FIRST OUT OF THE GATE

Thursday, December 19th, 2013 | Uncategorized

It has officially begun.  Episcopal priest (but you would have figured that out eventually even if she hadn’t mentioned it) Danielle Tumminio comes out for polygamy:

When I heard a federal judge struck down part of Utah’s polygamy law last week, I gave a little squeal of delight.

Of course you did.

To be clear, I’m an Episcopal priest, not a polygamist.  But I’ve met the family who brought the suit, and these people changed how I think about plural marriage.

Granted, there was a time when the idea wouldn’t have pleased Danielle.

Before I met the Browns – made famous by the reality television show “Sister Wives” – I had the kind of reaction most modern-day Christians would have to their lifestyle: Polygamy hurts women. It offers girls a skewed perspective of who they can be. It happens on cultish compounds. It’s abusive.

What changed her mind?  See if this sounds familiar.

Yet when the Browns’ show debuted, I began to question some of those assumptions, and when I had the opportunity to meet them a few years ago, I questioned them further.

In getting to know Kody, Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn, and their children, I saw that these parents were extremely invested in raising girls and boys who were empowered to get an education, become independent thinkers and have a moral compass.

Indeed, children were so important to them not because they wanted to create more young polygamists – the Browns want their children to choose their own beliefs – but because their children were the people who would join them in heaven, and they wanted to raise a family kind enough, good enough, to achieve that goal.

One of the “arguments” the Episcopalians frequently use in defense of their innovations is that they claimed to see the “fruits of the spirit” in the lives of gays, both single and in couples, so that, according to them, ordination of gays, giving gays pointy hats and hooked sticks or marrying gays in their churches was no longer optional.

This is exactly the same “argument.”  This is obviously okay with God because look what decent, honorable, goshdarned nice people they are.  So by Ms. Tumminio’s reckoning, a pornographer who regularly goes on Habitat for Humanity builds or puts in time working the parish food bank doesn’t have a single thing to worry about when he dies.

And hey, continues Ms. Tumminio, maybe, just maybe, polygamous “marriages” are actually better than the so-called “normal” ones and polygamists have a lot to teach the rest of us.  Ever thought about that, you disgusting little bigot?

But it’s crucial to remember that, when done well, polygamy works because the participants have a different goal for marriage than monogamous couples: Most Americans believe that marriage is for the purpose of cultivating intimacy between two people, both sexual and emotional.

But for the Browns that takes a distant second to the goal of cultivating a community that together can reach heaven. It’s a different way of thinking about marriage and family, but it’s not inherently an abusive one.

Ultimately, I support the decision to loosen restrictions on polygamy because families such as the Browns exist who endeavor every day to live kind, healthy lives that are not harmful, not abusive.

Okay.  But what’s the Christian justification for at-least-three-ways?

I also believe there are theoretical reasons why, as a Christian, it makes sense to support healthy polygamous practices. It’s a natural extension for those Christians who support same-sex marriage on theological grounds. But even for those opposed to same-sex marriage, polygamy is documented in the Bible, thereby giving its existence warrant.

It does mean, though, that there is room for Christians to support the right of consenting adults to make choices about marriage that align with their religious beliefs in a country that prides itself on religious freedom.

Finally, like us, they want to practice their faith. And as long as that practice is in the service of cultivating loving, healthy relationships that strive to honor God and neighbor, I believe it is possible for even nonpolygamous Christians such as myself to support their calling.

Danielle?  A bag of hammers just called and told me that that was the dumbest thing it had ever read.  On the bright side, Tumminio just inadvertently awarded a whole lot more stature to those online “churches” and their online “ordinations.”  I’ll take one of those “ordinations” over Ms. Tumminio’s “ordination” any day of the week and I’m not kidding.

Kitten, I realize that you’re an Episcopal priest so your Biblical knowledge is limited to non-existent.  But for crying out loud!  Lots of things are “documented in the Bible” but that doesn’t make them acceptable to God.  And what on Earth are you going to do with this?

The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?”

And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the TWO shall become one flesh’?

To me, that basically blows the “Jesus never said anything about it” claim clean out of the water for this case but you Episcopalians have negotiated a whole lot tougher obstacles than that one in your quest to edit God.

44 Comments to FIRST OUT OF THE GATE

Fuinseoig
December 19, 2013

Christopher, Christopher, Christopher. If we’re slinging Scripture about, remember what St. Paul says in 1 Timothy 3:2 “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach”

Those who oppose clerical celibacy say that this verse means not alone that clergy may be married, it means they must be married, i.e. marriage is compulsory.

Would you really be surprised to find that what Jesus says in the Gospel (a)is ignored, because if you take it literally, it forbids divorce and we’ve moved so far on from that now and (b) it is interpreted to mean “when He said ‘the two become one flesh’, it only referred to the particular wife being married at the moment, and not all the other wives a man might have at the time”?

Regarding the law issue, I’ve seen it analysed that the judge did not say bigamy was constitutional, but rather that the part of the law in question forbidding cohabitation was unconstitutional, which is probably fair enough: if every couple living together without being either civilly or religiously married is to be prosecuted, there will need to be an awful lot of new jails built. Since adultery is no longer criminal, you can’t really say a law forbidding a married man from living with another woman not his wife is still in force.

Of course, unintended consequences and all that jazz…

Fuinseoig
December 19, 2013

My point about the verse from St. Paul’s Epistle was that the clear sense of what was meant was taken by pretty much everyone to be that any man going for office in the church could only have one living wife at a time (e.g. converted polygamists – as in Africa – had to choose one wife or men already married couldn’t marry another wife at the same time and that the ‘divorce, remarry, divorce again, remarry again’ culture of the Gentile world didn’t apply anymore).

It was only during and after the Reformation that it was interpreted by some, to mean “clergy HAVE to be married, so yah boo, Church of Rome!”

Same way here: supporters of polyamory will suddenly find all those Old Testament verses about the Patriarchs so convincing and compelling (after we’ve been hammered over the heads that the Old Testament no longer binds us, that the ancient world didn’t understand human sexuality, the shellfish argument, etc. etc. etc.)

midwesntorweigna
December 19, 2013

The gay marriage thing isn’t going to a lot for the Episcopagan business model. Need to attract those capable of having offspring…thus dudes with multiple wives.

Sparky
December 19, 2013

Spouses are like pills, if one is good, two (or more) are better.

Bill (not IB)
December 19, 2013

Slippery slope? What slippery slope?

What’s interesting is that at least *some* liberal/leftist/revisionists are digging in their heels and saying “no, this isn’t the same as LGBTQUV* rights, because the issues are very complicated, and can’t be dealt with.”

Having completely shattered the basic idea of marriage, they’re now finding out that you better be careful what you wish for – you may get it. They say that having to decide which spouses are entitled to which benefits is a potential mess – well, so far it’s been ugly with same-sex relationships where in vitro, surrogate womb children can end up with four mothers and one father. Take that one to the courthouse and resolve it……………………..

* QUV, “questioning, uncertain, variable”

Dale Matson
December 19, 2013

Relative truth equals cafeteria morality. It looks like the ‘radical feminists’ will roll over on the polygamy issue, showing themselves to be hypocrites at heart.

tjmcmahon
December 19, 2013

I guess I really have become an old fuddy duddy. I am so old, I can remember when priests did not watch shows with titles like “Sister Wives.” Let me guess, she has time for shows like that, but there is no Evening Prayer in her parish because her schedule is just so packed with pastoral responsibilities.

I must say it would be both hilarious and pitiful if the first new multiple marriage performed in Utah in decades was performed under the auspices of TEC and not Latter Day Saints.

Katherine
December 19, 2013

Who was it, on another thread, who said Piskies would approve of Muslims but never approve of Mormon polygamists, and I agree? Hah! We were wrong!

And the part about appealing to the Old Testament is rich, you’re right, Fuinseoig, considering how often we’ve been told that if we hold to OT rules we shouldn’t eat shellfish, etc., etc. But here we see the OT is like the rest of Scripture. It’s a place to raid to support whatever you want at the moment. I have recently run across some folks who think our country should be run on OT law. Like this woman, though, they pick and choose which laws those should be. If you want to live an OT life, as closely as it can be done in this time, you ned to run to the nearest strict Orthodox rabbi and begin taking instruction. If you’re a Christian rejoicing in the Incarnation and Resurrection of our Lord, then you have revised standards.

Katherine
December 19, 2013

Sorry. Smashed a finger and my typing accuracy isn’t too good.

Michal
December 19, 2013

For the nit-pickers: it’s POLYGYNY, not polygamy…

Daniel Muller
December 19, 2013

it’s crucial to remember that, when done well, polygamy works

So there is such a thing as polygamy done badly? Any objective guidelines for determining that? Bueller?

for the Browns that takes a distant second to the goal of cultivating a community that together can reach heaven. It’s a different way of thinking about marriage and family

It is a Catholic way of thinking about marriage and family. But I understand that it may take a while to explain the idea of “having children,” especially in the plural, to an Episcopal priestess who teaches Harry Potter theology at Yale.

BillB
December 19, 2013

Ms. Tumminio is very confused over theology. The Browns are LDS (Mormons) and not Christians. They have a very different view of the life after where all people go to some level of their envisioned heaven and there is no Hell. The TEC folks are so messed up.

Therese Z
December 19, 2013

It just occurred to me: it matters less and less, according to these people, if a child knows its parents, because the parents no longer have the primary responsibility for the child. The STATE does, so who cares what seething mass of chromosomes went to make up the child’s phenotype?

Gregg the Obscure
December 19, 2013

So for TEO acceptable sources of doctrine include sensationalist TV shows, sentimental appeals a la Phil Donahue and lefty political talking points, but not scripture, tradition or reason.

Polygamy is an offense against human dignity, though not as severe of one as homosexuality. Concurrent polygamy might be slightly worse than sequential polygamy, but I’m not completely convinced of that. We’ve had sequential polygamy all over the place since the adoption of at-will marriage (a/k/a no-fault divorce). The backfill to accept concurrent polygamy is completely unsurprising. The use of mormons as the poster children is also unsurprising, though it is moslems who are the more common practitioners of concurrent polygamy these days.

Katherine
December 19, 2013

I haven’t watched the show, but the Brown plural marriage participants are presumably not in good standing with the LDS church headquartered in Salt Lake City, since that group does not accept plural marriage any more. I have wondered if they will backslide on that, but they’d have to have another revelation.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
December 19, 2013

“To be clear, I’m an Episcopal priest, not a polygamist.”

Well, bless her heart! Sometimes deary an open mind is nothing but an empty head!

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
December 19, 2013

Who is her bishop?

SouthCoast
December 19, 2013

So, should polygamy become law, will this smug beast smile benignly at the middle-aged “wife of one’s youth” whose heart is torn out by the news that her husband is marrying 20-something Suzie Creamcheese and moving her into the family house, and tell her she needs to be more tolerant? Sorry, priestess, but I saw experiments in poly-whatever back in the 70s, and they tended to result mostly in sorrow and, at least once, in suicide. Can we have a National Day of Exorcism, please?

tjmcmahon
December 19, 2013

WTF-
I am inclined to think she doesn’t have a bishop, based on using an ecclesiastic definition of “bishop.” Applying that definition to TEC, anyone who has not been deposed, inhibited, or at the very least, “conciliated” or retired, is not a bishop.

Katherine
December 19, 2013

According to her blog, she’s a part-time priest associate at Christ Church, Quincy, MA.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
December 19, 2013

Nevermind…I actually thought about bringing this this his attention but when I did the research I realized that he would only encourage her further – it’s Shaw of Massachusetts.

…move along…there’s nothing to see here…no need to block traffic…that’s all folks…have a nice day…

gone Papist
December 19, 2013

Wow. Katherine, I was the one who said TEO could come out in favor of Moslem polygamy, but not Mormon. I guess they might be open-minded after all.

I still think that we’re likely to see diocesan convention resolutions in favor of Somali, Malian, etc. refugees and asylum seekers being able to bring in wives #2 and #3 because that’s diversity. I don’t think that there will be a groundswell of resolutions supporting Mormon “fundamentalists”.

I’m sure that gay Somali Moslem second and third husbands will have to be advocated for as well.

Katherine
December 19, 2013

gone Papist, I hadn’t thought of that! Gay plural husbands are an idea whose time will come, maybe soon.

gppp
December 19, 2013

My wife’s sister has been or has had some kind of freak show around her virtually all of her adult life. She was kicked out of the Army for pretty much being a swinger; then got pregnant while swinging in the Navy and married her boyfriend at the time only to realize soon after that the firstborn obviously wasn’t his at all.

A few years on, and two more daughters later, he gets kicked out of the Navy and they divorce after he fathers a fourth child by another woman and rapes his own older daughters.

And, Chris, you’re right about mail-order ordinations — sister-in-law shacks up with a new guy (a whole different kind of freak show now) who she later marries. The guy who marries them is syrupy homosexual card-carrying “priest” in the World Church of Madonna — not the Mother of Our Lord, but the pop diva from Detroit — who renews his ordination especially for the occasion, held in the living room of their own cheap apartment. We let them enjoy their day without us.

By then, though, the sister’s middle daughter (14 when it started) spent a year and a half sneaking out to bone a mid-twenties friend of the live-in boyfriend, the oldest daughter decides she’s lesbian (because “men rape me” she says) and the youngest gets so abused emotionally growing up that ends up without a shred of common sense and turns “lesbian” to get special protection from bullying at school after being teased mercilessly for being “dumb”.

And, yes, the sister-in-law and her husband are still a real freak show. Both of them.

Polygamists and polyamorists are far from the only degenerates in this world. I’m convinced from my in-laws’ family history that degeneracy has a way of perpetuating itself. It doesn’t need TV shows or visibility to pull it off.

Allen Lewis
December 19, 2013

Most Americans believe that marriage is for the purpose of cultivating intimacy between two people, both sexual and emotional.

She must have cut class the day they went over what the Church teaching on the purposes of Holy Matrimony are. But then the ‘Piskies seem to have pretty much thrown all of that out. Besides which, why should the Church care what most people think?

But I forget, this is an Episcopal priestess we are talking about.

Donna
December 19, 2013

>For the nit-pickers: it’s POLYGYNY, not polygamy…
Actually, it’s both.
Polygamy means one person with multiples spouses of the opposite sex.
The most common form has been polygyny – one man with multiple wives.
Another form, traditional in certain tribes in Tibet, is polyandry- one woman with multiple husbands.
A few communities have practiced group marriage, in which every man in the group is considered married to every woman in the group.
In many cases of polyamory, every one in the arrangement is considered married to everyone else, regardless of sex.

FW Ken
December 19, 2013

Plural gay marriage is called an orgy in the real world.

Bill (not IB)
December 19, 2013

This was completely predictable, and in fact it *was* predicted. When the US Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence v. Texas that sodomy laws were unconstitutional, and that the government had no business in legislating what happens privately in people’s bedrooms, the dissenting opinion (Justice Scalia et al said that “state laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity would not prove sustainable.” It’s the bigamy laws that come into play with polygamy/polyamory, and it doesn’t take a genius to understand that if the court is supposed to turn a blind eye towards what Bob and John do in their bedroom, it cannot justify attempting to control Bob, John, Susan, Julia, Paula, Keith and Helen do together, or how they arrange their “family”.

Once the barn door is open, there’s no way to keep flies from getting inside.

Katherine
December 19, 2013

gppp, your sister-in-law and her family are clearly worse than this (apparently) happy plural marriage in Utah. But when you say, “degeneracy has a way of perpetuating itself,” you make a good point. These poly parents say they want their children to make their own decisions about how to live, but in fact children often grow up to live as their parents did. The girls will go into plural marriages thinking this is the only way. They have no other model.

Marie Blocher
December 19, 2013

The Utah court ruling did NOT authorize Polygamy. It
found that the state could not prosecute someone co-habitating with someone other than his wife. It said if Brown had applied for a marriage license for “wife” number 2, 3 or 4, while still married to wife number 1, then he would have violated the state law.

So nothing has changed, you can shack up with a whole football team if you want, just don’t try to marry more than one of them.

Michael Berry
December 19, 2013

Marie, the decision decriminalized it. This is just the first step to requiring the state to recognize it legally. The homosexuals have laid all the arguments in place. So everything has changed.

But what will happen as the list of those who can be married is that the states will stop recognizing marriage completely and there will be no marital benefits for anyone.

Everyone can rut with who they want, when they want, where they want.

Marie Blocher
December 19, 2013

It decriminalized cohabitation.
It did nothing on marriage. The judge was quite clear that if Brown had applied for a marriage license for
the second, third and fourth wives, he would have violated the law and been guilty of bigamy.

Michael Berry
December 19, 2013

Marie, you are only fooling yourself. This is the first step toward extending marriage equality to multiple partners. This decision was the Lawrence v. Texas that opened the way for homosexual marriage.

If sex can be dispensed with, then so can the number of people married. There is no reason remaining for the state not to allow multiple people to get married. And when that happens, the states will no longer recognize anyone as married.

Katherine
December 19, 2013

Marie is correct as to what this ruling did and didn’t do. But Prof. Jonathan Turley, who engineered this, is clear that the next step will be legalization of alternative marriages of all types.

This all sounds benign, since the Brown family is represented as being all sweetness and light. But there are some polygamous communities in Utah and Arizona which are not sweetness and light at all, and this just took away some of the justification for prosecuting them.

Maxine
December 20, 2013

The husband is supposed to support the “firstl” wife. “Wives” after that are single mothers and the state is expected to support her and her children (& the state does)

Maxine
December 20, 2013

I heard a gay “expert” on how the Bible should be interpreted, on CNN explain that since Jesus EXPLICITLY did NOT say anything about homosexuality it is therefore not a sin.

So, since He did not explicitly say a man should not have mor than one wife at a time, therefore….
He did not, explicitly, say that a woman should not have more than one husband at a time, therefore….
He did not say, explicitly that a person should not get drunk and drive a car…..
“. “. “. “. “. That one should not own slaves…..
say “Merry Christmas”……….no, wait. er…uh…
I’m getting all mixed up….

Katherine
December 20, 2013

Maxine, these “Jesus didn’t say anything explicit” people are like Muslims in this way: Muslims avoid anything their prophet told them to, but if he didn’t mention it, it’s okay. There were Ottoman sultans who drank cognac because the prophet knew nothing of distilled liquors. This woman ignores the whole of Scripture from Genesis to Jesus’s blessing at Cana and his words about marriage to find blank spots where he didn’t mention particular things explicitly.

Michal
December 20, 2013

Donna,

I was speaking as an anthropologist (B.A. Ohio State), and it is Polygyny in this case…one man married to more than one woman. You are correct that Polyandry is one woman married to more than one man (a tribe of fishermen in India come to mind here).

Heinlein explored all of this…dirty old man he… (And I was nurtured on the Heinlein juveniles; make no mistake.) He thought anything was OK.

Polygamy refers to either, so I decline to use it in this case.

Katherine
December 20, 2013

I think there’s a certain amount of polygyny going on in India today, in the states where the imbalance between boys and girls is especially high because of the abortions of girls.

SouthCoast
December 20, 2013

There is evidence in ancient Indian writings and epics of polyandry, most likely due, (as in historic Tibet), to the practice of exposing female infants (parallel to contemporary sex-selective abortion in India, China, et al.)

SouthCoast
December 20, 2013

BTW, forgot to add, that, as a rule, polyandry is fraternal, in that one unfortunate woman is married off to a group of brothers.

Katherine
December 20, 2013

Ah, in that case any sons stay in the family, regardless of which brother is the biological father.

John K
December 20, 2013

The story of David, Bathsheba and Uriah the Hittite is also documented in the Bible. I suppose she would argue for all the actiona involved in that episoce

Clown Celebrant
December 21, 2013

Once again the freaky outliers hijack the cultural “conversation.” But, don’t let them push us to over-react. For example, freako priests are not the only ones who squeal with delight and personally I remain in favor of it, regardless of the consequences. As long as it’s between like species.

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