Legitimate Romantic Love?
Just to let you know, this post veers into a pretty freaky discussion, one that I am entirely at a loss as to how to understand. So, I’m quite sure I’ll say some things that could be perceived as extremely offensive, because I’m going to discuss pretty taboo things that I feel compelled to bring into the light in an attempt to understand them a little bit better. I’m not really bringing the Bible into my exploration of this question too much, because it is complicated enough as it is, even when I am just discussing my personal train of thought, apart from what the Bible has to say. Maybe another day I will share verses that might shed light on this extremely complex topic. So, anyway, you are warned.
The other day, I was discussing the issue of homosexuality with some dear friends of mine. We were taking turns explaining what we believed about it and why. One of my friends posed a very thought-provoking question that I have been mulling over in my head ever since she brought it up. I am at a loss as to how to answer it, and even whether or not there is one particular answer that is true for all people in all places and in all times:
What is the definition of legitimate romantic love? That is, romantic love that abides within the will of God?
David, a man after God’s own heart, who loved God desperately and enjoyed a passionate intimacy with Him that makes me feel all kinds of jealous, had dozens of wives. Polygamy didn’t really get in the way of his relationship with God in the way that sin is supposed to, or at least we have no indication from the Bible that such was the case (and before your mind jumps to Bathsheba, remember that this sin had more to do with David lusting for Bathsheba and murdering Bathsheba’s husband than the fact that he was taking her as another wife). So what makes polygamy a sin, if it is not specifically condemned in the Bible and men such as David, Abraham, and Jacob enjoyed fruitful relationships with God even though they practiced polygamy?
Here’s another, related thought, one that is baffling me and one that I just can’t figure out. Why do I affirm gay relationships, but condemn incestuous ones? Now, before you freak out and get all angry at how unfair that comparison is, consider this. What is “harmful” about romance between two adults who are biologically related? What is it about two such people that makes romance between them sinful? I’m not sure how to answer that question, except to say that such romance “feels unnatural”. And most Christians would use that exact same phrase to explain their condemnation of gay relationships. It’s a phrase that I myself have used in the past to support a belief I no longer claim.
You could apply this same idea to a plethora of other forms of romance, not just polygamous and gay relationships. What about polyoramous ones? What about people who claim a poly orientation, and who say that, based on the way they were born and the way their romantic attractions developed, they could never be sexually and emotionally fulfilled with just one romantic partner? Yeek. Now there’s a freaky exploration.
When my friend asked me these questions, I really couldn’t answer her, beyond the easy but entirely unsatisfactory response that “it just doesn’t feel natural”. But I refuse to use that argument anymore, not just because I affirm gay relationships, but also because, quite frankly, it’s a ridiculously lazy answer that when carried to its logical end results in downright horrific arguments like this one. So we must answer the question, WHY are polygamous, incestuous, polyamorous, and (for many Christians) gay relationships unnatural?
But here is the flip side of the coin. Because that answer I had in my head felt like more of a cop-out than a true answer, I didn’t know how to respond to my friend except to turn the tables on her, and ask her, with a lot of frustration and not a little bit of snarkiness: “Okay. Answer me this then: what defines monogamous male/female relationships as the standard? Why should they be considered the only legitimate form of romance?” And she didn’t have an answer for me any more than I had answer for her. And that’s where we left the conversation, and that’s what I’ve been mulling over ever since. How do we define legitimate romantic love? If polygamy was okay in Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David’s times, why aren’t gay relationships okay in our time? Is culture really the deciding factor, or is there something deeper than that? Why are monogamy and heterosexuality the only combination in which we can accept romantic love as legitimate?
Lots of questions in this post, and precious few (if any!) answers. Geez. And I really thought I had every nuance of this debate figured out.
Disclaimer: Just to clarify, I by no means affirm polygamy, polyamorous relationships, or incest. I’m just trying to figure out what distinguishes them as sinful, and why I don’t place gay relationships in the same category—or straight ones, for that matter. Also, I apologize if anything I’ve said here is offensive to you. That was not at all my intent.