El-staplador posted a comment on yesterday’s blog: “…as someone who believes that Christians can be involved in polyamorous relationships with love and integrity, I was extremely disappointed to read your comment equating it with paedophilia and bestiality. Please don’t dismiss other Christians’ reality and truth because it doesn’t match up with your own.”
Linking polyamory with paedophilia, bestiality and homosexuality is one of Anglican Mainstream’s tactics and a particular obsession of Lisa Nolland with whom I was interviewed recently on Radio 5 Live. It is a strategy Mainstream uses repeatedly to denigrate all forms of relationship and intimacy which they categorise as deviant from their definition of God’s norm. Anglican Mainstream’s strategy is to undermine the holiness and integrity of those who follow a Christian path different from theirs.
Because my reply to El-staplador was as carefully phrased as my original blog, Peter Ould asked whether I am in favour of (some) polyandrous relationships as within God’s will for humans?
I am in favour of faithful, monogamous, life-long relationships between two consenting adults. (I was going to write ‘mature adults’ but that would beg a lot of questions. Are heterosexual married adults who obsess about bestiality, paedophilia and polyandry in order to denigrate gay relationships mature? Some people who marry are clearly not mature emotionally.) I am also in favour of same-sex life partnerships and I would like the church to make provision for Civil Partnerships to be contracted and blessed in church. I would further like there to be greater spiritual and symbolic equivalence between marriage and civil partnerships.
I condemn relationships which are abusive. Paedophilia and bestiality are both abusive of others and self. My attitude towards paedophiles is nuanced because I have in the past been friends with people who were themselves abused as children, some of whom went on to abuse children themselves. I have no experience of bestiality.
Changing Attitude exists to advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Anglicans Christians. We are not advocates of polyandry and I have no direct experience of polyandrous relationships or those who advocate for them and I do not personally advocate for equality for polyandrous relationships.
My moral opinion about and personal experience of relationships involving more than two people is that they can be unstable and painful for one or more of the people involved.
This week I have been hearing about the pain experienced by people in both heterosexual and gay polyandrous relationships. In one case, a second wife and child was brought into an existing African marriage with deeply distressing results, despite the determination of the first wife to be generous and try and make it work. In the gay case, three men who maintained a triangular relationship when one of the three was living in Africa have discovered that living permanently together in the UK is far more challenging and has destabilized the dynamics between them. But I know of many couple relationships that are unhappy and unstable. There are many reasons for this, not least that individuals mature in different ways and become different from the person their partner first met or married. All relationships are demanding and complex and need deep love and determination to make them work creatively.
Peter Ould’s morality is nuanced and so is mine. Peter says he can understand the situation where a polygamist becomes a Christian and where the moral thing to do is not automatically divorce the polygamous wives, since that would make them destitute.
Peter says he is happy to state that polyandry is not moral and Christians should not enter into polyandrous relationships, since the Biblical model for sexual activity is one male and one female for life, in marriage.
Those following the weekday lectionary will have been reading about King David’s concubines and are about to read of King Solomon’s love of many foreign women and his 700 wives and 300 concubines. Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus Christ tells us that Jesus was descended from a line including David and Solomon (through Bathsheba).
The model I take from the Bible is that God works creatively through varieties of relationships and human activity often without judging or condemning them. His Son is birthed through a family line which undermines the claim that the Biblical model for sexual activity is exclusively one male and one female for life, in marriage. Conservatives will disagree with me.
We live in a church which allows people who have been divorced to be remarried in church. This might be interpreted as faithful to Old Testament practice even if contrary to the teaching of Jesus. I believe there are models of fidelity which Christians should advocate and which are healthy models for all human beings, gay and straight. I also believe that human beings always have and always will have difficulty conforming to these models and pastoral sensitivity and human and divine compassion responds generously and appropriately to all of us.
I believe it is as important to learn compassion as it is to be clear about our moral stance, and that sometimes, a nuanced response is more appropriate and pastoral than making an unequivocal moral statement. If I fail sometimes to make clear judgments about the moral behaviour of particular individuals with the result that some see me subtly condoning polyandry, then so be it. I believe that anyone who takes the Bible absolutely literally, Genesis 2.23, Leviticus 20.13, 1 Kings 11.3 and Mark 10.11, must also allow for polygamous and polyandrous relationships as well as fidelity in marriage and the stoning of homosexuals.
I believe that the tactic of repeatedly linking LGBT people with bestiality and paedophilia in an attempt to insinuate that LGBT are abusive in the same way is morally wrong.
I live in world of dilemmas. I am a well aware that I don’t need to make ambivalent comments about polyandry to bring down on myself the vitriol of conservative elements in the church. A glance at the comments on Stand Firm or following the Daily Mail article about my Civil Partnership show how many Christians are ready to post poisonous judgmental comments. I’m not un-used to bad publicity but still take my time when writing for the blog in an attempt to be as honest and truthful as possible. It’s good to be challenged to come clean about my moral and ethical position.
Changing Attitude needs all the help we can get to maintain our principled stance in support of LGBT people in the Anglican Communion. To become a supporter, click here; to make a donation click here.