I'm a practicing (liberal) Christian. Xicot, who is an atheist and humanist, asked me, "Do you think you would be poly if it weren't for the God thing?" I thought about that for a while. My reasons for being mono mostly have to do with the way my attention works (hyper-focused on what's in front of me) and with what I like most about relationships (I don't enjoy NRE, which feels similar to anxiety symptoms, the way I enjoy attachment).
But since he asked me that question, I have been assembling and working through a reading list in feminist and queer theology in hopes of understanding what a poly-friendly theology might look like.
I'm almost finished with Indecent Theology
, a book by the late Marcella Althaus-Reid, which I think might be interesting to a number of people in this sub-forum. Althaus-Reid was trained in liberation theology (an anti-colonialist, populist movement within Latin American Catholicism, prominent in the 1980s) but grew away from it. Her major objection to liberation theology was that the well-scrubbed version of the poor that theologians offered was asexual-- not because poor people in Latin America were in fact all asexual, but because the church had found no way of understanding or representing both their sexuality and their worth as creatures of God. Poor people in Latin America, Althaus-Reid contends, were much less judgmental of sexual variation than the church-- the only institution expressing any particular interest in them at the time-- claimed them to be.
Though the book focuses mostly on what feminists, gender and sexual minorities, and kink practitioners might teach Christian religious institutions about the liberatory possibilities of the gospel, she also includes a small collection of stories about non-monogamy, in which the speakers are “people for whom the spectrum of human relationships as it is presented is not satisfactory” (141). And Althaus-Reid situates the church’s condemnation of non-monogamous relationships in the very context of regressive property relations that liberation theology was trying to call into question:
The church’s definitions are more ‘proprietary,’ more concerned with the marking of lawful belongings rather than with relationships between people. … [The heterosexual marriage] is the unique case of a legal contract which discourages intimate friendships for life, while trying to see in the controlled setting of marriage a foundation for goodness in society. (142-3)
That is, even as liberation theologians recognize that societal change relies on finding a way to collapse the distinction between “us” and “them,” many of them forget that broader social networks-- e.g., poly networks-- help collapse that distinction much more readily than do tight, small, insular ones (yet it’s those tight networks that have the support of both church and state).
Althaus-Reid’s clearest statement in favor of poly and other forms of NM is that “intimacy with others has a divine nature, and is by far the more divine commandment [than mere fidelity]” (143). And she points out that individual communities have come up with new ways of speaking about relationships that better represent what needs those relationships meet and what roles they play: Amigovio
, in particular, is a hybrid of the words for “friend” and for “romantic partner” in Argentina. The relationship the word describes “usually involves sex, but also a sense of friendship which trespasses beyond the heterosexual patterns of friendship in Argentina” (144):
Amigovios do not necessarily marry each other, but remain in close intimate friendship in a different pattern from that of lovers or ex-lovers. The relationships are not necessarily kept secret and do not carry a social stigma. … Perhaps … a Trinity based on amigovios instead of medieval conceptions of family would be richer and more credible than the actual property, boundary-concerned laws based on objectification of people and their control. (144)
Furthermore, defining sexual decency in rigid and narrow terms deprives the church of much of its potential force for social change: When a person submits “to sexual decency master codes” as the Church would wish, he or she also “submit[s] to political master codes,” within which the liberation that liberation theology seeks cannot happen (170). “Indecency may be the last chance for … Christianity to transform political structures” (170).
It's on the dense side, but if you don't mind that, I recommend it.