The Polygamists Will Be Next!

You’ve heard the slippery slope argument applied to the gay marriage debate: If we legalize marriage between homosexuals, then the polygamists will be demanding their “rights,” too! (And why shouldn’t they? If all you need to make a valid marriage is love and consent, then of course polygamy should be recognized.)

But, what strikes me as interesting is the way everybody simply assumes polygamy is just as immoral as homosexuality.  The slippery slope could lead to incest or bestiality… But, is polygamy another example of a lewd sexual practice like these?

Before you try to make the Bible say what it may not, consider that your very monogamous culture may have influenced your perception a bit…

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I’ve been chewing on this topic for about a year, so I have a lot I could share. But, rather than hit you with about 50 pages of ideas, I’ll give you the bullet point version. (And maybe we can discuss further in the comments section?)

God never prohibits polygamy in the Bible. In the New Testament, churches are instructed to elect leaders with only one wife. And we know that men with multiple wives often dealt with extra problems. So, you could make an argument that monogamy is ideal. But polygamy, at the very least, is given allowance.

Polygamy still makes economic sense in many places in the world. If a wealthy man wants to love and care for more than one woman in a country where women find it difficult to care for themselves, then a polygamous relationship could be beneficial to everyone. Also, when women significantly outnumber men, they may be happy to “share” a spouse (rather than go without).

-We are told that marriage symbolizes Christ and the Church. But a marriage consisting of one husband (Christ) and several “church members” wouldn’t take away from that analogy. Furthermore, a man can love multiple women, much as parents love multiple children. But it would be difficult for a wife to serve/obey multiple husbands.  Thus, I’m of the opinion that the Bible allows for Polygyny (multiple wives) but NOT polyandry (multiple husbands).

-Adding to the bullet above, the Old Testament says if any sexual activity takes place between a man and a married WOMAN, then both lovers must be put to death. This is adultery. But, men are given instructions for how to behave if they take additional wives. (Ex. 21:10) Also, Exodus 22 says a man who sleeps with a virgin–essentially–just bought himself another wife. This underscores my belief that multiple wives are tolerable but multiple husbands never are.

So…how might polygamy relate to American culture?

-I’d argue: Most of society practices polygamy already. It’s very common for people to have multiple sexual partners in their life time; they create emotional and spiritual bonds with a person, with no practical difference from a marriage relationship. But then they pick up and do it again with the next lover. We are a polygamous culture…only, without the protection, respect, and stability which marriage is supposed to bring to the picture. We’re reaping the results of everything negative about polygamy, and nothing potentially positive…

I personally don’t think of polygamy as either “good” or “bad.” It’s neutral. So, I would encourage Americans–especially missionaries–not to automatically lump polygamy into the same category of sexual sin as homosexuality and adultery. If it’s practiced widely in a culture, we need to ask ourselves if that’s really a PROBLEM…and we’d have a hard time arguing that it is.  That said, there really isn’t an economic reason for a man to take several wives in the United States. And, since it complicates things (and Paul says the best situation is for each husband to have his own wife and vice versa), I don’t think we should encourage fellow Americans to practice it.

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Interesting topic, huh? Do you have any thoughts to share on polygamy?

Here are some Bible verses about polygamy.

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3 thoughts on “The Polygamists Will Be Next!

  1. Pingback: Kenya legalized polygamy |

  2. Nichole

    Interesting thoughts. I know this is from awhile ago, but I just wanted to see what you wrote after being in a country where polygamy is practiced and I actually know people who have more than one wife. One thought I have, which doesn’t say it’s wrong or unbiblical, just an observation, is that often the (1st and succeeding) wife has no say if the husband wants to marry again, and again, and again. In at least the culture I saw, it was just a matter of “I’m bringing this lady in, so deal with it and make room.” In an American cultural view of Biblical marriage, that’s not really showing love to your wife. I know ultimately the husband has the official say, but there isn’t much concern about how she will feel about it at all. Usually there are some forms of abuse that go on in multi-marriages, either fighting between wives or husband-wife, at least in the people that I personally know, and there are some examples in the Bible, too. With that in mind, I don’t see the Bible condoning that lifestyle, even though it may not forbid it. In some countries, just getting a man is a big thing, no matter how you will live or be treated. Often parents will give their daughters to rich men, who already have several wives, just because they want to have the name. It’s really sad to see. I know that brings up a whole lot of other topics, but it’s just some of my thoughts about it. I’m interested to see if you have thoughts on the “Christian family life” and how that looks cross-culturally… as in, what is a Biblical family, and how is the American Biblical family different? (For example, is there reason to expect our husbands to spend time with us at home, or spend time with the kids, from a Biblical view of the role of the husband/father, etc.)?

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    1. mrsmcmommy Post author

      Thanks for the thoughts, Nichole! I’m THRILLED to have input from somebody who’s actually familiar with some polygamous cultures. You’re right: practicing polygamy as a Christian (and structuring a family that way) DOES bring up a whole lot of other topics. And I have no doubt there is plenty of abuse and un-loving stuff going on in polygamous marriages.

      But, I think that’s the case with all marriages, because Satan loves chaos. Still, theoretically, I think it could work if everybody involved truly is seeking God with their whole heart. Are you at all familiar with the TLC television show Sister Wives? The Brown family are Mormons, so I don’t agree with everything they say. Yet the stuff they say about selflessness and cooperation really makes sense. In this case, all the wives must be on board if a new one is brought into the family. And all the women agree that polygamy has taught them about jealousy and sacrifice like nothing else could…

      Again, I don’t believe we should try to bring polygamy to the United States–but, at the same time, it’s already here in a sense. It sounds like the polygamists you know have some issues to work out–just like the multi-divorced “polygamists” I know on this continent. 🙂

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