A few months ago, HBO premiered its romantic comedy "Big Love," whose premise displays yet another attack on traditional family life. This assault joins hands with pornography, divorce, spouse and child abuse, abortion, and homosexuality as the top family enemies of the past 50 years. Even as you read these words, the California State Legislative Assembly is debating a proposal to make "gay history" a part of required public school curriculum.
"Big Love" tells the story of a businessman with three wives who, with their collective sets of kids, live in three adjoining houses in Salt Lake City. Since polygamy is illegal in all 50 states, one would think HBO had engaged merely in harmless fiction. But the Council on Contemporary Families (CCF) has added polygamy information to its web site. Estimates from numerous sources put the number of polygamous people in the U.S. somewhere between 50,000-100,000, mostly Mormons and Muslims.
Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer claims that "stirrings for the main streaming of polygamy have their roots in the increasing legitimization of gay marriage." Taking an opposing position on either issue can be viewed in the current cultural climate as "an arbitrary, discriminating, and indefensible denial of individual choice." Krauthammer goes on to remind us that "until this generation, gay marriage had been sanctioned by no society that we know of, anywhere at any time in history."
Still, new groups advocating the decriminalization of polygamy pop up like spring flowers along a North Carolina freeway. In addition to the CCF, we now hear the voices of The Centennial Park Committee, Principal Voices, and the Canadian justice Department. Yet a May 2005 Callup poll found that 92 percent of Americans oppose polygamy.
Someone will surely ask, "How can we condemn polygamy when we see it commonly in the Bible, notably in the lives of OldTestament heroes like Abraham, Jacob, David, and Solomon?" Good question. Moral decline from the divine ideal of one man and one woman, established by Cod in the Garden of Eden, had corrupted Hebrew culture as early as the days of the patriarchs. The Apostle Paul answered the question succinctly in Acts 17 when he told the Greek philosophers: "In the past, God overlooked such ignorance, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent." In the context of this debate on the Areopagus, Paul spoke directly to the issue of idolatry, but the principle applies to all old covenant sinful behavior, including polygamy. We find not a shred of evidence that New Testament Christians practiced polygamy or homosexuality.
The traditional family, consisting of one father, one mother, and their children, continues as the only clear biblical model, even amid the distorted behavior of the twenty-first century. Though some Mormons still practice polygamy, the church officially denied its legitimacy in the 1800s. Joseph Smith's fictional vision of "multiple heavenly wives" as a preparation for God's designed eternity remains as bizarre and heretical today as it was back in Nauvoo, Illinois, 150 years ago.
Americans who wish to protect and nurture what remains of the traditional family should take a gentle but stubborn stand against both gay marriage and polygamy.
Dr. Kenn Gangel is Distinguished Professor Emeritus at DallasTheological Seminary and Scholar-in-Residence atToccoa Falls College.