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
Recently, Mika and I attended a meeting of gay and lesbian Catholics. Several people of all ages were in attendance. We had a very interesting discussion and it was very nice meeting these people. Among those present was a young gay man, Jesse, who has faith in Christ and the Roman Catholic Church. Jesse, like so many gay people, just wants to find conjugal love and companionship with someone who happens to be the same sex. Jesse took the time to write a heartfelt letter to Pope Francis, explaining who he is, that he is gay, leading a very normal life, hoping to have married life with a man someday and asking for acceptance in the Church. He expressed some concern he might face excommunication for what he wrote, but we assured him this is not very likely. What he can realistically expect is a polite reply from the appropriate branch of the Vatican bureaucracy thanking him for his letter and reminding him that as Roman Catholic it is expected that he abstain from sex outside of marriage. That the Church does not accept same sex relationships at present leaves him in a bind.
Late last year I became acquainted with a young gay man on Youtube who is documenting his exit from the Mormon Church. He was raised in a devout Mormon family in Utah and is sharing his experience growing up Mormon. I am quite interested in his story. I am familiar with Mormonism from the courses in religious studies I took as an undergrad at university, but the only interaction I have had with Mormons over the years is when missionaries knock on my door. I found them to be nice enough people. They were not offended when I politely declined their offer to discuss their Church with me. The official position of the Mormon Church toward gay people is not especially charitable. Homosexual sex acts are condemned as sinful. However, at the end of 2012, the Mormon leadership, in a surprising announcement, launched a new website http://www.mormonsandgays.org/ in which it calls upon Church members to be more caring and compassionate toward persons who have same sex attraction. It goes so far to accede that a homosexual orientation is not a choice! The following excerpt from the website sums up the tone of the initiative:
The experience of same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people. The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is. Even though individuals do not choose to have such attractions, they do choose how to respond to them. With love and understanding, the Church reaches out to all God’s children, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.
At face value this change in thinking is encouraging. Could it be that the Mormon Church is seeking to come to terms with modernity? My young friend is not convinced and I see his point. The Mormon leadership may be trying to revisit Church doctrine as it was interpreted by previous generations of Mormon thinkers, but the culture of honour and shame remains deeply entrenched among the rank and file of Mormonism. It must be very difficult growing up gay in a devout Mormon family. My young friend has published several videos on Youtube documenting his exit from the Mormon Church. Here is the introductory video in his series. I recommend viewing the rest of the series. His is a story worth hearing.
Posted by Geoffrey