Friday, January 4, 2008

Modern Polygamy in the US

No, I'm not going to go talk about Mormonism or the like. I had an idea. Doorman-priest has responded to my previous post, talking about Scriptural things that we have abandonned - or at least things that appeared in Scripture that we no longer do - and he mentioned polygamy. It spurred a thought - and you know what - we in the US have polygamy - we just don't call it that.

One of the places where I tend to agree with Luther that most people don't is on the idea of Polygamy - Luther on rare occassion would allow for someone to be polygamous - instead of having your mistress on the side of your wife, oh ruler - just marry the mistress and have two wives. Now, when Luther suggested this, everyone went nuts. We like the idea of only one wife. . . period.

Now, here is the question. Why did Luther want this fellow to marry the second wife in addition, instead of divorcing the first and then marrying the second (which is a practice that is more easily, I didn't say rightly, but more easily argued for and customarily done in Western Culture)? Because when you divorce you abandon responsibility for the wife - which is cruel and wrong - polygamy would give you responsibilities towards the new wife - while you would still maintain your duties towards your first wife. That is why Luther approved, or at least preferred polygamy as the cure for human weakness - it still showed love for the first wife. Instead of kicking her out of the door, she is cared for.

Now, I think I will argue that we have polygamy today in the US. What do you mean!? There is no polygamy today!!!!! That is because we tend to think of marriage in romantic terms - love, joy, happiness, oh what a wonderful, lovely life. Poppycock I say! (Or to quote Londo from Bab 5 - "Love? What does love have to do with marriage?") Marriage is about mutual support.

Now, let us say, oh gents - that you divorce your wife. You are done with her and never have to deal with her again (like divorce in the old world), right? Oh, wait. . . alimony? Child support? You mean there still is a financial tie to the former wife? And this continues even if you have multiple divorces and remarriages?

To my (and I would say probably Luther's) way of thinking - if you are having to shell out the cash to keep her clothed and a roof over your head - she's your wife. If you are supporting her - she's still your wife - now, you might have gotten a few others after her - but still your wife.

Think about it - how do we talk about multiple (serial) marriages. You all probably have the relative who has been around the block more than once - oh, that is Grandpa's second wife - oh, that is Aunt Donna's third husband. That's a description of polygamy (or polyandry) right there. We have polygamy - people support multiple wives - we just say that you can only be sleeping with the one at a time.

Really - what's the difference?

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