I have a few tv shows that I like to watch: Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, Dexter, and Big Love. Dan and I have this unspoken agreement that we watch each others shows. So, I watch episodes of Star Trek Next Gen and Stargate Atlantis, and he watches Big Love with me (we had been watching Glee but then Dan started pointing out that none of the characters have any redeeming qualities and I ended up not liking it anymore, ha!). Dan actually likes Big Love, his biggest issue with it is all the Bill Pullman butt, which, I believe after the first season, dies down a bit.
I have quite a few mormon friends and I know that polygamy is not practiced, encouraged or condoned by the mainstream Latter Day Saints (LDS) church. In every religion there seems to be extremists or fundamentalists, and polygamists are like the cousin nobody likes talking about because it just makes everyone upset. There are a number of reasons why polygamy is outlawed in the United States (and let's be honest it's polygyny -- "many wives," how many cases have you seen where multiple men cater to and serve a female "head of household?"), the major reason this lifestyle is outlawed is that it preys on little girls and young women. There have been cases of trafficking female minors into other states so that grown, adult men can marry them -- some of these men are 40+ years older!
Back to my point, I like Big Love. It's interesting, funny, and the character development is awesome. I also know that it is fiction, it's not real. Bill Pullman is not a polygamist. But there is this new reality show, maybe you've heard of it: Sister Wives. I haven't seen more than a few clips but when I heard about it my first question was, "How are they doing this?" Are there not laws? How are they not getting in trouble? This guy, Kody Brown, is married to four adult women who apparently chose this lifestyle so I guess as far as government priorities go, he is low on the list. But then I started to do some research on fundamentalists and polygamy and I stumbled upon an article with a polygamist woman who starred in an independent film called Sister Wife. When she spoke about the polygamist lifestyle she referred to "the law of Sarah." Having grown up in the church I was pretty sure she was talking about Sarah of Abraham and Sarah. Further research showed that among other ideas, the law of Sarah is considered positive teaching for the ordinance of plural marriage in this fundamentalist culture. But, like so many religious assertions, this example of Abraham and Sarah is taken out of context and cropped short in order to justify polygyny.
Here is the basic story: God promised Abraham (Abram) that a great nation would come from him (essentially that his offspring would be numerous, as numerous as the stars). Abraham meets and marries Sarah (Sarai) and they are unable to conceive. Sarah gets antsy because, let's face it, women were regarded for bearing children, especially sons, which she had thus far been unable to do. She has this slave girl, Hagar, and tells Abraham to sleep with her so that Sarah could have a child through her, basically the original surrogate mom. It says in the bible that Abraham took Hagar as his wife, they slept together, she conceived, and bore a son, Ishmael. ONE CHAPTER LATER God tells Abraham that Ishmael is not the son of promise, the son of promise will come through Sarah. Essentially, all of that stuff with Hagar: unnecessary -- you took the issue into your own hands and you were wrong. Sarah, in her old age, eventually becomes pregnant and Isaac is the son of promise, from whom a great nation will arise. After Isaac is born, Sarah wants Hagar and Ishmael sent away, which makes Abraham sad but God condoned it -- so off they went.
But the fundamental polygamists don't talk about the fact that Hagar and Ishmael were outcast. They don't talk about the fact that Sarah and Hagar had some huge jealousy issues. According to them, Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham and that proves that the bible says polygamy is alright. If you are still with me, this entry probably seems random. But to be honest, I've been thinking about this subject for the past week. It's one of many ways that the bible is taken out of context and used to treat women poorly. This isn't just the problem of fundamental mormonism. I have seen it in my own Christian religion: women are not as valuable, equal, or capable as men. In fundamental Islam women have no rights, they are property. Historically religion has been used as a force to invalidate women -- to strip them of their worth. That is not the God that I know, believe in, and serve. Women have value, women are able, and women are important -- and not just for having babies and cleaning a house. You may think, "Rachel, the feminist movement already happened, women are equal to men." And while there is some truth to that statement I think that women still struggle with their value in and out of the church. It's an ongoing thought process for me and my ideas and opinions will evolve as I grow, but what I do know is that women have inherent value and that value should be protected.