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Friday, October 21, 2011

My take: Why this female priest loves 'Sister Wives'

Editor's Note: Danielle Elizabeth Tumminio is ordained in the Episcopal Church and has taught a variety of educational institutions, including Yale University. She is also the author of "God and Harry at Yale: Faith and Fiction in the Classroom."

By Danielle Elizabeth Tumminio, Special to CNN

“Sister Wives” is virtually sacred time in my home. When it’s on, I refuse to answer the phone or move from the couch, and anyone who talks risks both a DVR rewind and a scornful look for interrupting the episode’s flow.

I admit that referring to any television viewing as “sacred time” is a bit sacrilegious, especially coming from an Episcopal priest. But I can’t help it — I’m so fascinated by this show that I’ve seen every episode twice (including the honeymoon special), researched fundamentalist Mormon wedding rituals, and dreamed of visiting the cake tasting bakery.

Yet many don’t appreciate my enthusiasm. Every time I confess my love for Meri, Christine, Janelle, Robyn, their flock of children and their bushy-haired husband, I tend to receive responses like:

“But you’re a woman.”

“But you’re a feminist.”

“But you’re a priest.”

“But you’re monogamous … right?”

My answers to each are “Yes,” “yes,” “yes” — and “of course!”

So how can a liberal Christian monogamist feminist female priest such as myself love a sensationalistic reality TV show about a polygamous fundamentalist Mormon family?

I think it all goes back to the meaning of marriage itself. Most adults in our society understand marriage as a special kind of intimacy, a closeness so connected that two become one—as stated by Genesis 2:24, or, if you prefer, the Spice Girls.

This relationship is defined by an imposing “till death do us part” commitment to share all that you are and all that you have with a single other person. For many couples that special love expands with time, creating space for children who will be adored, cuddled, and raised with the best of intentions.

Christians today see marriage as an institution that provides a constant and daily opportunity to practice loving well. By caring about a single other, one learns what it means to love all people well, and then take that love into the world.

This is a beautiful image, but hard to live up to. Late nights at work, dressing kids for soccer practice, dusting, cooking, vacuuming, trying to get that orange stain out of a spouse’s favorite shirt for the sixth time – it can transform marriage into a black hole.

You can read the article in its entirety at: http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/02/28/my-take-why-this-female-priest-loves-sister-wives/


  1. The bible specifically states that preachers should be men. No wonder they get along.

  2. It doesn't surprise me that an Episcopalian priest would not have a problem with polygamist lifestyles.

    I think it's funny that the Browns will use ANYONE to further their agenda, especially those who have extremely differing religious views. It's actually comical, how they think nothing of using people.

    I wonder if they would allow their kids to join the youth group from this Episc Priest's church? LOL, didn't think so.

  3. Wow, did you all read to the end of this?
    "Perhaps the Browns will persuade us that multiple wives does not a happy union make, but we might also find that a plurality of practices — even a plurality of wives — can lead to happily ever after."

    Is that a hint that she accepts the myth of Joseph Smith that we all end up on planets, not heaven?
    Browns, stop talking about polygamy and get to the source of the church reasoning.

  4. Dear getreal ... Umm no - I personally was thin, a varsity athlete, at the top of my class, and now married to a doctor with a beautiful child. Oh, and I pull a six figure income ... In a job that allows me a great life balance and time with my kid. I believe many of the other posters on this board are in long happy marriages as well.

    To others, I'm not surprised they found an episcopal priest to agree w them. Episcopal priests are a dime a dozen with many unemployed (wonder if she has her own congregation) and can be extremely liberal. I attend a large episcopal church myself, and at least half of the vestry members are gay or lesbian. The church really attracts the liberals. Plus she's from Yale.

  5. Aony 8:17 You sure hit the nail on the head.

    Listen and you'll hear a loud wailing echo.....

  6. well now we know why there were no tough questions asked. she was in awe of having dinner with people she looks up to and worships.

    of course, she contacted them and showed them her blog praising them and VOILA! a dream come true for them all with a fake script shown to us about how the Browns are courageous enough to have a religious discussion with an Episcopalian feminist priest!

    another impressive lie we're sold and this time validated with the blessing of a priest's collusion. somehow, i think they can still sink even lower.

  7. Anonymous said:
    "I believe many of the other posters on this board are in long happy marriages as well. "

    Yep, we were married at 19 and celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary in July.

    And on another note: I laugh when Robyn makes her defense of polygamy by saying 'it's not about sex, prostitutes would be cheaper than wives"

    Um, not really. Since Kody has so many wives, they invariably expect less from him than wives who are monogamous. Kody has not only 4 whores to choose from, but he also has 4 maids, 4 child care providers, 4 secretaries, 4 housekeepers, several people who can earn a full time living outside of the home and at least three who can milk the government teat because they are 'single moms' on paper.

    What is expected of him? Very little. He doesn't even financially support them. But I can't help but give him credit for finding 4 women who are willing so settle for so little. It's an art form, really.

  8. Btw, when I said 4 whores to choose from above, I didn't mean that these women are whores...just that the role of a whore can be fulfilled by 4 women in his life. (in response to Robyns claim that prostitutes would be cheaper)

    Again, before I am blasted-- I am not saying Kodys wives are whores. LOL

  9. In my species, a bunch of males hang around a female.

    In the Kody world, a bunch of females hang around him, one male.

    I like my species specific behavior better.

  10. hahaha border collie. You are quite literate for a canine. :)

    To the topic at hand---yeah some lady who adores the family asked them "tough" questions. mmmhm. Riiiight.

  11. Danielle = LAME

  12. Wow the Browns really disgust me. I know we're not supposed to comment on their weight gain because it's not nice, but the fact that they're collecting welfare, not (really) working, and now suing ... all the while getting bigger, and Bigger, and BIGGER is just plain disgusting. I really have to detach from this family because just the fact of four wives and one husband should've is perverted and enough reason not to watch the show to begin with. Now I just want TLC to say, "cut!" and end this series. We've all been had. Problem is, non-thinking viewers won't ever catch on.

  13. I'm with others here and have myself gone 180 on the browns over the past few days. I had read all of the bankruptcy and welfare info previously but still basically thought of them as bumbling and somewhat harmless, victims themselves of their upbringings and crazy beliefs. I secretly hoped janelle and meri would do the impossible and find some new inner strength and confidence and gather the courage to leave.

    I started this show not sure what to think. I live a straight laced life myself but am very open and welcoming with lesbians and gays in our community. So, I really didn't quite know what to think of the browns or decriminalizing polygamy.

    But now, I am sickened by the new posts that have come out and disgusted to the point that I don't plan to watch it at all anymore. I wish female atty would come back and rally us for some productive cause to put a stop to this nonsense.

    And, if I had to vote on keeping polygamy illegal, I would now vote "yes" even though I don't personally care what "normal" consenting adults do with each other.

    As an aside, back when I was hungry for information about polygamy, I read some of the other blogs out there and now have a theory that the only functional and healthy way for polygamy to work is for the women to be on the spectrum of bisexuality. If you read polygirrl, you'll see that she seems very happy, sounds functional, and now enjoys watching porn and cuddling with one of the other wives as well as experimenting with threesomes. It will be interesting to see how that family works once/if kids ever arrive. Not sure how I'll feel about that, but maybe TLC will pick it up and let us all take a peek.

    But seriously, I've had it w the browns but enjoy this blog too much just to go away. Someone please come up w an idea of how to stop the browns from scamming the country and at the same time making it easier for these cults to operate and commit child abuse and fraud! Any sympathy I had for any of them except the children is gone. And janelle especially should be ashamed of herself for going along with this new scam. No wonder her weight is skyrocketing.

  14. cp - someone needs to make them tell all these nice christian ladies that it's not just about polygamy, it's about the planets, Kody becoming a G*D **I can't even say it-
    And how the women are perpetually pregnant in heaven. THAT'S what they don't want you to know. the craziness that Kody calls them to heaven. what if he doesn't make it? I guess they assume all the men do.
    And the Joseph Smith quackery!

  15. Mustang--just to clarify, mainstream mormonism also believes that you can become a god and goddess in the afterlife, over your own planet and perpetually have babies.

    It is one of those beliefs that make you go "WTH??!"

  16. One other comment - I'll bet anything this priest doesn't have kids. The way she describes married life with kids sounds like some stereotype she came up with. I'll bet her views will change once she is a little older and has actually experienced "married with kids." Also interesting is the comment in her article about the strain on her hubby in supporting their "little family." In my episcopal church, the priest makes $60k plus a housing allowance. Also, she has a book and references to some kind of teaching history. Wonder why the financial burden is on him and whether the $$$ for that yale education was worth it. And how he feels about his hard earned dollars possibly supporting families like the browns scamming the system ...

  17. HEY ALL!!!

    Lisa Ling will be doing an extensive story on "Modern Polyamy," this Sunday 10/23/2011 at 10:00pm on the OWN channel. (OWN is the Oprah Winfrey Channel)
    Lisa Ling does very indepth, unbiased stories. I saw a "preview" of this story and it shows a far more REALISTIC side to polygamists than that the Browns' portray on their show. One wife portrayed says she knew God called her to marry her husband when she was 12 years old- the husband was her math teacher and she ended up marrying this guy!! GRRROOOSSSSS!!

    The Browns' are trying to convince us-the public- that polygamy is a more fulfilling and spiritually rich life. I, for one, am happy not to share yeast infections (and God knows what else) with sister wives!!

  18. Seems to me that this "priest" wanted some publicity and a free meet and greet!

  19. Found this interesting lil tidbit....

    Danielle: "There was so much love in their home that it was hard to pass judgment on them "
    Can we say BIASED?? (smh)
    I guess playing house & pretending to be one big happy family isn't too hard... for a couple of hours anyways...lol

  20. 1. Danielle has destroyed her own credibility as an interviewer with her own admitted worshipping infatuation with these women. For whatever reason that only she could answer, she's blindly enamored by them.

    2. Happily married 38 years myself. Still have fun and in love with each other. But i wouldn't call it "keeping the honeymoon alive" that Robyn dreams about. It's such a much deeper love now than ever could have possibly existed during our honeymoon phase.

    3. Even tho we're an old married couple, we are open-minded about other's choices. We are open to gay unions as well as plyg unions. The caveat on plygs for us tho is if it's between consenting ADULTS as well as has no RELIGIOUS DICTUM involved re: the consent. We're still mulling over whether it's really fair or not to bring children into that situation.

    4. We only watch Sister Wives cause we love to compare it to our marriage/children as well as we love to say, "aw...bless her heart" about Robyn whenever she makes an appearance. We have more of a "poor dumb thing" attitude about her rather than a pure disgusted one. Which in southern talk "bless your heart" can mean "you poor dumbs**t" more often than not. ;')

  21. Oh yes Danielle teaches at Yale of all places, can you say liberal? Moral relativism? Fame whore?

    Can you say BROWN noser?

    I hear there are places where female dogs (I can't bear to use the correct term for it) are forever procreating. The humane society is up in arms over it, has millions of supporters who give them money to shut these places, that they call puppy farms, down. Does it sound like some way that God would reward you? Does it really? Perpetual preggos?

  22. Oh snaps!! ....BROWN Noser....Hahaha Another classic BC ;)

  23. I don't want to hate on the liberals now. (Often I am one *wink*). But I much like it when people just call a spade a spade. Don't act like you are going to go ask tough questions when in fact you are going to be a pansy.

    I think Danielle just wants her own 15 mins of fame. Sell out.

  24. non traditional hubbyOctober 24, 2011 at 11:54 AM

    As a side note what polygirl is practicing is not polygamy but polyamory and yes, there is a huge difference between the 2. While I have no issues with polygamy, i do have issues when it is brought on by religious beliefs. Its not always about money, or sex or fame..sometimes it is jsut simply love..and where is the problem with that

  25. @Border Collie...yup I concur..I work here..does this mean that maybe just maybe she's going to bring this "show" on the road to good old new haven? OhI just have to get a front row seat if that's true.

  26. why don't some of you ask her directly?

    there ya go

  27. This was good episode as it highlights Janelles wishes for allof her children to attend any college they want to. This is HUGE for AUB kids.

  28. I just don't see Janelle all up in the religion. see it as she fell in love with Kody, so that was that.

    Maybe with Janelle being the educated breadwinner- this group will see the importance of education. And believe you me, those kids are one lucky bunch, they will get tons of FREE college offers after being on the show. Nice Perk! that I am happy about.