The subject of polygamy has resurfaced in the news. A Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints compound was recently raided by Federal officers over accusations of polygamy, child abuse, and teen pregnancies. This has not been the first time that American Federal officials have had to raid compounds to break up polygamous sects nor will it be the last. As long as the mistaken belief that polygamy is Biblically permitted, there will be more occurrences of polygamy and child marriages. Religious theologians cannot be responsible for the enforcement of polygamous laws; that is up to the Federal and State governments. But we can certainly preach against polygamy to the people and work toward social change which will reduce these occurrences.
Polygamy is defined as one man having more than one wife, or one woman having more than one husband. In practice, men will have multiple wives and conceive children among his wives. It is rare for a woman to have multiple husbands but I will cover it just the same. Polygamy has been outlawed by the US government despite court challenges.
Before I begin, I first frame this debate in terms of the authority of the state. In Romans 13:1-6 is so states:
“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.”
So even if the Bible were to allow the practice of polygamy, the state has decided in its wisdom to ban it. That ban should be respected for the following reasons: The ones in authority have authority by the will of God. Thus the laws they pass down, are in general, to be respected by the Christian people. In most cases, the ones who make the laws are Christians. Those who rebel against the state with acts of polygamy deserve to be punished for their defiance of the state. The ban on polygamy should be respected not just because of the punishments that would be imposed but also because it cannot be defended in good conscious.
There have been occurrences of state abuse in which Christians have rebelled with good cause. Many dictatorships have been toppled because of good men with Christian faiths. But in this case, the United States government would not be a state in which one should rebel against violently. The United States is controlled by legislators who are elected by the people. In referendums the people are able to make decisions for themselves in many cases. If a legislator acts against the will of the people he or she may be recalled or defeated in the next election. Pro-polygamous sects fight the American people’s will by defying the laws of the state.