Were men and women meant to have multiple partners?
Did God intend for men and women to have more than one mate? Are humans going against their very nature by forcing themselves to settle into a monogamous relationship when, in fact, they were made to take on as many mates as they can manage? Are so many men and women driven to cheat on their partner because they just can't help it?
This mystery of monogamy versus polygamy as a natural or unnatural way of life is what Bishop John Cline has attempted to unravel in his book, The Monogamy Mystery: Natural/Unnatural?
Released in October last year, the thought-provoking book addresses the timeless questions as to whether man was truly intended to stick with one partner for the rest of his life, or, like in the Old Testament days, take on as many wives as he can afford. And women, too, for that matter.
So, after years of research from a biblical, sociological, biological and spiritual perspective, what was Cline's conclusion?
"Monogamy is unnatural and uncommon. Men and women were meant to have multiple partners, it is their nature to do so. In all of my research, data and facts gathered, I find nothing to suggest that humans were made to be monogamous, while everything to suggest that polygamy is the natural nature of man," Cline shared in an interview at The Gleaner's Kingston office this week.
"So I had to conclude for myself that it wasn't natural for a person to stick to one partner, and if it wasn't, then what? This is what I set out to explore in the book."
IT HAS TO BE SPIRITUAL
A senior pastor of the New Life Baptist Church in Tortola in the British Virgin Islands, Cline said when he began to look closer at the issue and sought answers from God, he concluded that monogamy was spiritual and not something a person could accomplish on his own without spirituality and a deep relationship with God.
"I realised that monogamy can be achieved, once persons fully understand what drives the behaviour. There are people who are monogamous, but their monogamous behaviour is informed by a set of principles or morals or religious beliefs. Something is informing that behaviour, it just doesn't occur naturally. Monogamous behaviour is informed by some external value system not an internal desire," stated the 55-year-old, who has been a Christian from the age of 12 years and pastoring for more than 22 years.
"We are people designed not to live from our souls but our spirits. God created the spirit man first, then the physical man and merged the two. Man became a living soul, one of consciousness, emotions, thinking, desires and will, but was not designed to live from that place. We were designed to live from a place of the spirit, which is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, patience, temperance, self control, and so on."
He continued, "The reason we are facing the problems we now face is that we are not living from that spiritual place, we are living from our souls. As many as are led by the spirit of God, they are the sons of God, therefore, for man to be monogamous is spiritual, for him to be polygamous is physical. Because, when I want more than one partner, I am just fulfilling my physical desires, satisfying my emotions, I am not satisfying purposeful living.
"So in order for a person to be monogamous, that person has to be spiritually informed and their relationship with God has to be strong. It would be difficult for an unsaved person to live a monogamous life, because even saved persons - pastors, bishops, Christians - struggle with it, too. Marriage must be a spiritual union."
NOT YOUR FAULT
Cline said he was driven to address the elephant in the room, because too many marriages were being destroyed and lives ruined because of infidelity. And if persons could just understand the root of why men and women were constantly straying outside of the marital home, then they could overcome the problem and enjoy more fulfilling lives.
"The intention of the book was not to promote one thing over another, but to explore the issue from different perspectives. It is to let people know we are fighting against something that is greater than ourselves. It is for persons to understand that when a person cheats, it is not an indictment on the other person," said the pastor who visited Jamaica for a few days this week to promote the book.
"So, to the woman that gets cheated on, it is not your fault. It is not that she was better or prettier or younger. The man could be home with the youngest and prettiest, and she is cooking, cleaning and scrubbing his toes, and he goes down the street and an opportunity presents itself in the right package at the right place, he is going to find himself with that woman even though he left 'Hallie Berry' at home. And for the man, it's not about the other man having something more than he did."
He continued, "Once husbands and wives understand this, understand what pulls them to someone else, then they can work through the indiscretion, forgive and get past it to a happier life, because they now understand the nature of what they are dealing with.
"If husbands and wives can learn to be open and honest with each other about the attraction they feel for someone else, and the other not consider it an insult or disrespect, or an indictment on them, then they would have a better relationship. They would see it as a natural part of the person's nature and not because something is wrong with them.
"Marriages have to be built around truth, honesty and transparency, where you help each other. And I am not talking about open marriages or relationships, but one where we hold each other accountable, but I can still love you in spite of it."
Cline, who has been married and divorced twice, is the father of two sons. The bishop, who hopes to remarry again, admits that if it was within his power, he would have three wives.
The 187-page The Monogamy Mystery: Natural/Unnatural? is available in bookstores and online internationally.