Polygamy is a broad term and when applied to human society refers to plural marriage which means having more than one spouse. Facets of this term include polygyny which refers to a form of plural marriage in which a man is allowed to have more than one wife. Polyandry describes the form of plural marriage in which a women has more than one husband. Polyamory is a form of plural marriage where a family consists of multiple husbands and wives at the same time. These kinds of marriages existed historically in human societies and continue in some societies in the present. However, in the Western world monogamous marriage (between one man and one woman) became the norm and was enshrined in law with the rise of the Roman Empire and the ascendance of Christianity as the dominant faith. In the current controversy over same sex marriage raging across the U.S. critics and opponents of same sex marriage often refer to polygamy as a reason to deny marriage rights to same sex couples. The common assertion is that if monogamous marriage is redefined to allow same sex couples to marry, then people who want to enter into polygamous marriages will demand the right to to so pointing to the fact that same sex couples are free to marry. Is there any merit to this claim? Continue reading
Religion and the definition of marriage remain intertwined in the present, just as in the past. Historically, disputes over the definition of marriage concerned marriage, divorce and remarriage. Dispute over these issues in the court of King Henry VIII of England in the 16th century caused upheaval in the Church and English society. Heads rolled, literally, in the process. In the present, there is an ongoing dispute over the definition of marriage or the redefinition of marriage to allow same sex couples to marry. As I view the movement for same sex marriage, defined as marriage equality, in the United States, North Carolina is a focal point. Amendment 1 to the state constitution, enacted in 2012 following a ballot measure, defined marriage as the union of one man to one woman. Amendment 1 was struck down on October 10, 2014 by U.S. District Court Judge Max O. Cogburn, Jr. It is now lawful for same sex couples to marry in North Carolina, much to the dismay of opponents of marriage equality, including Charles L. Worley and Billy Graham, who object on religious grounds. Heads are rolling, though not literally, in North Carolina now that Amendment 1 is no longer in force. Continue reading
Freedom of conscience is a cornerstone in Western Civilization. However, history demonstrates that freedom of conscience often carries a high price. The quotation listed as the title of this post is attributed to Martin Luther (1483-1546) who was said to have spoken these words at the Diet of Worms on April 18, 1521. What he really said is as follows:
Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.
What brought him to make this declaration was his protest against abuses in the Church, particularly the sale of indulgences, written down in his “95 Theses” in 1517. Prior to his appearance at the Diet of Worms, his “95 Theses” was forwarded to Rome where a number of sentences upon examination were condemned as heretical. After ignoring a warning from Pope Leo X, Luther was excommunicated on January 3, 1521. Excommunication in 16th century Europe meant proscription. You were made an outlaw, that is, you no longer had the protection of the law, it was forbidden for anyone to offer you food and shelter and you could be killed on sight without consequence. As it was the responsibility of civil authority to enforce the law, Luther was offered the chance to recant at the Diet of Worms which was the general assembly of the estates of the Holy Roman Empire with Emperor Charles V presiding. He refused, in doing so putting his life on the line. He was offered protection from Prince Frederick III, Elector of Saxony, and continued his efforts which led to the Protestant Reformation. Continue reading