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Touching the Third Rail of Western Morality

In Defense of Polygamy.

by James Leroy Wilson
October 23, 2003

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Touching the Third Rail if Western Morality_James Leroy Wilson-In Defense of Polygamy I wondered when I was going to get around to writing about this. The sad case of Terri Schiavo is as good a place to start as any.

Terri Schiavo has been in a vegetative state, living off of a feeding tube, since she collapsed in a heart attack in 1990 while still a young, pretty woman. Her husband, early on, was a headstrong advocate for her care, and won $300,000 personally, and $700,000 for his wife’s care, in a medical malpractice suit. But he quickly had a falling out with his wife’s parents, and for the last five years, as his wife’s legal guardian, he’s been seeking in the courts to have the feeding tube removed, that is, to have his wife starve to death. In the meantime, he has taken on a live-in girlfriend, with whom he has fathered a child.

Only for the sake of argument, let‘s assume the worst: that with Terri Schiavo’s death, her husband as heir would collect whatever is left of the money awarded for her care. That’s why he won’t give up his guardianship of her or get a divorce from her. If there’s a divorce, he’d be free to marry his girlfriend, but might no longer be Terri’s heir. If Terri dies, he gets the money and gets to marry his girlfriend.

I haven’t followed the story closely, so I’m not saying this is indeed the motive. And I haven’t mentioned the man’s name either, so as to cast doubt on his character. I don’t know why he wants his wife dead, except that he claims that was her wish.

What I will say, is that if our worst fears are true, a society based on human nature, reason, and common sense would have yielded a better result. If it had been socially acceptable to marry his second mate while still being married to Terri Schiavo, this man may have been less likely to try a “clean break” from his first marriage and would now, also, be able to get on with his life. And inherit whatever remains of Terri’s fortune when she finally does die.

Today’s topic isn’t about vegetative states and euthanasia, difficult and controversial as those issues may be. Today’s topic is polygamy. In particular, a defense of polygamy.

Polygamy is the natural order of things. Our society, particularly its State-imposed definition of “marriage” is based on the widely-accepted but questionable and, considering the Judeo-Christian religious teachings, inconsistent doctrine of marital monogamy, of marriage between only one man and one woman. This creates a perversion from the natural order, and the unintended consequence is perhaps the complete opposite of the “ideal” that marital monogamy seeks to uphold.

One man and one woman for life is a beautiful ideal which many people have been able to uphold. But then again, most haven’t. Burdened with the State-mandated “one-man, one wife” definition of marriage, what we’ve created instead is the chaos of rampant divorce and “serial monogamy.” One exclusive, committed sexual relationship for a number of years, followed by another one, and another. Whether legally wed or not. With children alienated from their mothers or fathers. And even those who endorse one-man, one-woman relationships have no problems with widows and widowers marrying each other. I suppose that that’s “serial monogamy” the “holy” way.

Do I think marital monogamy is the best form of family structure? Yes. It is the ideal, and, I think, what women want. Women would prefer not having to compete with other women for the “true” affection of the husband they share. Since the physical consequences of sexual intercourse fall primarily on the woman, she would naturally be very selective in her partners, and would also prefer an exclusive partner, would prefer the best man, not just any man. If I can get some grip on what women, in general, want in this material world, it would boil down to three things:

-financial security;
-an upright, responsible man as father and husband;
-the affection of one man to the exclusion of all others.

But since the real world is not ideal, it is not only natural, but fair, that women make trade-offs with these desires. There are wars, which tend to thin out the male population. Even if all the men got married (and not all do), there’d still be women left over, who might try to “lure” away men from their current wives. Successful men are often enticed into leaving their wives and children because of the availability of younger, prettier candidates. And when all the best men are gone, women will find themselves attracted to the wrong kind of man, the irresponsible man, unfit for fatherhood, because at least the woman gets the “exclusive affection” of such man. Or at least any kind of love and attention, no matter how temporary.

If it was considered both decent and honorable for a man to have more than one wife, then the possibility exists that the wealthiest men might acquire two, three, or several wives. These are men who would be faithful to all of his wives and children, men who can and do live up to all of the responsibilities they undertake. Terri Schiavo’s husband could have put Terri’s winnings in a trust to pay for her care, while he got on with his life with another spouse, while not being unfaithful to Terri. A man has needs and desires. God is the God of the living. That Terri Schiavo is still alive doesn’t absolve her husband from the obligation of being her husband. But the fact that she’s still alive shouldn’t prevent him from taking on another wife, especially one who can actually perform wifely duties and functions.

Social prejudice, the State’s laws, and dubious theological doctrine put Terri Schiavo’s husband between a rock and a hard place. Let’s remove the rock, and let’s remove the hard place.

Nothing would be more beneficial to society and culture as a whole, particularly one with a female-majority population, then the tolerance of polygamy. The allure of rich men and their wealth ought to be an incentive for other men to draw women: if you can’t get all the riches, at least be responsible, and be loving.

In a society in which The State neither defines nor interferes in the marriage covenant, men and woman would be permitted to get “married” under any contractual or Church-based system they see fit. Under a “female-minority” society, such as was the Old West, the society would most likely be monogamous, with the men of the best physical and moral attributes attracting the women, inciting other men to strive to improve themselves.

In a female-majority nation, like ours is, the ideal of monogamous marriage can not conform to social realities. If women will “do what it takes” to attract men, then men, not women, get to dictate the social and sexual standards. Whereas in female-minority societies, men have to elevate themselves to reach female standards (or lose out), in female-majority societies women degrade themselves in order to entice the men.

Of course, other factors come into play. Fifty years ago, where you’d think the nation had enough war dead from World War II and the Korean War to create a female majority, you still wouldn’t have seen Rita Haworth smooching Grace Kelly on television, like you saw Madonna with Brittany Spears on MTV some weeks back. Other cultural prejudices veered away from that kind of thing back then. But it was in the fifties that Playboy magazine began, which brought forth the sexual revolution, which pressured women to “give out” to anyone remotely handsome who had enough brains to pay for the entire date. Whereas religion had a greater hold fifty years ago, today the culture preys upon the fantasies of adult males. Attractive women are pressured to conform to those fantasies in order to make money.

Yes, women are very sensual do enjoy sex. But since they do absorb most of the physical risks of sex, they must be more inclined to be very exclusive and selective of their partners. Women would want only the best, while men might settle for just about anything.

A society that accepts male polygamy would go a long way toward restoring the balance. Women would no longer have to lower themselves, be pressured into doing things they don’t feel right about doing. They would be freer to make trade-offs according to what they want, according to their own values. If they want financial security at the expense of exclusive emotional connection, they might accept the offer of a wealthy man who already has several wives and concubines. If the woman agrees, this agreement should be seen as honorable, not immoral.

So what’s to prevent the rich guys from getting all the girls? Well, because riches don’t count for everything. The wealthy playboys might draw a lot of the women who are attracted mainly to riches, but that would leave the remaining, less-wealthy men, to choose between women who look for something deeper and better, such as good character and sacrificial love.

The monogamy ideal would work in a society where there are few women but many men. This isn’t our society, however, and it isn’t the typical society in history. Men get killed, or otherwise die younger, than women. If we are to restore balance and healthy competition in matters of love, we must allow polygamy so that the rich could attract whatever women who are solely attracted to wealth. This would provide incentives for men born with perhaps fewer financial resources, to prove their virtue and love through their actions.

If men had incentives to upgrade their lifestyles, characters, and income in exchange for sexual intimacy and love, they might be inclined to follow through. But our Statist laws and weird religious doctrines instead encourage women to lose their virtues, and sacrifice their bodies, instead. The State encourages, not the improvement of men, but the depravity of women, which only encourages the depravity of men.

Not even the worst Communists and Fascists among us imagined forcing copulation by the barrel of the gun for “social good.” By nature, the decision to marry, to sexually mate, is the “freest” of all economic decisions. That is where we should leave it, even if it means polygamous marriages or homosexual “marriages” or rampant promiscuity. Whatever encourages men to become upright and responsible people will be good for everyone as a whole. Only the free market can accomplish that. The laws, particularly The State’s marriage laws, not only discourage responsible behavior in both men and women, they do far more harm than good. By today’s standards, women are pressured to behave worse than their own judgment calls for. Men get to dictate how women behave, instead of women dictating how men ought to behave. That is never a good thing.

Let’s allow polygamy, and prevent The State, either the state or federal government, from defining what a “marriage” is. It is quite obvious that Statists have no idea what they’re doing, and what they’re doing is inflicting far more harm than good.

Comments (5)

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Jonathan Wilson from Chicago writes:
October 23, 2003
Whehter or not church discipline should be binding on the state, the Church's position on marital monogamy is not a dubious theology but rises out of scriptural injunction. On Sexual Monogamy, I Cor. 6:9-7:7, on Marital Monogamy required for Church leadership, I Timothy 3:1-13, on the One Flesh design of God, Matthew 19:1-12 - on the chaos and heart-ache of polygamy, see the stories of Abraham, Hanna, David, and Solomon. These narratives illustrate the deletrious effects of polygamy on relationship - that the polygamy exists is not evidence of God's approval. Go ahead and separate Church discipline from statist morality - the charge of dubious theology is hollow. These injunctions must continue to bind the Church for as long as the Church is faithful to scripture, no matter what the state permits or prohibits. Sincerely, Jonathan Wilson, Pastor, Cuyler Covenant Church.

Michael Thomson from Merritt Island, Florida writes:
October 24, 2003
Whenever I hear the term, The Church, I always chuckle. What Church? The Roman Catholic Church, The Episcopalians, The Church of Latter Day Saints, The Reformed Church of Latter Day Saints, The Assemblies of God, The Seventh Day Adventists and hundreds more-all by their division, interpreting Biblical scripture in their own unique way, cloud up these Biblical injunctions to the point that a layman might be convinced of the dubiosity of certain pronouncements.

For example, the very clear injunctions against divorce found in Luke 16-18 and Matthew 5:32. These injunctions are crystal clear, yet every church I know of, has found a way to by-pass these injunctions. The Roman Catholic Church via the Pope and his predecessor's pronouncements on the subject is in theory totally against divorce, but in practice in the Roman Catholic Church it's entirely a different matter. Friends of mine with one, two, and in one case four previous marriages have all received annulments from the Roman Catholic Church. Protestant church's have similar procedures. The fact is that if all the churches strictly followed the Biblical injunction and refused to marry previously married members, most likely the doors of those same churches would close due to lack of interest. I'm not saying that these churches are practicing hypocrisy, but merely adjusting to changing times much like the radical adjustments between the Old and New Testaments.

An old southern sheriff acquaintance of mine once said, that he couldn't enforce a law that the people didn't support. To prove this point, if you're a preacher or priest of any Christian denomination, try this: This Sunday stand in your pulpit and pronounce to all the women in the church that, henceforth,in obedience to 1 Corinthians 11:5-15, no woman shall enter this place of worship with her head uncovered. For added effect, keep your voice stern, and don't give in to giggling...

James Leroy Wilson makes a valid intellectual argument on polygamy that should be looked at on its own merits and not minimized by by-passable scripture.

James Leroy Wilson writes:
October 24, 2003
On-line resources for the Christian polygamist position include polygamy.net and truthbearer.org. Readers should be aware that I have no desire or expectation to become a polygamist myself. I am forced to accept it logically, intellectually, though the concept is so foreign to my cultural traditions that I am repulsed by the idea.

What I find dubious about mainstream Christian theology is where Mr. Thomson points it. Despite Rev. Wilson's verses, nowhere does Scripture actuallly condemn the practice of polygamy, although Greco-Roman tradition and law, then the law of the land in the NT, did prohibit it. But Scripture does, especially in the New Testament, emphatically condemn divorce.

Christian churches end up compromising on the wrong thing. They compromise on divorce, and then wonder why Christianity seems to be no longer relevant to most people. But the Church ought to compromise on polygamy, not divorce.

I suspect that women, and hence the entire Roman Empire and Western Civilization, embraced the Christian faith in no small part due to the Christian prohibition of divorce, i.e., the protection of women's rights in marriage. That right, the right to not be divorced or abandoned, makes even more sense as a moral teaching when polygamy is the expectation. Men who take on more than one wife must not discard or divorce any of his wives. They each cast their lot with him - he must be faithful to all of them.

When challenged on the levirate practice, of widows marrying their deceased husband's brothers in order to produce not just offspring, but heirs to the deceased man's property, Jesus doesn't condemn the practice such as it is, even though it must have had polygamous connotations (otherwise, no brother of the eldest married man could get married unless and until that man died without offspring.)

Problems in the OT regarding polygamy had more to do with jealousy, and even that to the narrower issue of barrenness. That doesn't indict the institution itself.

It appears that Christianity's condemnation of polygamy reflects more a conformity to Greco-Roman customs,and the weight of subsequent traditional teachings and practices, than by anything the Bible says about the matter. That's why I call the theology dubious.

Everett Wilson from Rural Wisconsin writes:
October 30, 2003
I infer from Michael Thomson's comments that he is not very experienced in modern church life, and is writing more as an observer than as a participant. This is not a put-down - observers see what participants do not. On the other hand, there are some things that only participants can see.

Most practicing Christians believe in and treat the church as One, not many. Though we disagree on some matters, and have our peculiar traditions, the differences in interpretation he mentions are not as disruptive of fellowship and mission as he assumes. Even sharp differences, as between the local RC priest and myself, do not keep us from treating each other as brothers in Christ.

There is a common faith that is both broad and deep. The differences between us are more apparent than real. This isn't because we do not believe deeply what we believe, but because we know that our distinctive beliefs define only our own tradition - our common beliefs define the church of Christ.

This is not a syncretism that includes non-Christian bodies. They are not the saying the same things we are because they disagree with us. This does not mean we disrepect them - only that we disagree with them, as they disagree with us.

Michael H. Thomson from Observing/Participating in Central Florida writes:
November 2, 2003
There are certain parts of Northern Ireland that I would not want to try out Everett's thesis...

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