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Posts tagged ‘polygamy’


Slate has an article on why we should legalize polygamy. What’s interesting to me are the Christian responses to the idea. Tim Challies had a short, rather fatalistic comment:

It’s just a matter of time. Society’s got no foundation left to battle this…

As mentioned in the Slate article, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council worries:

If love becomes a definition of what the boundaries of marriage are, how do we define that going forward? What if someone wants to immigrate to this country from a country that allows multiple spouses? Right now they can’t immigrate with the spouses, but if the parameter are simply love, how do we prohibit them from coming into this country? If it’s all about just love, as it’s being used, where do we set the lines?

And Rick Santorum also sees the slippery slope:

“So, everybody has the right to be happy?” he said. “So, if you’re not happy unless you’re married to five other people, is that OK?”

The thing that confuses me is why Christians seem to see polygamy as a greater evil than homosexuality. There’s ample room for arguing in favor of polygamy from the Bible, which is not the case for homosexuality. The Old Testament, at least, offers a number of examples of polygamy from important characters (Abraham, Jacob, David, etc.), and while it’s possible to argue that they were all in sin (which is the standard argument I’ve heard), it’s also at least possible to see the record of their behavior as an implicit justification.

The problem for me is not that Christians should agree that they have to support polygamy because of these examples in the Bible. What bothers me is that in this case, where there’s at least a legitimate argument for seeing polygamy as valid, there seems to be a sense that it’s actually worse than something that’s much harder to see as valid.

It gets down to a fundamental attitude of intolerance–that is, an unwillingness to see reasonableness in an idea that you don’t like or agree with. Maybe for many Christians the idea of homosexual marriage is too much at odds with the Bible to be seen as reasonable. But polygamous marriage does, at least, have a strong, reasonable argument from the Bible. If we can’t get along with people who support something we don’t like, if we can’t get past the fact that we don’t like it to see the reasonable arguments that can be made for it, then we’ll continue as a society to keep trying tactics to have our opinions forced on everybody else, and there will be no peace.

Incidentally, while this post focused on Christians, so-called “progressives” suffer from the very same ailment.

Movie Review: Follow the Prophet

We watched the movie Follow the Prophet the other night. I was expecting a scathing criticism of a fundamentalist sect of Mormonism (and perhaps religious fundamentalism in general). What I didn’t expect was to spend over an hour being subjected to the type of high-quality argument you might find in the comments to an article on the Fox News web site.

The story focuses on 15-year-old Avery, the daughter of a bishop of the Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints. On her 15th birthday, she’s told that she is to become a “secret wife” of the Prophet. More horrifying, her father attempts to rape her under the pretense of “preparing her for the Prophet.” She escapes and elicits the help of an ex-Delta Force soldier, Jude. The rest of the movie is about how Jude obtains evidence of the Prophet’s child abuse so that he can be arrested and charged.

Unfortunately, Jude pretty much ruins the movie. He is a weak man, driven more by his emotions of outrage and grief (the grief is over his daughter, who was killed in the army) than any sense of justice. He plants video cameras in private homes without any apparent concern over the breaking-and-entering and surveillance laws that he’s breaking. At the end, Avery goes back to marry the Prophet in order to get a video of child abuse that could convict him. As part of the plan, Jude is to monitor the house to protect her. He prepares by assembling his sniper rifle, promising a couple times that he’ll “ventilate” the Prophet if Avery sends the distress signal. She does, and Jude fires, almost accomplishing the murder he very much wants to commit.

The way that Jude does whatever he sees fit without any sense of consequences makes the movie feel surreal–a feeling that is only heightened when agents of the Prophet show up in dark suits, swarm the hotel that Jude was staying at, and shoot Jude with a sniper rifle in broad daylight. It makes it hard to imagine most of the movie actually happening in any part of this country.

The movie then ends by showing some text making the outrageous claim that it has shown the evils of polygamy. Wait, what? Where was the polygamy? All I saw was a movie about child abuse! In theory, the movie was set in a polygamous society, but any depiction of polygamy in the movie was very subtle and played no significant place in the plot development. How does a movie showing the evils of child abuse demonstrate that polygamy is bad? Is child abuse only bad if polygamists do it? (I speak as a fool.) Or do you have to be polygamous to abuse children? Obviously not, since the “zero-gamous” Catholic clergy seem perfectly capable of it.

The text also complains about how there are polygamous societies in several states, living in “violation of the law.” But having failed to make a compelling argument that polygamy is bad (I’m being generous by saying the movie failed to make a compelling argument, since it in fact failed to even present an argument), the fact that it may be illegal is anything but motivating. What, just because something’s illegal makes it bad? Was forced segregation of blacks and whites right while it was the law then?

Child abuse should be stopped. But if polygamy doesn’t necessarily result in child abuse, then that’s no argument against polygamy. If two women and a man love each other and want to get married, why is that anyone’s business?

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