Brigham Young and his 21 wives

It should not be surprising that North Carolina’s Republican legislators have made it a state law that marriage is only between one man and one woman, but the rationale is a bit puzzling for one of the buckles of the Bible Belt. Here is Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council claiming that “We can’t think that we can tinker with the definition of marriage and say, it’s no longer between a man and a woman which 5,000 years of human history has shown.” What Bible has Tony Perkins been reading? Let’s assume that he also wants to set back the clock to Bishop Ussher’s number game that Adam and Eve were created in 4004 BC. If Adam only married Eve, which would be news to the legendary Lilith and make it really interesting to speculate where Seth got his wife, then why not push it back another millennium. The problem is that many of the Biblical Patriarchs were not aware of the one man/one woman rule. Certainly not Abraham or Jacob. David and Solomon were only two of the Israelite kings who had rather sizeable harems.

Throughout most history, whether in the orbit of Biblical myth or not, marriage has not been exclusively between one man and one woman. The majority of known societies have permitted polygyny. The reason behind the denigration of gay marriage is right there in the Bible, where those harsh Old Testament laws say homosexuals should be killed. But then, a child who hits his parents is also subject to being put to death. Shall we also start stoning women taken in adultery? One either keeps those Torah rules or admits they were for a different time and culture, including the highly touted and widely flouted Ten Commandments (which hardly any politician could repeat in correct order, let alone keep).

Perhaps I am reading Mr. Perkins wrong and he is not against polygyny, which is after all Biblical, but only against same-sex marriage. But then the law should be clear in saying it is between one man and as many women as he can convince to marry him. And then there are the Mormons, one of whom is the Republican nominee for President. Mitt Romney’s great grandfather had five wives, one more than even Islamic law allows. I don’t think that his great grandfather lived earlier than 5,000 years ago. But Romney’s great grandfather is nowhere near Brigham Young, who sported 21 wives, and now has an entire university named for him. Brigham Young would run afoul of the new North Carolina law, but not John Edwards, it seems; he only had one official wife after all.