If Polyamory, Why Not Polygamy?

|

“That’s my partners back there,” said comedian Justin Rupple in a June 2022 audition for America’s Got Talent, as the camera panned to two women in the audience. “Partners?” asked Simon Cowell with an air of surprise. “My wife and I have been together for 15 years, and we met and fell in love with our partner Claire four years ago, and we’ve been living together ever since. We’re polyamorous.”

The crowd erupted into applause. “I want to give you the Golden Buzzer right now,” said Howie Mandel, as the audience laughed in affirmation.

Polyamory seems to be the latest trend. I hear about it more than homosexuality or transgenderism. Just today, a video was making its rounds in which a man sits at the bar with his wife, his wife’s girlfriend, his girlfriend, and his girlfriend’s girlfriend.

The Fast Track to Polygamy

Polyamory is one form of what researchers call consensual non-monogamy (CNM), which “constitutes intimate and romantic relationships in which all involved partners explicitly understand and agree to have multiple concurrent emotional or sexual partners (i.e., polyamory, swinging, and open relationships).”

In a way, it’s not surprising that consensual non-monogamy is on the rise. Our culture is catechized to believe that sex is just evolved creatures satisfying their animal instincts, and that marriage is an invention of the patriarchy or at best a legal agreement with some practical benefits. Why not throw off prudish constraints, avoid the anxiety of “affairs” and “cheating” and “adultery,” and embrace our sexual and romantic feelings?

But here’s a question: If polyamory is acceptable, even laudable, and marriage is just a legal contract that we can define any way that we want, why not polygamy?

We’re on the fast track to being a polygamous culture.

It seems like yesterday that I was sitting in a public high school history class and hearing the disgust of my agnostic and atheistic peers as we discussed the polygamy of past societies. Today, we’re on the fast track to being a polygamous culture. Though I hope it’s not the case, I predict that in my lifetime polygamy will be common. Because contrary to the prevailing narrative, our society is not progressive in its sexual ethics, it’s regressive, and all the more as we deliberately reject one truth after another that is natural and properly basic (Rom. 1:18–32). I used to read a little faster when I came to the word “orgies” in the public Scripture reading (Gal. 5:21; Rom. 13:13; 1 Pet. 4:3), but the condemnation is seeming more and more relevant.

Light in Darkness

Pastors need to address these issues as they come up in Scripture, and not just by shouting into the darkening void. Polyamory and polygamy are obvious perversions of God’s will for romance, sexual intimacy, and marriage, in which one man and one woman bind themselves together in a lifelong partnership of the whole life (CCC 1601). But from Lamech to Abraham to Jacob to David, the Bible shows even more than it tells that polygamous relationships are a breeding ground for neglect, jealousy, rivalry, envy, and unhealthy power dynamics.

The Bible shows even more than it tells that polygamous relationships are a breeding ground for neglect, jealousy, rivalry, envy, and unhealthy power dynamics.

The church can best expose the darkness by shining the light of the gospel, which is good news for every area of life. This especially means that the church’s catechesis needs to give more attention to matters of gender and sexuality, casting a beautiful and holistic vision of marriage and family. God’s plan is always best for human flourishing; his wisdom is always the best wisdom. Polyamory and a host of other sexual issues aren’t going away any time soon, but neither is the promise of Christ, “I will build my church.”

Johnathan Arnold
Johnathan Arnold is a husband, father, and aspiring pastor-theologian, as well as the founder and president of holyjoys.org. You can connect with him on Twitter @jsarnold7.