Q. Do you think there is a danger of someone being attracted to polygamy because they may have an obsession with women and think this is a way out for them? What is likely to happen to such a man who is constantly seeking more and more wives to fulfil such an obsession?
If you were to interview a large number of polygamists living in our American and European monogamy-only cultures and ask them why they entered polygamy I am sure you would get many different answers. And what they say may also only be an idealised view of themselves - what they would like the reasons to be. I am thinking primarily of the men here since is the men who are mostly interested though I am sure women enter for many different reasons as well. I have learned through experience that our motives for doing almost anything are complex even though there may be said to be primary driving motives. Thus, for example, a man may become a Christian or Messianic primarily because he sincerely believes Christ is "the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6)) whilst at the same time there may be secondary motives like, for example, the influence of another Christian on his life, or even a tertiary motive like, say, the fact that all his family are Christians and it is therefore natural to follow in their footsteps. If you try to make a psychological analysis of the motives people have for doing almost anything I think you will find that it is no simple matter.
I do not believe that any two people come to polygamy for completely identical motives though I do believe we can divide people up into different groups according to their primary motives. Such primary motives might be:
I am sure that there are some men who enter polygamy whose primary motive is an uncontrolled libido but who nevertheless accept the responsibilities that devolve upon a patriarch - that is to say, he is not just in it for the sex but genuinely wants to raise a family and be a loving father and husband. I can't say that I personally know any such men but there are bound to be some out there. As to whether such a person should be condemned is entirely another matter especially if his wives are happy with him.
- (a) a definite leading of the Holy Spirit to do so;
- (b) sexual lust;
- (c) tradition (in cultures where polygamy is common);
- (d) compulsion (in the case of women who are matched against their wills);
- (e) loneliness;
- (f) economic security; etc..
I am also meeting increasing number of women - both single and monogamously married - who have been attracted to this lifestyle often without their husbands or boyfriends knowing anything about their interest. So it isn't just the men who are pursuing an interest in this lifestyle or necessarily taking the initiative.
We must remember in considering such case scenarios that many of Yahweh's great men often entered the ministry for all the wrong motives. The story of Jacob is a classic example. A self-centred deceiver he nevertheless was searching for Yahweh and was eventually changed by Him, and as a result of his spiritual change was renamed Israel. You will find in every Christian/Messianic, polygamist or monogamist, a sin-nature wrestling with a spiritual-nature for ascendency. That sin-nature will distort his character to some extent and will be at constant war with the spiritual-nature. That sin-nature may well have a libido problem. What is important, though, is:
If his eyes are off Christ he will lose the battle eventually, and if he hasn't been called into polygamy, then his marriage will probably collapse at some point as he discovers that he is unequipped to be a patriarch.
- (a) whether he has his eyes on Christ; and
- (b) he has actually been called (however imperfect he may be) into a polygamous lifestyle.
There is a tendency on the part of some plural wives to expect their husband to be a ready-made superman, a spiritual giant - in short, perfect. Part of the false reasoning that sometimes lies behind this expectation is that since the women are having to make a big 'sacrifice' to live the principle (giving up the privilege of monogamy) that somehow the polygamous man must be faultless to 'compensate'. If there are any plural wives who have this mind-frame I'm afraid they are going to come to grief.
For one thing, polygamist men are sinners like monogamist men. They have their imperfections like anyone else. They are absolutely not supermen. Whilst they may be blessed by Yahweh to be able to handle polygamy (unlike a man called into monogamy who is probably not), they are not off-the-shelf ready-made 'Saints'. They have their struggles too and also, I must underline, they must make very real sacrifices as polygamists (see my article, The Ultimate Pastor). A plural wife should have no greater expectations of a polygamist man than a monogamist one because they are both of the same Adamic stuff.
Now as for the man who has a strong libido who may have come into polygamy for the wrong motives, I will say this. If this man has a genuinely true vision of a loving, caring patriarch in addition to his strong libido, and is seeking to bring his flesh in subjection to the spirit, then Yahweh will use him and bless him. This does not mean, of course, that all men with a strong libido are called into polygamy. Indeed, most probably are not. It will depend what the origin of the strong libido is. If the cause is a pre-Christian/Messianic promiscuous sexual life then I would say that polygamy is almost certainly not the solution and that there may be an abnormal psychological root that needs pulling up or even a demonic problem. Polygamy must never be seen as a SOLUTION to an abnormal sex-drive. If a man with a strong libido finds himself led by Yahweh into polygamy it will not be because Yahweh wishes, in the long term, to fuel, aid, or abet that libido, but because he has been called into polygamy in spite of that libido which he will be expected to bring under control eventually... and sooner rather than later.
If we ever claimed that polygamy existed to satisfy a man's libido then we would, as a matter of logic and integrity, be forced to admit that polyandry should exist to alleviate the problems of a woman with a strong libido too. Whilst polygamy has, of course, a sexual componenent which is as important as in any monogamous marriage, it is not a clinic to help an over-sexed man to solve or dissipate his uncontrollable urges. Far better that an over-sexed man find an over-sexed woman (or vice versa) and marry monogamously!
Of course, it is recognised that a polygamous man should, by the very nature of his calling to be married to several women each with their own natural sex needs, be able to give satisfaction to all his wives, and thus must at least have a robust libido. A polygamous man who is not inclined in that direction should either stay celibate, marry monogamously or find wives with similar sexual inclinations to his own. In either case, Yahweh is more than capable of leading souls to their right companions.
I personally think that there are all kinds of people who can be led to polygamy for the wrong reasons. For some, it may be a sex problem; for others, a problem with power and control; for others, social pressure. But for most Christian/Messianic polygamists - both men and women - the motive is to bring glory to Yahweh, to increase Christ-like love, and they are simply responding to a divine call.