The sole Christian in a three-way relationship

Recently received the letter below. My response follows it.

Hi John,

I remember seeing “1 Man, 2 Women in a Polyamorous Relationship” on your website last year. I and my two partners (longtime friends of mine, and married to each other) started a tentative relationship a few months ago — my now-boyfriend wanted to understand what poly relationships looked like, and said the only thing he found online that sounded like what we were exploring was this article/interview of yours.

He and I both needed that account to have a framework for what we were getting involved wit, and for the hope that we could all be happy together. (My best friend/girlfriend/his wife didn’t need any reading — everything felt right to her from the beginning, and we’ve all always been close.)

We have an extremely affectionate, caring, harmonious relationship. We’re in our late 20s/early 30s and put a lot of work into communication, and a lot of our shared time isn’t about sex — it’s about shared meals and cuddles and enjoying movies and sharing life — just like any other healthy relationship. We’re also fine with being intimate and open in any one-on-one configuration.

My biggest struggle is being the only Christian in the relationship — not because of a lack of shared faith, but because it can be hard to articulate why I’m in so much pain when it comes to not being out (and my need not to be). We also live in the deep South, but in a mid-sized city, so they’re comfortable being out to most of our mutual friends and their own families. (None of us are out at work because it seems likely to cause problems and invite judgment.)

It hurts me deeply that I feel I can’t talk about my partners with my family (tried it with my mom, the most liberal, and she was sickened and horrified), or at work, or (biggest deal of all) at any church I can think of. I’ve been out as queer for years now, but this seems like a hurdle society can’t handle. I love my faith and I don’t know how to be in a faith community while hiding some of the most essential details of my life. I still believe God loves me, but sometimes it’s a struggle.

I’m active on a popular polyamory forum and have a non-faith-based therapist that supports my choices as valid, but no one to discuss the faith angle with. Any support or advice you could offer would be really great — I became a Christian in my late teens and cannot imagine a world where I didn’t want to feel close to my God. I also can’t imagine a world where many other Christians would want anything to do with me.

Thanks for reading,

[anonymous]

Gosh, your last sentence—about Christians not wanting anything to do with you—is so painful. How awful that you have to feel that way.

:-(

Well, the (Unfundamentalist and NALT) Christians here are happy to know you. We understand that God is perfectly fine with people being LGBT, in whatever combination or configuration enhances their capacity for loving and being loved. We know that what anguishes God is when people hurt one another, not love one another.

So. You are a Christian bisexual lesbian in a three-way relationship living in the deep South.

Man. That is one full backpack.

My first chunk o’ advice is: Move! You guys should move to San Francisco!

Wait. Unless you’re not all zillionaires. Then don’t. And if you are a zillionaire, then, on second thought, stay where you are, buy a church, and hire me to move there and be your full-time pastor.

Proof, once again, that money solves all problems.

Har!

But enough about me.

It’s a true crying shame that in order to feel safe and secure in the world you have to consistently lie about some of the most important aspects of who you are and how you live. You don’t have anything to be ashamed of. There’s nothing inherently immoral about polyamorous relationships—and nobody can find anything in the Bible that says it is. (And trolling fundie Bible-twisters can start quoting scripture … now!) Living and loving in the way you currently are isn’t the norm, obviously. But so what? Since when does the norm deserve automatic adulation?

You’re in a tough spot. And it doesn’t sound like that spot is going to get a whole lot softer in the near future. So what can you do but buckle down and understand that you’re essentially a victim of history and culture? In another time and another place, you’d be free to live however you want to. But in this time, in your place, that’s not an option for you. You’ve got to live your life close to your chest.

Which can be kind of fun. It’s fun to have a secret about yourself and your life that is known to only your true and close friends.

Bottom line, of course, is that you’re extremely fortunate to have in your life the two people with whom you’ve joined your life. How awesome is it that you have them? How painful to be Christian, bi, polyamorous, and actually all alone.

Yikes. So. You’re not that. Thank God.

Speaking of God. If I’m hearing you, you’re saying that your main pain is that you’ve no church to attend, no community of fellow believers to commune with. That is a problem.

First of all, make sure that’s the case. Find out for sure whether or not there are any LGBT or LGBT-affirming Christians living near you. I’m betting there are. The trick is finding them. One good and easy way to do that is via an anonymous Craigslist posting asking if there are living near you any Christians like you. If there are, and they meet anywhere, then whoo to the hoo!: you just found your new church. If like-minded Christians are out there, but no one’s ever gotten them together, maybe you’ll do that. Maybe you’ll start the community of Christians that you’ve been looking for. Why not? Seems like a rewarding endeavor. (Just don’t make the meeting place your house, in case it goes … well, south.)

One thing I would suggest is that you ask your partners if they would be kind enough to serve with you as your spiritual partners. They don’t have to become Christian, of course. But experiencing spiritual communion with others is something good that you need and/or desire. And because of the way you live you can’t have that as readily as others can. So you have to turn to your partners for help with that. If your two partners love you and care about your well-being, they should be happy to sit with you for, say, one-half hour every Sunday morning, and just … be with you as you maybe read the Bible, or share a prayer with them, or simply sit with them holding hands and meditating and/or praying. I’m sure they don’t object to the kind of Christianity that is so near and dear to your heart. The Bible is a beautiful book no matter how you feel about Christianity; there’s plenty in it for anyone to appreciate and resonate with. And I’m sure your partners have their own spiritual or meditative / contemplative needs and interests. Ask them to share and develop those with you, in communion with you, as you explore and deepen your own personal faith.

You read some spiritual literature together; you pray for or send out love to people that you know are hurting; you sit together and silently meditate or pray. And you do it with the people who mean the most to you in the world. That kind of joint sharing of core human spirituality is a beautiful thing. It can only bring you guys closer. And it should provide you with enough spiritual connectedness to keep you feeling balanced and healthy.

So try that! Let me know how it goes, for both you and your friends. God bless you.

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • Shade Ardent

    you leave so much room for potential and hope. i’m still surprised when i read a christian who is more like this than fundamentalist.

    it makes me hope that i won’t have to abandon g-d entirely just to be whole

  • BarbaraR

    As my best gay boyfriend says, “Being gay is one of the least interesting things about anyone.” I think that applies to poly folks too. There is FAR too much worry in certain quarters about what people do with their genitals, knowwhatImean?

    I’m Christian and would be happy to have you & your partners over for dinner…. I’m in California so I guess that might not be possible tonight… but I suspect there are more welcoming Christians than you think there are out there. Like John says, the trick is finding them. You’re in the right place to make a start.

  • Patricia Anne Brush

    I’m pretty amazed that Bible thumping Christians wouldn’t want to know you. The Old Testament is full of interesting combinations making families. It is our particular culture that is letting you down, and the way that we let our culture dictate our faith.

    I would have you and your family over for dinner too, but I’m even further away and you would need your passports.

  • Eric Hays-Strom

    Don’t know what town you are in, and so I can’t guarantee anything… but the MCC congregations are often open to poly relationships. You might investigate that.

  • Timothy L. Northrup Jr.

    Ok, so here goes my two cents. First, as to churches, the MCC is good,
    as is the UCC and ELCA. I’ve been surprised how much love I get in an
    ELCA church and how many pro-gay old ladies and gentlemen there are in
    western Kansas. If nothing else, look up the website of the churches in
    your area. You can learn a lot from them.

    Of course, building an independent community is important as well. I think John as always hit a lot on the head here.

    My
    biggest thought is that you do need to push it as much as you are
    comfortable with. Seems your family is a no-go (although if you have
    siblings or cousins they might be more understanding than your mom).
    Being out about this is probably going to be a one-person-at-a-time
    thing. I think you’ll be surprised at how many people this isn’t a big
    deal for.

    Other than that, you have a gang praying for you here as well.
    All my love, sister.

  • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

    I live in the deep south myself, so I understand that the choices seem very limited to find people like yourself faith wise, but as John said, they exist, yes here in the land of grits, palmento bugs and a Baptist church every mile and a half. I like the Craig’s list idea. If nothing else, you’ll gain new friends.

    As for worrying about what other’s think about your relationship status, hopefully in time, that will matter a little less. Especially as more and more people simply are not making a big deal of things like that anymore. Try to be ok with who you are yourself, someone unique, not exactly fitting into the mold that society has set out for everyone. Its not a bad thing at all. There are a lot of us odd shaped folks walking around, as uniqueness seems to be scattered liberally throughout humanity.

    I also like John’s idea (smart that John) about a set time each week for collective spirituality. Sharing each other’s ideas and thoughts about faith can be such a beautiful thing, as is giving each of you the space to be who you are on a spiritual level,

  • Matt

    Man, sometimes I feel like a broken record! The only advice I’ve got, which I’ve given out to several LGBT Christians over time, is basically this:

    1. Being in the closet gets easier over time if you must be there long-term for your own safety. There will still be days where it causes you sadness/depression, but they’ll get easier to cope with and further in between. Think of it as none of other folk’s business, not a dirty secret you’re hiding.

    2. You’re going to have to figure out how to do things from scratch. By that I mean, the words you use for yourself, your life and your experience, and the methods you use to practice your faith. No way around it. LGBT Christians are, as a group, still in uncharted territory in this day and age. But the journey is highly rewarding.

    3. Let what you’re going through soften your heart towards other people. Consider how many painful secrets “normal” people have to hide that you know nothing about. Reflect on your gratitude for having not one, but two partners in such a lonely world. Basically, put it to work as a tool to shake you out of your complacency and truly see people. The day the haters make you stop caring is the day they win. Don’t let them.

    • http://www.enesvy.com/ Enesvy

      What a wonderful comment. :)

      • Matt

        Thank you, Nicole! I thought maybe I was a little abrupt. Mainly I’m just frustrated by the lack of resources available for nice folks like the Letter Writer. But of course things won’t be this way forever.

  • sakawaki

    a little late to the party, but i wanted to offer Christian community (or the possibility) of one in the northeast TN area. each story i read, i’m more and more convinced that some of us are indeed called to stay in the south and create communities as well as inspire change. until then, may God’s love extend beyond our capabilities.

    • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

      Im from NE Tennessee. Its good to know that there exists a Christian community like that there.

  • elainesmartmeier@outlook.com

    My child is a Christian married to one Christian woman, one Pagan woman and a Pagan man. Yes it is unusual, I am a Christian mother who is very proud of her daughter and her family. They were married by a Gay friendly pastor. They are fortunate to have a large and loving community. It is possible to be out and supported but is not easy. Although I do not know you I will keep you in my prayers

  • http://twitter.com/twbtwb Tim Wilson-Brown

    If you’re struggling with finding people to share your faith with locally, there are online groups which are open, diverse, safe places.

    One is The Lasting Supper at http://thelastingsupper.com/

    One proviso: this group also involves people in different stages of deconstruction, and from diverse faith and non-faith backgrounds.

  • http://www.desiremercy.wordpress.com/ Chad Holtz

    Since sin entered the world, our problem has been disordered loves. We all love the wrong things. And left to ourselves, we will gather around us those who will tell us exactly what we want to hear, while we continue down the broad road, happy that we have company. True, gospel love is not the same as sentimentality. And God is not simply winking at our continued disobedience and arrogant refusal to die to self.

    http://umcholiness.wordpress.com/2013/12/26/a-return-to-gospel-love-over-sentiment/

  • http://madhatter.ca/ Wayne Borean

    You might want to consider Canada. Things are a bit more open up here.

    Note that I said a bit. There are bigots here too.

  • MaryLouiseC

    [More anti-gay fundie nonsense comment deleted]

    • http://madhatter.ca/ Wayne Borean

      In some ways it is too bad this comment was deleted. The author is of the opinion that anyone who doesn’t agree with her views isn’t Christian.

      That is something that needs to be addressed. There many types of Christianity. While you, or I, may think ours is the right one, we have no right to tell someone else that they aren’t Christian just because we disagree with them.

      Wayne

      • Jeff Preuss

        Oh, I think they get a lot of those types of folks here, and after a while of trying to reason with them, the Mods shut them down. I just loooooooooooooooooooooove hearing things like “clearly you just haven’t really heard the Gospel” or other BS like that because I’ve got a different take on ANY theological issue. It’s a sweet way to deflect away from any possibility of a changing of the mind, and onto the personal spiritual accountability of your opponent. (Also see: “Well, you clearly need to know Jesus.” “Your study isn’t Biblical.” “You just need to pray more until the right answer comes.”)

      • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

        We seek to maintain steady, grown-up discourse here. Some people come here to attempt to distrupt that, or just to spout very disrespectful statements. While people are free to comment as they see fit, we are also, free to remove comments that we feel are completely out of line…also known as the other half of free speech.

        • http://madhatter.ca/ Wayne Borean

          No problem. I understand. Keeping discourse civil can be an unforgiving job.

          Wayne

      • BarbaraR

        Stick around. That wasn’t the first or last person to post this kind of thing. You will have ample opportunity to see how this sort of dialogue goes.


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