July 07, 2014

Is It Really the Same Thing?
Looking at polygamy in light of marriage equality gains

Gospel Herald is worried. It poses a troubled query to us all.

Will polygamy be the next homosexuality?

Leah Marieann Klett writes (don't worry, it's a do not link):
As the battle for marriage equality rages, a different, more obscure kind of sexual immorality is slowly rearing its ugly head: polygamy.
On the outset here, let me state my bias: I don't think polygamy is a bad thing. Not for me, but not a bad thing. I haven't heard an argument yet that changes my mind on that fact.

But back to the topic at hand.

Klett and others are worried that someone else's marriage is going to undermine society because of marriage equality gains. Let's take a look at that, shall we?


Polygamy and Homosexuality Are Not The Same


The basic idea of the slippery slope that marriage equality has supposedly started is the misconception that homosexuality and other sex acts are the same thing. They are not.

Conservative Christians (and I imagine other conservative religions, but my experience is with Christianity) put homosexuality in a box of sexual perversions that include multiple partners (like polygamy and polyamory) and their other favorite dead horse, bestiality. The difference to any sane person is, of course, that homosexuality is not a learned behavior, it's not an abnormal behavior, and it's not a lifestyle choice. It is a sexual orientation that people are born with.

Polygamy is a lifestyle choice, on the other hand. All of us are born to be attracted to multiple partners. The very act of monogamy is against our natures--and yet we choose it. Indeed, that's part of what makes the commitment so special. We fight that basic evolutionary drive to procreate, procreate, procreate, to upgrade to the next best available mate, every day that we commit to the one that we love. This is regardless of whether we are gay, straight or purple.

Again, I don't think there's anything wrong with polygamy personally--I'm just pointing out the flaws inherent in the argument that it is the same as homosexuality.

The Bible Is Sketchy At Best On the Subject


Klett argues that polygamy violates three specific biblical scriptures. Let's take a look at those:

"Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money." --1 Timothy 3:2-3 
"A deacon must be faithful to his wife and must manage his children and his household well." --1 Timothy 3:12 
"An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient." --Titus 1:6
 Well, to be blunt, if we're going to take the Bible literally, let's do so. How do you apply this teaching, which clearly means church leaders and planners, to all people? If we do believe the Bible to be the literal Word of God, how does it expand to include everyone when God has put it on paper to mean a specific instance?

Not only that, but where does it say a man can only have one wife? I am confused. It may imply it, but it doesn't state it. Do we deign to know the Creator's intention beyond what he put on the page?

Okay, I'll stop now. :)

But for realz, the Bible is sketchy on this subject at best. You have these three verses in the New Testament, but consider all of these old farts:


  • Abraham had one wife, and at least one concubine. He may have had two concubines or he may have married again after Sarah's death.
  • Jacob had two wives and two concubines, and their children together created the nation of Israel.
  • Moses had two wives.
  • Saul had a wife and a concubine.
  • David had at least 8 wives that we know the names of, and other verses imply that he took more wives in Jerusalem.
  • Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines.
And these are the men that are looked up to in the Old Testament. The only cases of rebuke are:
  • Abraham: Not because of multiple partners but because he took a partner to attempt to father a child instead of waiting on the promise of God
  • David: Rebuked for actions with Bathsheba, not for multiple wives
  • Solomon: Rebuked for letting his wives turn his heart from God
At what point did this morality change? At what point did one man, one woman become God-ordained? You hear "God created Adam and Eve". Well, okay. Awesome. Who's to say he didn't create others after them?

It's just a little much to assume that polygamy is the "next homosexuality". There's a ton of assumptions going on, in all directions, and well..it's just too much. Too much, I say.

There are many reasons to be concerned about how polygamy would fit into our modern society. For one, the amount of abuse within fundamental polygamist communities flags pretty critically. However, without a legal avenue to acknowledge these relationships, how do we even begin to understand the pervasiveness of the issues? How do we begin to combat them?

The issue is complex, and these arguments are far too simplistic to accurately capture it all.

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