Article Feb 13, 2017

Why monogamy? A response to polyamory

In a 2009 Newsweek article, author Jessica Bennett asked whether or not polyamory was the next sexual revolution. By 2017, it is clear the answer is yes. Books such as More Than Two: A Practical Guide to Ethical Polyamory (2014), television shows such as Showtime’s Polyamory and poly-themed movies such as Spike Jonze’s Her (2013) have brought a new form of sexual confusion out of the closet.

Polyamory is the new sexual revolution coming your way. The word itself is a conjunction of poly -meaning many- and amor, meaning love. By definition, polyamory is the state of being romantically involved with more than one person at once. In other words, it is adultery.

Polyamory is on the rise. Love-struck and divorce-weary individuals see polyamory as a third way between monogamy and singleness. Advocates of polyamory claim that monogamy needlessly limits a person’s romantic and sexual experiences, leading to disappointment, resentment, and heartbreak. Singleness, on the other hand, is thought to be a life sentence of loneliness. Polyamory advertises greater personal, sexual, and romantic satisfaction than Biblical marriage or singleness.  

This is false advertising.

From the outset, polyamory is a lie. Any love that refuses sexual exclusivity is no love at all. Rather, it is the rebranding of lust. It is the desire for both Eden and forbidden fruit. Since the sexual revolution of the late 60s and 70s, “free love” has been en vogue. However, unlike “free-love” or one night stands, polyamory claims to offer not just sex, but love and intimacy, without commitment.

Christians can empathize with those hurt by divorce, unfaithfulness, pornography, and other forms of sexual immorality. Church leaders need to understand that many people have longed to experience God’s design for love, sex, and marriage, only to find themselves alone, hurt, and disenchanted with what they see as an unfulfilled promise.  

Mankind’s refusal to live according to God’s design is no justification for rejecting either the design or the Designer. It stands to reason that God knows what is best for us, that his Word is trustworthy, and that greater joy results from wisdom and obedience than foolishness and disobedience.

God’s design for monogamy starts in Genesis; before sin entered the world. Sexual intimacy and procreation were blessed in the context of marriage between a man and a woman. Monogamy—meaning one marriage—is intended to be the stable context in which humanity thrives and expands. So conceived, the covenant institution marriage becomes the building block of civilization.   

Polyamory disregards the biblical design for sexual intimacy, and as with the LGBT revolution of the 80s and 90s, the image presented on television and in movies is one in which sexual deviancy is both normalized and celebrated. Hollywood treats sin like a monster lurking under the bed; just look, there’s nothing to fear! But the truth is, when sexual confusion is normalized -regardless of consent- people get hurt.

Singleness and marriage provide a suitable context for human flourishing.

Singleness can be a legitimate expression of Christ-honoring romantic love (odd as that may sound) because it represents a covenant faithfulness to the potential of a future spouse. This mirrors the way in which the church, the Bride of Christ, awaits her unseen union with Christ. Marriage, too, can be a legitimate expression of Christ-honoring romantic love. Rather than reflecting the future of Christ and the church, as in singleness, marriage portrays the present reality of our oneness with Christ, lived out by faith and in struggle, even as we experience our union with Christ in imperfection this side of eternity.

Polyamory simply fails to reflect the ultimate realities intended by sex, love, or romance. What it offers is sex with more people. Short term pleasures (Heb. 11:25) are not worth long-term sorrow and death (2 Cor. 7:10).

Christians must be ready to explain why monogamy is good, beyond just “the Bible says”— although that’s a good place to start! Parents must be aware that a new model of relationship is being normalized in the media and pushed on impressionable minds and hearts. Pastors must expose and rebuke the lies already sown in the hearts of visitors and church members alike.  

As always, we must lead with the gospel, in love. A new sexual revolution is underway, but take hope: Christ will prevail.