Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Biblical tradition of polygamy

The recent events at the polygamist compound make me think of the profound dishonesty of Christians who spit out their family values at gay people, using the Bible.

I recently watched the movie Lifting the Veil on Poligamy, a piece of anti-Mormon Christian propaganda that does not even address, in fact it even denies, the presence of polygamy in the Bible. Not only does polygamy originate in the Bible, but the rape of women is ordered there in verses such as the ones in Deuteronomy 21, where there are instructions to massacre entire tribes and take their women, if found to be attractive.

The history of polygamist abuse of children and women starts with Abraham himself, the inventor of the Abrahamic religious tradition, who had a wife Sarah, as well as had children with one of his slaves, Hagar. In the story, under the whispers of Sarah, he ends up exiling his slave and his firstborn son, Ishmael, to the desert with no more than a bottle of water and piece of bread, because Sarah did not want her son to share his inheritance with the slave woman's son.

and she said to Abraham, "Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that slave woman's son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac." - Genesis 21:10

The Bible relates that it is a miracle that Hagar and Ishmael even survived.

When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. Then she went off and sat down nearby, about a bowshot away, for she thought, "I cannot watch the boy die." And as she sat there nearby, she began to sob. - Genesis 21:15-6

After that, we see in Genesis 30 his grandson, Jacob, having sex with two of his wives (Rachel and Leah, who were sisters) and two of his slaves. Out of these four women, the twelve tribes of Israel arise. The Bible does not utter absolutely any form of value judgement against polygamy or sex with slaves (which, presumably, did not require their consent and served as moral justification for this practice in the New World for almost 400 years). This was family values in the Bible.

Not only does the Bible indicate that Abraham sent his own son off into the wilderness with his helpless mother, but the authors of the Bible believed that the God of Abraham had allowed him to do so. Only in the Bible, with its twisted presentation of family values, does abandoning one's own child become a sacred duty, and a polygamist father was stripped of all responsibility by virtue of these verses.

And so, it's only thanks to the legends of Abraham, Jacob and the like that false prophets such as Muhammad and Joseph Smith were able to get away with so much iniquity and abuse, and were able to confuse the common sense and good judgement of ignorant persons who followed them, carrying forward this institution of polygamy and presenting it as a moral, correct, God-given law that they had to submit to. It originates in the Bible, and it finds legitimacy there.

If DCFS had existed four thousand years ago in the Middle East, and if Abraham and Jacob had been caught raping their slaves and practicing polygamy, they would have probably been convicted like normal criminals ... and after the fact, Abraham would have been also forced to pay child support to Hagar, since he abandoned Ishmael. By today's standards, the most important of all Biblical patriarchs was a deadbeat dad.

The Bible is also the first one to illustrate the animosity and jealousy that existed within these polygamist families. Not only do we know of Hagar and Ishmael, but we also know that Jacob's children sold their own half brother Joseph as a slave. The dynamics that existed in these families were absolutely dysfunctional.

Perhaps the culture of pervasive psychological, physical and sexual abuse that is found in modern Mormon polygamist nests should tell us something about the origins of the Biblical tradition itself, what the lives of the women who were abused and mistreated in the Bible were like, and it may even help to explain the episodes of anger, violence, and jealousy that the God of Abraham exhibited: the authors of the Bible were projecting their own dysfunctional models of relating to authority figures, which they learned as children.

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