Finding that you have embarked upon, and been living, in a way that is wrong and spiritually harmful not only to others but yourself also, can come as quite a shock. But to actually set the wheels in motion that lead to a full and complete repentance can be even tougher, especially if you are a man and stand to lose face in front of family and friends, more so if you're a pastor and perhaps even running a ministry as many polygamists find themselves doing today.
This article is in response to a vision which Yahweh showed me as I was meditating on such people, of whom there are presently many in the patriarchy movement. Firstly I saw an axe fall heavily on the root of a tree which came crashing down. And then, after that vision had closed, I saw the stump of the tree which was violently emmitting what looked like a ring of red and white sparks caused by an electric circuit shorting. The symbolism was not at all unlike that of proud and boastful King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon who claimed personal credit for his mighty empire without giving the credit where it was due, to Yahweh-Elohim. He was warned of his fate in a dream involving a mighty tree that was cut down and the root capped, which was interpreted by the prophet Daniel. At length the mighty despot was brought to his senses after roaming the wilds like an animal for several years and at length acknowledged who the true Sovereign was.
Marriage is a life unto itself. It comes into existence when two (monogamy) or more (polygamy) lives come into close contact and merge. The reality of one-flesh brings into a being a life which is the sum, and more, of the individual lives that constitute that marriage, and a current may be said to flow through it. That life consists of all the habits and modes of being that are the union of those who are a part of the marriage, be they good or bad.
I wonder if you have ever seen the effects of an electricity cable after it has been brought down by some sort of accident? The severed cable emits bright sparks and makes a lot of buzzing and crackling noise. The current, deprived of its circuit, is simply violently released into the environment.
The devastation of a broken marriage is like a sparking cable
This graphic picture is not at all unlike what happens when a marriage comes to an end, especially when adultery has been committed. The effects of such sin are devastating on the lives of those affected, both the victim(s) and the perpetrator(s). One is hardly calm and composed as one's life pours randomly into the empty space of despair, hopelessness and sometimes rage. To avoid this unhappy scene must surely be the heart-felt wish of anyone who assays to righteousness.
My essay today is not, however, about divorce, though I paint this picture to remind people that this is often the end when a marriage is not wired properly. And when you wire a polygamous marriage wrongly, that is the road down which you may find yourself heading too.
Those of you who have studied this site extensively will know what I mean by false systems of polygamy so I will not elaborate upon them further here. My concern is this: what if you have entered into polygamy for some or many false motives and have ended up creating a monster which in the end turns against you, the man? A carnal response to failure like this is not untypically to add repression to repression, hoping by force to quench out the indiscipline, stagnation, unhappiness or even open rebellion, thus compounding the problem. The man who pursues such an imagined solution will find himself like Nebuchadnezzar, and whether his wives leave him or the other way round is immaterial, for such is the inevitable outcome. However loving and adoring they may be, there is a limit to the oppression they can take, and whilst their loyalty to you may keep them from leaving you sooner rather than later, even they must eventually respond to the Creator's inbuilt spiritual (and maybe even physical) self-preservation instinct, especially if their children are being drawn up into the misery of it all. I know one polygamous family in which all the wives are on anti-depressants, a telltale sign that the marriage is on the rocks because of the husband's failure as a patriarch and a husband.
If a polygamous wife is on anti-depressants, things are really bad
For a man in such a situation, he has, essentially, two choices: to go the way of Nebuchadnezzar (the way of pride and stubbornness) or to choose humility and repentance. For one who has prided himself on his macho image, this will will be a spiritually devastating experience initially. He will lose face ... for a while. The confidence of his wives may be lost ... for a while. Regaining credibility, if he has abused them in any way ... will take a while. But if his women know Christ, and love Christ, their hearts will be moved to compassion and where they were previously oppressed, their new found freedom will inspire them to give to him in a way they may never have been able to give and love him before. He will, if he maintains his course of contrition, be pleasantly surprised for he will discover a love which he never before knew existed, which his male vanity smothered in his bid to become King Kong. Like the women whom he oppressed, he too will experience something that may alarm him: FEAR. Fear of the unknown. Fear of not being in control. Fear of being disrespected. Fear that his family will descend into anarchy.
And it might for a short while. It's a risk he may have to take. Look at formerly totalitarian states like Russia in the wake of democracy. The rigid control has resulted in a massive swing to near anarchic conditions. Look at the crime-wave in South Africa in the post-apartheid era. They are, of course, worldly political systems, and we are speaking of a domestic Christian/Messianic environment where hopefully Christ has some sort of a presence. But even though He does, there may well be a carnal backlash. So be prepared for it. If his wives are spiritually-natured, he may well be spared the worst. Interestingly, the former Communist states of Eastern Europe reacted to their freedom in different ways. In Romania, there was bloody revolution. In Czecho-Slovakia, a completely peaceful transition. The difference is explained by the historical, social, religious and cultural background of the two countries, as well as the degree of oppression, for Romania had been under a ruthless dictator whom they murdered in revenge. But upheaval there was for both the peaceful Czecho-Slovak 'Velvet Revolution' and the bloody Romanian one where many lives were lost. The Patriarch who has been living polygamy unrighteously must expect upheaval: but the kind of upheaval will depend on how he conducted his rule. But one way or another, the false kingdom will be brought to an end, and if he is wise, he will, like the former East German communist dictator Egon Krenz, step down and avoid bloody chaos. He was imprisoned for a short while but is now a free man. Better alive than dead.
I paint worse-case scenarios not to panic bad patriarchs but to prepare them. To have been a bad leader, whether a pastor or teacher of a church/assembly or a polygamous husband, has severe consequences. There's just no way of escaping it. Yahweh says that He judges teachers more harshly than those who are the taught (James 3:1), because the greater responsibility falls upon their shoulders. Any man who enters polygamy, who has the responsibility for many wives and children, must accept the weight of such a responsibility and be prepared for 'Accountability Day'. And what they may not realise is that if they have been bad stewards, 'Accountability Day' may well come in this life and not just the next.
The first step is free and frank confession of sin. Understanding where he has gone wrong may take the patriarch time to understand. Initially he may simply only be able to deal with some of the more obvious symptoms of his misrule like physical abuse (the most obvious) or more subtle things like spiritual and emotional abuse. If he has been physically abusing his wife, one of the things which may hold him back from repenting is fear of what the state will do to him if his abuse becomes public, for physical abuse can carry severe penalties. Or he may fear loss of his children of Social Services get involved especially if they pressurise the wife to leave him. The agony of a good many abusive marriages is often prolonged because the abuser is, with some justification, afraid of such consequences, but in reality there is no way he can fully avoid them. He must get treatment, be it from a pastor with experience and/or a secular authority, especially (in the case of the latter) if there is a biological disorder like bipolarity which may require medication. In the case of the latter, he really has no choice. Medical aid must be sought. In the case of spiritual or emotional abuse, such a man must place himself under the authority of a responsible Christian/Messianic ministry capable of helping him. So many of these rogue patriarchs have got themselves into dire straits simply because they never placed themselves under any sort of spiritual authority other than Elohim (God) Himself, and in our mortal condition, that is never adequate. That is why the local church/assembly is mandatory for all believers.
Bringing in a spiritual authority whom husband and wives can trust will go a long way towards easing tensions and effecting reconciling and healing. It will have the immediate effect of inspiring hope in the wives who, because of their husband's autocratic rule, may have drastically limited communication between them and outsiders, and sometimes even between themselves. I know of one patriarch who refuses to even let his wives discuss him unless he is physically present! It is truly astonishing what can disguise itself under the name of 'Christian' or 'Messianic' when in spirit it more closely resembles fundamentalist Islam.
The first step of repentance is always the most difficult but it may well be the most liberating. It may, as I have said, unleash a storm, but that is the risk he has got to take. If he is afraid that the latter may happen, then involving a spiritual authority (a pastor, or another pastor if he is himself a pastor) from the very beginning would be wisest, but not a man whom he can manipulate or control. It must be an authority who has complete independence of action and is not bound to the interests of, for example, a shared ministry, though if he is a friend whom he can trust, this must surely be advantageous to both. If he is more confident in the love and forebearance of his wives, then he should simply gather them together and confess his error frankly and freely without trying to 'save face' in the process. Repenting with one hand and continuing to control with the other is a dead-end. He must come with both hands open. The carnal nature will try many tricks - he must resist them strictly.
Many oppressive marriages grind on because the patriarch (monogamous or polygamous, there is no difference) is just too much of a coward. The responsibility of high position (which polygamy confers) requires not only more leadership skills than your average monogamist but proportionately more humility too. Without a surplus of humility he is destined to rule partially and heartlessly.
Most brutish men are by nature cowards. They avoid the spotlight of exposure at the expense of the welfare and interests of others, especially their wives and children. Like all tyrants, their one aim is to conceal their wickedness. A contemporary tyrant, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, is a current example of the lengths wicked men will go to protect their powerbase. Those they have authority over suffer terribly.
The word is full of tyrants from politicians to patriarchs
One of the qualifications of a true polygamous patriarch is humility, transparency and honesty. If he is not a true patriarch and finds himself married polygamously, another great fear he may have is to lose his wives and children. And I can understand that, especially if he has a residue of decency which desires to protect and care for them, notwithstanding it may be messed up and mixed up with paranoia and other problems. Remember, there is always hope for everyone in Christ, given sufficient repentance. A wicked patriarch can become a good one through genuine submission to Christ. The end of a rule of tyranny does not need to be unhappy. However, to be realistic, he must accept that that is a risk. What he must do, therefore, is understand that the consequences of being cut off from Yahweh-Elohim in eternity because of patriarchal misrule is something to be feared more than perhaps losing some wives and children. He ought to be fearing his judgment in eternity more than any earthly outcome. I know that is hard - very hard - for a man. And that is why there are so few righteous patriarchs. But if he is a true man, congniscent of his divine obligations, he will not shy away in cowardice but bravely face the music. That is his calling. That (leadership) is the heavy responsibility of being a man, a burden not required of women, who have other burdens to bear.
I have seen wicked patriarchs throw out women or abandon them all rather than face their responsibilities. I was shocked when I first came across these cases but they are real, and some of the men involved are still (unbelievably) in ministerial positions. Yah help them! Such men are cowards of the highest degree. Whatever personal problems a polygamous patriarch may have, he cannot ever claim 'diminished responsibility'. There is no such thing. When a man accepts the kind of responsibility polygamy implies, he can't chicken out. He's accountable and he's responsible. THAT is why those who are not called into polygamy should NEVER enter it, because they won't be let off the hook once they discover -- too late -- that they aren't able to do the job. That is why seeking Yahweh's will is CRITICAL. If his marriage(s) collapse because he wasn't called, HE WILL BE HELD RESPONSIBLE and there is NO WAY OUT because the lives of OTHERS are involved.
If a man is not called into polygamy but enters it anyway, and if he is beset with problems that are overwhelming him, then the solution is neither oppression of his wives nor running away. Humiliating though it will be for him, it means that he must stay with the women (so long as he repents if he is an abuser, otherwise it is their DUTY to leave him, for themselves and for their children's sakes) and seek help. In practice what this will mean is that he will need assistance from a local (poly-positive) congregation to help him practically to ensure that his wives and children are taken care of. So long as he is not being abusive, he is obligated to be a husband and father to his wives and children, respectively, for the rest of his life. But since he lacks the callibre to do the job properly, it may mean various forms of practical assistance from the local church/assembly to maintain the cohesiveness of family life (such as the proper fathering of the children). If he abuses his wives, or abandons them, then, under certain circumstances (as described in other articles) they are free to remarry.
I know of one man not called into polygamy who entered it who had a complete psychological breakdown. His solution was to abandon his family lock, stock, and barrel. But since he was not under any sort of congregational covering, there was no-one to help him, or his family, in their desperate hour of need. (I am not talking here of men truly called into polygamy who subsequently have breakdowns in health or state of mind who would never dream of abandoning their family. Such would need the help of the Body of Christ too, again emphasising the need for community. Many of us had had tough times for whom the extended Family of Yahweh has been a vital support). We see in reality how, as I firmly believe and have long taught, that living polygamously goes hand-in-hand with community living. It is tough enough for a man called into polygamy trying it alone without adequate local fellowship, but for a man not called into it, the odds will be against him from the start and he will, finally, be overwhelmed.
I always knew that the majority of the first generation of polygamists would make a mess of it. It was inevitable. Sadly, as men, the majority seem only to learn through their mistakes because they are too proud to admit they are ever wrong. And I knew also that the majority of those entering polygamy would not be called into it by Yahweh, and have considerable difficulties. I regret that our credibility will not be established before the second generation at the earliest. Most of my ministry in recent times has been damage-control, helping foolhardy men pick up the pieces and ministering to their wives with the help of my own. It's a sorry state. What's worse, at least one man who has a leading rôle in the Christian patriarchy/polygamy movement, whose influence is great, has made a complete mess of his own marriage and is pretending to the world that nothing is wrong, isolating his family so that nobody can see the awful truth. Not that anyone wants to "expose" him and so harm his family, but rather to help him come to proper repentance and so save himself and his wives. And there are others like him, and at least one in an influential position who is promoting female bisexuality in order to attract a wider circle of women. What none of them seem to realise is that Yahweh will not permit more godly women to enter this principle until the men have got it right. That is why there is such a shortage. They have come, seen, and left because of the disgraceful conduct of some of the "leading lights" of this movement who are more concerned about maintaining an illusiory public image in order to curry favour with the world and to retain their flock (and therefore income) than in acknowledging the truth, repenting, and saving souls.
If you are a polygamist patriarch and find yourself in dire straits, please feel free to come and talk with me in confidence. We don't name names here, neither do we conduct our business before the world. Our goal is to see happy and prosperous families in Christ. I cannot promise easy solutions, but solutions there are so long as there is a will and contrition. The important thing is to become accoutable and get support. There is nothing quite as awful as going it alone, keeping friends and acquaintances at arm's length for fear of having the truth out. But what is worse is the self-delusion that some men permit themselves to sink into to justify themselves. And one of the worst, and a tell-tale sign of cultism, is to claim that as one gets closer to 'God' in this state of alienation one 'naturally' finds it more difficult to relate to other humans. That is, if I may borrow an Americanism, 'BS'.
Entering into polygamous marriage is not some kind of game, treat or special reward. It is a commitment of the highest order and a responsibility that each patriarch who enters the principle will have to give an accounting of. It is necessary to remember that women are not prizes in some cosmic game but souls for whom the patriarch is accountable, whom he is supposed to guide into salvation and sanctification as family pastor; and once the covenants are made, there is no way out. Yah'shua (Jesus) had the strongest rebuke for false shepherds of the flock, who cared little for the flock and who fled when danger approached. This warning is no different to pastors as it is to patriarchal heads of families. He is to be the gate of the family fold, just as Christ is the gate of the Fold of the Redeemed, to defend and protect. He is a human door, the first line of defence. And if he is abusing the flock instead of protecting and nurturing it, he is a false leader and destined to spiritual ruin and destruction.
So if you find yourself in the unhappy position of being in a polygamous marriage you were not called to, or if you have been called but have gone astray, I urge you to seek counsel before it is too late. Repentance is offered all, but the day of grace does not last forever.