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Time for Manda’s totally different take on a hot topic: The Texas FLDS polygamy situation
As you’ve read, some 400+ children were taken from a FLDS compound in Texas a couple of weeks ago. Allegations of abuse and coercion were the instigating factor. Child protective services, doing what they do best, decided it was in the best interest of the children to remove all children and young men and women under the age of 18 from the compound and place them in protective custody. Word has come out that these kids know nothing of the outside world except that it’s evil. Other atrocities have been thrown around like ceremonial beds in their temple for deflowering virgins and sexual and physical abuse of all the children.
Yes, it all sounds horrible. when we see these women in their simple old-fashioned dresses and long upswept hair, we recoil at what their lives must be like. But I have to play devil’s advocate here for a few minutes so please read with an open mind.
These folks believe that a woman who submits to her husband is holy and she will go to heaven because of this. There are a lot more religious groups than just this one – including main stream religions – that believe this, so we can’t say it’s just an FLDS thing. Even within my own household, I treat Moo as the head of our household and defer to him on a great many things. I’ll have to discuss why I do this in another post.
Second issue: This group, like the Amish, have chosen to separate themselves from the rest of us. They take literally a Bible passage that talks about being apart from the world. Again, this isn’t just an FLDS belief – it’s more common than you think. I believe the passage is Romans 12:2 which reads: And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
We think the Amish are quaint when they do this, but when a group of polygamists in Texas do it, we’re all freaked out. Why? why are we fascinated by groups that don’t want anything to do with the rest of us? They hold the modern world in complete contempt and yet, we continue to try to force them to conform to us.
But what if the reason we’re freaked out is because of the polygamy thing? If the fascination or disgust we feel is with polygamy, then we have a totally different debate. I’m thinking that most of us have the same fascination with it that Oprah did when she had a plural family on the show a few weeks ago. The question that seemed to burning a hole in her brain was not why you would be in a polygamist relationship, but how the arrangement of who and when was sex being had. How did they take turns? Did they schedule it on a calendar? That was the fascination and I think it’s the same fascination most westerners feel when they hear about harems in the middle east. Somehow our naughty brains have to think about someone possibly having more sex than we do.
Third point, as late as 2006, there were states here in the US that allowed a female as young as 12 to marry with the consent of her parents. Right now, the state of New Hampshire allows females as young as 13 to marry with parental consent (court consent may also be required). Several other states allow 14 and 15 year old girls to marry with parental consent. Even Texas, where this saga is taking place, allows both males and females as young as 14 to marry with parental consent.
Why aren’t we raising holy hell about this? If we believe that young women under the age of 18 aren’t able to make their own decisions, then why aren’t these laws being changed in all states? Why are we focusing solely on this small group of people that marry their young women at early age WITH parental consent?
If they’ve forced these young women to marry, then hell yeah, we should charge the lot with coercion and possibly even rape. But if the young women married willingly, knowing they were fulfilling the laws of their religion and with the consent of their parents and/or guardians, why should we care?
Fourth, and this one will earn me the most scorn, I believe that a female of 12 or 13 or 14 has the sense to understand what is happening. These are not children, they are young women. My own grandmother married at 13 – she and my grandfather, who was 5 years older, eloped. If she were alive, she’d be 83 this year. I asked her one time if she understood what she was doing when she got married (there was an incident at my school where a 15 year old freshman got married and it caused quite an uproar) and she said that she decided to get married and talked my grandfather into it – not the other way around. She influenced him – he didn’t coerce her to do anything.
My thoughts about the forced prolonged childhood of humans have earned me more than one argument. I believe that my 13 year old niece, 15 year old Miley Cyrus and I, at 37, all have the same rights when it pertains to our own happiness and control over our bodies. No one will ever be able to convince me that a 13, or 15 or a 25 year old woman can’t think for herself. True, the 25 year old has life experiences that the 13 and 15 year old doesn’t have and this will color the decisions made. It is the job of parents to make sure that children and young adults understand the consequences of their actions even when those actions concern our sexuality. I believe that it is in no one’s best interest to think that a child can’t handle something just because we think of them as too immature to understand it. We certainly are learning that lesson when it comes to teaching young adults about sexuality (what? 1 billion dollars put toward abstinence only education and the horny little bastards still want to do it? What’s wrong with them?!?!)
But I digress. . .
Am I outraged that these folks have isolated themselves and their children to such an extent that they don’t understand the way modern society works? Yes. Am I angry that these women, of all ages, believe that they must submit to their men? Absolutely. Am I glad that my own daughter will be taught that she can do anything she wants without regard to her gender? Hell yeah. But will I force these folks to change their beliefs because they don’t mesh with mine? No. Because I live in the United States and I believe in Freedom of Religion.
Folks will argue with me and say that doesn’t excuse anything. Folks will say that other religions allow for free will. Other folks will say that it’s ok for the parents to practice this, but the children should be allowed to make up their own minds.
Ok, smart-ass, what are you going to teach your children about God? Or Jesus? Or about Satan? Are you going to say “oh no, I can’t teach you about this because you’re a child and you need to be an adult to make up your mind about this”? No, you’re going to teach your child the tenets of your religious beliefs. You may have your child enrolled in a Sunday school or take your child to synagogue or have your child go to Hebrew school.
My question is: how is that different than what was taught to the young women and men in the FLDS group? How is it that I can teach my child about taking communion – which most Christians believe in as literally eating the body and blood of Christ – but that Mary Lou, FLDS member, can’t teach her daughter that to get into heaven, she must marry? On the outside, they both sound absurd. Symbolic cannibalism and arranged marriages both sound pretty awful to me when put that way. But to the faithful, it’s as close as we get to heaven without that whole dying business.
So as you’re listening to the hype, keep in mind your own children and what you teach them, because ultimately that’s all that really matters.