Terry Mattingly: What does “monogamy” mean to different voices in the Same Sex Union Debate?

Posted by Kendall Harmon

[There are] ...three basic approaches to the monogamy question. I cannot believe that the debates have grown simpler, rather than more complex.

First of all, there are gay theologians whose definition of this term is very traditional, arguing that gay unions are forever and that those taking vows must remain sexually faithful to one another. Twin rocking chairs forever.

Then, there are those who, in effect, say that “monogamy” essentially means serial monogamy (this, of course, is the definition used by most heterosexuals today in a culture rooted in easy divorce). In other words, things happen and relationships break up. However, partners are supposed to be sexually faithful to one another while the relationship lasts. Twin rocking chairs for right now.

Finally, some say that gay, lesbian and bisexual Christians can be “emotionally” faithful to a partner, while having sexual experiences with other people — secondary relationships that do not threaten the primary, “monogamous” relationship. The twin rocking chairs are symbolic.

Read it all.

I kept thinking of this Andrew Sullivan statement:

Dan [Savage] and I agreed that moderate hypocrisy - especially in marriages - is often the best policy. Momogamy [sic] is very hard for men, straight or gay, and if one partner falters occasionally (and I don't mean regularly), sometimes discretion is perfectly acceptable. You could see [Erica] Jong bridle at the thought of such dishonesty. But I think the post-seventies generation - those of us who grew up while our parents were having a sexual revolution - both appreciate the gains for sexual and emotional freedom, while being a little more aware of their potential hazards. An acceptance of mild hypocrisy as essential social and marital glue is not a revolutionary statement. It's a post-revolutionary one. As is, I'd say, my generation as a whole.

Or this one from Sullivan's Virtually Normal:

Same-sex unions often incorporate the virtues of friendship more effectively than traditional marriages; and, at times, among gay male relationships, the openness of the contract makes it more likely to survive than many heterosexual bonds. Some of this is unavailable to the male-female union: there is more likely to be greater understanding of the need for extramarital outlets between two men than between a man and a woman; and again, the lack of children gives gay couples greater freedom. Their failures entail fewer consequences for others.

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Posted August 22, 2009 at 5:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Comments are closed.
1. Br. Michael wrote:

All this means is approving sexual license.  You can use all the fancy words you want but it’s the same old thing.

August 22, 6:34 pm | [comment link]
2. Larry Morse wrote:

How much evidence does a rational being need to know that ssm is a travesty of marriage properly so-called? We have heard this information about promiscuity in ss relationship over and over. Why does no one believe it when the homosexuals say it is so? Can anyone imagine the travesty of sacramentalizing sodomy, sodomy with a church’s blessing? And now, with multiple partners? This lifelong, committed monogamous relationship, so much touted and media-puffed, where is it now? Larry

August 22, 7:08 pm | [comment link]
3. Sick & Tired of Nuance wrote:

That may be the new normal for the secular world, but don’t call it Christian.  It ain’t.

August 22, 8:00 pm | [comment link]
4. archangelica wrote:

Folk, ALL of the behaviors described above happen widely in the heterosexual community and Christian marriages suffer from the self same sins and frailties. None of this is exclusice to the gay communityi.e. divorce, infidelity, hypocrisy, porn addictions, casual sex, hooking up,  strip clubbs, swingers…. all of it is awful and true regardless of one’s sexual orientation. We are sinners in need of saving grace every second of of our live’s.
Only traditional monogamy, same sex or not, is capable of providing the spiritual environment for the sacramental graces of marriage.

August 22, 9:21 pm | [comment link]
5. archangelica wrote:


August 22, 9:26 pm | [comment link]
6. Brian from T19 wrote:


Thanks for inserting reason.  Not sure which heterosexual sexual activities Larry’s church is sacramentalizing, but it seems there must be some odd ceremonies there wink

August 22, 10:31 pm | [comment link]
7. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

Naturally, I agree with Br. Michael (#1), as well as #2-3. 

Kendall, I’m glad you added the quotes from Andrew Sullivan, who is actually one of the more moderate gay advocates of the pro-gay agenda.  Which only makes his endorsement of the idea of “open” same sex marriages all the more significant and troubling.  If even the more reasonable advocates of the gay cause are so wildly wrong, what does that tell us??

David Handy+

August 22, 11:08 pm | [comment link]
8. Didymus wrote:

Our society has all the hallmarks of the Roman Empire, minus the the actual killing of people for entertainment (we far prefer simulated killing for our entertainment).  Decaying imperial structure? Check.  Decaying faith in the documents and philosophies that founded our system of governance? Check.  Doctors telling us it is healthy and normal to express sexuality in various ways while traditional marriage is unhealthy and abnormal? Check.  Rampant seeking for any religion or philosophy that tickles the ear? Check.  People telling us that homosexuality is to be preferred over the other arrangements(Sullivan’s last quote)?  Check.

Some may say the Holy Spirit is doing a “new thing”.  I say “there is nothing new under the sun.”

August 22, 11:35 pm | [comment link]
9. Susan Russell wrote:

Oh for heaven’s sake!

Monogamy is the custom or condition of having only one mate in a relationship, thus forming a couple. The word monogamy comes from the Greek word monos, which means one or alone, and the Greek word gamos, which means marriage or union.

One mate. A couple. Two people. Clear? Non-ambiguous? Sounds that way to me.


August 23, 12:22 am | [comment link]
10. Jeffersonian wrote:

I’d love to be a fly on the wall to see Susan Russell’s face when TGC bends the rules to define “monogomy” as “emotionally committed but possibly physically generous to others.”  She doesn’t seem to understand the process that has been put into motion, or prefers to deny it publicly.

August 23, 1:13 am | [comment link]
11. robroy wrote:

Citing etymology is not necessarily accurate to the modern usage. For example, quarantine refers to the process of isolating the suspected crew of a ship for forty days (quarante - Fr. forty). We certainly isolate people for less than forty days now and still use the word quarantine.

Yes, we know the classical definition of the word monogamy. The point of the article, which some here fail to grasp, is that the modern definition does not seem to jibe with the classical at least in all eyes.

August 23, 5:39 am | [comment link]
12. Br. Michael wrote:

My comment was meant to apply across the board.  But 4, 6 and 9 have the additional problem of explaining away the bisexuals and the transgender folks (their argument goes, “God doesn’t make mistakes except in their case”).  See the video posted at Stand Firm.

As for 9, doesn’t that definition put God in an awfully small box?  Besides that reflects an old definition that was reflective of the culture in the the OT and NT.  We know so much more today and it only applies to those who are naturally oriented to traditional monogamy, if you don’t have that orientation it would be going against your nature to follow it.  It would be much better to use the modern understanding that fits your particular orientation.

The churches ought to hook up with Playboy as they now seem to have the same philosophy.  Maybe we can add Hugh Hefner to “Holy Women, Holy Men”.

August 23, 7:45 am | [comment link]
13. dawson wrote:

So sad that we can’t see how this issue is being used to twist and divide Christians, sin is sin and should be recognized as such not explained away. Are we Rome? No I should think Sodom and Gomorrah, pray we don’t meet the same fate. Maybe I will change my screen name to lot.

August 23, 8:27 am | [comment link]
14. Larry Morse wrote:

Tut tut #6. I am referring to TEC and now the Lutherans. Maine passed a law making ssm legal. To legalize is to institutionalize. To create a blessing for this is to make sodomy part of a sacrament and to sanction it under the law. Is this somehow hard for you to see? Susan Russell’s comment above is the usual smokescreen. And of course, the current popular depravities will soon undergo a new expansion as polyamory makes sacred vice a group endeavor. 
  Popular depravities? See today’s NYTimes: “Off limits art.” A must read for those who wonder where America is headed when lead by the Susan Russell’s of the world. THIS is America, the world of the liberal elite which has brought us the suffocations of political correctness and the redefintion of excellence as “superlatively coarse and vicious.” And as the reference to the Japanese “artist” shows,fueled by the liberal love affair with homosexuality. Larry

August 23, 9:21 am | [comment link]
15. Capt. Father Warren wrote:

A shame Susan does not have the same appreciation for Scripture that she does for the ancient Greek.

August 23, 9:34 am | [comment link]
16. Sarah1 wrote:

RE: “Monogamy is the custom or condition of having only one mate in a relationship, thus forming a couple.”

Well of course.  But that’s not the question.  It’s perfectly possible to have “only one mate in a relationship, thus forming a couple”—and also do as Andrew Sullivan so nicely describes as well.

August 23, 9:56 am | [comment link]
17. Sick & Tired of Nuance wrote:

It is written…

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.  Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
Romans 1:26,27,32

Monogomy does not sanctify sin.  The Scriptures call same sex activity and desires “shameful lusts”, “unnatural”, “indecent acts”, and “perversion”.  Is it possible to be any more clear?  Calling sin “blessed” does not make it so.  Saying that God blesses that which He has clearly condemned is blasphemous.  If you disagree with the above Scripture, your fight is with God, not with men.

August 23, 3:19 pm | [comment link]
18. clayton wrote:

If a couple who has not been in the church comes in, and they’re both on marriage #3 and have a child together, how do we talk about the Jesus’ very strong words about remarriage with them?  What do we want them to DO with that information?  Repent and…what?  Divorce and split up the family?  Get separate bedrooms?  Stay off the vestry?  Keep quiet about it?

Lay aside the issue of blessing, which I think should be limited to one het marriage per lifetime, but the issue on the ground, for me at least, is what do we do with people who want to be faithful, but have this one big…messy…problem.  Secular divorced people and secular homosexual behavior is not my problem; I’m more flummoxed by what to tell people who actually WANT what we’re selling.  I’m kind of known as Churchy McChurchdude among my secular friends and while I hope they fact-check what I say, I would hate to be the thing that turns someone away, you know?  But I just don’t know what to say when someone asks me if they have to get divorced to be right with God!

August 23, 4:09 pm | [comment link]
19. Bill Matz wrote:

Any suggestion of parity in faithfulness between the hetero and homo communities is either uninformed or disingenuous. Extensive surveys show a very low level of faithfulness in homos (mostly 0- 10%), compared to 75% for heteros (in “intact marriages”).

While gay advocates have suggested that the disparity can be explained by a lack of gay marriage, a number of factors suggest otherwise. First, even where gay marriage is legal (e.g. Holland), surveys show multiple partners every year among gays. Second, when gay marriage is legalized (e.g. Canada),  very few have taken advantage of it. Third, monogamy is expressly disavowed as a standard by many nominally-Christian gay advocates, with comments such as, “Fidelity is not a term we use in the gay community.” So it would seem that any rational person, being familiar with the available evidence, would conclude, as Andrew Sullivan does, that there is a huge difference in sexual morality standards in the hetero and homo communities

August 23, 6:11 pm | [comment link]
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