Religiously reproduce?

Coming from a family of eight, my interest is often piqued when I come across stories about large families. If we had cable, we might be 19 Kids and Counting regulars. But 19 children seems small in comparison to this family in India. Get ready for this story from Reuters.

The more, the merrier is certainly true for Ziona Chana, a 66-year-old man in India’s remote northeast who has 39 wives, 94 children and 33 grandchildren — and wouldn’t mind having more.

They all live in a four storied building with 100 rooms in a mountainous village in Mizoram state, sharing borders with Myanmar and Bangladesh, media reports said.

Surely someone doesn’t marry 39 women because he gets bored. As a sidenote, the piece ends with the following line:

He heads a local Christian religious sect, called the “Chana,” which allows polygamy. Formed in June 1942, the sect believes it will soon be ruling the world with Christ and has a membership of around 400 families.

Reuters bases its information off of other media reports, but it’s unclear whether religion is the motivating factor here or whether this “sect” promotes polygamy. The video from Barcroft Media focuses on the bizarre, doing little to help people understand why the family operates the way it does.

The Daily Mail article casually mentions religion as a side note. “Coincidentally, Mr Chana is also head of a sect that allows members to take as many wives as he wants.” But religion does seem to play a role in a desire to reproduce.

[One of] his wives, Huntharnghanki, said the entire family gets along well. The family system is reportedly based on ‘mutual love and respect’

And Mr Chana, whose religious sect has 4,00 members, says he has not stopped looking for new wives.

‘To expand my sect, I am willing to go even to the U.S. to marry,’ he said.

However, the article offers few details about the sect and whether the desire to reproduce is a pragmatic idea and/or religious idea.

The Sun (U.K.) speaks with some of the wives, who describe their husband almost like he is God.

During the day he likes to have seven or eight wives with him all the time to wait on him hand and foot.

Rinkimi, 35, married to Ziona for 11 years, says: “We stay around him as he is the most important person in the house. Serving him is like serving God. He’s the most handsome person in this village.

“I feel blessed to have him as my husband.”

Again, I wonder whether there is any religious side to the women’s reactions, or whether it’s tied more to a cultural ideas. For instance, do they see any spiritual benefit to being married to this leader? Sure, these stories are interesting, but so far they seem to be telling only part of the picture.

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  • Jerry

    I wonder what passages from scripture they use to justify polygamy? The Old Testament?

  • Sarah Pulliam Bailey

    Great question, Jerry.

  • Raymond

    I wonder if he is going on the right path by saying that they as “sect” believe that they will soon be ruling the world with Christ………where in fact Christ himself never got married…..as He had an important mission to accomplish in this world rather than keep marrying and reproducing.

  • http://aleksandreia.wordpress.com Hector

    Jerry,

    Christian polygamy, of one form or another, is fairly common in Africa (I don’t believe any of the Anglican or mainline Protestant churches explicitly sanction it, but some of the indigenous African churches do). I think they do rely on the Old Testament, as well as on the fact that it’s a traditional practice which is nowhere explictly condemned in the New Testament. (Needless to say I do think the teaching of Christ does condemn polygamy, but it’s only implicit, not explicit, in the New Testament).

    Martin Luther, for what it’s worth, thought the same (that polygamy, though unwise, was not explicitly forbidden). As did, of course, the pre-1890 Mormons.

  • http://www.mikehickerson.com Mike Hickerson

    Sarah,
    I wonder if there’s a religious side to the woman’s answer, too. I googled the guy’s name to see what it meant, and learned that “Chana” could be a form of “Hannah,” which means “beauty.” Then I realized that the guy’s first name is Ziona – so is his name “Beautiful Zion”? And his wife insists that he’s the “most handsome person in the village”? His immediate family makes up over 40% of his sect, which was formed shortly before he was born. I’m going out on a limb here, but I bet the sect was formed by his father, and the rest of sect is made up of cousins, uncles, and aunts.

    Strange stuff.

  • jdjplove

    David, favored of God, had 250 wives and more concubines. Where in scripture does it permit ‘judgement’ on any other then ‘self’? “Judge not lest ye be judged”, a quote of Jesus?
    Did anyone read where some of the ‘wives’ were very poor before he took them in, or that they are self sufficient? Compare that to our ‘welfare system’——-seems our own governed systems are rendering our society into the depths of the ‘toilet’! :)

  • http://rub-a-dub.blogspot.com mattk

    Looks like part of the appeal of the sect is that it rescues women from poverty. It would be interesting to see a discussion of the economics of this family vs. the economics of the surrounding community.

  • Jerry

    I appreciate the input. Part of my question was rhetorical since there are so many in the US who defend a Biblical definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman.

  • Hector

    For the record, I should point out that polygamy is explicitly illegal for Christians in India (and for Hindus, Zoroastrians, and most others). There’s a special dispensation for Muslim men allowing them to have multiple wives, although there’s been talk for a long time about revoking that portion of the law. This fellow is quite clearly breaking the law of the land (unless there’s some other explicit dispensation for tribal groups that I’m not aware of).

  • John M

    I’d like to point out that, while we are not polygamous, my church also believes that we will soon be ruling the world with Christ. I believe this is not an unusual belief among Christians of various stripes. Am I missing something? Anybody more familiar with non-Dispensational belief systems want to chime in here?

    -John


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