Saturday, November 7, 2015

"That Could Never Work"

"All my loves! I choose you!" Pokeball with the infinity-heart polyamory symbol. Image source.
In this article, 15 Comments Polyamorous People Are Tired of Getting, there is one part that particularly struck me. For those of you who don't know, polyamory means having romantic/sexual relationships with multiple partners, and it's consensual and honest- all the partners know what's going on and are okay with it.

So, some people prefer that style of relationships, and if they treat people with respect and honesty, then there's nothing wrong with it. I'm not polyamorous and I don't really know much about it- if you want to find out more, go to the blog post in that link.

Anyway, the post is about 15 ignorant/prejudiced comments that polyamorous people hear a lot. I'd like to talk about the first one:

1. ‘That Could Never Work’

Often accompanied by an anecdote about a friend who tried polyamory and totally hated it, this comment seems like a well-intentioned statement of opinion, but it’s actually very invalidating.
How can you claim that polyamory “doesn’t work” when speaking to someone like me, who’s been happily polyamorous for three years? Am I wrong about my own perception that my relationships have largely been healthy and successful? Am I actually miserable and just don’t realize it?
Statements like these are problematic because they stem from faulty assumptions that go far beyond polyamory.
Telling someone that they’re wrong about their own feelings causes them to doubt themselves and their boundaries and preferences. For example, queer people often hear that they’re “actually” straight, and people seeking abortions are often told that deep down they must want to have the baby.
Whether you’re telling someone that they actually like something they say they don’t like or vice versa, you’re saying that you know better than them what their own experience is.
That’s just not true – in fact, it can become gaslighting, which is a tactic of abuse and control.
Wow. This one really stood out to me because "that could never work" is something that I heard a lot, growing up as an evangelical Christian.

Seriously, just look at these questions the writer asks: "Am I wrong about my own perception that my relationships have largely been healthy and successful? Am I actually miserable and just don’t realize it?" In the evangelical church, these questions would definitely be answered with an emphatic YES. YES, of course a poly relationship can't be healthy or successful, so if you claim to have experienced one that was, then YOU ARE WRONG. YES, of course being polyamorous is a sin, and sin causes us to feel guilt- on some level, you are miserable, whether you are aware of it or not.

(Really, that entire quoted section is exactly how the church taught me to treat people.)

I learned that "everyone has a God-shaped hole in their heart", which means that everyone who's not a Christian (a real Christian) is, on some level, deeply miserable. On some level, they know they need God. And if they claim "no, I'm not miserable, I don't have a God-shaped hole" then they're wrong. Evangelicals can very confidently tell complete strangers "you are wrong about your own feelings."

This teaching is quite possibly the most wrong and harmful aspect of American evangelical Christianity.

And because polyamory is against "the rules" and against "the bible's definition of marriage" (which is not actually a real thing), evangelicals would say "that could never work." Then, perhaps a polyamorous person would give them a long and detailed explanation of how it actually does work. But no, that doesn't matter. The bible says it could never work [citation needed], so clearly this person is wrong about their own experience.

For so many different topics, the church simply dismisses those with different experiences and reassures its followers "that could never work." Don't marry a non-Christian because it'll never work. You can't be a Christian who doesn't go to church, that would never work. Friends with benefits could never work. Everyone who has an abortion regrets it. Everyone who has premarital sex regrets it. Every LGBT person is running from God. Every atheist secretly knows God exists.

In this ideology, there is no "look at the positive and negative aspects and decide for yourself if it's something that would be healthy and beneficial for you." No. Christians already know all the right answers, and they know that disobeying those right answers leads to awful things.

And by saying "that could never work", by promoting fear of the unknown, by silencing anyone whose life is proof that it can work, they keep all the good Christians in line, obeying the rules out of fear, never daring to imagine "I could choose to do this if I wanted."

They don't know that God is love and perfect love drives out fear.

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