Polygamy protects the interests of women and children in society. Men, in Western society make the laws. They prefer to keep polygamy illegal because it absolves them of responsibility. Legalized polygamy would require them to spend on their additional wives and their offspring. Monogamy allows them to enjoy extra-marital affairs without economic consequence.
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Opponents of same-sex marriage sometimes say, using the slippery slope argument, that recognition of such marriage would lead to approval of polygamy also. I have argued, correctly I think, that those are two completely separate issues and the slippery slope argument is not valid.
But recently I have thought more about the subject of polygamy and have, surprisingly, come to the conclusion that perhaps it should be legal in this pluralistic country. (Please note: neither I nor any man I know is wanting a second wife!)
There has been no legal polygamy (or even practice of polygamy with only a few exceptions) in the Western world for centuries. Perhaps to a large degree this been because of Christianity. But maybe there should be some provision for polygamy in the U.S. now.
As we know, there was widespread polygamy in the Old Testament, and because of that there have some instances of polygamy in Western history. For example, in the 1530s polygamy was practiced in Münster, (in what is now) Germany.
Under reforms made by Jan van Leiden, the self-proclaimed King of Münster, polygamy became mandatory because it was the practice of the Old Testament and thus sanctioned by God. (Also on a practical level the woman/man ratio was something like 3 or 4 to 1, so there was an overabundance of women in the city). Leiden would take 16 wives for himself.
There was also approval, in 1540, of the bigamous marriage of Philip of Hesse, one of the most important in 16th century German political leaders. His taking of a second wife had the approval of some of the leading Protestant theologians of the day, including Martin Luther’s reluctant consent.
But still, in most “Christian” nations, bigamy/polygamy has overwhelmingly been recognized as being opposed to the teachings of Christianity and made illegal. And for good reason.
But there are other ways to look at the issue. I first glimpsed a benefit of polygamy when reading about Afghani women in A Thousand Splendid Suns (2007) by Khaled Hosseini (b. 1965), the Afghan-American novelist whose first book The Kite Runner (2003) was an overwhelming success.
In Hosseini’s second novel, also a bestseller, Rasheed is an Afghani man who takes a second wife, much to the dismay of Mariam, his first wife. But Rasheed was an increasingly abusive husband, and the two wives became close friends and mutually supportive in their resistance to their common “enemy.”
Then, I happened to come across a most interesting online article titled “Islam’s Position on Polygamy.” (This is on the website called www.IslamsWomen.com.) The article gives many reasons why the practice of polygamy is superior to monogamy. Let me share just one:
(The same article also makes the following highly questionable assertion: “In the West today, most married men have extramarital relations with mistresses, girlfriends and prostitutes.”)
This posting is partly a response to comments toward the end of my 1/20/14 blog article, especially the one calling outlawing polygamy a “religious bias.” So, perhaps making some legal provision for polygamy is needed for the religious freedom of Muslims (and fundamentalist Mormons).
But are there sufficient benefits of polygamy that such should be legalized? I’m not convinced that there are. And is polygamy generally beneficial for women? Most probably not.
Friday, February 28, 2014
According to Ecclesiastes 3:1, there is “a time for everything.” Among other things, that may mean there is a time for reading good literature and a time for reading popular novels.
This year so far has turned out to be the latter for me, as I have read three John Grisham novels since the beginning of the year.
I first decided to read “The Racketeer” (2012) because of the review of it my daughter-in-law posted on her blogsite, “Brenda’s Bookshelf.” Then my daughter Karen gave me a copy of Grisham’s new novel, “Sycamore Row,” for Christmas.
In mid-January, after finishing “The Racketeer,” which I found quite engaging, I started reading my Christmas present. I soon discovered it was the sequel to Grisham’s first novel.
So I put “Sycamore Row” on the back burner and read “A Time to Kill” (1989), which doubtlessly reflects the words of Ecclesiastes 3:3. It was a long (765 pages in the large print edition), spellbinding novel.
Grisham’s books may not be great literature, but they are alluringly-told narratives.
Then June and I watched the movie with the same name as the 1989 novel. I enjoyed it greatly—as did June, who had not read the book—and thought the end of the movie was better than the book’s ending.
A couple of weeks ago I finished reading “Sycamore Row,” which took place three years later in the same Mississippi town as “A Time to Kill” with Jake Brigance, the same youngish lawyer, as the central character.
A common theme of the two books is the racial tension between whites and blacks in the fictional north Miss. town of Clanton. And even though the first book was set in 1985, the demonic activities of the KKK played a prominent role in it.
In discussing the race issue in the new novel, Lucien, an aging, disbarred lawyer, says to Jake, “Everything is about race in Mississippi, Jake, don’t ever forget that.”
(Many of you will remember that the popular novel/movie “The Help” was also set in Mississippi.)
Early this month, “Religioussippi” was the title of an online article by Religious News Service. That article started,
Early this month, “Religioussippi” was the title of an online article by Religious News Service. That article started,
Once again, Mississippi ranks as the nation’s most religious state . . . according to Gallup’s annual religiosity rankings. More than 60 percent of Mississippians call themselves “very religious.”
So if Mississippi is as racist as Grisham portrays in his novels—which, unfortunately, it probably is, although not as bad now as 30 years ago—how can that be reconciled with Mississippi being the most religious state?
Well, on the one hand it means that there are many African-Americans in Mississippi—a higher percentage (37.3%) than any other state—and a large percentage of them are strongly religious.
But it probably also means that for many white Mississippians, their religion has not been broad (or deep) enough to embrace black people as equals in every sense.
There are exceptions, of course. I have known Mississippians like Jake, the central character in the two books mentioned above, who treat African-Americans in the community with respect and dignity.
Many others, though, including some church people, not only look down on blacks but on people like Jake as well for being too friendly with “them.”
I am sad that the most religious state in the nation is also one of the most racist states.
That shouldn’t be so. But, unhappily, that seems to be the case.
Sunday, February 23, 2014
Boxing is not my favorite sport, to say the least. But in the early 1960s June and I followed with considerable interest the up-and-coming career of a flashy Louisville boxer.
That boxer was Cassius Clay, who won the heavyweight championship of the world 50 years ago, in February 1964. Partly in recognition of Black History Month, this column is about Clay, who later became known around the world as Muhammad Ali.
Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., was born on January 17, 1942, in Louisville, Kentucky. His parents were members of the Southern black middle class, certainly not wealthy but better off than most African-Americans of that time.
Still, young Cassius grew up feeling the discomforts of racism and prejudice. According to Anthony O. Edmonds’s biography Muhammad Ali (2006), “the defining moment in his racial education” came when his father told him about the murder of Emmett Till in August 1954.
Even though I am 3½ years older than Ali, I don’t even remember hearing about that tragic event at the time. But, of course, I was not a black boy in the South.
It was that same year, when Cassius was 12, that he first began training to be a boxer. His amateur career, especially at the beginning, was not an overwhelming success. Still, he won the national Golden Gloves titles in both1959 and 1960.
Then in September 1960, while still only 18, Clay won the light-heavyweight gold medal at the Summer Olympics in Rome. That was, no doubt, when June and I began to hear about him, for we had moved to Kentucky the year before and were regular readers of his hometown newspaper, The Courier-Journal.
In spite of the latent racism in and around Louisville, Clay enjoyed considerable acclaim when he came back from Rome with a gold medal. Later that year he turned pro and began a stellar career as a professional boxer.
He later claimed that he started boxing because “it was the fastest way for a young black man to achieve social and economic mobility” (Edmonds, p. 17). Especially up to and including the time of his stunning defeat of world heavyweight champion Sonny Liston on February 25, 1964, more and more accolades were heaped upon him.
By then he had, indeed, achieved celebrity status and considerable wealth. But public opinion quickly began to change when Clay changed his religion. Just the day after the Liston fight, Clay announced that he had given up Christianity and had become a member of the Nation of Islam.
Then on March 6, 1964, he announced that he had given up his “slave name” and that his new name was Muhammad Ali. His name change is a bit ironic in light of the fact that Cassius Marcellus Clay (1810-1903), the noted Kentucky planter and politician for whom he was named, was an ardent abolitionist.
There is much more to Ali’s story: his conviction in 1968 for refusing induction into the Army, his contracting Parkinson’s disease in 1984, his lighting the torch for the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, his being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005 and the $80 million Muhammad Ali Center opening in Louisville that same year.
Sadly, Ali, who now lives in Arizona, is said to be in “terminal decline” from his Parkinson’s. But the “Louisville Lip” was a colorful man I remember well from more than fifty years ago. Some of what he said is worth remembering, too.
Here is one of his notable quotes: “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” Good words, indeed.
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Saturday afternoon the Missouri University basketball team won their second close game in three days. June and I are Mizzou basketball fans, so we really enjoyed watching those two games as well as most of their other 16 wins this season. Watching their 7 losses is another story.
Although we did not see the halftime activities, the MU football team was honored for their stellar season, culminating with their winning the Cotton Bowl last month. (I am a big Mizzou football fan also, but, unfortunately, June won’t watch football with me.)
MU football team’s “most valuable player” this past season was their 255-pound defensive end, Michael Sam. As most of you know, Sam has been much in the news this month, for he openly announced that he is gay.
(Sam’s teammates had known that, and accepted him without a problem, already.)
Also, as many us of might have guessed, the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) was not happy with Sam’s announcement—or with the University of Missouri. Thus, last Saturday WBC called for a demonstration against “fag football player shameless Michael Sam” and his supporters.
On the church’s website (GodHatesFags.com), the 2/11 announcement of the picketing plans at Columbia on 2/15 ends with the words, “God hates fag football players and their enablers.”
Admirably, some 2,000 students and townspeople rallied to form a peaceful “human wall” to separate the basketball arena (and the football team) from the hateful protest of WBC.
Westboro Baptist Church members, however, were not the only ones practicing what can be called “faith-based discrimination.”
While most members of the Kansas House of Representatives probably do not approve of the extreme measures of the Topeka church, on February 12 they passed a bill which would allow discrimination based on religious beliefs.
Though the short title of Kansas House Bill 2453 is “Protecting religious freedom regarding marriage,” the language of the bill would broadly give commercial establishments the right to discriminate against gay couples on the basis of the religious beliefs of those who own and/or operate those establishments.
(This issue is closely related to opposition to the health insurance mandate on the basis of religious beliefs, a matter about which I recently wrote.)
Even though HB 2453 was passed by a 72-49 (60%) vote, it seems to have little chance of being approved by the Kansas Senate. Still, it is troublesome when a legislative body will “use religion as a vehicle for bigotry.”
The above quote is from a Feb. 14 editorial in The Kansas City Star, which says that HB 2453 “would make it possible for Kansans to cite religious belief as an excuse to deny services to gay and lesbian persons.”
The Star followed up their editorial by printing Lee Judge’s cartoon in the Sunday paper:
Whether it is the misguided actions of a church or of a state House of Representatives, faith-based discrimination is not only wrong, it also tends to blight the reputation of Christianity as a whole and of church groups and individual Christians who seek to accept, and to treat, all persons as equals, regardless of racial, ethnic, gender, or sexual orientation differences.