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Pointing out that he and co-founder Bill can't exactly pass out fliers in the pews or advertise in church bulletins, Dave remains confident that the pair's message has finally found its audience. Even if it's taken two long years. Prior to Sunday's hands-on get-together, the group's first, his movement was nothing more than a school of thought--or of wishful thinking. "I don't think we're looked upon as two horny single guys trying to get laid," insists Dave.
The product of a "repressive Christian background," Dave jokes, "If my parents knew what I was doing, they'd die. In fact, one of them already did." The 47-year-old bachelor now claims he wasn't even aware of the lifestyle he now espouses until his marriage broke up in the early Eighties.
"Are you kidding?" asks the man who used to think swinging was something you did on a porch. "Back in Minneapolis, I was a Billy Graham counselor, and you don't get much more conservative than that. I was very active in the church. My wife and I were seen as the ideal Christian couple."
But the marriage everyone assumed had been conceived in heaven was actually a living hell. Alarmed over his wife's escalating bouts of violence (when riled, she made tracks for the cutlery drawer), Dave sought the services of a church marriage counselor. To Dave's astonishment, the counselor advised him to get out of the marriage for his own safety.
"The surprise to me was that here was a Christian counselor suggesting that we separate," recalls Dave. "That's when I started to question some of my fundamental beliefs, like the idea that marriage is forever, for better or for worse, no matter what happens."
Suddenly "resingled," the future nonmonogamist took a long, hard look into the figurative mirror mounted over his onetime marital bed. He didn't like what he saw. That prompted the intense self-awareness odyssey that's taken him from theological debates and nude encounter groups on through sex surrogate workshops and practically every touchy-feely movement of the past 25 years.
"In the context I was raised, which was a very conservative Christian context, the whole idea of sex, period, was sleazy," explains Dave. "Outside of sex in the marriage bed to make babies, sex was sleaze. Well, number one, the Bible never condemns multiple relationships; it never says a word against them. Number two, human beings are not monogamous by nature. My God, just look at the divorce rate."
Several years ago, upon answering an ad placed by a Christian nudist network, Dave found a kindred spirit in Bill. Like Dave, the former minister asks that neither his last name nor certain identifying details of his life be used.
"While we may be cowards, we are not fools," says Bill of his request for semianonymity. "I know a lot of people for whom these liberated ideas have created a lot of conflict within families and marriages because one spouse will 'get it' and the other spouse doesn't. That's a difficult thing."
A fit, intense-looking man who appears a good ten years younger than his actual age of 52, Bill speaks from experience. Although his own wife never did "get" his desire to share their love with other couples, she eventually got something else--a divorce. When the eyebrow-raising story behind the split hit the grapevine, Bill claims he was "persecuted" by friends and family.
"In polyamory like Liberated Christians are talking about, people have made careful, conscious decisions to do what they're doing," he says. "This is not something that came up overnight because somebody likes the looks of the lady across the street."
And shame on naysayers who would even deign to suggest that Liberated Christians is just an elaborate way to rationalize a deep-seated guilt trip that might be more effectively dealt with on a psychiatrist's couch rather than a communal water bed.
"Many loving people share sexuality selectively with others," insists Dave. "There doesn't have to be something wrong at home, which is what the therapists always make it sound like. Although we're not suggesting that this is for everyone, in some cases it can actually help make the primary relationship stronger."
In spite of Dave and Bill's proclamations, the brave new sexual utopia advocated by Liberated Christians will come as a revelation only to someone who's spent the last 25 years with his nose buried in green bean casserole at the church potluck dinner. Strip away the theological justification and the group isn't saying anything new. Way back in '69, swinging suburbanites Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice wrestled with identical issues in the popular group-grope comedy of the same name. (Okay, so B&C&T&A never did get around to exploring, as Dave and Bill have, the concept of "extended male solo orgasm.")
Like many of the once-daring ideas explored in that film, sexual revolution groundbreakers such as nude encounter therapy and open marriage haven't aged gracefully. Viewed from the vantage point of the morning-after a quarter-century down the road, these dated notions now seem every bit as intellectually and erotically compelling as a thrift store copy of The Sensuous Woman.