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This article is from Issue 62: March/April 2013


Is it possible to read the Bible without a filter?

As it turns out, it’s surprisingly easy to track down a polygamist.

When I went in search of a polygamist family to feature in my latest book, I assumed it would be much harder—considering the fact that plural marriage is illegal in all 50 states. Yet I found I was just a few Google searches away from an interview with a real-life pair of sister wives who asked only that I change their names to protect them from prosecution.

I found “Eric,” “Lynn” and “Rose” through a website called Run by a group professing to be “Bible-focused, Christ-centered, Spirit-filled Christian believers,” Biblical Families provides support for men and women who practice or are interested in practicing polygamy. The group identifies as Berean in its approach, which means it emphasizes the primacy of Scripture, “taking at face value God’s Word and not depending so much on the traditions, and additions, of man.” This approach, according to the group’s website, “is how [they] came to recognize the biblical soundness of plural marriage.”

Upon reading the organization’s mission statement, I smiled at its seeming familiarity. These polygamists employ much the same language we like to use as evangelical Christians—appealing to the primacy of God’s Word, vowing to take the Bible at face value and, of course, using the word “biblical” to back up a particular viewpoint or lifestyle. And yet this group had arrived at a very different conclusion than most Christians regarding what exactly a “biblical family” looks like.

It’s a pattern that repeats itself in a variety of ways within the Christian subculture.

During election season, politicians and pundits encourage their followers to vote for “biblical values”—which vary depending on who’s talking. Conservatives often relegate “biblical values” to matters of abortion, gay marriage and tax cuts. Yet to liberals, “biblical values” pertain to issues of poverty, immigration and creation care.

You can buy books on “biblical parenting,” “biblical economics,” “biblical psychology,” “biblical manhood,” “biblical womanhood” and even “biblical dating” (despite the fact that in the ancient Near Eastern culture in which the Bible was written, dating didn’t even exist). Each book will present a view of what’s “biblical,” often highlighting supportive texts while ignoring or explaining away those that don’t fit the author’s thesis.

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