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Old 12-14-2013, 05:33 AM
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Garriguette Garriguette is offline
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Default Indecent Theology, by M. Althaus-Reid

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.
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Old 12-14-2013, 03:55 PM
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What is "indecent" about intimate friendships/loveships?
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Last edited by Magdlyn; 12-14-2013 at 05:44 PM.
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Old 12-14-2013, 05:29 PM
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Interesting! Thank you for posting about it. I grew up Christian and am now pagan. I am still interested in theology of all kinds. I will check this out.
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Old 12-14-2013, 06:06 PM
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In reply to Magdlyn:

Althaus-Reid uses the word "indecent" to refer to the many people who don't fit into the fairly narrow categories of sexuality that the church has termed "decent" (either celibacy or monogamous heterosexual marriage)-- herself included-- and she doesn't mean it as an insult.

She is trying to point out that liberation theologians, while helping poor people in Latin America organize in resistance to political and social repression, didn't see the church's own strictly defined categories of "decent" sexuality as part of the problem, because those categories, too, are repressive and at odds with the goal of liberation.

So she wants to point out that the church needs to learn something from the people it has termed "indecent"-- people who are gay, lesbian, bi, trans; people who love non-monogamously; people who practice kink-- about what it means to live and love in a liberatory, honest, unpossessive, intentional way.
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Last edited by Garriguette; 12-14-2013 at 06:07 PM. Reason: to make it clear whom I was responding to
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Old 12-14-2013, 10:42 PM
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Why would you want to affiliate with a religion that sees you as indecent?
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Love withers under constraint; its very essence is liberty. It is compatible neither with envy, jealousy or fear. It is there most pure, perfect and unlimited when its votaries live in confidence, equality and unreserve. -- Shelley

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miss pixi, 37
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Old 12-14-2013, 11:04 PM
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Althaus-Reid is dead. She doesn't want anything. But when she was alive, she wanted to reform the church to better suit it to the lives of people it purported to represent.

I respect that decision as much as I respect the decision of people who would prefer not to have anything to do with an institution that they see as broken and/or unnecessary.
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Old 12-15-2013, 01:14 AM
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I've friends/family who've stayed in the Mormon church largely out of a hope to help reform said church from within. I respect their decision even while having quit the church myself. I think I chose an easier road than they did, so I have to respect them.
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