The following is a response to the Catholic Blog “Stumbling Toward Sainthood” and their “Polyamory: Another Attack on Real Love” series: https://stumblingtowardsainthood.com/polyamory-another-attack-on-real-love-part-1/
The author notes that they’ve “lately” seen a disturbing rise of people in or promoting polyamory as legitimate. Except for the disturbing part, this is a true statement. But polyamory has been rising right along with the Internet. I’d even say that its uptake by the general population is tracking along with the uptake of the “meme” with the general population.
Of course, we’re talking smaller numbers, so they probably haven’t seen that this rise has been coming for more than 20 years.
The article’s concern is that these “distorted romantic relationships” should concern them about where they lead.
Now my view is that what I do isn’t anyone’s business, but I’m also very public about what I do and someone who doesn’t do it is concerned… for me? Concerned about me? I’m not sure which.
They get the basic definitions right for what they are talking about. Sadly, this is rare but definitely a positive for this article. I hate when religious writers have no clue about the difference between polyamory and polygamy.
They also say some things that surprised me.
It is important to recognize that people in poly relationships emphasize open communication and consent. If there is deception involved, that is not a polyamorous relationship; it is cheating.
I want to make it clear that I am not denying that people can be happy in poly relationships. I believe that people can be immensely happy in poly relationships. However, that is not the point. The question is if those relationships are right, and the answer is a clear and resounding no. — https://stumblingtowardsainthood.com/polyamory-another-attack-on-real-love-part-1/
Well, I do thank the author for their honesty. You see, it’s so annoying when someone tells me that polyamory is cheating. This author knows the difference.
It also annoys me when an author tells me that I’m not truly happy, because I am.
They are setting down a clear moral argument here, and I can appreciate that.
Their argument stems from a definition, not of polyamory, but of the word “love”. This is often the argument taken against polyamory for the word “commitment” saying that people who are poly aren’t “committed”, because according to their definition, “commitment” means one person.
I argue against their definition of love falls under the same fallacy as that of the “commitment” argument.
First, they say that the word love has many definitions, and they cherry pick two of them. That’s fine, though. However, having been a preacher and having written an entire book which translated the original Greek, I know that in the biblical sense, there are three types of love in Greek.
As a former Catholic speaking to a Catholic blogger, I’d have appreciated at least using some of the latin, but we’re going with English here I guess… which is a translation of a translation. This is only slightly relevant in that as a former christian scholar in my own right, this always annoys me with English speakers who want to parse individual words of text without fully investigating their own text and origins. I find it sloppy, and allows authors to cherry pick modern definitions for words that were used, at a minimum, 2000 years ago.
The first definition they go with is “willing the good of the other”. I don’t know where they got this definition. When I tried to search for it, it didn’t pull up a dictionary. It, rather, pulled up biblical sites. This appears to be taking a quote from St. Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas died in 1274… Again, big language problems. Modern English didn’t exist in 1274, but we’re going by the English.
The second definition they go by is St. Paul. Again, not English, but we’re using a translation.
This still troubles me. There are thousands of words around the world that could translate to “love” in English, but each have variations.
This is how biblical writers “bend the words”. They take words broadly translated that lose the original flavor, and then try to parse out individual meanings of individual phrases and nuances from something where the nuance has already been erased.
They are left with a nearly blank slate to write nuance as they see fit with no eye towards what the original word meant, what the original writer meant, let alone whether they are right or not!
For instance, they use the phrase “willing the good of the other”. They make the leap from “willing” to the “will of God”. Ok, same English words, and can sometimes be translated as the same thing. Without even translating, I’d say that word in context appears to mean “wanting and acting upon”.
But me wanting something for someone doesn’t mean that it’s tied to the wanting of any other person or being. I want chocolate cake for my next birthday. I’m not sure if there is a God that wants chocolate cake for my next birthday.
That’d be a rather detailed and specific deity, to be sure.
My argument here is that if the author wants to put the entire article on the word love, then let’s open up the real meaning of that, not parse quotes that translate into English and contain love. Are we talking agape, eros, or philia?
And when we pick one, what are the more exact english translations, and what do we mean when we say it?
This isn’t pedantic either.
Because when someone says “you can’t love more than one”, I say, “a parent can’t love more than one child?”
And in all honesty, that’s a word game. We’re talking parental love versus romantic love. You see, we can all play these word games. Everyone can bend the nuances and flavors to suit them.
The article moves on to the bible, then. The author rightly acknowledges that the bible is full of polygamy, but then makes the casual argument I’ve heard countless times that while it existed, it wasn’t ‘what God really wanted’.
I’d argue quite the opposite. That ‘what God really wanted’ was always up to interpretation to those wielding religion for power in their own time.Sometimes ‘what God really wanted’ was for David to cut up 200 penises of his dead enemies as trophies… 1 Samuel 18:25–27
And polygamy isn’t really my first question, but incest. The bible was apparently ok with incest with Lot and his daughters, and with Abraham and Sarah (niece or half-sister). And as far as we know, the latter was by direct command from God. So I’m very sure ‘what God really wanted’.
Then again, Catholicism rests on doctrine, not scripture (though that’s a quick way to start an argument with a Catholic). The interpretation goes through the Holy See, and specifically the Pope, to determine what the bible really means. And the Pope says no, no, no to polygamy. It’s not even arguable, really.
Even the author acknowledges this.
If you are finding yourself struggling with what the Church teaches on marriage, that is ok. We are in a culture that is chipping away at the meaning of marriage, and it can be difficult to reconcile what we experience with what the Church tells us is the truth. There are ways to grapple with Church teaching without being disobedient to the Church. — https://stumblingtowardsainthood.com/polyamory-another-attack-on-real-love-part-1/
I’d argue that it’s not a changing culture, but an unchanging and unquestionable authority at the root of this problem. Love is what the Pope says it is. Marriage is what the Pope says it is.
I’m not saying he can get away with saying up is down, and east is west. But when you play with all those nuances and flavors, you can slide the scale of love from plural to singlar, from parental to romantic, or in degrees of what form is ‘more acceptable’ than another.
So, in this way, I simply leave the argument as one of, either you follow Catholics or you don’t. There’s no more debate here than debating a Scientologist. It simply is what they say it is, and what you say it is means nothing if it disagrees. The rules simply state: you lose. And you either accept that, or you don’t.
Gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender (God doesn’t make mistakes the argument goes), by and large, don’t.
And neither do we.
The author then tries to move into a secular perspective, using an article which I’ve ripped to utter shreds before on my private blog.
Conor Friedersdorf wrote an article for The Atlantic (which is said to lean towards left-center) explaining why “civil marriage should not encompass group unions.” He provides arguments including how damaging polygamy can be for women and low-status men, the lower stability of said relationships, logistical problems, and the fact it is not a human right. Though I don’t agree with all his points, I appreciate his point (bold emphasis mine) — https://stumblingtowardsainthood.com/polyamory-another-attack-on-real-love-part-1/
The author of the blog isn’t aware that her article from Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic was mostly plagiarized ideas from an earlier article by Jonathan Rauch in Politico — http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/06/polygamy-not-next-gay-marriage-119614#.Vb1CyNUViko
He beat Conor to the publishing date by 9 days.
Can someone say “conspiracy theory” or “coordinated attack”?
Anyways, I ripped this apart in my blog at the time, http://www.dewaynelehman.com/blog/2015/8/1/is-polygamy-societys-next-step?rq=marriage
I really rip out the heart of it in one paragraph.
…Rauch assumes that it allows one man to “hoard wives”. What kind of reckless bullshit is he spouting here? Under the definition of polygamy, every single one of those wives are free to marry as many husbands as they wish.
Whoops, that “low-status” men argument is wrong, Catholic blogger. For instance, I have two female partners who each have multiple other male partners. In fact, the highest earners are not the men, but the women. Further, we differ by age, race, and yes, religion.
The lower stability, logitical problems is the other argument here. Listen, Monogamous Molly. Who do you think actually has more knowledge of this… you or me? Remember, I converted to nonmonogamy in my 30s. I was a married, and religious person, before that.
Also, the statistics aren’t baring out your argument.
Although interest in CNM relationships appears to be on the rise, these relationships continue to be widely stigmatized, with people tending to see them as inferior to monogamous relationships in most ways . This is interesting when you consider that research comparing the quality of CNM to monogamous relationships reveals few differences and suggests that CNM relationships are not inherently less satisfying or stable. Findings like this suggest that perhaps those who view CNM relationships as inferior simply have a difficult time imagining the potential benefits that these relationships afford. — http://www.lehmiller.com/blog/2017/4/24/the-unique-benefits-of-a-consensually-non-monogamous-relationship
So, we’re at least as good as monogamous relationships in the basic areas, and better than monogamous relationships in unique areas.
The author then blindly goes down an alley stating, “I won’t go into detail here, but simply put, children do best being raised by their biological parents in most cases.” — https://stumblingtowardsainthood.com/polyamory-another-attack-on-real-love-part-1/
Um, no, you don’t get away with that. You don’t get to make that off the cuff statement and walk away without explanation. In fact, it’s dead wrong.
Again, I can back that up with data.
The results of her study showed that children in open non-monogamous relationships do not have worse outcomes than children in monogamous relationships. They are not more likely to be insecure, they are not less trusting, they do not have greater incidence of socialization problems. In fact, often they have greater emotional security and better communication skills. — https://www.quora.com/Do-open-marriages-have-any-adverse-effect-on-the-children-of-the-couple
The author then goes into social media. I’m a bit hurt. I’m not mentioned anywhere. ;)
The author tackles a one NSFW tumblr blog, Kimchi Cuddles, and a lone tumblr post.
I won’t attack the author for not knowing what the word “teleological” means. Not all of us took the survey of the course “Political Philosophy” at Harvard. (I did, it’s fascinating, but very Philosophy 101 beginner stuff, course available on iTunes University.)
But I will go back to stating some of the arguments used against social media. First, the “commitment” argument. The author does acknowledge what we poly people say all the time, and is in Franklin Veaux’s books… love is infinite, but time, energy, and money (blog author forgot money) aren’t.
You’re preaching to the choir here, sister. I’m not trying to love 50 people… hell, I’m not trying to love 5 romantically.
The other “teleological” argument is that the purpose of love is marriage. Now, now, readers, don’t roll your eyes. This is a valid Catholic doctrine. And this is simply not a debate area (see above). You either agree, or you don’t. And most of the population is coming to the “don’t” side of that argument, and I’m not even talking about the nonmonogamous portion.
The author then accuses Kimchi Cuddles of conflating personal identity with our attractions. Here is the cartoon they are commenting on.
The idea that our attractions are who we are. Our identity is children of God. We should not hinge our identity, the fundamental idea of who we are, on something like our sexual attractions. — https://stumblingtowardsainthood.com/polyamory-another-attack-on-real-love-part-1/
Well, no, of course not… You are reading that comic very wrong.
What Kimchi is saying here isn’t a “you are what you eat” equivilent like “you are what you love” or “you are what you are attracted to”. What she is saying is “I am who I am, regardless of how society judges ‘normal’”.
She’s stating, to authors of that Catholic blog in particular, “I’m not going to feel bad because I don’t live up to your arbitrary standards. I’m going to be happy by being honest with myself and surrounding myself with people who love me without judgement.”
She’s not stating her happiness lies in being bi… but rather by, pardon my french, no longer giving a fuck what you think about it.
To be fair, I think the author made the correct arguments to their audience, Catholics. I can tell you there was no back bending to be in agreement with their church teachings. No great research needed, no more than a Catholic article opposing same-sex marriage would be a great leap.
But on the data side, that is to say, the secular side, it’s completely lacking. It lacks the experience of someone living the life and not finding the logistics intolerable, or that my son isn’t growing up with a third eyeball in the back of his head because he’s raised by myself and my ex wife who are halfway across the country. He’s a polite, well mannered, B+ student who loves his two other brothers from different fathers, and his dogs in different households. Nonmonogamy? Hell, that’s just simple monogamous divorce, and that’s got very bad statistics.
The nonmonogamous, and still married people, do much better than me by the stats.
On the social media side, some cherry picked posts from some cherry picked locations, and some cliche doctrinal sayings don’t do the trick.
I post 40+ articles per week on the subject of nonmonogamy across many social media platforms. Many of them from places like PsychologyToday.com.
And the data keeps coming in. There are either benefits… or no difference. For people, for children, and for relationships. I’m about to blow some minds with this recent article… “Why Swingers Have Lower Divorce Rates Than Monogamous Couples” — http://www.yourtango.com/experts/mr-mike-hatcher/swingers-have-lower-divorce-rates-monogamous-couples
So, sure… the dogma says no. Again, not debatable. It is what it is, take it or leave it. But on the data? No way, José! I got you beat 5 ways to Sunday there, and the data is just now really coming in.
And I don’t expect all data to be rosy. Just like I expect LGBT suicide rates to be higher than the general population. But like that data, I put it in context. Being an LGBT person, I don’t attribute it to the LGBT part… but the general population part. Turns out, bullied people have higher suicide rates. Turns out living in fear correlates with living in depression… uh… YEAH!
So, I’m sure some of that bad data eventually will come out. And bloggers like this will swarm it like flies to rotten meat. They just have to ignore all the current data, and then suddenly, when they get a piece that agrees with them, say they supported real data all along.
There may be a part two to this as the author has written a part two…
Polyamory: It’s Not Complicated