The Rapidian

Ethics and Religion Talk: May a Consenting Married Couple Engage in "Swinging?"

how do I reconcile that my wife and I will not be sexually satisfied unless we experience the swinging lifestyle, and how can being sexually active with other human beings be so wrong, if we both agree that we allow it in our marriage?

What is Ethics and Religion Talk?

“Ethics and Religion Talk,” answers questions of ethics or religion from a multi-faith perspective. Each post contains three or four responses to a reader question from a panel of nine diverse clergy from different religious perspectives, all based in the Grand Rapids area. It is the only column of its kind. No other news site, religious or otherwise, publishes a similar column.

The first five years of columns, published in the Grand Rapids Press and MLive, are archived at http://topics.mlive.com/tag/ethics-and-religion-talk/. More recent columns can be found on TheRapidian.org by searching for the tag “ethics and religion talk.”

We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up on the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

Ethics and Religion Talk

Ethics and Religion Talk /The Rapidian

Ethics and Religion Talk answered a question about four years ago about swingers. This is a follow-up question:

“I am a Christian who is getting re-married this week. My human nature wants so badly to find that swinging is ‘OK’ with God, but cannot find anything to support that. I love God more than my flesh, so with that in mind I ask the religious spokespeople – how do I reconcile that my wife and I will not be sexually satisfied unless we experience the swinging lifestyle, and how can being sexually active with other human beings be so wrong, if we both agree that we allow it in our marriage? We have both been previously married, and un-fulfilled sexually by our partners, and we realize that we can share each other sexually in a mature and open manner, while still being in a very intimate and loving marriage with each other.”

The Rev. Sandra Nikkel, head pastor of Conklin Reformed Church, responds:

“Your love for God comes through in your desire to find out what God thinks about this subject. I commend you for that! You say you're are a Christian so I can assume you know and respect the Word of God which contains a code of ethics that we are called to live by. With that in mind, let me take you to two passages--one in the Old Testament and one in the New Testament. In Jeremiah 29:23 speaking of adultery (which includes swinging) God says: "They have committed adultery with their neighbors’ wives, and in my name they have uttered lies – which I did not authorize." Then, in Matthew 5:28 He carries this even further: ‘But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.’ Adultery is a sin God confronts vehemently all throughout the Bible. We can say we love God with mere words and ignore it or we can say we love God with our actions. The choice is yours.”

The Reverend Colleen Squires, minister at All Souls Community Church of West Michigan, a Unitarian Universalist Congregation, responds:

“There is nothing in the teachings or beliefs of Unitarian Universalism that would speak against two consenting adults engaging in the swinging lifestyle provided that both individuals equally agree to this arrangement. That being said I would also highlight our 1st Principle to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person. Our faith asks that we see and treat each person as fully human, for me this would speak against anonymous or casual sexual encounters. Somehow engaging in the swinger lifestyle to make your marriage work seems like you are using people for your own benefit.”

The Rev. Rachel J. Bahr, pastor of Plymouth UCC, responds:

“Some Christians would shame this kind of relationship model, and even some within my own very progressive denomination. I’d encourage folks to do a deeper study of scripture to look at what is actually present within scripture. It will probably shock you. Truth is the the models of marriage reflected the ancient culture they were embedded within. Men with more wealth, and more land, had more wives. You couldn’t say the same for the women. Women didn’t have a choice in who they were marrying, because their futures were decided for them by their fathers. Looking to the Bible to find positive scriptural models for polyamory will only leave one feeling frustrated.

“Some have argued from the position that within a monotheistic faith tradition, God’s relationship to us is based on total fidelity. Going outside this model would be to forsake our God. A counter argument within Trinitarian traditions is that our God models for us relational multiplicity, God who is three-in-one, and we are the recipients of this abundant and plentiful love from the Tri-une God. Some might look at this and see something that may even look more polyamorous.

“Finally, my litmus test for pretty much everything that matters as a Christian comes from Jesus. Jesus never even endorsed marriage. What he did do was teach his followers about loving their neighbors, and caring more about how we treat our enemies. This is a reminder to have grace with folks who live differently than ourselves. Jesus often saw what was special in folks others thought to be unworthy or outsiders, i.e. the Samaritan Woman, the woman to be stoned.”

Father Kevin Niehoff, O.P., a Dominican priest who serves as Adjutant Judicial Vicar, Diocese of Grand Rapids, responds:

“Sexual intercourse between a man and a woman who have given themselves freely and completely in marriage is a form of prayer, and the closest to God two people may reach in this created world. The Catholic Church may never condone a relationship that includes the man or the woman having sexual intercourse with anyone another then his/her husband or wife.”

 
 

This column answers questions of Ethics and Religion by submitting them to a multi-faith panel of spiritual leaders in the Grand Rapids area. We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up on the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

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