Though I am not myself an American and don't remotely pretend to be an expert in US history, I do know that the borderlands of America once consisted of a "Wild West" where both bona fide pioneers carved out a new life in the wilderness and barrel loads full of outlaws sought a place to indulge their passion for crime. The expansion of any nation cannot, of course, be easily controlled, for people will come and go as they please. The Russian nation, which expanded in the opposite direction eastwards into the heartlands of Siberia, had its parallel 'Wild East' and its settlers lived under conditions that made the American West seem tame by comparison.
I am meeting increasingly alarmed patriarchs like myself who have been living this lifestype for some years, who are justifiably concerned by the current state of 'polygamydom'. One of our ministry partners back at the turn of the millennium remarked to me that for the most part the Christian men who were interested in polygamy seemed more keen to 'look up women's skirts' than to live this principle responsibly. And I had to agree with him. Yes, whether we like it or not, polygamy, in at least the United States, has turned into a 'Wild West Gold Rush' of sorts. And one of his wives told me the other day that she hoped in retrospect, that polygamy does not become legal in the USA because it would simply become a licence for all the scum of society to exploit women further.
Now this may sound strange coming from the lips of deeply committed polygamists such as ourselves. Neither of our families actually want laws licencing polygamy - what we do want is the anti-polygamy laws and laws to prevent discrimination against polygamists removed from the statute books.
At least this is what we want in this generation for in our opinion Homo Americanus (and the parallel species in Europe) is simply not ready for polygamy. He is vain, irresponsible and over-sexed. He has the totally wrong idea about Christian/Messianic polygyny. Indeed, were polygamy to become legal, I believe it would create so many unhappy families and create so many expensive legal problems that in the end public opinion would turn against it and cause it to be banned completely.
No, this is not the time to make polygamy legal - but it is certainly the time to abolish the American Edmunds-Tucker Act (a law enacted against the polygamous Mormons two centuries ago) and it is certainly time to imitate Colombia and some other nations and strike out anti-bigamy laws.
I say this in all fairness to women, not because I oppose the practice of polygamy (far from it), but because I really do not believe it should be lived by anyone but responsible men (and women). Since it is not the rôle of government to monitor 'family responsibility' (and certainly not religious belief), I think it is far better that those who are seriously interested in this principle do so without the benefit of equal 'rights' but be prepared to work with some handicaps, then all but the hard-working, responsible and decent will have second thoughts about the principle.
I repeat, I am not advocating discrimination against polygamy because I don't think you can equate it with ordinary first-stage monogamous marriage in the first place. If we are to make any comparisons, then polygamy is to marriage what doing a post-graduate degree is to higher education at university. There are plenty of people who have ordinary degrees but few who go on to take doctorates. And Christian/Messianic polygamy is without exception for those who have graduated in certain essential areas of the spiritual school of life.
What this means is that prospective polygamists need training. Back in 2001 we began the orgainistion of a 'School of the Patriarchs' for this very purpose. The plan was to create a basic Bible education curriculum on the internet followed by retreats in Europe and America (and elsewhere) in which those who planed to live this way of life could meet seasoned patriarchs and their wives. The problem, as we saw it then, was plenty of polygamy theorists but next to no experience. Clearly some sort of training was needed, polygamy being one of the most 'hands-on' lifestyle you will ever meet.
Nothing came of this plan because we soon realised that not only were there simply far too many 'approaches' and 'theologies' around. You can't thrust Christians and Messianics of different belief systems together and expect much to be accomplished. We also realised that this was not, in the end, what Yahweh was calling us to and that our form of echad polygamy could only ever come to fruition within the context of our own mission without all the tensions that arise from denominationalism. Torah-obedient messianic and antinomian charismatic polygamists (to give the two extremes) have radically different approaces to the Gospel.
In retrospect I am glad our plan to invite prospective polygamists to come and live for short periods of time in one of our communities and get hands-on experience by interacting with those living the lifestyle (minus the conjugal part, of course). Yahweh, in the end, prevented this from happening, when our two main partners - one Polish and one German - were forced to pull out, our Polish partner because his family fell apart during a time of intense persecution, and our German partner when his denomination threatened to fire him as a pastor if he did not withdraw and denounce the polygamy movement, which he chose to do.
When the polygamy movement first got started in the USA I gave dire warnings not to underestimate the importance of experience but I was ignored. I was curtly told that those who knew their Bibles were every bit as qualified to teach polygamy as those who had been living it long before them. The result was a mess. The first generation of Christians and Messianics have entered polygamy with an inexcusably high casualty rate and part of the burden for that responsibility must fall on the shoulders of those who should have known better but were instead more interested in promoting their private agendas for fame.
The truth of the matter is that the success rate in Christian/Messianic polygamy isn't now much better than that of secular marriage, which is a terrible advertisement. And what's worse, it could have been avoided. You can't, of course, eliminate separation and divorce completely in any kind of marriage, and one thing you must remember about polygamy too is that there is always an open door for reconciliation which is denied you in monogamy.
I say this because I don't believe polygamy is for any but a small minority of people (no country could ever realistically sustain more than about 10-15% of its population living this way) and that to give the green light to all and sundry would be to simply reduce it to the equaivalent of the 'Wild West'.
Another bitter pill that the first generation of polygamists must swallow is that compared to the fundamentalist Mormons, who have been living this lifestyle now since the 1840's (excluding the wilder groups), Christian and Messianic polygamists are but infants. That is to be expected, of course, since they have been living this way of life for nearly two centuries years and have learned along the way. Though as Christians we take exception to many Mormon beliefs and practices we must at least acknowledge that they have much to teach us. Some of the finest Christian polygamists I have met have actually been ex-fundamentalist Mormons.
The majority of hopeful Christian/Messianic polygamist men I have so far met have disappointed me more than words can express. Their attitudes seem very much like your average secular American with his topsy-turvy ideas about responsibility and relationships. The great strength of the Mormon fundamentalists lies not so much in their belief and practice of polygamy but in the fact that a good many of them have been forced, because of persecution and other factors, to separate themselves from worldly society. This isolation, partly compelled and partly desired, has forced them to adopt a rural way of life that is more conducive to patriarchy and the Gospel paradigm in general. There is, in their homes, therefore, a much more wholesome and family atmosphere.
For the most part, the first generation Christian/Messianic polygamist is not communally-minded. He usually lives in the concrete jungle as a separated and isolated unit (many wiser ones opt for the countryside or the wilderness), his children attend public schools or, if they are homeschooled, number the majority of their friends from amongst the pagans where the influence tends to be in the wrong direction.
Mormon fundamentalists have learned, by contrast, that the best way to sustain a polygamous way of life is for polygamist families to move together and found their own settlements. Intermarriage between polygamous families leads to great cohesion (though unfortunately that has the drawback of too much inbreeding) and the way of life is preserved by the shere association of numbers.
For the first generation to be successful, Christian/Messianic polygamists must breed large families and move together or close by and try and create islands of alternative culture. If they just spread themselves around the pagan cities and raise small societies, their children and way of life will simply be absorbed by the milieu which has the greatest social mass, and that is the pagan milieu. This really ought to be common sense and yet few are looking prophetically ahead. The reason is probably because the men entering this principle are principally interested in polygamy for themselves and not for the wider Body of Christ of which it is the antetype. The motivation for living polygamy is essentially selfish.
All of this has to end. Until it does, the undoubted spiritual power that lies in polygamy will never be manifested and the first generation will provide no base for the next to build on. Instead, the next generation, slightly wiser (but only slightly) will repeat most of the same mistakes as the first and the movement will never really grow. If Christian/Messianic patriarchs are wise, they will learn from the Mormon fundamentalists who have built up a large and expanding society in the USA and Mexico which, by its shere size, will probably never succumb to political pressure, the occasional show-case trials and victims like Tom Greene notwithstanding.
This is my sober warning to the first generation of Christian/Messianic polygamists: clean up your act, forget yourselves, and start to things together and learning to create the nucleus of the alternative society. In short, start building pockets of the millennial society where all the aspects of the Christian/Messianic Gospel may freely come into play.
Of course, that will require a lot of repentance and a settling of the denominational questions once and for all. It is no accident that the majority of Christian polygamist leaders are moving in the direction of Messianism - most are sabbatarians (though there is not unity as to which day the Sabbath is) and increasingly they are becoming Torah-observant, because without these you cannot build up the Christian/Messianic society or theocracy. And to do that, you need a lot of spiritual keys which we, at this ministry, hope we can supply.
May Yahweh bless the patriarchs to direct this generation of polygamists in the right direction and teach the young aspirant patriarchs to bridle their lusts and get their spiritual lives in order.