The US District Court Judge Vaughn Walker has held that Proposition 8 which outlawed same-sex marriage was unconstitutional and that this is because heterosexual couples and same-sex couples were identical. The judge ruled that the ban on homosexual unions was simply a kind of persecution which is at once entirely unmerited and simply cruel. There will be a lot of controversy as this goes through appeals and makes its way to the Supreme Court. But it does raise issues related to marriage and particularly polygamy that I wish to discuss here. I am going to point out a couple of my own posts where I have touched on issues relating to marriage, sexuality and the varied crises and have in one of them at least touched upon polygamy. However, the issues covered in this post do not require a close reading of these posts.
I start with this post above because I think that it is vital that we recognize how far away from any ideal of marriage that has been proposed by the Christian faith in it its most idealistic and monogamous we really are. If polygamy could be achieved for a portion of the many who are having children and expressing their sexuality with no reference to that ideal then it would be progress in terms of social and cultural nearness to both the spirit of Christ and the life of the gospel. That does not mean that there are not real risks and nothing that can be lost which is valuable and precious.
The link below is one in which I have discussed both the nature of human sexuality and also how it relates to social development and royalism. We must find a way to address sexual reality. That is especially true for those of us who have the kinds of ideals that relate to humanism, Christianity and Judaism. It is imperative that we become conversant with reality again.
I am a Christian and Christianity has never been the most polygamous religion. However, it has never been as completely anti-polygamous as it currently has almost entirely become. The Roman Catholic theologian Tertullian argued against the common and theologically supported practice of priests (some of whom were celibate even then) commonly marrying two wives and especially sisters. When Tertullian was later disciplined for other reasons it is possible that in part it was because of the portion of the church which believed polygamy was an important part of the Christian tradition for some men in leadership both royals and some clerics especially. But there were few Christian royals (not none) in the third century. This is just part of the picture: Charlemagne who was able to add the filioque procedit phrase to the Western version of the creed was an open polygamist as were all of his sons.
One issue that I think has to be discussed if one is going to discuss polygamy at all reasonably is that one has to begin to visualize it in order to understand it and discuss. Where it has been so universally illegal for so long it is not so easy to visualize. I want to include some film and television references that deal with varied and complex glimpses of polygamy and make it possible to see where the institutions of plural marriage have found their way into American viewerships and audiences. Here are some worth watching:
1. One Night With The King: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0430431/
The first link is to a film that tells the Biblical story of Esther.
2. The Other Boleyn Girl: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0467200/
The second link is to a film telling the story of Henry VIII and his women.
The third link is to the telling of the story of King David which is extremely important to both Judaism and Christianity.
4. Big Love: http://www.hbo.com/big-love
The fourth link is to a fictional family trying to restore and modernize Mormon polygamy. It is complex, muddied by multiple perspectives at times but I think it is a good show nonetheless.
Then I want to show some examples of contracted relationships between Americans in our history and present. These are real lives past and present that matter to those who live them quite a bit. As a committed son of Louisiana I am pleased to discuss one of the institutions that expressed polygamy in a new and workable way tied to old traditions. Take a chance to look at this and I may return to it later and have actually touched upon this before in other posts. Clearly the social realities of the quadroon ball are very far from where we are now. But if you take a global perspective it is entirely clear to me that they were often superior values and ideals from which we could still benefit some day.
The Quadroon Ball:
I also wonder how it would feel to be this young woman in the next video and be aware of all that is disastrous in our sexual realities in the world and still have one’s lifestyle just barely outside the criminal. I think it is horribly tragic.
Modern polygamy in the Mormon tradition: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ANXeiyGx7To&feature=related
It is to be remembered that if you are reading this blog you are reading the blog of someone who wants to change and reform the government and not either escape or limit it into insignificance. I think that governments of the States of the Union and of not yet existing institutions I have proposed would have a vital role to play in making any polygamous domestic institutions work. It is not entirely clear to me whether the current king of Thailand can be said to ever really have entered into plural marriage. I have not confidential sources and the public sources that I have seen indicate all sorts of contradictory things. It is perhaps a powerful sign of anti-polygamy in the United States that the only true Oriental King to have been born to the rights of an American citizen is part of the possible complete dismantling of an institution so valued in Thailand. However, it may be that it has been a slightly concealed part of his life. To see something about the history of the royal polygamy of Thailand see the next link: http://www.1stopchiangmai.com/articles/dara/
One thing to understand that is really vital is that those of us who would rather not lie, murder slaughter innocents wholesale or proceed blindly into the future have competitors and opponents who would like to have all these thing happen routinely and others who would like most of them to happen often. We can still recognize that polygamy is something less than the best and highest forms of monogamy and acknowledge it has a role to play in the survival of anything that can be called civilization.
I will make on of my personal revelations here in this post. I have been married only once and to only one person. Although I am involved with Christian ministry I am not a regular churchworker and not reaping rewards that would cause me to greatly limit my romantic life on that basis alone. Given the actual realities of my life I think it is true that I have had a very limited sex life outside of the seven years of my marriage. However, I have dated a lot. I have sometimes had more than one girlfriend who knew each other. In a few of those instances I have dated two women who were lesbians and attached to each other. I would not flatter my self so much as to say that had polygamy been legal I might have married those gals, certified one as a covenant mistress and one as her maid or whatever else. But it has been an issue in my actual life. I am getting old and tired and mean and in every way less eager to marry but I feel personally that I have been harmed as well as in the lives of my friends.
There is so much more to discuss. Polygamy has dark potentials and sides that must be resisted and that is why government has a role to play. I am not interested in persecuting homosexuals but I do think commitments between wives or ladies and maids in royal harems meets the needs of those who really need commitment and maintains marriage between a man and a woman. I do not want a world where all monks and canons are presumed homosexual. But I do believe homosexuals who care for each other can find civilized happiness as part of such groups. We must find ways to embrace sane civilized options that are imperfect and build again. We live in a world where ruin and deliberate evil combine to threaten more than most people can imagine. Life will not be improved by further simplifying a too simple society nor by pretending same-sex couples are capable of marriage to each other as heterosexual couples are capable of contracting such unions.