I have been involved in apologetics for Christian/Messianic polygamy for several months now and, as I am sure everyone involved with the movement is aware, there are some pat arguments that we tend to use when we are witnessing to those of the monogamy-only mindset. One particular analogy comes to mind right now.
Think about it. What is the most common fear you hear a woman voice who is struggling with the issue of biblical polygamy? What I hear is the idea that if her husband wants another wife, he must not love her anymore or she must not be enough. To counter that fear, we have been telling women that that is not a valid assumption. After all you can love more than one child, can't you? Sounds good, perfectly reasonable, but...is it? Let's think this through, shall we?
It goes without saying that parents can love more than one child, most usually (in healthy families anyway) unreservedly and without bias. We have the capacity to love many children, despite their very different looks, abilities, talents and weaknesses. We may adapt that love to those characteristics but the ability to love is not diminished by number. Sounds like I am preaching to the choir doesn't it? But am I?
Is it possible that this is not a sound analogy? I know that every time I have heard it, it has nagged me that something is wrong with this concept but I could never figure out what it was. On the surface it sounds like it makes perfect sense and should be helping women overcome this 'If he loved me, he would not want another wife' feeling, but in actual fact this analogy can easily be interpreted as patronizing and condescending. Let me explain why.
In order to understand the point I am trying to make, it is necessary to examine first a parent-child relationship, then a husband-wife relationship. When a child is born, it is totally dependent on its parents for every facet of its care, literally to the point of being dependent on its parents for life itself. At birth, we bond so powerfully with our children that parents (particularly mothers) will know in a roomful of crying babies, not only which cry is their baby's, but what that cry means. Babies begin their lives in total dependence and the parent's relationship to the baby is defined as beginning in total dependence and progressing to total independence. We nurture and care for our children as they grow and learn and prepare to lead lives independently of us. We provide a safe haven and a learning environment for them to learn and test the boundaries, and we teach them the skills we have, but the goal is always to progress toward the day that our children leave the family of their childhood and begin a family of their own. Independence and growing away from an intensely close bond characterizes the completion of this relationship.
On the other hand, a marriage relationship develops with the opposite polarity. A man and a woman (or women) marry as independent individuals and progress to build a relationship of increasing unity and spiritual dependence to the point that all in the marriage are one in heart and mind and none of the individuals is complete without all the others, at least that is what we strive for in this Order. This is a relationship that progresses over time, and becomes closer and more tightly bonded as time and maturity progress. There is a unique bond in a righteous Christian/Messianic plural marriage that is difficult to explain to one that has not experienced it, but suffice it to say that a dynamic spiritual marriage decreases independence just as it decreases preoccupation with self. A healthy goal to be sure, but one that would not work so well if used in the raising of a child. Are you beginning to see what I am getting at?
Although simple when it is actually spelled out, it can be so difficult to see on a casual glance. Spouses are not children. Women are not daughters. The dynamics of the relationship are such that, while there may be some surface similarities and they may indeed be compelling, the fundamental incompatibility is inescapable. A parent-child relationship has a total opposite polarity from a husband-wife relationship. Parents bring their children to a point of independence and separateness, and spouses strive for ever-increasing unity and oneness, necessitating less and less independence and differentiation of self. By this I mean, we have a polarity incompatibility here.
Lastly, a simple and worldly, but extremely apropos point. We do not have a sexual relationship with our parents. I realize that is a flesh distinction, but I do not believe it can be avoided. While not the defining factor of a marriage relationship, it is a factor. And particularly for a woman raised and married in a monogamy-only culture, her sexual relationship with her husband is inextricably intertwined with her identity and security as a woman. The two cannot be separated, especially when first witnessing to the woman from a monogamy-only culture who has been reared to think that if her husband truly loved her, he would want no one else. Using the child analogy can, and frequently does, sound condescending and makes the already insecure and frightened woman think that she is being mistaken for, or treated like, a child in her husband's eyes. The reason is not that she cannot accept the idea that you can love more than one child, but that she knows that there is a fundamental difference between the relationships.
There are several profound and very valid reasons that plural marriage would be a great blessing to a devout Christian/Messianic woman and we need to help women see these blessings, difficult as that may be in the early going. The benefits in belonging to a truly echad (oneness) plural marriage, while difficult to enumerate, need no specious analogies to carry them. Rather than resort to patronizing clichés, lets help these women see the real, mature and realistic blessings there are in sanctified plural marriage. It may be more difficult initially and may drag the debate out a little longer but in the end, the understanding that spiritually honest women will glean will be like the house built on the rock instead of the house built on the sand. The foundation will be far more secure and able to weather the storm. More effort, to be sure, but far more edifying for all in the long run, and far more loving and Christ-like a way to help our sisters to come to understand this often enigmatic principle of Christian/Messianic echad polygamous marriage.