Well. I’m not saying that we couldn’t see the train coming down the tracks. When society deifies sex, it deifies a jealous god. When a society makes sex ultimate, then of course it will abort the “unintended consequences” of sex, and normalize the procedure by referring to the deceased infant as “the products of contraception.” When a society absolutizes sex, it’s a no-brainer for it to normalize premarital sex, non-marital sex, and extra-marital sex. When a society views sex as salvation, then of course it will redefine romantic love to include multiple simultaneous romantic loves.
All of that to say: We knew it would happen. We just didn’t know that our society would nickname it “polyamory” and push for its normalization this quickly and effectively.
“I Have Multiple Loves”: The Curious Case of Carrie Ichikawa Jenkins
Polyamory (multiple and simultaneous romantic loves) is not a new concept. In the past, it has been referred to as adultery, “non-monogamy,” “swinging,” and having “friends with benefits.” But polyamory is fast becoming the preferred term, and it’s had quite the coming-out party in recent years.
One of the most recent exposés is found in the most recent edition of The Chronicle Review in an article entitled, “I Have Multiple Loves.” It features the love life of Professor Carrie Ichikawa Jenkins, a British-Canadian philosopher who argues that polyamory should be normalized and who practices polyamory with her husband, Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa, and her boyfriend, Ray Hsu.
Jenkins and her husband have been open about their polyamory since July 2011, shortly after their wedding. She explains that polyamorous people find it difficult to live openly in the United States because monogamy has been normalized. Concerning Jenkins, Weigel writes:
Despite the personal clarity that she has gained on these points, socially the relationship has not been easy. Even in liberal settings, where people might not blink at the idea of a friend sleeping around or dating someone of the same gender, Jenkins says that ‘mononormativity’ persists: The ruling assumption is that a person can be in love with only one other person at a time. (She recalls a colleague becoming extremely discomfited recently at her husband’s birthday party, when Hsu introduced himself as ‘Carrie’s boyfriend.’) Still, Jenkins believes that we are in urgent need of a more expansive concept of love.
Jenkins notes that people tend to judge them for being polyamorous, “lecturing” them by saying that polyamory is not natural, ethical, or healthy. In response to the accusation that it is unnatural, she argues that it is the most natural relationship of all, as can be seen in the fact that very few animal species are monogamous. “Not even swans,” she says. Not even swans.
In response to the accusation that it is unhealthy physically and psychologically, she argues that openly polyamorous people practice safer sex than those who are closeted, and that polyamorous people are psychologically healthy. In response to the accusation that it is unethical, she makes clear that polyamory is not the same as promiscuity; in fact, polyamorous people are merely being faithful to their multiple true loves.
Jenkins argues that love is both a biological drive and a social construct; human beings are “ancient biological machinery embodying a modern social role.” In her mind, it will take many years of scientific research to convince Americans that there is no biologically superior way to love.
A Christian View of Romantic Love
But make no mistake. Scientific research is limited in the conclusions it can draw. It can tell us what “is” concerning sex and emotion, but it cannot tell us what “ought” to be, concerning marriage and love. The “ought” in Jenkins’ theory is not supplied by science but by the sexual revolution, which functions as its own sort of religion, replete with its own view of salvation and its own code of permissions and prohibitions.
The sexual revolution teaches us that we should aspire to be like the people featured in advertisements at the mall: fashionable, sexy, perky, liberated people. Instead of being image-bearers whose fulfillment is found in conforming to the image of Christ, we are animals who find happiness and fulfillment by escaping the bonds of Christian morality. We are not created by God; therefore we are free to “create” ourselves, to make our own code of permissions and prohibitions.
In opposition to the false salvation offered by the sexual revolution stands the Christian gospel. According to the gospel, God created us in his image and likeness. He placed us in his good world provided spiritual and moral guidance so that we could flourish and experience the goodness of life in God’s creation. In relation to marriage, he created us to flourish and find delight in the marriage relationship (Gen 2:18-25). Marriage is a covenant relationship between one man and one woman, the meaning of which is to display in miniature the type of faithful and loving relationship God has with his people (Isa. 54:5, Ezek. 16:8-14, Eph. 5:32).
The upshot of the Christian view is that we cannot create marriage or sex in our own image. Marriage and sex were created by God, and find their meaning and design in him. This is true not only for the individual but also for society at large. Marriage and the family are the core social units of society; together they form most important context in which children are shaped to understand themselves and their relationship with the world.
When individuals redefine marriage according to their own desires, they send a message to their children: you are the ultimate judge of your own life, and the gratification of your desires is the guide for your life. What society or state can exist in a healthy manner when each person places their own passions upon the throne?
Western society is in the midst of an unprecedented attempt to remove society’s sacred ordering. Civilizations everywhere have understood that religion shapes cultural institutions and, in turn, cultural institutions shape society. But the elite culture-makers in the West wish to overturn the historic Judeo-Christian social order so that Western society and culture would finally be free of its oppressive moral norms.
Make no mistake: this experiment is, and will be, an unmitigated social, cultural, and political disaster. Polyamory is one of the most recent and potentially damaging iterations of the experiment, but it will by no means be the last. If romantic love is reconceived to normalize polyamory, then what will stop it from being redefined to include polygamy? If romantic love is reconceived to normalize multiple simultaneous sexual relationships, then what will stop it from being reconceived again and again until pedophilia and zoophilia are normalized?
As Christians we must help our society recover the beauty of God’s moral norms. The secular progressive hold on society seems powerful now, but its grip may already be weakening. A society founded on self-creation and sexual gratification, after all, may promise much, but social and cultural health require much more. As Christians, therefore, we must speak and act responsibly. We must help our society return to classic Judeo-Christian understandings of truth and virtue. Maybe this will be increasingly possible as our society undergoes a deep disenchantment with the permissiveness of the sexual revolution. At first, it might seem liberating to fire God from his post and live without limits. But a world without limits is an enslaving—not a freeing—place.
Never miss a post! Have all new posts delivered straight to your inbox.
I don’t think that the polyamory lifestyle is in any way likely to become the new normal. It is espoused by a small but noisy group of people who like to flaunt their views on the internet and on daytime TV shows. These folks are not likely to listen to theological objections, but their relationships are likely to fail for practical reasons. Of course, the effects on their offspring are inevitably devastating.