The Same or Different

In the comments to the last post Matt challenged the idea that Polygamy as practiced by Biblical characters was differnt from Polygamy as practiced today. I suggested that the realities of the modern world, as well as the cultural context, make polygamy different now. But, that may or may not address Matt’s focus on the practice itself.

By way of analogy, consider homosexuality. I have an unresearched notion that homosexuality as practiced by Hellenistic cultures often involved an adult male having sex with a young boy. Assuming that is correct, it would be fair to say the practice of homosexuality today, which is primarily between two consenting adults, is enough different from the pracice during the time the Bible was authored as to call into question the Bible’s teachings on the subject. Indeed, that would be true even if God Almighty was writing it. If humans name two distinct practices (exploitive sex with a minor AND consensual sex with a partner) the same thing, it’s not God’s fault.

So, what about polygamy? There are polygamists today that are all consenting adults and always were. Bill Paxton is surely portraying the good kind of polygamist. But, I think the norm for polygamy in modern America is the Warren Jeffs style, not the Bill Paxton style.

I think the Biblical polygamy is different because it was not a way to oppress the women involved. I also think the cultural context makes it different. If no one was marrying for love, then it is less evil to have a pragmatic loveless marital arrangment. Finally, I think there were situations in which it was pragmatic. Thoughts?

3 replies on “The Same or Different”

By way of analogy, consider homosexuality.

Agreed, forcing boys to have sex with the teachers is different from two men having sex because they both want to.

I think that forcing a 14 year-old girl to be married to a 40 year-old man is pretty similar to forcing a 14 year-old girl to be married to a 40 year-old man. Does context matter? I suppose, but only to a point. Lots of heretics were being tortured to death in inquisitional Spain, but it still sucked, it was still immoral.

I think that to persuade me, you’d have to show that the biblical polygamy was essentially different from current polygamy, and I don’t see that it is.

I think that forcing a 14 year-old girl to be married to a 40 year-old man is pretty similar to forcing a 14 year-old girl to be married to a 40 year-old man.


Does the intention of the 40 year-old man matter? I think Jeffs is intending to oppress these women. I think for biblical characters it was an ordinary course of business, perhaps even pragmatic practice.

What about necessity? Do shorter life spans and increased liklihood of death in child birth give a strong enough argument for necessity? Maybe not.

You may have busted me on this one.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I can close the deal. It’s reasonable to argue lifespan and death as mitigating factors. It’s not enough to make the case for me, but it’s not a crazy argument.

As much as I know it kills you to hear me say it, I think Jeffs is not intentionally oppressing his women. I think his beliefs are 100% sincere. I think he believes he is executing God’s plan to a tee, and that the rest of us are not. You allow your women to run around debasing themselves and so ultimately you are dooming your wife and mother and daughter to an eternity of damnation. If you just showed them how to be proper women, you’d give them an eternity of joy and communion with God. Bastard,

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