The Myth of Monogamy

An article on CNN.com suggests that monogamy is on the decline and that serial monogamy and polyamory may be better alternatives. Serial monogamy is “a model in which people move from one committed long-term relationship to another and choose partners for different reasons at different stages of their life.” Polyamory is “the practice of having romantic relationships with multiple people at the same time with the full knowledge and consent of all involved.”

This article is really sad for a lot of reasons, but I do think it accurately describes the decline of sexual mores in American society. What’s interesting, however, is that the author does not present any of this as a retrogression. Rather, he rather cooly describes what’s happening in the culture as if serial monogamy and polyamory are viable alternatives in the modern world. In other words, it’s presented as if one may leave behind monogamy just like one might throw out an old sweater for a new one. There’s no moral problem whatsoever with this kind of behavior. That is a commentary within itself.

Christians are going to appear more and more out-of-step with the culture in this kind of atmosphere. Indeed, if we are faithful, we will be a true counter-culture bearing witness in our monogamous marriages to the ultimate marriage (Ephesians 5:31-32). May God give us grace to stand against the culture for the sake of the culture on this point (John 17:15, 21).

20 Responses to The Myth of Monogamy

  1. paul October 29, 2009 at 10:01 am #

    “What’s interesting, however, is that the author does not present any of this as a retrogression. Rather, he rather cooly describes what’s happening in the culture as if serial monogamy and polyamory are viable alternatives in the modern world.”

    Even more interesting is the fact that in this post-FCC deregulation, post fairness doctrine, Fox News and MSNBC era, is that journalism is just the facts, ma’am.

    If you want an editorial, you might want to look elsewhere. However, if it’s a news article, then CNN is just doing their job, and you should be thankful that at least one of the three news outlets is attempting to do that.

  2. Darius T October 29, 2009 at 10:51 am #

    You know, I have to agree with Paul here, it seems that this journalist is doing what few CNN reporters still know how to do: just report.

  3. Don Johnson October 29, 2009 at 11:11 am #

    Christians are to be a light to the world and as the world gets darker and darker the light will contrast more and more.

  4. Denny Burk October 29, 2009 at 12:20 pm #

    Paul and Darius,

    That’s my point. That this can be reported unflinchingly as a straight news report shows us how much the culture has changed since the sexual revolution. This report would not have been possible 50 years ago.

    What reporters present as viable alternatives always reflects a value judgment on the part of a reporter. Can you imagine a reporter writing a story about the stagnating American economy. He might report how other countries are dealing with economic crisis. Would he report how other countries have increased their GDP by the use of chattel slavery? Would he give such a report as if chattel slavery were a viable option in the modern world? No, he wouldn’t. It may exist in the world, and it may be helpful. But he wouldn’t report on it as if it were a trend that society might viably adopt. Why? Because he’s made a value judgment about what’s in and out of bounds.

    In the CNN report, clearly serial monogamy and polyamory are in bounds.

  5. Nathan October 29, 2009 at 12:30 pm #

    It is not only CNN that is making this point. Jason Whitlock, a sports-columnist with the Kansas City Star and Fox-Sports wrote a similar commentary the other day about how we should just get over monogamy.

    Here is the link:
    http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/10263372/As-Phillips-falls-from-grace,-we-need-to-alter-rules

  6. Erik October 29, 2009 at 1:02 pm #

    “Christians are going to appear more and more out-of-step with the culture in this kind of atmosphere.”

    Boy, isn’t that the truth… What a tremendous opportunity we’ll have as believers to demonstrate commitment, faithfulness, and lasting love through our marriages to the world around us. It seems like traditional, committed marriages are still held in high esteem by the world, but I have to wonder if that’s quickly on the way out. Is it simply a matter of time before traditional marriages are completely out-of-date and backwards by the world’s standards?

  7. Brian Krieger October 29, 2009 at 2:16 pm #

    Christians are going to appear more and more out-of-step with the culture in this kind of atmosphere.

    I also think this is why we have been such a non-impact on the abortion (and a slew of others) debate. We, too often, haven’t been out of step. You’re spot on, Erik! What a tremendous opportunity. I pray for a renewal of courage among believers to stand in the face of cultural dictates and norms (when in oppostion to God’s word, of course). Frigteningly, though, I also think the answer to Erik’s question might be that it’s just a matter of time for society at large to view committed marriage as out of date and backwards (actually, for many that has already happened).

  8. Darius T October 29, 2009 at 2:29 pm #

    Nathan, I think that Whitlock has his tongue planted in his cheek, but I’m not certain. I’ve always found him to be a very solid writer and have good things to say outside of sports, so I’d be surprised if he meant this to be serious.

    Though that article does make me think… isn’t it interesting how the sexual mores have changed so much that now the man gets in trouble for an affair when throughout history it was the woman who suffered?

  9. Nathan October 29, 2009 at 2:57 pm #

    Darius,

    I hear you about Whitlock. I enjoy his articles because he is not afraid to step outside the box. But, he has spoken about women leading athletes astray multiple times and always seems to hint that he believes the old monogamist ways are obsolete.

    This article is the most blatant, but you also raise the interesting point that the roles have reversed and men are now paying the higher cost for these “affairs”.

  10. beth October 29, 2009 at 3:50 pm #

    Just as married believers have “a tremendous opportunity … to demonstrate commitment, faithfulness, and lasting love through our marriages to the world around us” single believers have the similar opportunity to demonstrate reliance on the Lord’s provision and lovingkindness. To be a 36-year-old virgin is not usual in today’s world!

  11. Kristen October 30, 2009 at 2:07 am #

    Denny, I agree with the point you are making. Paul and Darius- we are all human, and it could be argued that no news reporter can keep his personal beliefs/feelings in a vacuum while he reports on such controversial issues.

  12. Lindsey October 30, 2009 at 10:47 am #

    Nathan and Darius, I’d like you to expound no this idea that men suffer more for an affair these days. Do you mean from a public relations perspective?

    The religiously devout are currently the only group well known for abstaining from premarital sex; how strange to think that we may eventually be the only ones who are interested in monogamous relationships. I anticipate many social and personal woes that people will not recognize as being the result of this change in our social climate as well. However, from a purely hedonistic perspective, most people are going to choose sex because of their desires. Not everyone desires polyamory.

    When I was a youth minister, I asked my students to list what would be different if everyone in the United States had sex the way God intended; they were astonished to realize that there would be no STDs, no rape, no abortion, no affairs, etc. It’s a bleak outlook to think that maybe in 10 years I could give the same lesson, only broadening the idea to just having Godly relationships, sex notwithstanding.

  13. Patrick October 30, 2009 at 11:31 am #

    Lindsey,

    That is an excellent point about how the United States would be if we all abstained from sex outside marriage. I would also argue that by doing this, we would come very close to ending poverty, as poverty is almost always intertwined either with birth outside wedlock or a family situation that would have been much better if the old fashioned values had been observed.

  14. Nathan October 30, 2009 at 11:31 am #

    Lindsey,

    Yes, it is from a public relations perspective. It would not have been too many years ago that the man wouldn’t have suffered much at all. This recent issue of Steve Phillips and ESPN is a good example. Phillips wouldn’t have lost his job over this prior.

    I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but I think Darius brought out an interesting point. What might need discussing is whether the roles have reversed totally so that now women are not being punished for these affairs. As far as I know, the woman Phillips had the affair with has not been fired from ESPN, but Phillips was.

    Doesn’t make the affair acceptable either way.

  15. Darius T October 30, 2009 at 1:09 pm #

    Hmm, my comments seem to not be posting.

  16. Kelly October 30, 2009 at 2:07 pm #

    Considering that data (Barna is the source I prefer to use, but other sources back this up) shows that Christians divorce at the same rate as the general public, and that many Christians do later remarry, the idea that somehow the Christian community will be an example of how not to live with polyamory is off base.

    The stats speak for themselves, and for something to be an example of difference (and higher quality) than another thing (or way of living) it has to BE different. Overall, the Christian community/subculture is NOT any different from society overall. Before anyone talks seriously of being an example, and “great opportunities” by being different, maybe the fact that Christians divorce (and remarry, I think it is safe to presume, from the examples of my own Christian relatives and friends) at the same rate as society as a whole should be faced up to? What’s the example to be of? Similarity?

    As for the authors point that the article would not have been published without an uproar a few decades ago, he is correct, and his point there is well made.

  17. Darius T October 30, 2009 at 2:34 pm #

    “Considering that data shows that Christians divorce at the same rate as the general public, and that many Christians do later remarry, the idea that somehow the Christian community will be an example of how not to live with polyamory is off base.”

    I believe that data doesn’t tell the whole story. I know plenty of Christians who are divorced and/or remarried, but almost none of them got divorced when they were strong Christians. They were all nominal Christians or unbelievers, and have come to Christ since then. So sure, Christians are just as likely as the general population to be divorced as non-Christians, but that’s to be expected. God saves the unrighteous, after all. It’s like saying that Christians are just as likely as non-Christians to have tattoos… duh.

    That said, I do know that there are plenty of places where the evangelical Christian culture doesn’t seem to have any problem with divorce (this seems especially true in the Bible Belt from my experience).

  18. Lindsey November 2, 2009 at 9:46 am #

    Nathan,

    My understanding is that nobody wins in an affair, obviously, but that in the past women have suffered so much more due to the forgiving nature of our society towards men. It’s almost as if we don’t do anything to punish the women involved because our gender has suffered so much in the past. It hardly seems fair, but there’s no decent answer to the question of, “Who should suffer, and how, when adultery is committed?”

    Darius,

    Should it not count because these folks were not “strong” Christians? What’s the barometer for strength in Christian faith? Not getting divorced? Many of us go through ups and downs in our faith and the fact that we sometimes make poor decisions while in the valley does not mean we can disregard that it happened.

    Kelly’s whole point was that there are Christians who are getting divorced with the same frequency as the rest of the world; I think it’s obvious that she was saying that these Christians aren’t pillars of strength. But they should be by virtue of being Christians.

    Until we can take responsibility for the weaker ones in our faith and lead them properly (while being ever-aware that we are often the weak ones) without pointing fingers, we’ll never see change.

  19. Darius T November 2, 2009 at 10:31 am #

    Lindsey, I guess it depends on what you define as a Christian. The people I’m talking about admit to believing that they were Christians pretty much because they went to a church or something along those lines. It wasn’t until sometime after their divorce that they realized that they hadn’t really been Christians before. What I’m saying is that Christ does change lives and Christians DO live better lives (though still failing at times). If Christ doesn’t make a difference in people’s lives, then what’s the point? Fire insurance? Jesus came for more than just that.

  20. Lindsey November 2, 2009 at 2:46 pm #

    Darius,

    We could easily take this in a direction of faith vs works, couldn’t we? I can see it now… I throw out Acts 16:31, then you cite James 2:20, and then I quote Galatians 2:19, which doesn’t really make sense in this context, and the argument is over. Just kidding. 🙂

    I think that we probably feel the same way. I know plenty of people who love the Lord with passion and want to follow His word; these same people (myself included) have gone through times in their lives where they have fallen out of the habit of personal disciplines and suffered as a result. The blessing of the Lord was not abundant in their lives and they were not honoring Him with their choices; does this throw their salvation into question? Does it throw mine into question when I go a week without having a daily devotional and see the impact of such a choice on my marriage?

    More importantly, does the rest of the world know the difference between a “good” or a “real” Christian and a “bad” or “fake” one? Do they care that there’s a difference? If we’re seeking to live as examples and many who fall under the moniker “Christian” are poor examples, it doesn’t matter that there are some who are actually walking the walk, so to speak. The example is already sullied.

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