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A few days ago I came across this video circulating around Twitter. It’s very much a little bit Little Britain, which I think has probably been canceled for not being prophetic enough:

And then yesterday I was sent this article by several lovely people. It’s about a woman who self-identifies as a “Polyamorous Christian.”

Martin was raised in a “strict Pentecostal, conservative household” and realized at a young age her “ability to develop attraction to multiple people simultaneously.” At 20, she married a man, and they had two children. As their “progressive ideologies” developed, Martin and her husband joined a United Church of Christ congregation. “The denomination changed my life,” she writes, calling it “the type of Christianity I had always longed for.” Before the pandemic, a male partner of Martin’s moved into the family home. Now he’s a type of third parent, and Martin alternates sharing beds with him and her husband. “We are not a throuple,” she notes, because the two men don’t date each other. But all three people have other dating partners.

This is completely unexceptional, and not unusual at all. Indeed, the whole project reads to me as someone trying to get attention and running out of shocking material. In one last ditch effort, she figures out that she can scare everyone by calling herself a Christian:

Jennifer Martin acknowledges that some people don’t understand how Christianity and polyamory can co-exist. But she insists there’s no conflict. “I’m not a Biblical literalist, for one thing,” she writes. “There is nothing about the concept of a ‘Biblical marriage’ that appeals to me.” Despite Scripture having some instances of polygamy, Martin says, it’s “still patriarchal and has no benefit for people in modern relationships.” When asked why she doesn’t become agnostic or atheist, Martin replies that she still believes in God and in Jesus’ teachings and values. She attends worship weekly, prays, and reads the Bible. “Both my faith and my polyamory are important to me,” she writes, adding that for her, the two have never been “at odds.”

Yes, you see, because it is enough just to say something, and it comes into being ex nihilo. God could do it, and so can we, because we decided we wanted it to be like that. In this case, someone can decide to “be a Christian” and go on doing and believing whatever she prefers doing and believing. None of it matters, really, because God is not a Person with his own Pronouns. He is not an eternal Being. Instead, he is a sort of vague idea that fits in around all the ideas you already have, like the Universe or Whatever. It’s no big deal to just say “Look! There he is!” because he isn’t knowable in himself and he won’t be coming back later to judge both the living and the dead:

In an email to Church Leaders, Martin denies any conflicts between Jesus’ teachings and her lifestyle. “I see a lot of conflicts in how people support greed and wealth in their politics and in the teachings of Jesus Christ, however,” she says. “I believe Jesus was a radical who fought oppression, challenged the status quo, defended the marginalized, and was executed by a corrupt empire for doing those things. I think the Christian obsession with sex-based ‘sins’ is uniquely rooted in patriarchal and harmful theology.”

I mean, I believe that Jesus is the Son of God, the second member of the Holy Trinity, of One Being and Substance with the Father. Agree to disagree I guess:

People often tell Jennifer Martin she’s “not a real Christian,” and sometimes other progressive Christians challenge her “nonmonogamy.” Fellow polyamorists have warned Martin that her faith is “inherently harmful.” She understands the “anger toward Christianity,” she says, because she has “a lot of it myself.”

Yes, see, if you want to be really subversive, really outside the bounds of acceptable discourse, affirm something like “biblical marriage.” In that kind of arrangement, the man and the woman (it can’t be any other groupings of people) make promises to each other before God that they won’t have sex with other people. They also make promises about how their lives will be arranged even beyond the bedroom. The man will love the woman “as his own body.” This is because he, in the marriage, acts as a sort of picture of Christ, though much more badly than the actual Christ who, in Christian circles, is a Person you can know and not just a blank rainbow flag upon which to scribble your favorite pastel designs. Though the man is not literally Jesus, he has to try to act in all the ways that Jesus wants him to. It is both terrifying and funny, on account of how he is not literally Jesus. Likewise, the woman in “Christian Marriage” is supposed to be a picture of the Church, and give to her husband the sort of honor the Church is supposed to give to Christ. No living woman is actually able to do this, of course, but that’s not the point. The point is that God, by his divine and mysterious power, shows the whole world who he is and what he is like when Christian people give Christian marriage their best shot. They ladle out lots of water into a lot of jars and think, “Boy, this is totally futile and a chasing after the wind,” and then God turns it into wine when they aren’t paying attention. It’s quite astonishingly beautiful.

The other option, of course, is to just keep lying:

Despite what she calls Christianity’s “many, many flaws,” Martin likes and strongly identifies with the faith. “I’m happy to be able to raise my children with a form of Christianity that isn’t about who’s going to hell—which I don’t believe in—and teaches love as the most important commandment,” she says. Martin tells Church Leaders that “belief in hell is not a mandate for Christianity,” pointing to a recent Pew Research study. “My Christianity isn’t defined by a need to watch others suffer eternal torment. It’s defined by the radical and unconditional love of Jesus Christ and pursuing justice in his name.”

Someone should try saying some stuff about Ms. Martin, stuff she hasn’t said and would never say about herself. They should try defining her by whatever happens to come to mind and see how she likes it. I bet suddenly she would dig down deep and discover that wickedness deserves some retribution, even some eternal consequence. But, see, you can only blaspheme God. You can’t do it progressives:

When asked how (or if) she responds to critics, Martin says: “I don’t engage in passionate defenses of my Christianity, though I used to. There are Christians who behave in ways I wouldn’t consider Christ-like, but I wouldn’t say they’re ‘not real Christians’ either. As a lifelong Protestant, I believe that’s between them and God, and not everyone has had the same experiences or education or access to theological transformations that I have.”

Yeah, I’m just gonna have to go ahead and say you’re not a Christian. I’m so sorry, but it just doesn’t work out. You can’t reject who someone is and still get to go around saying that you belong to him.

The tragic thing about this is what a measly trade it is. For the price of a lot of futile and vain “relationships” where you take from other people what you require, without thought for the eternal spiritual weight of your soul, you miss the One who made you, who knows you, who would feed you with Himself. This Person appears in the very first line of the Bible and goes on revealing himself line by line, verse by verse. Not only so, he will reveal, will divulge himself personally to any person who labors on through the text and persists in actually being a part of the actual Church.

The other day, for example, I found myself with a lump in my throat all morning, tearful because I happened to be listening to Genesis, and the bit about Rachel dying as she gave birth to Benjamin. We had just been through the intensity of the Christmas feast, and I had bitten my nails off crouching in the shadow of the front pew, silently willing the children to walk in the way of the Nativity. They were all there in their various costumes, delivering up their lines, trying to remember where to go and when. And then, as the children shuffled up at the appropriate moment to gaze at the baby getting to play Jesus, that baby reached out and grabbed my teenage son’s hand.

He hadn’t wanted to play Joseph this year, but he’s the pastor’s kid and as everyone knows, if no one else wants to be Joseph, you have to be Joseph. He and the young lady playing Mary sat there and held hands with the baby while we all sang Silent Night. It is the thing that Christians all over America do every year and no one even notices except, more and more, to mock them and call them stupid. Only, it’s not stupid because Rachel weeping for her children because they are no more is one of those lines in the Bible that jangles around and suddenly comes together in one horrible sob when I think of how God never does the things I want him to do because he has different thoughts and feelings than I do. His coming into the world was such a strange thing. Is it his job to accept everything that I want? Or isn’t it, rather, for me to accept him on his own terms?

Tomorrow we’re going to celebrate the Light going out to the gentiles and thence to the whole world. This isn’t an ethereal light. These aren’t the strange symbols on the rainbow flag. This is the Light, Jesus, the one who humbled himself even to death so that you could open your own hand and find that he gave himself to you.

Happy Epiphany if I don’t make it back here tomorrow.

Photo by Richard Bell on Unsplash

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