How would you respond to Tyler, Amanda, and Jon? How would you counsel Tyler’s parents to respond? Tyler’s parents’ pastor advised them to first listen to their son rather than trying to preach at him, so after Tyler came out to them, they set up a time to simply connect and listen. Though they were clear they did not affirm Tyler’s choice, they did affirm their love for Tyler, Amanda, and their grandkids. They made a point to keep their weekly Thursday afternoon “dates” with their grandkids and stay a part of their lives. Because of this, Tyler has maintained his relationship with his parents, and though his relationship choices are unbiblical, they have been able to communicate their love and care for him and his family. Amanda’s mother responded differently. Decades earlier, her relationship with Amanda’s father had ended when he had proposed a polyamorous relationship and then left when she wasn’t open to it. Amanda’s choice reopened her mother’s unhealed wounds. Feeling angry and betrayed, Amanda’s mother effectively broke off the relationship with her daughter. When children choose less than God’s best for their relationships, affirming both grace and truth is a difficult but necessary balance for parents to maintain.
Another important pastoral step is to distinguish elements of polyamory that are in violation of God’s will from elements that are simply culturally unfamiliar to us. When we want to lovingly call people to repentance, we should be precise about what needs repentance and what relationships or elements can and should be sanctified in Christ. For example, the notion of kinship in polyamory is a secular echo of the way Scripture calls the church to function as a new family. In cultures that idolize individualism (but actually isolate individuals), polyamory’s focus on relationship, care, and affection can have a powerful pull. And in churches that idolize marriage and the nuclear family, polyamory’s focus on hospitality and community can be an attractive alternative. We can acknowledge that many of the elements that draw people to polyamory—deep relationships, care for others, hospitality, and community—are good things.
But Scripture does clearly connect sex, marriage, and monogamy in ways that are violated in polyamorous relationships. In the example above, Amanda and Tyler both need to be called to repentance for the way they have committed adultery. A pastoral approach would commend them for their desire to have other adults contribute to the life of their family but point them to the church—not a polyamorous relationship—as the place where God intends for that to happen.
I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.