My wife recently shared some shocking news with me. Maybe I shouldn't have been shocked when considering the duplicity and multiplicity of life as most of us know it. Apparently the two most affluent areas in Birmingham have rather large swinging groups. Now for those of you who have been living under a rock, swinging is the practice of "non-monogamous sexual activity". That definition seems a bit sanitized so let's just say it is the practice of couples, usually married, participating in sexual activity with other couples or groups..."wife-swapping".
Now for the record and to be "fair and balanced" I must give you some stats on swingers/swinging.
1. 60% said that swinging improved their relationship; 1.7% said swinging made their relationship less happy. Approximately 50% of those who rated their relationship "very happy" before becoming swingers maintained their relationship had become happier.
2. 90% of those with less happy relationships said swinging improved them.
3. Swingers rate themselves happier ("very happy": 59% of swingers compared to 32% of non-swingers) and their lives more "exciting" (76% of swingers compared to 54% of non-swingers) than non-swingers, by significantly large margins.
4. And for those who claim this "lifestyle" is androcentric, There was no significant difference between responses of men and women, although more males (70%) than females completed the survey.
In an ABC Investigative Report about swinging not one of the 12 marriage counselors interviewed advised couples not to swing. They stated that swinging typically increases intimacy and dramatically increases levels of confidence for the women involved as they feel a sense of control.
The problem with stats produced by swingers is the people who don't answer the questionnaires. People who have divorced after entering the lifestyle or the people who have left the lifestyle after intense jealousy or acquiring a disease aren't polled. The overly positive stats are skewed at best and most likely should be considered confounded in the truest sense of the word.
So what has lead the presumably wealthy people to be attracted to a lifestyle of swinging? They have money, status, family, luxuries...the things most people strive for their entire lives. Yet they want more. What about sex with a single spouse isn't enough? What about a lifestyle of relative ease and financial security leaves some lacking?
The polar opposite of the affluent swingers may well be the Amish. They are more than content with modest homes, outdated farming methods and one wife. They mostly live off the land and are so "plain" they even avoid having "fancy" things like electricity, cars and clothing with buttons (zippers apparently are fine). On the surface it would seem the lives of the wealthy people of status would be much preferred to that of the simpletons. However...and of course there is always a "however"...
I have had the absolute honor to befriend an Amish community in East Tennessee. They are calm, relaxed and devout. I envy their simple lives, simple aspirations and utter reliance on God. The community I have met is the lone open Amish community in the world. That is to mean that they are not "ordnung"...they speak English in their services and invite non-Amish to their services. Interestingly enough they have to find a new farm to hold their converts...that's right, Amish conversions.
Last October Brook and I were blessed by riding our Mountain Bikes through their community. We met several rather delightful people. One woman was new to the community. She had a simple beauty and a great spirit about her. She and her husband converted in 2007. They have a son serving in the Army as a helicopter pilot and her husband was a computer programmer and Baptist Pastor for 16 years. They had enough of the "I need more lifestyle". They were finished with the complexity of life and the struggles we all face as we attempt to live out our faith in such a complex culture. So they exchanged the lives focused on acquiring, obtaining and expanding for a life that is content. Content with what? Just content.
Here's the crux of the matter for me. My life, of course absent of the sexual aspect, looks a lot more like that of the wealthy swingers than that of the simple Amish. My aspirations often include extravagance rather than the plain. Living an abundant life for me includes things that are not abundant nor life giving. Admittedly, if my current lifestyle was played out to its logical conclusion, it would be much more of a stretch to live like the Amish than like the Swingers. Of course these two lifestyles are not the only options but often the extreme, absurd or grotesque are valuable in being made aware of ones brokenness and need of God's grace. Some know this as an aspect of via negativa (see previous post).
I pray that as Brook and I continue to make plans in life for our families that the only swinging we will be doing is swinging toward a life of simplicity and the only thing we will be seeking more of is more of God in our lives. Anything less will be futile, banal and disappointing.