I am very often asked by people what sort of problems a patriarch living polygyny in his household has. It is assumed - quite wrongly - that the problems faced by a women entering or living polygyny are far harder than those facing a husband. This is a myth. Though husband and wives have very different kinds of problem more often than not, it is quite wrong to assume that the husband is 'better off' and has an 'easier' way to go. Having now lived this principle for nearly three decades I think I have a claim to knowing what I am talking about.
To be a husband of several wives is to have the gifting and calling of a pastor of sorts. He must be a leader, a diplomat, a reconciler, a healer of rifts, an arbitrator, a psychologist, and have deep, deep insights into the way women work. It has therefore always amused me when the monogamy-only people, misreading the Mia scriptures to mean that elders and deacons must be "one-women" men, then sometimes say that the option of polygamy exists for those who are not leaders - the laity, for the very opposite is true: the most qualified to be pastors are without a doubt, in my mind, those who are successfully living Christian polygyny. (I am not, of course, saying that monogamists are unqualified to be leaders).
There are, as I have discussed in a previous article, two ways of managing a plural household: by attraction or by compulsion. By the same token, a pastor has before him two ways of governing his congregation: gentle love or an iron fist. To be sure, sometimes a patriarch and a pastor must be firm (there are certain lines, which if crossed, can lead to anarchy) but neither are to be dictators. They are to use persuasion in meekness and long-suffering until grace is exhausted and something threatens to imminently 'break', for this is the way of our loving Heavenly Father towards us also. Though we are by no means to take a rattle-snake into our bosom, or into the heart of our family where wives and children can be seriously endangered physically and/or psychologically, we are not to curse or condemn those who seem in our eyes to be 'beyond redemption' but to patiently minister within the boundaries of our office and to allow Yahweh to do His own work.
I have been to many different Christian congregations in my life in many different denominations. Some have been governed with a steel hand, are very effecient but cold and spiritless. Others seem to have no rules at all and are the epitome of anarchy. Rarely have I found one where a true Christian patriarchal spirit reigns, where the boundaries of freedom are set, but where there is plenty of space for the growing soul to grow, make mistakes, and still be accepted.
It is not an easy job to be a pastor, any more than it is to be a patriarch living polygyny. If you are not a polygynist and want to know what it is like to be one but have none you know personally, go and talk to an unsalaried pastor who has a united, loving flock and who holds down a full-time job at the same time!
A pastor must understand and interact with people of every imaginable temprement and personality. In a monogamous situation a husband has only to really 'know' one woman, and learns how to adapt to (or quarrel with!) her. He can say (usually) that he only likes to be with one 'type' of person. But in the pastoral office, and of course within Christianity generally, there are no 'types' for all are (ideally) brothers and sisters. A pastor must often deal with the intimate details of his flock's lives and to find mental, emotional and spiritual interface points - he must 'make contact' in a real and meaningful way. He cannot say: 'I do not like X, so I will not minister to him/her'. He is the head of a spiritual family - his congregation - and must get to know them all. (It is for this reason that our ministry believes in keeping congregations small - when it reaches a certain size - usually 144 - it is split).
A polygamist man is in an identical situation only he comes to know his wives far more intimately than a pastor does with his flock. A patriarch is, in many respects, the "ultimate pastor", having wives with many different personalities and temprements in his watchcare. He has to be one with them all.
Jacob was the 'pastor' of his wives, children and servants
But he has many other problems too. Whilst it is true there can be great diversity of personality in ones children, when you have children from many wives, you have a very broad spectrum indeed. And all need paternal ministry. But have you considered the ultimate 'nightmare'? A patriarch has many mother-in-laws all of whom want things done in different ways, all of whom want their grandchildren brought up in their image. This is made all the more difficult by the fact that in the West nearly all parents-in-law are going to be hostile to polygyny so that enjoying the fellowship of inlaws may be nearly impossible. (Some men might actually celebrate that!) I have three mothers-in-law and three fathers-in-law who are violently hostile to me and my way of life, including brothers- and sisters-in-law who feel the same way, with cousins, nieces and nephews who feel exactly the same way! Can you imagine what having that sort of opposition around you is like? And the more wives you get, your problems from hostile relatives grows exponentially! You are in their cross-sights all the time - they are watching for you to trip up. They are buttering up your wives, trying to portray you to them in a bad light, trying to sow division and discord, and secretly hoping that your little 'kingdom' will go up in flames and crumble into ashes. And, if you have been indiscreet, you may have neighbours and the whole community against you. True, other minorities like homosexuals, bisexuals and others may sympathise with you until they discover you are an evangelical or Messianic Christian who believes such are bigots and who will then also turn against you. To be a Christian/Messianic polygamist in the West is to be totally marginalized and rejected. Your only friends are going to be fellow Christian polygamists and their sympathisers and that rare breed of human who do not condemn you out of moral principle.
Thus the Christian polygamist husband must be a pastor at home and be defending his castle from assaults from hostile relatives, peers, the state, the local community, and many more besides. The Christian polygamist is the ultimate outcast of western society (at least for now). Even those who should be his Christian brethren despise him and call him 'cultist', 'pervert', 'heretic', etc.. He is universally anathematised.
No one should enter this lifestyle who is not, therefore, strong in Christ. If you're thinking about it but don't know how to handle pressure, opposition, and have a lack of pastoral skills, then it is pretty certain you aren't cut out to be a patriarch and polygyny is not for you. However, this is a very personal decision and you need to be absolutely sure that your motives are pure.
If you have been called to enter polygamy, then be prepared for some tough training. You need to be able to fight a war on many fronts and (unlike the Germans, for all their brilliance and skill in two world wars) win. But then if you intend to rely on your own strength, you'll likely have a 1945-type nemesis and be utterly defeated and humiliated. Unless Yahweh is literally with you then you'll go the way of all flesh before your time. For if Elohim (God) is against you, you face a long journey of fruitless pain, suffering and hell. But if He is with you, then prepare to walk the way of the prophets - to suffer graciously and with joy and to receive that ultimate reward of a oneness with people that even a pastor in his high and holy calling (and it is) can never experience.
The patriarchal polygamist man must be tough like a Navy Seal
Polygyny has not only been a part of our household for the last three decades but it has also been a part of our congregational life as the oldest evangelical Christian polygamist (now Messianic) family and fellowship in the world. We're here to help you with our experiences if you're interested. Just write or contact us, or join one of our forums.