takes the form of an interview about religious or atheistic subject matter, whereas the debate hour is generally a fairly formal debate between two parties with opposing views on a topic, which may not be related to religion at all. Generally each party has an opening statement then a chance to comment on the other's opening statement than a period of rebuttal and finally a question and answer session. This format was intended here but, due to the debaters, did not happen.

Anyway, the subject of the show was 'Alternative Relationships' - specifically Polyamory.

For those of you who don't know, the dictionary definition of polyamory is:
"participation in multiple and simultaneous loving or sexual relationships"
(Webster's New Millennium Dictionary)
The two debaters were 'Rayven', an atheist living a polyamorous lifestyle, and 'Deacon Greg Cooper' a Presbyterian with very strict bible-based beliefs. However, Rayven didn't really get the chance to say much as the bible-thumping deacon ate up most of the airtime.

In between Greg's rants, the Infidel Guy, Rayven and folk calling in managed to make some quite valid comments, which the deacon ignored or dismissed without thought. He really was an awful advert for Christianity. Anyway, I want to comment on some of the issues raised.

And just to be clear on this point, just because I am raising the issue and posing the questions here does not mean that I am in support of the alternative lifestyle or the opinions expressed. OK?

Greg made it quite clear that his opinion was entirely based on the bible and it is this: that the only non-sinful sexual relationships are those between one man and one woman within the confines of a marriage. Greg also voiced the opinion that his interpretation of the bible could not possibly be wrong on any issue. He was that kind of guy. In fact, his attitude and manner made me inclined to take the other side in the debate when I really don't agree with it.

The others pointed out to him that many important characters in the old testament: patriarchs, kings and prophets, had multiple wives and were not condemned for it at any point in the bible. Indeed many of them were held up as being 'men of faith' and even 'righteous'. Indeed, the sins that the Kings David & Solomon were taken to task about had nothing to do with their multiple wives. Furthermore, in Exodus 21v10 there is a law which clearly governs the behaviour of a man taking a second wife. This practice is not condemned in the old testament, it is regulated.

This is true, whatever Greg said to dismiss it. If we believe that the old testament law came from God, then we must accept that God allowed and regulated multiple marriages. Also if God does not change his mind then this allowance still is in place... right?

Or is it one of those cultural things that God allows because it neither helps or hinders his agenda? Is it morally neutral?

During one of the moments that she was allowed to speak, Rayven said a few things that really surprised me. These related to the beliefs of 'polyamorous Christians' - I wouldn't have thought that such a group would exist, yet apparently it does. A simple websearch took me to their wesite too... Rayven took their side in the debate, primarily to annoy the fundamentalist, even though she said that she cannot see how you can reconcile the bible to a polyamorous lifestyle. The poly-Chrisitian apparently accepts that when people are united together to become 'one flesh' this needn't necessarily be a union of only two people - they see no biblical reason why three or more people cannot enter into a commited relationship with each other... I'm so gobsmacked there that I actually can't come up with a rebuttal!

But anyway, as I was generally inclined to find fault with the fundamentalist's position, I was quite miffed that nobody pointed out one of the key beliefs of the fundamentalist's belief structure - that of the Trinity. While the concept is not made fully explicit in the bible, the generally held belief amongst Christians is that there are three distinct characters in the Godhead - God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit - and these three are eternally united in a loving, intimate relationship. Now I'm not saying that sex is involved there, but from my understanding of what was said on the show, sex is not an essential of the polyamorous relationship either - it is a loving union of more than two people... sounds like the Trinity to me...

So how can we defend the position that our loving relationships should only involve two people, when our God apparently exists in a three-way relationship?

(and yes, I know what some answers to that question might be, but I thought I'd ask anyway...)


Chris Hamer-Hodges said...

I think it's only a matter of time before this debate comes to the surface. Once you have started to redefine marriage, where do you stop. Polygamy or polyamory is the next logical step.

On the question of the Trinity. God is not like us, in fact he is not like anything else in all creation. There is nothing in all creation that is a perfect analogy of the Trinity. And certainly not a polyamarous relationship! When God said "Let us make Man in our own image" he made one man and one woman. We may not understand it, but there it is.

Polygamy was allowed under Old Testament law, but so was divorce and taking revenge. They were never commended, but they were permitted. In the New Testament a higher standard is set. The overseer must be the husband of one wife... etc.

You are right (and brave) to point this out though, Ricky. Because there is certainly more Biblical basis for a polygamous relationship than there is for a homosexual one. Yet some portions of the church have already conceded on this issue, and started a moral slide they will find hard to stop!

Anonymous said...

Polyamory is really a beautiful example, to me, about the subjective nature of life. Living as a polyamorous individual is something that few people ever consider in their daily lives -- why not?

The biggest influencing factor as to why we do not see polyamory everywhere is cultural and societal conditioning; people are not taught to consider, or at times even tolerate, the possibility of polyamory, or polygamy.

The Bible has been twisted into a very bizarre interpretation and translation since its original Hebrew writings. It is important to remember that the original idea behind sin was that it was not having anything to do with evil, but was instead a lack of fulfillment of one's own potential. Satan was not evil - he was a judge of the court, of sorts. If living outside of a monogamous marriage is a sin, then to what potential does monogamous marriage supposedly merit under original Biblical terms? If under modern Christian interpretation, how can it be defined as evil?


Ricky Carvel said...

"The Bible has been twisted into a very bizarre interpretation and translation since its original Hebrew writings. It is important to remember that the original idea behind sin was that it was not having anything to do with evil, but was instead a lack of fulfillment of one's own potential."

Hmmm. That is also a twisted and bizarre interpretation of the original. It is pretty clear that the original Judeo-Christian concept of sin was simply disobediance. Disobediance towards God, specifically. Nothing to do with failing to fulfil one's own potential.

Anonymous said...

The infant human child, upon grasping one object in his left hand, allows the object in his right hand to drop; he does not yet possess the capability to handle more than one thing at a time. After he attains mastery of handling one simple object, he is ready to begin handling more. In time he can learn to be a solo percussionist, with each hand and each foot doing different things, blending the individual beats into a perfect union. "Be you perfect even as I am perfect" is the command of God; a God who loves every single individual equally.

Anonymous said...

Ok I know this is a 2 year old post, but I just found it and have to comment. A loving relationship and a sexual relationship are two different, though sometimes related, things. One can love a lot of people and not be sexually atracted or involved with them. Sex has nothing to do with the way the Triune God loves us. I don't think being perfect as God is perfect in love is a valid argument for polyamory. I think people try to justify polyamory by saying it is the ability to love multiple people at one time, but if that is the case then every one in the world could be considerd polyamorous simply because they love their parents and siblings and/or their spouse and their children. Polyamory goes beyond that type of brotherly love to romantic/sexual love.
One last thing I do want to point out about the Old Testament: some of those extra spouses were sins punished by God. Read the story of David and Bathsheba again. Their child died. Lesson is that God can use even our sinful choices to bring about God's will, but that doesn't give us permission to sin and let God clean up our mess.

Asa Low said...

"Disobediance towards God, specifically. Nothing to do with failing to fulfil one's own potential."

Fulfilling ones potential is directly linked to obeying God. This consept defines Gods plan for the individual as his/her potential that God created in the firstplace. By this understanding to disobey God is to step away from your full potential as a creation of God. So biblicaly the two are linked.