Discussing
Have we idolized monogamy?

Paul Vander Klay

JamesBrett
July 12, 2011

i really enjoyed this post, and think you (and savage) are definitely onto something.  if nothing else, we at least owe it to our brothers and sisters all over the world to give some further thought to these matters.<br><br>i'm a missionary and development worker in tanzania, and i see polygamy all the time.  [or to be more exact, polygyny -- rarely are there multiple husbands involved.]<br><br>and it's important to note that in many cultures, taking more wives is done so out of love.  many want to frown on the savages of the dark continent, because all they want is to rule a large household and harem with an iron fist and have sex with a different woman every night.  "don't they understand what love is?!" we ask.<br><br>and they look at our american culture and ask how in the world all these men with so much money and such large houses could leave women in their society unprotected and uncared for -- especially those women who have children to raise.  how dare we be so selfish as to not take care of these who are in need.  we don't even have the decency to take our deceased brothers' wives as our own.  "don't we understand what love is?!" they question.<br><br>we should consider that it's at least possible other cultures are (like us) acting out of love.  and is it plausible that in a fallen world, polygamy might sometimes the best choice?

Doracollier
July 12, 2011

Marriage to one man or one women is NOT idolatry.You need to stop planting such thoughts into the weak minded. Since the introduction to gay marriage - marriage has been under attack as if it is not a sacred union between one man and one women. I really don't care for your opinions again only your opinions...You will not attempt to redefine the definition of marriage with your coy articles. You are not pro-christian!

Jamesggilmore
July 12, 2011

If you think the attacks on the "sacred union between one man and one women [sic]" started with the marriage equality debate, think again.<br><br>The attacks started back in Genesis, when Abram had Ishmael by Hagar (Sarah's slave woman) when Sarah was still barren, or when Jacob married Rebekah <i>and</i> Leah, and also had children by both of <i>their</i> slaves, or in the book of Kings when Solomon married hundreds of women, or any of the countless other examples of Biblical marriage, by people whom Scripture doesn't seem to see anything wrong with (David had no shortage of wives <i>before</i> the whole Bathsheba incident without their impugning his righteousness), that weren't the "sacred union between one man and one woman."<br><br>(<a href="http://i.imgur.com/5UDH1.jpg" rel="nofollow">This chart</a> has a few more examples...)<br><br>The reality is that marriage has been redefined time and again, over and over, by culture after culture, over the 5,000-10,000 years or so we've had human civilization. Even contemporary heterosexual marriages, understood to be partnerships between equals, would be all but unrecognizable to someone living 150 years ago, when it was simply assumed that women were the property of their husbands and incapable of managing their own lives.<br><br>To act as if contemporary conservative Christians' understanding of marriage is some kind of longstanding and absolute historical or theological tradition is to ignore the vast majority of both history and theology.

Richard DeRuiter
July 12, 2011

After encountering marriage relationships in the Dominican Republic, where the expectations and even purpose of marriage is different from what I always assumed, I've come to question some of those assumptions. The first one is hinted at above: marriage is a source of shalom (in our culture we replace the word "shalom" with "personal fulfillment"). This forces marriage into a roll and gives it a purpose it was not designed to give, and in fact makes an idol out of it, since this view would put marriage in a roll only God Himself can actually fulfill!<br><br>However, I find the apparent 'normalizing' of extra-marital affairs is simply wrong. Certainly, we don't want to idolize monogamy, but neither do we want to idolize sexual excitement and variety (to try to turn his "boredom, despair, lack of variety, sexual death" on it's head a bit). The hedonist idolizes enjoyment in life, and much of this ethic is bowing to a different idol.<br><br>As far as evangelicals idolizing monogamy, I think that has to be qualified a bit. First, our high value for monogamy does not extend beyond a formal marriage relationship to cohabitation (regardless of the amount of time together), nor does it extend to homosexual couples (even with the benefit of formal marriage vows/ceremony). Failures within the church, such as the one you referred us to, don't point out the idolatry of monogamy, as much as expose a human's failure to meet it, and at the same time the church's commitment to uphold it. Often these moral failures are dealt with in grace, with an eagerness to forgive and restore that sometimes borders on the unwise, if only in its speed. Church leaders, who fail to uphold their marriage vows, or who engage in pre-marital or homosexual sex, are dealt with differently, because they are leaders. I think both you and I, Paul, understand the dynamics of that. But if we take out that complicating factor, we find people to be very gracious, forgiving, and eager to restore relationships whenever possible.<br><br>I'm forced to conclude that monogamy is not typically an idol among us evangelicals, even if it is an unmovable value. If it were an idol, there would be no or little opportunity for forgiveness/restoration, or it would require much more time/effort to accomplish, yet, (setting aside the additional complication of moral failure by leaders) this happens frequently even if imperfectly. <br><br>Talking about monogamy in relation to polygamy (as JamesBrett does in his comment), would be an interesting topic here. But I would conclude that, in spite of the ethic of the past (which seemed intent to 'westernize' the culture of new believers overseas), there is a greater tolerance for polygamy among missionaries and mission agencies, though (as I understand it) the great majority of them would not endorse any further marriages of a polygamist, once he became a Christian. That would be an interesting, but I think distinct topic.

JamesBrett
July 12, 2011

dora, at first i thought your comment was a satirical one.  you seem to feel quite strongly -- strongly enough in fact to accuse PVK of being anti-christian (or at least not pro-christian).<br><br>i'm just curious about this marriage as a sacred union between one man and one woman and where we get our best arguments for such?  it seems to me the best argument we could make is that adam and eve were in essence designed for one another.  but i have to wonder if the fallenness of our world -- which distorted most all of what God had originally intended -- also distorted marriage?<br><br>after all, there sure was a lot of polygamy among the people of God in the old testament?

Daveyboy
July 12, 2011

The author is on to something. Many have forgotten or failed to understand the Biblical teaching that human beings cannot keep the Law--including the prohibition of adutery in the Law of Moses, which Jesus intensified by making lust a violation. The suggestion that monogamy has become an idol is wide of the mark. The most pervasive form of idolatry began in the garden when the first couple fell for the suggestion that they could be like God. When we make ourselves gods, we ingore the Biblical teaching about the nature of sin. This is the deeper problem.

Wmrharris
July 13, 2011

The question of idolatry is rather interesting, if for no other reason than it calls to mind that our "marriage" is itself a cultural construction, bounded by our own history and society. Indeed the "marriage" we speak of today is not quite that of the mid-20th Century, and even less say of the ante-bellum american experience (or for that matter the patriarchal society of Europe in the 19th C). <br><br>Whatever its anthropological meaning, our contemporary view of marriage, especially that found amongst evangelicals, not only celebrates an ideal, but serves to articulate real hopes. The household today, no less than that of other eras, models the society; our turning toward it expresses some hope we have, a hope to be needed, a hope for stability amidst flux, a hope that biblical meaning can be lived out even when our jobs and the marketplace seem to deny it. <br><br>And if there's hope, then tugging at its hem is also that other child, fear. Idolatry often is less about rebelliousness than about trying to placate the fear that swirls about us: we make our golden calf because Moses is up the mountain and we're up the crick without a paddle and we gotta do something. <br><br>Another sign of the confusion would be that surrounding the role of infant dedication. The strength of this practice testifies to the prominence that family has amongst Evangelicals, as well as pointing to a type of corrupted ecclesiology.  Marriage flows from the life of the community, it is one of the social institutions that derivatively reflects the Kingdom as social reality. That's why we can think of it as a sacrament.   The meaning of marriage does not lie in itself at all, that's what allows us to accept its imperfect form, why we can see in the single mother still something of God's intention, or how even the struggling marriage with its heartaches can be bearable.  God's community makes these fragile communities possible. As Jesus reminds us, "a smoking wick he will not crush."  <br><br>Oh and a short note about Savage. He's actually something of a gnostic, trying to reach to this notion that there is a truth about marriage that is somehow different from the performance itself. Marriage keeps keeps referring to this other Reality. This draws him -- he testifies to it -- even as he wants a space for the flesh. The flesh does not reveal the holy, something that separates him from the Marriage Romantics, evangelical or otherwise, but is something accommodated. Important perhaps, but not constitutive -- smells like gnosticism to me.<br><br>

Jay
July 18, 2011

If anyone idolizes monogamy,it is the Pro-life/anti-abortion groups.They take everything to the extreme in order to achiever their goal of cutting off easy access to abortion. I have heard that monogamy is now taught in schools,like any other subject.<br>I could not believe Pro-Life activists were waiting for Casey Anthony`s release,signs in hand.

Billwald
January 25, 2012

Adam "married" Eve. What was his option? Ask God for three choices? Having no experience with other humans . . . maybe God should have created 6 males and six females and ordered them to pair off.

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