Kody Brown, of the reality TV show “Sister Wives,” (on its fourth season) is a glutton for punishment. Most men have a hard enough time keeping one woman pleased. But estrogenic attacks, menopausal mercilessness, and wedding dress drama are multiplied by four for Brown.
You’re the One…er…Two…No…Three..Uh..Four for me!
The TLC hit show “Sister Wives”, about a polygamous family living in Utah, is a bit of a cultural phenomenon. Along with four sister wives, the family boasts 16 total children. This show is unique because it quickly brings into public focus some pertinent Biblical questions.
The Browns are fundamentalist Mormons. Though the mainstream modern Mormon Church formally rejects the polygamous lifestyle, it is a matter of record that the founding patriarchs and early followers of the LDS church were polygamous. Joseph Smith and his followers exercised what they considered their religious freedom.
I am ill equipped to have a “legal” opinion on polygamy laws in Utah. So I won’t.
When personal revelations (supposedly aided by heaven-sent golden goggles and golden tablets) become the standard for interpreting the bible…weirdness is likely to prevail. Remember, everyone has a theology, so everyone should care about thoughtful exegesis of the biblical text.
And before we make an obvious allusion to Old Testament Patriarch polygamy let me say this:
Just because the Bible mentions a sin does not mean it permits it.
The Bible is a very frank historical record of the total spectrum of human sinfulness. Adultery, homosexuality, greed, pride and a litany of sins are shown in Scripture through many living illustrations.
It gives me comfort that a lion/giant slaying king like David was a bit of a scumbag and needed grace as much as I do (read Psalm 51).
All of these stark realities are simply descriptive of life as it is, not prescriptive, or commanded, ways of living.
In the bible, polygamy is never shown in a positive light. In the very beginning, we see one man (Adam) and one woman (Eve) as the pre-eminent model for mankind (Genesis 2:18).
The first biblical character to be a polygamist, Lamech, was considered to be an evil man (Genesis 4:19-24). A host of “Sister Wives” was the beginning of the end of wise Solomon’s reign (1 Kings 11:4). The disaster of polygamy is illustrated by Lamech and Adah and Zillah in Genesis 4:19–24, Esau and Mahalath and other wives in Genesis 28:6–9, and Jacob and Leah and Rachel in Genesis 29:15–30. Even though some godly patriarchs took on polygamous lifestyles, never once was their decision considered good or godly.
In the New Testament, godly leaders must be men who are committed to only one woman in marriage (1 Timothy 3:2, 12).
The Tragic effect on “Sister Wives” (IMHO)*
Women of Scripture who are involved in polygamous marriages are frequently shown to feel insecure, jealous, and untrusting in their relationships. This was the tragic case with Abram, Sarai and Hagaar. We also witness this in Jacob, Leah and Rachel (Genesis 29:15-30).
In the show, this seems to be the case with Meri, who was the first and is the only legally married wife to Kody Brown. Meri is honest about her misgivings and struggles with the “plural” lifestyle. Throughout the first season she is a tumultuous bundle of conflicting emotions. She takes the marriage of Kody to Robyn harder than any of the other wives, even though she was the driving force in setting the two up.
Even after living roughly twenty years within the plural marriage she signed up for, she is still wounded afresh by Kody’s insistence of adding to their family. She feels insufficient and abandoned as Kody goes through a new butterfly Honeymooning stage with a different woman.
The other wives joke they are glad that Kody finally got himself a younger “trophy wife” in Robyn. The nervous laughter betrays their angst. Robyn is younger, prettier and skinnier than the other older wives. Instead of the man being ashamed of his mistress, this kind of polygamy brings her home and makes her a part of the family.
This is a nice family
I’m genuinely impressed with how they make this touchy situation work.
“Sister Wives” brings to light some incredibly provocative relational dynamics. And to the family’s credit, they handle most of it with a spirit of cordiality and sensitivity to one another. These are caring people who have chosen to put themselves into an untenable circumstance for the sake of their religious tradition.
For me, “Sister Wives” should evoke sympathy from watchers much more than condemnation.
But though the Browns seem like a nice Christian family; in the end, polygamy is neither nice to women nor is it a real “Christian” choice for marriage.
I could also make a compelling case for polygamy being cruel to men. But some men, like that lovable Kody Brown, are just gluttons for punishment.
Does any of my “Sister” Readership have an opinion?
*addendum: broken monogamies are a much greater scourge on the sanctity of marriage in our society than polygamy will ever be.