Doctrinal Matters: Polygamy
In a day when legislators are fighting over the legitimacy of same-sex marriages, and activist judges are claiming constitutional sanction in their redefining of marriage, and the rank and file citizens of these United States are embroiled in a polarizing culture war, the words of bygone U.S. Supreme Courts are refreshing. For example, in the 1885 case of Murphy v. Ramsey that addressed the legitimacy of polygamy, the high court declared:
For certainly no legislation can be supposed more wholesome and necessary in the founding of a free, self-governing commonwealth, fit to take rank as one of the coordinate States of the Union, than that which seeks to establish it on the basis of the idea of the family, as consisting in and springing from the union for life of one man and one woman in the holy estate of matrimony; the sure foundation of all that is stable and noble in our civilization; the best guaranty of that reverent morality which is the source of all beneficent progress in social and political improvement (1885, emp. added).
For most of American history, courts have had no trouble recognizing and reaffirming the idea of the family and the historic definition of marriage: one man (i.e., a male) for one woman (i.e., a female) for life. Such thinking was in complete agreement with and based upon the Bible (Genesis 2:24). In another U.S. Supreme Court case, Reynolds v. United States, after conceding the constitutional right to freedom of religion, the high court nevertheless repudiated polygamy as a punishable offense against society and reaffirmed the foundational importance of monogamy: “Marriage, while from its very nature a sacred obligation, is nevertheless, in most civilized nations, a civil contract, and usually regulated by law. Upon it society may be said to be built” (1879, emp. added).
Such legal sentiments reflected the views of the vast majority of Americans for the first 180+ years of American history. If they still reflect the thinking of a slim majority of Americans, the number is swiftly shrinking. Practitioners of unscriptural divorce, homosexuality, and other sinister behaviors are slowly but surely fracturing the moral foundations of American civilization—what the Court called “the sure foundation of all that is stable and noble in our civilization.” Will America awaken from this spiritual stupor? Will Christians rise up and react in time?
Murphy v. Ramsey (1885), 114 U.S. 15; 5 S. Ct. 747; 29 L. Ed. 47; 1885 U.S. LEXIS 1732.
Reynolds v. United States (1879), 98 U.S. 145; 25 L. Ed. 244; 1878 U.S. LEXIS 1374; 8 Otto 145.