'Anna Tychy' is the name of a ficticious character created by SBSK for his novel trilogy, Bouquet of Roses. This imaginary interview is a collation of 'difficult questions' about polygamy which up until that time we had received from several people and subsequently answered by the ministry. As with many who have wanted to join our family in the past, investigators like 'Anna' had major struggles about such things as age differences between wives and how such should relate to one another.
Good morning, Brother Stanisław. You know why I have come to talk to you today, I am sure. Although I have talked with your wife Kasia, who is my age, and whom you married when she was 16, there are many people who think that marrying so young is not good, especially in a polygamous family. I am not sure yet if I want to delay or enter it now. You are 39, almost 40* (*in 1999), so there is a 20 year difference between us. Can you say what your feelings are?
Well, Sister Anna, there are probably no fixed answers to any of these questions because people are so very different by nature. The prevailing philosophy in the world is that young men and women should go and 'explore the world', maybe pursue careers, etc., before 'binding' themselves down to marriage, as they suppose. Needless to say this is not just a question for those thinking about polygamy but affects monogamic choices as well.
My only answer to these questions is that the Bible does recommend that both men and women marry young. In ancient Israel 16 was regarded as a suitable age and in general I would probably agree. However, it must be remembered that the people from that society had a completely different value system to our own. The family was strong and the raising of large families was considered natural. In our hedonistic world, and especially the West, the richer and more atheistic a society gets, the smaller the family becomes too. One or two children seem to be about the average.
There is also this idea that you haven't really 'lived' until you have gone out into the world and explored it. Visiting exotic places seems to be the interest of many. The number of holidays taken abroad is incredible these days, a phenomenon really of the post-war years. Young men and women tend not to marry until they are in their late 20's or early 30's by which time the possibility of raising a large family (assuming that were desirable) becomes diminished. There's also the fact that those who bear children early tend to do so with less complications.
Then there's the question of maturity. These days young people seem to physically mature more quickly but their emotional and mental maturity is rather slow. A sense of responsibilty is not strongly engrained in them anymore.
So do you think that those who have been brought up Christians should marry younger?
I think that is a fair appraisal of my view, but then there are many kinds of 'Christian' these days, and overall they aren't much more mature than the surrounding pagan culture they live in. Your question about whether it is advisable to marry young or not really depends what your values and goals are. I personally recommend that someone who is well rooted in Christ marry young for many different reasons, not least of which is that the Holy Spirit manifests in a special way to those who enter marriage and gives a deeper perspective on life than those who are not married. Marriage is a tremendously maturing experience and is, I think, a very important stabilising factor for those going through the turbulent late teenage years.
I understand, Brother Stanisław, but it is the same for young men. Isn't it harder for young brethren to enter marriage early?
I think it is more difficult for them because as husbands they have leadership responsibilities that require much sacrifice. I personally do not recommend men marrying as young as 16. But then it is also my opinion that a man should be older than a woman wherever possible so as to be cut out for a leadership position. Some young men are more mature than others, so this is a very subjective thing we are talking about.
You married Kasia when she was young. And there are, how many, nearly 25 years difference between you? Isn't a husband that old a father-figure too?
Very definitely. But that only lasts for a while. As the young wife spiritually matures the father-figure rôle progressively diminishes. Many feminists, I know, would feel insulted at the suggestion of the value of such a relationship, but the fact of the matter is that feminists are not usually able to create stable marriages because of their unnatural desire to dominate the marriage relationship or to redefine godly rôles in the image expected of the secular society. All I can say is that the practice we advocate works, and it works very well, leading to many spiritual blessings including stability and deep love.
Aren't you, in a way, advocating a kind of 'spiritual incest'??
An interesting concept but one which I feel is wholly erroneous for the following reasons. Firstly, I think it is true to say, that in any marriage relationship - and that includes marriages where the parties are of similar age or there is a large age difference - both partners act as 'father' and 'mother' to one another at different times. I certain feel that I have been 'mothered' by all my wives, both the older and younger ones, at different times. I think we need actually to define what we mean by the terms 'father' and 'mother'. Maybe I can throw the question back at you by asking you what you understand these terms to mean, spiritually-speaking?
My question was based on the assumption that the 'father' has 'control' and maturity.
OK. I think there is a measure of truth in that. But it really depends on what kind of 'control' you are talking about - whether it is imposed by force or whether the one who is 'controlled' is yielding to it in a positive way. We have all been pupils at school at different times of our lives and I think it's true to say that there are, broadly-speaking, two types of pupil: (1) The pupil who resents the Teacher-Pupil relationship and who may be said to be in a spirit of rebellion - he doesn't want to work, hates school, and would do anything not to be in school; and (2) The pupil who understands that the Teacher-Pupil relationship is upbuilding and in his best interests, to which he therefore voluntarily reliquishes his desire to be 'in control' himself because he understands that to be submitted is really the only proper way to learn. We may call this the 'Teacher-Disciple' relationship which you will find everywhere taught in the New Testament.
Now we are talking about Christian marriage, aren't we? We come to Christ of our own free will because that is what we desire, and we submit to Him and His discipline because we, in faith, believe this is right. In time we come to understand and realise that this submission is actually for our spiritual growth.
It is only correct that one who is less spiritual enlightened or mature should submit to one who is more so. I consider that I have had many 'fathers' and 'mothers' in the Gospel, those who have taught and guided me. Sometimes they have been older than I (most of the time, in fact), sometimes the opposite.
The principle of being a 'father' or a 'mother' is therefore natural in a marriage relationship as well. It will vary according to circumstance. Though an older patriarch-husband may know much more than a younger wife, and be a father to her, this is a fatherhood of things spiritual. It has nothing to do with the flesh. So I challenge the idea that there is such a thing as 'spiritual incest' save where there has been an act of compulsion - and that there are many such relationships I do not deny. I am aware of many marriages where, for example, a younger woman has been forced to marry an older man against her will because of religious or social tradition. She is often treated as a child and an inferior all her life - a chattel or slave, even. But that is not true marriage at all. I would say that would perhaps qualify as an example of 'spiritual incest'. But in a true marriage where an older man marries a younger woman, the intent of the righteous Christian patriarch will only be to be a spiritual father for as long as such is necessary and so long as he has the consent of his younger wife. His aim will be to seek, ultimately, equality, in the broadest sense.
But even with a marriage where there is such an age difference, the rôles will often be reversed. A younger wife has often taught me things I do not know and I have happily listened in the 'pupil' position. I have always maintained that a true teacher has, as his or her supreme goal, to raise up a pupil who knows as much as he does, if not more. He is not in the business of using knowledge or experience as a weapon with which to dominate - and this sort of attitude most certainly exists to be sure. As a Christian/Messianic Patriarch and husband my goal is that my wives should grow into the kind of knowledge and experience that I have, and that we mutually share our spiritual lives, edifying and building each other up. You will, moreover, find many marriages where the couples are of similar age, where one or the other is far more advanced than the other spiritually and must serve as a spiritual parent. Speaking for myself, I did not marry Kasia because I wished to dominate her or introduce her as a satelite in my own personal spiritual orbit. That, I would say, it utterly impossible. We recognise in our family, and in the Holy Order as a whole, than when another woman enters the family that all will have to change, being changed by one another. Though one wife may be more or less mature than another, she nevertheless has qualities that will leaven us all - we know that we will be changed for ever, and that, indeed, is one of the attractions of plural marriage. It may not be so attractive for those who want to lead lives of changlessness but for patriarchal spouses, change is our joy, because we believe that we are all growing daily into the stature of Christ - changing one another.
That explains quite a bit to me. But I do have something else to ask you. What about the relationship between the young wife and your children and your children that are almost as old as her, or as old as her? Will she be a mother, sister or a friend?
That must, I think, ultimately depend on the spiritual state of the children. If they are in Christ as she is, she will automatically be a spiritual sister. I consider my own wives to be my spiritual sisters in that respect, odd though that may perhaps sound, for we are all one in Christ, without distinction or hierarchy. If the child is not in Christ, then he or she may have a wholly different perspective.
Friendship is based on different though similar factors. In the general sense, I think it is built on similar interests that are shared. Friendship begins and develops as love is shared. Friendship is therefore dependent on how each treats the other. In the same way that I think it is true to say that I am better 'friends' with some of my children than with others, so I think that will be true of elder teenage children and wives who are of similar age.
Motherhood is a different kettle of fish. Motherhood is based on a very intimate understanding that the one who is viewed as 'mother' is one who loves and cares of the child sacrificially. It is something that a child must see in order to accept, even if the child is only a 'step-child' (though I personally detest the term). Mothers by blood have what is sometimes called 'mother love' - a love that is quite blind, in reality, but is absolutely necessary for a child to feel secure and loved.
Yah'shua (Jesus) taught that those who were his 'mother' and 'father' were those who obeyed His commandments and walked in the way of the Gospel. You see, the Gospel greatly expands the traditional biological concept of 'parent'. Now I know you are familiar with the film called the Sound of Music where a widower marries his children's nanny. Because the children sensed her deep love and committment to them they had little problem in seeing her, and calling her, 'mother'. It was a relationship build on love and trust. She was technically a 'step-mother' by their father's remarriage but the spiritual reality determines just how a child views a new wife of their father.
In plural marriage there is, of course, a complex interaction between children and wives. In the ideal situation, there is deep mutual trust and love. Such relationships can, and often do, take time to build up. It will, in part, depend on when the new wife entered the family. Those wives who grow and mature alongside the children of other sister-wives will naturally form deeper bonds. New wives may, on occasion, be viewed by elder children as a threat because a new wife will require more of their father's time and affection. The key to the 'problem' of the relationship between older children and younger wives of about the same age will, in large measure, be determined by the kind of love that prevails in the family. If the elder children are secure in their father's love and see that their father does not love them 'less' because of a younger wife, then bonding between these elder children and younger wives becomes much easier. If they do not feel secure, then jealosy can manifest itself particularly if they feel if they must compete for father's time and affection. The father/husband must be accutely sensitive to this problem, if it arises.
I am not sure it is necessary for an elder child to be expected to look upon a younger wife of similar age as 'mother' or 'step-mother' because I think this is quite a fluid term. Usually the concept of 'parent' implies an 'authority figure' and a teenager will naturally resent someone of the same age being set up as an 'authority figure' over them unless they can see that younger wife as being one who is spiritually mature and whose motive is clearly perceived as being one of sacrificial, motherly-type love.
So a sister-rôle might be the thing, then?
If the younger sister-wife is being rejected as a 'mother', forcing 'motherhood' would and could be disasterous. You can't force a child to accept the motherhood of someone who is not his or her natural mother, even if it is technically true by marriage. All Christian/Messianic concepts of family ideally begin on the inside and work outwards. Now that is, of course, an ideal state. In reality, we know that in order to preserve order in a family, so as not to undermine discipline, we must sometimes impose rôles for the benefit of those other children who are being obedient. A bad apple can rot the whole basket, as you know.
In the Holy Order I have many 'fathers' and 'mothers'. Other Patriarchs, even though they are in rank or responsibility 'below' me in the ministry, I consider to be above me in spiritual maturity in other areas and to whom I joyfully submit and call them 'father' and 'mother'. Parenthood is not an easy thing to define. Paul said that he was a father to all those for whom he had responsibility as an apostle - a patriarch, in fact. He also said that there weren't many fathers in Christ. By extension, I hasten to add that I don't think there are many 'mothers in Christ' or 'matriarchs' either. A father is a patriarch and a mother is a matriarch. To get a precise answer to your question I would council you to go to a member of the Holy Order whom you personally regard as a 'matriarch' or 'spiritual mother', observe the qualities she has, and ask youself if these are qualities you yet possess, how you might possess them, and apply them to your own situation relative to your husband's elder children. Does that help?
But how are things practically solved? If she is not accepted by an elder child as a proper 'mother', does she go to the father in order to maintain discipline?
I think the same question should be asked within the context of, for example, a local church (assembly) where, say, a Pastor is a young man and there are some youth who have problems submitting to his authority because he is similar in age to them. Should the Pastor refer the youth to the (older and maturer) Bishop to get order in his congregation?
Well, such a situation actually existed in the New Testament Church (Messianic Community). You will remember that Timothy was a very young evangelist who was worried about exactly the same kind of problem you mention though admittedly with older people. John the apostle was the youngest of the apostles and yet, according to New Covenant belief, he was the overall head of the Church (Messianic Community)!
But to answer your question directly. We are always, in such situations, dealing with an 'impossible' situation, in some respects, because the issue is the flesh vs. the spirit. We judge with our natural eyes when we are not in the spirit. A young Pastor is Pastor no matter what anyone may feel about it. An elder child of a Patriarch ought to respect all his father's wives even if some are similar in age to that teenager. It is not an easy question. Respect, loyality and obedience should, ideally, we won rather than forced. So you have a conflict situation. And this is true not just in polygamy but in many other life situations too - even in monogamy where a divorcee or widower marries a younger wife who is similar in age to his elder children. I don't honestly think there is a simple answer unless the elder children are in Christ and their lives are being guided by the love imperative. If the latter is absent, then there will inevitably be a struggle and the one in the 'authority position' - in this case the young wife - must demonstrate that she deserves the respect which ought to automaticallt belong to her. She may put her foot in it and strain the relationship. It isn't easy. All new relationships take time to become established. In Christ, everything in possible. Yet as we, in the world we are, as Christians, in a tiny minority and must often turn the other cheek.
I think the rule I would lay down in my household would be something like this: If a young wife was having a conflict with an elder teenager son or daughter of mine of similar age, then I would expect her to turn the other cheek when in private. If the son or daughter behaved rudely or disrespectfully to a young wife when others of the family were present, then I believe discipline would have to be enforced. It is not the ideal solution but it is certainly the lesser of two evils. And I would enforce such discipline in order to not undermine discipline and respect generally amongst the other children. I suppose different patriarchal families will deal with this situation differently. It is difficult - as difficult as the human condition in its fallen state itself.
This casts some light on the subject for me. Thank you. Now I would like to know what the relationship between the wives and their children. Are they all 'mothers' to everyone's children or are they sort of 'supreme' mothers to their own children, and less to the others?
The answer to this is as complex as the one I gave to your previous question because the key is human nature and our level of spiritual submission to Christ. I have had this problem in my polygamous family before. In fact, it was quite a serious problem. So let me attempt to answer your question by saying that there are two answers.
On the level of what I will call 'law', each mother is the 'supreme' mother to her own children, in the same way that a husband is the head of his wife. Where, in the latter example, there is a dispute between husband and wife, the husband makes the final decision. That is Yahweh's order and it is clearly stated in the Bible. Thus, in the situation where, for example, there is a dispute over discipline, the biological mother has the final word with respect to her own children. This statute exists in order to prevent chaos where there is an absense of the vital ingedient called GRACE.
Now, where grace is present - that is, the undeserved loving kindness of Yahweh-Elohim - there is unity of purpose, love, discipline, etc.. That is what a patriarchal family is aspiring to. If love is absent, and the 'law' must be exercised, then there is a problem with that family. If the 'law' is exercised more than 'grace', then the problem is even worse. If there is no grace and only law, then one might say that the polygamous family has (from the New Covenant Christian perspective), collapsed.
Now where it comes to discipline, obviously a concensus has to be reached between husband and wife. But it is not that simple because there are many wives and a husband cannot arrive at multiple consensuses if all the familiy lives together. If they live in different homes (which we discourage) then the problem is minimised. If grace has departed, then separate homes may be the only solution until that grace returns.
It is the responsibility of the husband to set a target or ideal for the whole family - for all the mothers. Some of the mothers may disagree with him. Depending on their spiritual condition, he must then determine the proportion of 'law' and 'grace' relative to himself and a particular wife. It is most important that the differences between the arrangements he makes with each wife and the other wives is not too great otherwise there will be conflict.
This is not an easy problem to resolve. The key is not so much a perfect set of rules or 'home law' but the presence of the love of Christ. There is no perfect 'house law', in my opinion, because you would spend all your life trying to create it. (I know one patriarch who tried). Implementing it might well be just as, if not more, difficult. Relationship is based, to be full and joyous, in movement or life, not on rules. However, rules must exist simply because of imperfection in father, mothers and wives, even if sometimes these rules seem 'unjust' or 'unfair'. (This is actually the dilemma faced by secular society in striking a balance between heartless Law and heartfelt Justice).
For a polygamous family to be successful, it must grow in love, grace and truth. It is a spiritual condition. However, there must always be a safety net of 'family law' which is the responsibility of the patriarch to establish, ideally with the broadest concensus of all wives. He will not be able to please them all, and they must appreciate this. It may be that sometimes he is wrong in which case it will take courage and sacrificial love to submit to this and, by (as Paul calls it when describing how a believing wife should behave toward an unbelieving husband) radiating love, persuade him to see the 'right' way if he is wrong (as he will be sometimes). A hostile and contentious wife will only make matters worse because such an attitude overturns the law of Christ concerning headship and submission.
Each family is a complex of personalities and whilst there is, of course, a universal law as to how a family should ideally be run in the love of Christ, every family will be spiritually 'coloured' in different ways. Everybody is unique and, to some extent, each unqiue soul must be reached differently. Prayer, consultation, patience and obedience to the family head's decision are all vital ingredients. No solution will be perfect on this earth but a righteous patriarchal head will constantly be seeking to improve his headship. The loving council of godly wives will enable him to move and change in a more correct direction in respect to family management. It is, moreover, possible, that there is no one right way in doing things. In the end, the husband must simply pick one way for the sake of unity. I would say that SOLIDARITY is most important for the stability of a family, but again this must always be in the context of love.
Years ago I had very definite ideas on how I thought my family should be run. I have had to give way on many things, both for good and evil, as I have learned to manage my household. Sometimes my decisions have been a success, sometimes less successful. I do insist, thought, that if a wife disagrees with me over a matter of discipline that this never be done in the presence of children, but in private, for the sake of spiritual order and stability in the home.
So to answer your question: the biological mother ultimately has control over her own children in the jurisdictional sense, but she must remember that she is (a) subject to her husband, and (b) under covenant in this Patriarchal Community to be seeking the spiritual unity of everyone in the pure, sacrificial love of Christ. It means that, in some instances, she may have to give and take. And so too must the husband. The family is a very dynamic thing - it is not static. If you can manage to get it right in a family relationship, you can get ANY relationship right, I believe!
It maybe that some wives are less mature than others, some may have special problems, etc.. In these cases the husband must decide how and when he is going to exercise his headship, which he will have to do inevitably at some time because people are complex and have different problems to solve, mothers as well as children.
What if the husband has the wrong idea about how to raise a child? Does the mother turn the other cheek and the children's cheeks to him?
From the jurisdictional or legal point-of-view, she must turn the other cheek (and the 'cheeks' of the children), because that is the headship law. However, the husband also has a duty to learn from his wives. If he is wrong, then the key to success will not be in the fact of a wife or the wives being 'right' but on how they handle their husband. If they go for his throat you can be pretty sure that he will not yield because they will thereby be putting themselves in the wrong by not submitting in love! If they do not have a workable way of communicating disagreements with their husband which preserves love, then the marriage is in trouble in any case. If the husband will not listen to them no matter how right they may be, he is a tyrant and not living in grace. If he yields to them in order to 'keep peace' then he isn't much better because he is abrogating his divinely-ordained rôle as family head. The key is in how the wives approach him and how he responds.
Again, I wish you to recall how Paul said an unbelieving wife should respond to a believing husband, because if a husband rejects the Spirit he becomes an "unbeliever" in a certain way, and she becomes the believer who must reach her husband. (The reverse rôles are also tackled by Paul). If the man is hard-nosed and stubborn, his polygamous family will soon develop strains and will start disintrgating spiritually, to finally (if the worst comes to the worst) disintengrate as a whole. If he allows such a situation to arise, he is a fool, and will be accoutable before Yahweh.
Though I am sure that I, and other patriarchs, have been guilty of this disposition from time to time, I have also experienced it in one of my wives. She was very adament about how she thought the children should be raised and would not accept other views. She eventually started exercising unrighteous dominion contrary to the Law over the other wives' children which was catastrophic. She rejected my headship on the matter and wished to rule the roost as the Number One Matriarch. Life was a misery for everyone, herself included, and, sadly, she eventually left. She was very much a 'Law-type' and had problems working on the 'grace' level, which is the heart of the Christian/Messianic life, even though both are, of course, and as I have said, necessary.
If the husband is on the wrong track and is intransigent, then the wives, if persuasion has failed, MUST go to prayer to Yahweh for guidance. Yahweh WILL help them. But this is a desperate situation and hopefully will not arise too often...or at all. Now if we are completely honest, I think that my wives and I are not 100% happy about our present (1999) arrangement (I think it would be a small miracle if we were!) but I believe we are all determined to get it as nearly right as is possible. To get anywhere does, of course, require work - talking, listening, praying, studying Elohim's (God's) Word, and trying it. However, family relations are not things you can easily experiment with - children need a stable, constant, environment, and it is therefore vital that they have this. If big changes are to be introduced, it is important that parents discuss this with their children and explain, as best they can, why certain changes are going to be made, and try to get agreement wherever possible, especicially with the elder children. We had to do this recently when a few months ago we as a family changed from the Sunday to Saturday 'sabbath'. (Many years later we made the change to Luni-Solar Sabbath) by an even longer process. We did not make the change immediately once we knew what it was we had to do, but used a few weeks with the elder children explaining the Biblical basis for our change (as we then understood it), admitting our earlier Sunday error, and ensuring that they understood. Though there was some apprehension about the change (since we had lived the Sunday tradition all our lives), it actually worked out very well. I believe we must do the same thing when it comes to any major household changes.
Thank you very much for all the 'thumb-rules'! They seem both decent, just, scriptural, and loving. And it also seems like if you always head for more grace and love in Christ.