Preying on Those Most Vulnerable

by Calulu

Last week someone sent a link for a sect that calls itself “Biblical Families”. At first glance they seem like the usual patriarchal fundamentalist flavor of Christianity, like a thousand other versions of Christianity. In fact, this is how they describe themselves -

Biblical Families is a ministry run by a group of Bible-focused, Christ-centered, Spirit-filled Christian believers…

and then you read on to discover why they are so different.

…desiring to support, defend, and encourage Biblical-based marriages, including those with more than one wife. It is our hope that you will find this site a place to renew your strength, get practical advice and counsel, and be encouraged to press on toward the goal of serving God as you have been called.

Christian polygamists openly practicing plural marriage because there was plural marriage in the Old Testament.

Okay, so isn’t that still illegal under federal law? The feds have prosecuted Fundamentalist Mormons for the practice of polygamy going all the way back to the 1800s.  There’s still the occasional prosecution of it to this day.

But it’s not the fact that it’s illegal under federal law or that I personally find polygamy to be something squicky and know that it opens up people to all sorts of jealousies and problems that I find reprehensible. It’s the fact that they actively attempt to recruit single mothers like they are throwing a lifeline to someone in desperate straights, combing the world for those Fantines before they shave their heads and go into prostitution to support their children.  Check out their “Single Moms” page and tell me they aren’t trying to actively recruit from a vulnerable group.

It would be admirable if they were trying to help single moms because they believe that’s what the Bible wants them to do but to dangle the cheese of a stable successful life in front of them is pretty darn sickening.

Imagine a family where the father is such a trusted husband, and the wife so secure, that she is open to sharing him with another wife. Think it’s crazy? Think again – it’s only our Roman-influenced, easy-divorcing, post-Biblical Western culture that has convinced you of that. In fact, MOST cultures throughout history have accepted plural marriage at some level. We don’t claim it’s for everyone, but for the right people, the blessings and benefits are huge. And even for those who don’t decide to practice “polygyny” (the more technically correct term), there is a real blessing for learning God’s ENTIRE truth about marriage!

We live a culture where divorce, and therefore serial-polygamy (“many wives, one after another”) is rampant. In large measure because of this, we have a society with way too many single mothers and fatherless children. It breaks our hearts, and we know it breaks God’s. He told us to provide for the “widows and orphans”, but today’s single mothers are our modern-day windows and orphans! And “providing” doesn’t mean handing a few dollars every month – women and children have emotional and relational needs, too. We think God wants to provide families for them, but we all know there are not enough quality single men available to meet that need.

That’s where plural marriage comes in. Believe it or not, we know many families who are just waiting for God to send the right lady to join their family, and be a loving, fully-integrated part of it. We also have Godly single men, who already have it laid on their hearts to someday provide for more than one wife.

They even have an “Introduction Service” to help match single moms with a husband. If this lifestyle choice was something that was bringing in scads of people on their own without trying to get single mothers without a lot of options to think this is the best way to take care of their kids and everyone was happy with the arrangement that would seem far more, uh, errm, eech, less creepy.

Just my two cents worth. I’m interested in how this whole thing seems to you. Please let me know in the comments.

Comments open below

 Read everything by Calulu!

Calulu lives near Washington DC , was raised Catholic in South Louisiana before falling in with a bunch of fallen Catholics whom had formed their own part Fundamentalist, part Evangelical church. After fifteen uncomfortable years drinking that Koolaid she left nearly 6 years ago. Her blog is Calulu – Seeking The Light and The Burqa Experience

The Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network

NLQ Recommended Reading …

Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich

Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce

 

About Suzanne Calulu
  • Jolie

    I’m curious: how would a group like this feel about secular people who identify as poly/have multiple-partner relationships? Would their attitude towards, say, a menage a trois formed by two women and one man who do not believe in the Bible differ from their attitude towards one with two meen and one woman?

  • Betty Crux

    This is vile.

  • http://lyricalpolyphony.blogspot.com Mary

    Amen. Ick.

  • Independent Thinker

    What really disturbed me out was they want to know the ages of the children the mother already has. Can’t help but think they would really, really, be interested in a mother with teenage daughters.

  • OregonianWinter

    Actually, very few cultures practice some form of plural marriage. If they do, it’s for economic/inheritence/political reasons. Not love. For example, Polyandry (multiple husbands to one wife) is practiced in Nepal to keep land in the family so the girl is married to a family of brothers but only has one husband in the house at a time. She doesn’t get much of a say (she and the brothers are married very young) and neither do the boys. It’s all about land. Most cultures marriage is one man, one woman. There are other relationships but they aren’t legal or recognized and are considered dangerous to the safety and wellbeing of the community. Doesn’t mean they don’t happen, they just aren’t talked about.

    This looks like fundamentalist Mormons with all that abuse and craziness and evil. They imply women
    have a choice but they don’t. It’s all about men and their penises.

  • madame

    I believe polygamy served it’s purpose in a culture where women couldn’t fend for themselves. Nowadays, I think single mothers would profit a lot more from working toghether with other people in a similar situation. The polygamy arrangement seems to be a lot more about securing more soft places for the men to fall, and more arrows for them to train. It’s a recipe for disaster, IMO.

  • texcee

    Polygamy and cults conrolled by men always seem to be about men having as many sex partners as they desire rather than being faithful to one mate. In too many cases these sex partners get younger and younger as time goes on.

  • saraquill

    a)”many wives, one after another’” is called serial MONOgamy.

    b) If the husband is trying to collect dependents, doesn’t that put a strong financial burden on him? Sticking to one partner would be more economical.

  • http://alisoncummins.com Alison Cummins

    Plural marriage is common in Africa and in Islamic countries. It’s clearly normal in the OT and clearly common in the NT. From wikipedia:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polygamy#Patterns_of_occurrence_worldwide
    “Patterns of occurrence worldwideAccording to the Ethnographic Atlas Codebook, of 1,231 societies noted, 186 were monogamous. 453 had occasional polygyny, 588 had more frequent polygyny, and 4 had polyandry. At the same time, even within societies which allow polygyny, the actual practice of polygyny occurs relatively rarely. There are exceptions: in Senegal, for example, nearly 47 percent of marriages are multiple. Within polygynous societies, multiple wives often become a status symbol denoting wealth, power, and fame.”

    It’s much less common in a modern, urban situation, though in 1977 Nigera when my mother, sister, my father and I took shelter in a city market stall during a cloudburst, after inquiring about the relationship beween my father and his female retinue the merchant was genuinely puzzled that such a busy man as my father clearly was could get by with only one wife. “You need one to farm your land, one to care for the children, one to help you with your business, and a spare in case one of the others is sick or travelling.”

    One of the reasons that HIV spread so quickly in much of Africa was the levirate. A man must marry and support his brother’s widow and care for the children as his own. If his brother died of AIDS then the widow was likely positive and would infect her new husband. Then the young people all die and the children go to live with their grandparents.

    Some people are temperamentally monogamous, some are not; some lifestyles are conducive to monogamy, others are not. It’s usually not advantageous for women but monogamy isn’t always advantageous for women either — especially the kind tied up with purity doctrine.

  • vyckiegarrison

    This is exactly what I was thinking when I saw the website’s emphasis on recruiting single moms. Call me cynical, but I automatically recoiled at the though that these men are after the children. If they just wanted another wife, why not target single women rather than single mothers? ٩(͡๏̯͡๏)۶

  • http://alisoncummins.com Alison Cummins

    I like this quote: “We think God wants to provide families for them, but we all know there are not enough quality single men available to meet that need.”

    If women exist only to be submissive helpmeets to their husbands then it shouldn’t matter whether the man is quality or not. Only his needs matter, and as long as he’s better off with a helpful wife than without one, that’s all that matters. So… is this guy giving up the whole submissive helpmeet thing, and acknowledging that women are actively in charge of their own lives, and that their needs are just as important as their husbands’?

    What does he think the low-quality single men should do with themselves?

  • Anna

    I love how they say that God made rules for multiple marriages and loved and blessed “polygenous” marriages. Actually all the the plural marriages listed in the Bible are not portrayed as happy not a single one of them. All of them mention jealousy, contention, and in the case of King David incest and murder!! Solomon who is rumored to have had seven hundred wives wrote that it was better to grow old with the wife of your youth methinks he learned that the hard way. Sarah sent away Abraham’s second wife that she gave him and God said that it was right for her to do so!

    The writers of the website seem to completely ignore that in the New Testament deacons were allowed to have only one wife and oh yeah there is the little part about Adam and Eve notice there was only one man and one woman at the beginning of Creation. Surely if God really wanted polygamy he would have created two or three wives for Adam? Moving on to other major religious texts the Koran allows for only four wives per man and he must love them all equally, Mohammed had nine wives so maybe he learned the hard way too?

    All of the arguments for the benefits to the woman from polygamy are straight out of the FLDS textbook/writings. None of them is really true and history has demonstrated time and time again that women and children are harmed by polygamy one only has to look at the Bible to see that. Interestingly Slate magazine had an article today about why we should legalize polygamy along with gay marriage written from a feminist perspective her argument being that we would better be able to weed out the abusive marriages if they were legal and not hidden. Here is a link to the article http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2013/04/legalize_polygamy_marriage_equality_for_all.html.

    I think targeting single moms is indeed a way to prey on the most desperate and yes this is all about the sex its not about anything else. Somebody maybe the entire NLQ community needs to make a scene about this with someone in the higher ups of government. Claiming this is answering the Biblical call to take care of the widows and orphaned is utter nonsense, nowhere in the New Testament does anybody say that you should marry the widows to take care of them. The church has special funds just for them. Single moms definitely need support but this is not it.

  • http://calulu.blogspot.com Calulu

    Well, they are having an open conference in Pa. in a few months and others in other cities. Might be worthwhile to point out to local news media that a polygamous cult is recruiting members in their area and practicing polygamy, which is still against federal law, in that vicinity. They aren’t making any effort to hide.

  • Sam

    Its the “single mum” thing that makes it creepy
    In the uk polygamy is illegal but they tend to turn a blind eye
    Most men who talk to the imam about polygamy tend to quote the verse about widows and orphans and taking “care” of them
    Our imam will tell them that there are lots of ways of taking care of them and ask If there is specific someon theyre worried about
    99% of the time they’re bored with their wife
    IMHO its just about sex

  • Stacey B.

    You hit the nail on the head. The whole “single mothers” thing is just a way to prey on the daughters, or maybe even the sons!

  • Rae

    I think one of the thing is that modern polygamists have learned to operate within the rules of society – for example, I think as long as subsequent wives don’t attempt to obtain marriage certificates, or any of the legal benefits that come with being married, there’s really no law against one man rotating between living in households consisting of a woman and the children he’s fathered with those women, nor with paying for things for them.

  • Rae

    Also, I wonder what their reasoning against it going the other way around? If the role of men is to provide for women, shouldn’t the best situation for a single mom actually be to find multiple husbands?

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    Could be, but it could also be a way to exploit the desperate economic circumstances of many single mothers in order to recruit.

  • http://thankadeityfriday.wordpress.com/ KK

    What is proposed in the Bible is often focused on patriarchy and the idea that women are property or objects for male enjoyment. In situations like those listed above, women are being taken advantage of due to their desperate situations and are effectively being coerced into situations that they might not have ever considered if they were doing alright financially and emotionally.

    When equality replaces patriarchy, then I don’t see anything wrong with polyamorous relationships, regardless of the religious/spiritual identities of the people involved. I may be a bit biased though, as I am one of those secular persons who identifies as poly.

  • BabyRaptor

    Trying this comment a second time. My apologies if it double-posts, I got a weird “You’re commenting too fast” error. Weird, since this was the only comment I’d tried to leave.

    Anyway.

    Speaking as someone who identifies as such, I really, REALLY doubt they’d be okay with my relationships.

    I’m a bisexual, gender-fluid woman whose poly. I currently have two partners. And I’m the dominant person in both pairings.

    They’re right about one thing, though: Polygamy is not for everyone. Most people don’t understand it. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been called a slut, been accused of “being afraid to settle down,” and been lectured on the many glories and the inherent rightness of monogamy. (Not that I have anything against people who prefer monogamy. I don’t. I just don’t prefer it; I have a very real discomfort with the idea.)

  • madame

    BabyRaptor,
    I don’t think being polyamorous is the same thing as being a polygamist. A polygamist marries the many partners. In the US, where this group lives, polygamy is not lawful. You can’t lawfully marry more than one person.
    I wouldn’t want to be in a polygamous marriage anyway. I’m too jealous ;)

  • http:///krwordgazer.blogspot.com Kristen Rosser

    I think what it comes down to is greed. They want multiples wives to serve them, so women are expected to share a man. As men, they have no intention of sharing a wife with another man.

  • http://www.facebook.com/revsharkie Sharla Hulsey

    Or they could be pedophiles interested in even younger children of either gender. This grosses me out in so many ways I can’t begin to describe them all. Excuse me now, while I go take a shower.

  • K

    Fundies shouldnt do polygamy. I have no problem with it and know a poly couple (or whatever it is when theres three), of a man and two bisexual women. Polygamy and patriarchy doesnt go together well, think of the FLDS. It is incredibly likely that women will be coerced into it (like they usually do with courtship and sex), and men treat women like slaves and only want loads so they get more sex and more people to clean the house and fill their quiver up faster.

    Im guessing it only includes men with multiple wives, not women with multiple husbands or same sex groups, and that the women are only allowed to sleep with the man and not eachother?

    Women having more husbands makes more sense when it comes to them thinking about it in terms of gender roles, more people working and providing for the kids, but I guess fundie men dont want to share?

  • Mary C

    I think your quote actually contradicts your first point that plural marriage is common in Africa and Islamic countries. It says “…At the same time, even within societies which allow polygyny, the actual practice of polygyny occurs relatively rarely.”

    It cannot both be common and also occur relatively rarely.

  • http://alisoncummins.com Alison Cummins

    I don’t see the problem. The writer had the choice of saying “rare” and did not. If polygyny were either rare or a shameful secret, I wouldn’t have known polygamous households — but I did. (My mother’s best friend in Nigeria was a second wife. She and her co-wife each had their own house but they cooperated with child care.) Typically when describing a sibling relationship, unless you specified “same mother, same father” it was presumed you shared only one parent. That’s not a shameful secret, and that’s not rare.

    If polygyny is the *universally* dominant model, it’s unstable. You have a bunch of older men keeping jealous watch over their wives while the young and single dudes prowl around trying to get some. Then you have to get rid of the young men somehow — send them off to war or something. Or maybe send them off to herd cattle. Far away.

    Because of the relative shortage of women, girls would get married off before they can complete an education. If a girl delays marriage until she has completed her education, she may discover that there are no eligible unmarried men waiting for her. If she marries, she will be second wife to the illiterate village girl her husband married when he was younger — or first wife to a less-desirable man who couldn’t get himself a wife.* And then she gets shut away where all those prowling, horny, wifeless single men can’t get at her.

    But if polygyny is the model of, say, 25% of households that works better. Young women have the option of marrying into the household of an older, wealthier man but not being first wife; or taking a chance on a poor and horny guy her own age who may or may not mature into one of those older, wealthier men; or waiting.

    I have the feeling you haven’t read much African literature. If you want to know how real-life polygyny works you could check out some books. “Return to Laughter” an oldie-but-goodie based on the time an anthropologist lived with the Tiv in Nigeria near where I used to live. The author discusses the conundrum that men are always yelling at their wives to get along and not fight, but the men secretly prefer fighting wives to cooperative wives who band together to run the household and give orders to the husband.

    I don’t know what the numbers are today beyond what’s in that wikipedia article, but I do know polygamy is not as weird as you think it is. I don’t know where you get the conviction that it’s completely an economic arrangement either. Polyandry is usually a miserable situation** but there are people who have options who choose polygynous arrangements and who love their spouses. It’s not a great urban model but it is an enduring rural model.

    One thing you might not know about African polygamy is that women typically have quite a lot of freedom. They earn and manage their own money. They provide the food for the household whereas a man will build a house or pay school fees or buy a sewing machine. A woman without a husband will need somewhere to live, but married or not she works to feed herself and her children. In cultures where women don’t have access to the means to provide for themselves, polygamy can be very oppressive.

    * In small-town Nigeria, this was the explanation given for urban households of two women, children, but no husband. Having children was essential so if no suitable husband was available the next best thing was to go ahead without one. A westerner might have other interpretations.

    **In at least one culture where people often died young, the prevailing belief was that the fetus was built up from continuous contributins of semen. When a woman discovered she was pregnant, in order to ensure a healthy baby she would have sex as often as possible with as many men as possible, each of whom would be a co-dad because they each contributed to the baby. That way if a baby had, say, three co-dads and two of them died, there would still be a spare. Not polyandry exactly, but not the nuclear family either.

  • Persephone

    The Mormon polygamists survive by living on welfare. They call it “bleeding the beast.” They claim that it’s a way to slowly destroy the U.S. government, and ultimately the U.S. Of course, it’s totally illogical. There’s a book called God’s Brothel about the history and current Sta.te of Mormon polygamy.

  • http://saralinwilde.wordpress.com Sara Lin Wilde

    A poly couple with three people is most often called a threesome.

    And I think you’re right on. I support polygamy/polyamory theoretically, but I get a huge red flag going up whenever I see a set-up that allows for polygyny but prohibits polyandry. If only one sex is allowed to have multiple partners (which pretty well always means only men can have multiple partners) it’s usually a patriarchal system designed to use women for the benefit of men, which is just vile.

  • Anna

    Yes,
    definitely worthwhile!!! Perhaps a petition could be drawn up and signed? After reading comments from people who are for egalitarian poly relationships I think I must refine my statements a little. Polyamorous relationships between consenting adults that ARE NOT based on patriarchy are probably not harmful to women and children. Having had the sadness to see FLDS mistreatment of women and girls in action I have very strong feelings about polygamy I have no doubt that the “Biblical Family” movement would be very similar. I sped read through their forums and they had an actual posting on why a marriage between one woman and multiple men was wrong the reason “God based martial relationships on a patriarchal model.” Enormous red flag right there, and they also cited early Mormon and modern Islamic writings on how to get along in a polygamous marriage as advice to follow. Both are completely based on patriarchy. I have a feeling that this will become a polygamous cult just like the FLDS where women and girls raised in it feel like they have little choice and an obligation to marry into polygamy. There really aren’t that many extra women out there which is why historically polygamy is a bad idea, in fact now the world is short something like 70 million girls because of gender infantcide. Shortages of wife material leads to other problems like kidnapping and selling of women for wives witness China. From a practical standpoint widespread polygamy is not sustainable extra women are a non commodity unless a war or famine occurs then that is a different situation. I believe if you read the old testament God endorsed certain types of polygamy for these situations only.

  • Anna

    So does your Imam disprove of this type of “taking care” of widows and orphans? Part of my family is secular and fundamentalist Muslim in fact my great, great, great grandfather had four wives. I don’t know much about them,(the wives) but I do know that he was very religious and took that command limiting the number of wives from the Koran very seriously. I am interested what an Imam’t take on this predatory behavior disguised as benevolence is.

  • Anna

    Exactly!!! Although some of the pro-poly women on their forums posted that having extra wives around could enable you to become the Proverbs 31 woman together. I think that this can work in certain cultures like in Africa but again I still think that even there having extra wives is based on greed and building wealth.

  • Tori

    I have been in various arrangements (I’m bisexual). I was happiest when I lived with two other Bi/lesbian women (one of whom had a kid, the other not). It was all kinds of good, the sex, the support network, the company, and you know a third of the housework is virtually no housework? three wages? you can pretty much spend what you want. I’m not sure how i would feel about a long term relationship with another woman and a man, or two men, although I have felt at one point that there was the potential for a very fulfilling relationship with two men. I think marriage kind of ruins that, for me, they key was accepting that the other parties may well develop other realtionships which would become “primary” to them. It’s easy to love, but very hard to love someone enough to let them go and with your most heartfelt blessing.


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