Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Many spouses: Issues facing Christians

Some Pharisees came and tested Jesus by asking, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?"

"What did Moses command you?" he replied.

They said, "Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away."

"It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law," Jesus replied. "But at the beginning of creation God 'made them male and female.' 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."
(Mark 10.2-9)

This article at Christianity Today is intriguing. The dilemma is simply this: What should a person who has many spouses do after he/she converted into Christianity?

Should he/she divorce the rest of the spouses and uphold monogamy?

Some might argue that polygamist marriage is NOT marriage in the first place, but polygamy societies affirm it valid since it is in their tradition all this while. If marriage covenant includes the taking care of the spouse, then polygamist who became Christians cannot neglect this aspect so readily.

That's the dilemma.

If you are a missionary to this community, how would you respond to the issue? Do you ask the new convert to divorce his/her other spouses, and so make them neglect the material and emotional care on one hand, social identity on the other, for them? If divorce, how should you help the children from these 'marriages'?

If you don't ask them to divorce their other spouses, then where is the place of monogamy in your community?

Or do you accept the many spouses of the polygamist convert but sanction that there should not be anymore taking of spouses after that? While at the same time you teach that monogamy is the practice of the bachelors and should be the norm. But this would create class distinction within your community and will raised many questions or objections among the bachelors.

Or do you ask he/she to divorce the other spouses yet continue to provide material care for them? But in this case, what about their emotional care and social identity of not only the spouses but also the children?


reasonable said...

Sharing my thot with others who may not have heard me saying this:

As one of the current professors in Trinity Theological College
Dr Simon Chan said, no where in the bible could we find any explicit or clear injunction against polygamy. The religious Jews did not see any conflict between polygamy and the story of Adam cum Eve. [The point of Adam & Eve were not about one-to-one matching].
[I am not saying that everything not condemned by bible is permitted; I am also not saying that everything condemned by the bible is not permitted; some things allowed by the bible such as slavery should be condemned; I see no problem with polygamy per se in cases where all parties in polygamy are happy]

It is generally wrong for missionaries to enter a culture and then start breaking up happy polygamous families.

To be fair, I accept one-woman with many husbands type of marriage too since I accept polygamy.

Theoretically, it can be two-woman to a few husbands or any other such combinations too. Someone who knows the English term for it please share with me :)

Sze Zeng said...

Hi reasonable, thank you for sharing. It's 'polyamory'.