The alarm bells began to go off in my head as I read the web account of a polygamous wife who was describing why her husband wanted more wives. Paraphrasing, she said: "I don't know why my husband needs another wife. I only know that I am not enough. And if I'm not enough, why shouldn't he have more wives?"
This article prompted my fourth wife to write an article, Am I Not Enough? which got me thinking even more. The substance of her reasoning - which I completely agree with - is that monogamy is 'enough' and that nobody who is whole in Christ actually 'needs' polygamy. The issue of whether polygamy is right for an individual or a couple is not therefore what the husband (or wife, for that matter) thinks he/she needs but what is actually right. Indeed, the opposite is true also: someone who does not feel the need for polygamy (or who may even be hostile to it) may actually be called into it.
I got my first insight into the nature of a huge problem in the polygamous community - and which is going to eventually explode in the community's face unless those in responsible leadership positions wake up to the time-bomb under their seats - through a couple of Christian ministers who are regarded highly by us in our Order. They wrote:
There are many men entering the polygamous community because they feel a 'need' for more women. And though they may not be Cassanovas but genuinely want to take responsibility for raising families, one of the motivating impulses they have for wanting to live this principle is false and ultimately destructive. This impulse unfolds in an unhealthy way inasmuch as the man feels a compulsive need to continually expand his family. He is not satisfied with the wives he has and is unconsciously looking for 'Mrs.Perfect'. As he engages in this, the value he places on his other wives often diminishes within him, even though he may - because he knows such a sentiment is wrong - be in unconscious denial that this is what is actually happening inside him. Though he may not know it, he is a self-centred little boy playing at being a man.
"No one who has never married has ever had true sex, no matter how many affairs he has had, no matter what reputation he possesses as a 'lover'. He is not a lover; he is a self-centred little boy playing falsely at being a man" (John & Paula Sandford, The Transformation of the Inner Man, Victory House, Inc.,Tulsa, OK: 1982, p.275).
A true polygamist - one who is whole in Christ - should be able to look at any one of his wives and say truthfully in his heart: "You are enough. I do not need any more." If he cannot do that, then I would suggest that the chances are very high that he has married for all the wrong motives.
And they can be many.
There are men who marry polygamously for status. This is particularly prevalent amongst fundamentalist Mormons for whom the number of wives reflects proportionally the amount of glory he imagines he will get in the next life. And the women are attracted, not because they are necessarily satisfied with their husband, but because they too feel they will obtain a greater glory in the next life. When polygamy is entered into in this mindframe, the 'worth' of polygamous unions lies not in the unions themselves but in the supposed glory one will earn, a mentality that is reflected in other areas of Mormon life where, for example, an LDS missionary receives a higher social status if he has converted many people to his faith. The fundamentalist Mormon may take comfort in the fact that his motive for polygamy is not sex (though who can tell what the web of motives is that drives anyone) but it certainly is not for love. The second Mormon Prophet, Brigham Young, repeatedly taught that marriage was not for the purpose of love and companionship (for which he said he had no time) but to raise up new male Priesthood. In short, for a fundamentalist Mormon, polygamy primarily exists to make more men and to get a greater glory in the next world. If love, romance, sex and all the other benefits of the marital estate follow, he will see these more as a bonus.
But my real concern in writing this article is in addressing the abberation which, briefly stated, consists of a man seeking either more sex or the perfect woman and - consciously or unconsciously - legitimising it in his own Christian/Messianic mind by offering the stability of marriage as the self-justifying mode of behaviour.
Such issues were not, of course, important in the old mind-frame of the Mosaic Law which did not concern itself so much with man's impure motives for wanting to marry but in protecting those who entered into - or desired to enter into - sexual liasons, by forcing the parties (most especially the man) to take responsibility and marry any and such women that he fancied. And unfortunately, there are a number of 'Christian' and 'Messianic' polygamists who enter polygamy with such a Mosaic mindframe.
The New Covenant of Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) requires that we view marriage through a second set of spiritual lenses as well. We are challenged to see marriage in the same way as Christ looks upon His Bride, the Church (Messianic Community). Indeed, wholly different marriage parameters devolve upon the Christian: marriage exists now primarily to give glory to Yahweh. And what is good for Yahweh is, to put it crudely, good for us, because Yahweh is love (1 John 4:6,16).
Another wrong motive for entering Christian plural marriage is, it may surprise you, "because I fell in love". People are falling in love all the time. We hear all the time: "Well, I couldn't help it - I just fell in love!", don't we? The modern liberal secular psychotherapist will likely tell you that if you love someone, it isn't a sin (including loving them sexually).
I hear stories of patriarchs 'falling in love' with women and adding them to their families. Before long such families are rife with dissent and are falling apart. They have employed the same criteria for justifying and entering a Christian/Messianic polygamous marriage as the secular world in entering monogamy or even casual relationships. 'If it feels right, it is right.' 'If you're in love, then it's God's will.'
True love does no wrong thing. Good trees do not produce bad fruits. What people often mistake for 'love' usually turns out to be lust. And lust is conceived by a flawed nature, by death, and by a defiled conscience apart from Christ. Lust produces deception. If 'falling in love' leads you to sin you have, in truth, 'fallen in hate', because you are hating truth and righteousness.
If true love is the starting point, then the relationship that follows is not manipulative. Christ-like love respects the sanctity of truth and overrides personal desire. Desire is the most unreliable guiding-star that man has ever had the misfortune to follow.
Most polygamists seems to believe that because the principle of polygamy is true that all single women are candidates for polygamous marriage, and that if they fall in love with one, that this is is Yahweh's green light for union. Or, conversely, if such a woman falls in love with a polygamous man, that this is a clear signal that marriage is right because of the general hostility of women to this principle.
All of these reasons are wrong. Falling in love, or any other kind of attraction, is not necessarily a ground for marriage. Many immature men often mistake spiritual attraction - that force which binds the body of Christ together as One Bride - to be the signal for marriage. In actual fact, without knowing it, the man is being an adulterer! If we claim for ourself the credit for an attraction whose sole purpose is to unite the believer to Christ, we are actually usurping the place of Christ! We are claiming the spiritual allegorical Brideroom rôle which is the sole preserve of the One who died for us. And that is spiritual adultery!
What if someone you fall in love with is designated by the hand of Elohim (God) and belongs to someone else?
"No man who is truly a lover ever uses another. No man who truly loves embraces the bosom of one who is not his wife (Proverbs 5:18-20)" (Op.cit., p.275).
I am not saying that finding the answers to these questions is necessarily easy but what I am absolutely saying is that one who claims to be a patriarch and who has aspirations to live polygamously has a weighty responsibility on his shoulders not to allow his feelings to run ahead of him but to be led, and to judge, in the Ruach (Spirit).
I can only describe the scramble to find wives by aspirant polygamous in the last decade or two to be something akin to the Australian, Californian or Alaskan goldrushes of the previous two centuries. It has more resembled a wild frenzy than a careful, mature and calculated spiritual exercise. It has often been a case of allowing bottled-up hormones to let rip. And what I have seen so far has, for the most part, disgusted me. I see little that actually gives glory to Yahweh.
And yet there is no doubt that it is Yahweh's will that Christian/Messianic polygamy be restored, in spite of the lousy human choreography of the opening act. I repeat, it isn't necessarily alright just because you're in love. It isn't necessarily right because polygamy offers a single mother a home and seeminly solves a social problem. It's only right if (a) you are satified with what you already have, and (b) it is in Yahweh's will.
As my fourth wife intimates, a person who isn't satisfied with one child and feels the need to have more is likely to under-appreciate and therefore neglect the first child when others come along. Evangelism for evangelism's sake - to build the Church (Messianic Community) - because one isn't satisfied with the fellowship one has - isn't the right motive to evangelise. We must evangelise to save souls for their own sakes and to let the Church (Messianic Community) build itself. Similarly, we are to witness of polygamy not to build our own family kingdoms but to bless those who are called into polygamy and to help them find their right homes.
Searching for and/or taking a second wife is not justified because our first wife is not living up to the high calling of Christ. Searching for and/or taking a second wife is only justified if it is right to do so. And you will never know if it is right to do so if you aren't satisfied with what you've got already, however 'defective' the product you may have might be. Remember, that you as a man are defective as well, and when a woman has married you, she has to be satisfied with her lot no matter what you choose to do or however you choose to live! Something worth thinking about.
We must never forget the New Covenant dimension in marriage, plural or monogamous. The issues are not just about being married 'legally' but about 'rightness' as well, i.e. righteousness. If physical adultery leads to bloodguiltiness, then is it not also logical to posit that there is 'spirit of guiltiness' if we marry those whom Yahweh has not called us to marry? And might the fact that a marriage does not flourish be evidence that the liason was wrong? (But don't use this as an excuse to abandon a floundering marriage - irrespective of whether our choice is right or wrong, once married, we are bound for life - so work on it).
"If a flower is planted in good soil, it sends out roots and blooms where it is planted. It cannot bloom and produce properly or fully in alien, arid soil. In exactly the same way, God (Elohim) has designed us to be planted by marriage ceremony [covenants] and subsequent sexual union in the fertile soil of our own mate's [mates'] body, heart, mind, soul and spirit. We cannot come to fullness of life in any other soil. For this reason, the Scripture says of those who commit adultery (specifically of a man with his daughter-in-law, but the principle holds true for any adultery), 'Their bloodguiltiness is upon them' (Leviticus 20:12b, NASB marginal note) ... 'But whoso committed adultery with a woman lacketh understanding; he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul' (Proverbs 6:32, KJV)" (Op.cit., p.278 - [my remarks in square brackets]).
For some men polygamy can, without them knowing it, become a kind of physically licenced fornication (sex before marriage) on the spiritual plane. Patriarchs most in danger of falling into this trap are those who have at some time in the past lived a sexually immoral lifestyle. Piaget, a French sociologist, states the root reason for fornication:
Before prospective patriarchs enter Christian polygamy it is very necessary that those who are their spiritual heads (like pastors) have a screening mechanism in place that will allow these men (and women) to deal with unrepented sins from the past. One of the urges for polygamy may unfortunately turn out to be to live a 'respectable form of fornication' that has, as its root, an earlier undealt with and unrepented rebellion against parents and/or authority. I have noticed that a number of 'patriarchs' are quite militant and independent-minded to such an extent that they have problems forming community with other polygamist men whom they may perceive as a threat. If there is an unsolved anger and rebellion against parents (even if those parents are long since dead), they may unconsciously be using polygamy as a means of 'throwing oneself away' in a less drastic way than living a life of pure promiscuity. The 'fornicating polygamist' may be reflecting in his lifestyle the hunger for an unmet father's love, possibly even an unconscious desire to punish him.
"If a person keeps himself virginal sexually, he (or she) loves and respects his (or her) father and mother ... If a person commits fornication, he (or she) hates and/or disrespects father and/or mother."
I am not, it must be stated again, trying to directly equate what I call the 'fornicating polygamist' with your average promiscuous Cassanova who has no sense of responsibility whatsoever. The 'fornicating polygamist' desires to truly be a family man and to have responsibility for his wives but is so dysfunctional that he is living out something unnatural. He is trying to be what he is not and making a mess of it. Either such a man needs healing or he should not be in polygamy in the first place.
Most solid churches (assemblies) usually have marriage courses for prospective couples. There is an even greater need for courses for those planning to enter polygamy that involves what we in our Order call 'Cleaning Out' or thorough deliverance ministry. Indeed, we apply this not just to prospective couples but to new members too. This involves a complete life review, deals with unrepented sins, and (when necessary) the casting out of demons that have established strongholds in a person's life. And believe me Christians/Messianics have plenty of them! If a person is psychologically damaged, then a period of reorientation and healing is needed accompanied by extensive counselling. It is at best naïve, and at worst, utterly insane to be able to fish someone out of a hedonistic society, bring them to Christ, and expect them to be ready for something as holy and responsible as Christian/Messianic polygamy in a matter of years. The evidence of the failed polygamous marriages we have seen in the first decades of Christian/Messianic polygyny is surely evidence enough for that. Furthermore, it is the contention of this ministry that in at least the first generation of Christian/Messianic polygamists, only those who are mature in the spirit ought to be living this lifestyle. Only when we have children who have been raised in stable, loving Christian/Messianic polygamous households ought we to be encouraging younger men to enter the principle. People coming out of the Baylonian world system are quite simply far too messed up inside to be able to handle this lifestyle responsibly.
The fact that one is a 'Christian' or 'Messianic' is not enough. The fact that one has good intentions is not enough. The fact that one loves Yah'shua (Jesus) and the Bible is not enough. To enter Christian/Messianic polygamy you need to possess a certain self-discipline that comes through rigorous discipling. And you need patriarchs who are acquainted with, and who love, Christian community. Far too many of the first generation of polygamists are reflections of the world - what we don't need is little islands of egotism floating around in their own sea of make-believe. Christian/Messianic polygamy is the ultimate realist's lifestyle.
The world we live in is sick and the men and women who are being rescued from it by Christ are invariably badly damaged in one way or another. It is not enough to just 'get out of Egypt' as the first Israelites did - there must also be a burning process of sanctification in a metaphorical 40 year wilderness journey (see A Model for Deliverance: The Exodus). Most of the first generation of aspirant polygamists are going to be seriously flawed and incapable to living the high standards required of this lifestyle. Burning out former worldly ways of thinking, feeling and behaving is an absolutely necessity. And to do this means, essentially, doing what many patriarchs are being led by the Spirit of Elohim (God) to do: to get out of the world system altogether, 'getting off the grid', as it were. For Christian/Messianic polygamy to flourish, Christian/Messianic polygamy-accepting communities have to be established which are largely self-sustaining and separated from the world. There is no other way.
The crop of the first generation that comes to fruition in Christian/Messianic polygamy will be small but enough to be good leaven for the second generation. The casualty rate will be high. At the end of the first generation will be some Joshua's and Caleb's who will form the backbone of the next generation. We, who were called to lead and pioneer this lifestyle, will be gone, but our legacy of experience will form the basis on which the next generation can build.
May Yahweh bless all to be wise.