A pastor who has been on the pulpit for the past 38 years has come out to challenge the widely-held Christian doctrine that men should only marry one wife.
Rev Vincent Mulwa of Christ Pilgrim Restoration Centre says Africans bought the world views of European missionaries who brought Christianity into Africa and abandoned polygamy, a practice that was rife even among the people who lived during biblical times.
The cleric has even written a book, Christianity at a Crossroads: Between a Rock and a Hard Place, where he argues out his case for polygamy.
Rev Mulwa wants Christian leaders to review teachings on monogamous marriages, claiming there is no verse in the Bible supporting it.
He says this is necessary to “save a generation of women who are ageing in church without husbands”. “I have been in the ministry for 38 years, preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ but now I have realised that we ministers of the gospel have lost our believers,” he said during an interview.
Rev Mulwa argues that many women are ending up unmarried and others are single and widows after they fail to get husbands.
“I have never seen anywhere in the Bible where prophets and preachers prayed for single ladies to get married. The Bible people were polygamous and everyone had a husband,” he says, adding that widows were allowed to become concubines.
He says polygamy was commonly practised by many African traditional communities and the Jewish culture was also polygamous, adding that it only began to fade with the introduction of Christianity. “As far as the Bible is concerned, the number of wives or concubines that one has does not matter and is not a standard of holiness,” he says.
He adds: “I have come out to tell Christians that we must preach the true gospel and allow our men in the church to marry as many wives as they want. Polygamy is not about men needing many wives but it’s about women needing husbands.”
According to the cleric, the Bible has only come out strongly to condemn adultery, which is taking another man’s wife.
However, not all clerics agree with him. According to Pastor George Mutua, a theologian who is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in theology at Daystar University, God’s original plan is that each man gets one wife.
“Any teaching that goes against God’s original plan is a false doctrine,” says Mr Mutua, who is also a psychologist and a family counsellor.
He says Christianity is about going back to God’s original plan. After the fall of man, he says, that is when polygamy and other sins began.
But in Rev Mulwa’s perspective, monogamy was a Roman culture.
The reverend argues that the fact that the missionaries, who mostly came from Rome, began to preach monogamy does not mean that this is what the Bible teaches. “It is unfortunate for the Church that today, when our dear brothers and sisters attend theological schools, they are fed with so much gentile-tilted theology that upon graduation, they are well equipped to vigorously convince the world to buy into the Roman immigration of Christianity,” he says.
He says Christianity is not an American or European culture. Rather, it is God’s way of reaching and dealing with humankind.
The thinking of the West in terms of modernisation, civilisation and capitalisation is slowly and systematically killing Christianity by making it a very loose and unrealistic religion with no moral limits, he argues.
“It’s so sad even clergymen are not able to say if homosexuality should be allowed in church or not, yet the Bible is clear that it’s not God’s design for marriage,” says the cleric.
Rev Mulwa, who says he is officially married to one wife, says he was preaching in a church he started 20 years ago but had to leave the church because his wife and members disagreed with his polygamy teaching.
“I told my wife that as much as she doesn’t want to agree with me, I will continue preaching the gospel of polygamy until the whole world hears of it because that is the true gospel,” he says.
We ask if he has secret wives to which he responds: “The number of wives I have is not an issue. If I have one wife or more, I will not be holier than the other. That’s why I am saying Christian men should be allowed to marry many wives.”
His interpretation of the Bible is that it has not condemned polygamy. Rather, it was practised widely by men of God in the Bible. “Polygamy is an acceptable practice. No lady should stay without a husband,” he says. “Christianity remains the most holy faith, but when preached from the perspective of the European and American gentiles, then it is definitely the filthiest religion on earth.”
He gives the example of some of the men in the Bible like Abraham and David who married more than one wife and had concubines with whom they got children.
“The holiness was in how these men dealt with their many wives and concubines and God had no problem with them,” he says.
The reverend says it is wrong to imagine that God would have created two wives for Adam as “God created them so that they may fill the world”.
The pro-polygamy cleric has, however, picked more examples to buttress his case.
In the Bible, he notes, some women seemed to have been in a complex situation such that remarrying was out of thought. They thus ended up being concubines.
But even for concubines, there was discipline, he says, and a man found with another man’s concubine was to be beaten. “This was a lesser punishment compared to when you were found with someone’s wife where the sentence was death by stoning,” he adds.
But Pastor Mutua disagrees, saying although all animals are polygamous by nature, human beings were created in a special manner and must practise self-control. “Polygamy is driven by biological, social, psychological and cultural issues. However, that was never the intention of God for marriage,” he says.