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Author Topic: Pandora and Polygamy: And now, polygamy.  (Read 1614 times) Average Rating: 0
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TomS
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« on: March 17, 2006, 10:28:40 AM »

Pandora and Polygamy

By Charles Krauthammer
Friday, March 17, 2006; A19

And now, polygamy.

With the sweetly titled HBO series "Big Love," polygamy comes out of the closet. Under the headline "Polygamists, Unite!" Newsweek informs us of "polygamy activists emerging in the wake of the gay-marriage movement." Says one evangelical Christian big lover: "Polygamy rights is the next civil-rights battle."

Polygamy used to be stereotyped as the province of secretive Mormons, primitive Africans and profligate Arabs. With "Big Love" it moves to suburbia as a mere alternative lifestyle.

As Newsweek notes, these stirrings for the mainstreaming of polygamy (or, more accurately, polyamory) have their roots in the increasing legitimization of gay marriage. In an essay 10 years ago, I pointed out that it is utterly logical for polygamy rights to follow gay rights. After all, if traditional marriage is defined as the union of (1) two people of (2) opposite gender, and if, as advocates of gay marriage insist, the gender requirement is nothing but prejudice, exclusion and an arbitrary denial of one's autonomous choices in love, then the first requirement -- the number restriction (two and only two) -- is a similarly arbitrary, discriminatory and indefensible denial of individual choice.

This line of argument makes gay activists furious. I can understand why they do not want to be in the same room as polygamists. But I'm not the one who put them there. Their argument does. Blogger and author Andrew Sullivan, who had the courage to advocate gay marriage at a time when it was considered pretty crazy, has called this the "polygamy diversion," arguing that homosexuality and polygamy are categorically different because polygamy is a mere "activity" while homosexuality is an intrinsic state that "occupies a deeper level of human consciousness."

But this distinction between higher and lower orders of love is precisely what gay rights activists so vigorously protest when the general culture "privileges" (as they say in the English departments) heterosexual unions over homosexual ones. Was "Jules et Jim" (and Jeanne Moreau), the classic Truffaut film involving two dear friends in love with the same woman, about an "activity" or about the most intrinsic of human emotions?

To simplify the logic, take out the complicating factor of gender mixing. Posit a union of, say, three gay women all deeply devoted to each other. On what grounds would gay activists dismiss their union as mere activity rather than authentic love and self-expression? On what grounds do they insist upon the traditional, arbitrary and exclusionary number of two?

What is historically odd is that as gay marriage is gaining acceptance, the resistance to polygamy is much more powerful. Yet until this generation, gay marriage had been sanctioned by no society that we know of, anywhere at any time in history. On the other hand, polygamy was sanctioned, indeed common, in large parts of the world through large swaths of history, most notably the biblical Middle East and through much of the Islamic world.

I'm not one of those who see gay marriage or polygamy as a threat to, or assault on, traditional marriage. The assault came from within. Marriage has needed no help in managing its own long, slow suicide, thank you. Astronomical rates of divorce and of single parenthood (the deliberate creation of fatherless families) existed before there was a single gay marriage or any talk of sanctioning polygamy. The minting of these new forms of marriage is a symptom of our culture's contemporary radical individualism -- as is the decline of traditional marriage -- and not its cause.

As for gay marriage, I've come to a studied ambivalence. I think it is a mistake for society to make this ultimate declaration of indifference between gay and straight life, if only for reasons of pedagogy. On the other hand, I have gay friends and feel the pain of their inability to have the same level of social approbation and confirmation of their relationship with a loved one that I'm not about to go to anyone's barricade to deny them that. It is critical, however, that any such fundamental change in the very definition of marriage be enacted democratically and not (as in the disastrous case of abortion) by judicial fiat.

Call me agnostic. But don't tell me that we can make one radical change in the one-man, one-woman rule and not be open to the claim of others that their reformation be given equal respect.

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

© 2006 The Washington Post Company
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aurelia
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« Reply #1 on: March 17, 2006, 11:01:36 AM »

I just want to know why we don't see one woman/couple of husbands.  Then maybe all those household projects would actually get DONE!  Roll Eyes  Downside, of course...all those socks on the floor...
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« Reply #2 on: March 17, 2006, 12:41:19 PM »

Quite a thought-provoking article, actually.  

I guess you'd have to take the socks with the projects, Aurelia.   Wink

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« Reply #3 on: March 18, 2006, 04:12:55 AM »

Anyone actually catch 'The Big Love' right after the Sopranos? I  was pleasantly surprised and think that it has great potential.
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« Reply #4 on: March 18, 2006, 07:52:10 AM »

I just want to know why we don't see one woman/couple of husbands.  Then maybe all those household projects would actually get DONE!  Roll Eyes  Downside, of course...all those socks on the floor...

Polyandry is more rare but has been known in Tibet for example.  The pattern there is often brothers sharing a wife.  There seem to be advantages in work, support of the family and population control (Tibet not being for the most part very fertile or hospitable for growing lots of food).

Here are a couple of links to articles about it if you're interested:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/4461196.stm
http://www.case.edu/affil/tibet/booksAndPapers/family.html

(Probably there's not as much of a "sock question" there.  Wink )

Ebor
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« Reply #5 on: March 18, 2006, 02:51:53 PM »

Actually polygamy has been confronted for years by the Orthodox missions in places in Africa like Kenya, etc. and I have read about aboriginal Orthodox priests and maybe even a bishop who were the chidren of polygamist fathers and some cases where polygamists became Orthodox and maybe some concessions were made to their marital situations.  I got the impression that "economia" kicked in someplaces.   Cheesy
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« Reply #6 on: March 18, 2006, 04:32:47 PM »

Perhaps what this article manifests more than anything else is that a modern secular state should not involve itself in the social contract of marriage. If marriage was simply written out of our laws (particularly our inheritance laws and tax codes) the issue would become moot from a political perspective and it could be argued amongst various religious groups and viewed as a religious act. Thus solving not only the issue of gay marriage but any additional issues surrounding marriage that may come up in the future; furthermore, it would help keep the Government out of a fundamentally religious issue and thus prevent them from being an arbitrator in an inherently religious debate.
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« Reply #7 on: March 18, 2006, 10:06:21 PM »

Perhaps what this article manifests more than anything else is that a modern secular state should not involve itself in the social contract of marriage. If marriage was simply written out of our laws (particularly our inheritance laws and tax codes) the issue would become moot from a political perspective and it could be argued amongst various religious groups and viewed as a religious act. Thus solving not only the issue of gay marriage but any additional issues surrounding marriage that may come up in the future; furthermore, it would help keep the Government out of a fundamentally religious issue and thus prevent them from being an arbitrator in an inherently religious debate.

I am actually growing more to agree with this as a practical way to solve the issues at hand, although it saddens me that we can't keep traditional marriage.

God bless.

Mina
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« Reply #8 on: March 18, 2006, 10:13:45 PM »

*looks around to make sure his wife isn't reading* ÂÂ  What's wrong with polygamy? It seems like a great idea! The New Testament talks about clergy having one wife, but it doesn't say anything about lay people. Hmm... ÂÂ  Grin ÂÂ Cool
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« Reply #9 on: March 18, 2006, 10:42:28 PM »

What's wrong with polygamy? Grin  Cool

Polygamy= Multltiple Sex Partners WITH Responsibility
Man= Sex WHENEVER

Ergo= A man who is a polygamist is BOTH an Ox AND a Moron.
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« Reply #10 on: March 19, 2006, 12:24:46 AM »

*looks around to make sure his wife isn't reading*   What's wrong with polygamy? It seems like a great idea! The New Testament talks about clergy having one wife, but it doesn't say anything about lay people. Hmm...   Grin  Cool

Tempting, isn't it? Wink

I believe though in the OT God didn't like it as well.  Just as divorce results in their ignorance, polygamy is perhaps the same.  Also, the king under OT law was never allowed to marry more than one wife.  I remember reading that verse somewhere.

God bless.
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« Reply #11 on: March 19, 2006, 12:52:47 AM »

*looks around to make sure his wife isn't reading*   What's wrong with polygamy? It seems like a great idea! The New Testament talks about clergy having one wife, but it doesn't say anything about lay people. Hmm...   Grin  Cool

Given the ecclesiological analogies that are drawn with marriage by St. Paul, I have little doubt that polygamy is blasphemous. But, as I said before, a secular state, by definition, has no business getting involved in such issues.

I am actually growing more to agree with this as a practical way to solve the issues at hand, although it saddens me that we can't keep traditional marriage.

We arn't prohibited from keeping a traditional ideal of marriage, as Orthodox we can do as we please, we would probably be benifited by the state not being involved...thus giving us more leeway to define marriage and preventing the state from encroaching on our religious posistions.
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« Reply #12 on: March 19, 2006, 03:08:49 AM »

Quote
Tempting, isn't it?

Right up there with self inflicted torture, suicide and other forms of punishment.  
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« Reply #13 on: March 19, 2006, 03:38:49 PM »

We arn't prohibited from keeping a traditional ideal of marriage, as Orthodox we can do as we please, we would probably be benifited by the state not being involved...thus giving us more leeway to define marriage and preventing the state from encroaching on our religious posistions.

Yes, true, but I'd rather have marriage (unity between one male and one female) defined by government rather than get rid of marriage from the law of the land (obviously, we'll still keep it in our Church; it's an essential sacrament), although the latter seems to be more practical than the former in light of our present situations.

God bless.
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« Reply #14 on: March 19, 2006, 04:42:57 PM »

Hi all!

Quote from: minasoliman
I believe though in the OT God didn't like it as well.

Correct; this jibes with our understanding.

The Patriarchs and other great men in the Tanakh (what we call what Christians call the "OT") were polygamous, although our Sages tell us that they were exceptions to the general rule and until it was banned, polygamy was very uncommon. Of all the myriad Sages mentioned in the Talmud, ferinstance, none is mentioned as having more than one wife. Jewish law did permit a man to take more than one wife as long as he could support them all equally. But around 1000 CE (what we say instead of "AD"), leading European rabbis pronounced a ban on polygamy, which, as I've said, was never very widespread anyway. This ban was eventually adopted by rabbis in Islamic countries as well, except for Yemen. Polygamy, as rare as it was, was not unknown among the now, all-but-vanished Yemenite Jewish community. Most Yemenite Jews have moved to Israel. While the Israeli Chief Rabbinate has confirmed & reissued the ban on polygamy for all Jews, those Yemenite Jews who came to Israel with more than one wife were not required to divorce all but one. There still are a few elderly polygamous Yemenite Jews still living but as they pass on, the institution will die with them.

I've had Mormon pro-polygamists shriek at me that our rabbis are daring to change God's endorsement of polygamy. We do not believe that He has endorsed polygamy at all; rather, we believe that He has given us the sacred institution of marriage & has authorized our Sages to regulate it. Thus, polygamy is something that we can keep or drop; we've chosen to drop it.

My gut tells me that polygamy is one of those things that might, could work out in theory (based on consent & mutual respect, etc.) but that rarely works out in practice & lends itself to all kinds of abuses. Even some Muslim countries see this.  I know that in Tunisia it is illegal and in Morocco it is now greatly restricted.

It seems to be that for men, the issue with polygamy isn't sex but power. That's one ego trip that my conscience tells me not to take.

Quote
Quote
Tempting, isn't it

Right up there with self inflicted torture, suicide and other forms of punishment.

Cheesy

I am wholly devoted to my (one) wife and couldn't even imagine having two wives.  (They'd be carting me off to the rubber room in one of those nice white suits with the looong sleeves that fasten in the back.)

Be well!

MBZ

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« Reply #15 on: March 20, 2006, 08:57:05 AM »

I'm not one of those who see gay marriage or polygamy as a threat to, or assault on, traditional marriage. The assault came from within. Marriage has needed no help in managing its own long, slow suicide, thank you. Astronomical rates of divorce and of single parenthood (the deliberate creation of fatherless families) existed before there was a single gay marriage or any talk of sanctioning polygamy. The minting of these new forms of marriage is a symptom of our culture's contemporary radical individualism -- as is the decline of traditional marriage -- and not its cause.  

Best paragraph in the article.
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