Over on the House of Bishops/Deputies list someone commented that loving same-sex couples should be allowed to establish and sanctify lifelong, committed, mutual relationships — in short, to marry. Nothing new (at least in our times) in that statement; nor was there anything new in one of the predictable responses: Why shouldn’t three or more people be allowed to marry if they love each other?
The reason this kind of question continues to rise to the surface lies in the failure on the part of those who take this myopic view to distinguish between the many meanings that can be borne by the word love, and even more importantly the particular significance of the word mutual.
A polyamorous or polygamous grouping of people may claim to (and perhaps actually) share a loving relationship among themselves. But “among” makes all the difference — it is not the same as between. Such a group or assembly may love one another, but they cannot love “each other” — that kind of reciprocal experience is limited to couples. A multiply partnered relationship cannot be “mutual” but must be “distributive.”
And this is why raising the question is irrelevant to the discussion of same-sex marriage. It isn't just “love” of any sort that is at issue, but the particular form of mutual self-giving love that is only possible between two people. This is, in fact, why the people of Israel, and the church, extolled monogamy — the former in spite of the provision for polygamy, and the latter as an understanding of what early church writers called the good marriage: a reciprocal and mutual undertaking in which “the two become one.” Not the three or four, or more; but the two.
Only a couple can form that uniquely mirrored partnership in which one gives all of oneself to the other, and receives the other in return, wholly and completely, without reservation, and “foresaking all others” without some portion shared outside the bonds that unite them.
Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG