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The Maxwells vs. The Browns


tressea

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After reading the thread about the Maxwells screening questions at their presentations and not permitting any questions at all at their Pittsburgh event (allegedly for "time" reasons, although I posted my views about that), I started thinking about the difference between them and the Browns (of "Sister Wives" fame) and it really highlighted for me the ways in which the Maxwells are cowardly and, ultimately, probably much less effective as ministers than they might otherwise be.

 

Both Steve Maxwell and Kody Brown have a religious viewpoint that they're trying to express to the world, and a set of core guiding principles that they are wholly committed to. Kody Brown, however, has a viewpoint that is much more unpopular and hard to sell to the general public: he believes in polygamy and thinks that it should be legalized. Prior to his show, I think you would be extremely hard pressed to find many Americans (outside of the LDS and existing polygamous communities) that supported polygamy. On the flip side, at least from a fairly abstract perspective, Steve Maxwell's ideology and religious perspective is NOT particularly strange or unpopular. He believes in -- and this is certainly a Cliff Notes version of what I gather from his blog to be his views -- commitment to Christ, strong families, shielding children from worldly influences, and living in a way that honors God. I am probably 25 notches to the left of where Steve stands on any given issue and even I, at a very basic level, don't technically disagree with any of that. And I think that a huge number of Americans, at least in theory, subscribe to most of those views, as well. So, Steve Maxwell -- as someone who wants to promote his views -- has a FAR easier task ahead of him than Kody Brown.

 

But this is where things get interesting (at least for me). Kody Brown has taken a RADICALLY different approach to this than Steve Maxwell. Whereas Steve Maxwell cloisters his family, censors the comments on his blog (only SUPPORTIVE ones get posted), screens questions at his presentations (or forbids them entirely), and otherwise seems to go out of his way to avoid confrontation, dissent, and people who think differently than he does, Kody Brown seeks out people with different views and has gone out of his way to talk to people who oppose his lifestyle. As much as you make dislike him personally (and I am certainly not a huge fan), you can't deny that he has tried to be as open and honest as possible about his lifestyle as well as accessible to his critics.

 

For instance, Kody, his four wives, and several of his older children went to Harvard University (that bastion of secular liberalism, moral decay, and evil feminism, right?) and had an open Q&A session with -- SURPRISE! -- gays, feminists, and people of different religious beliefs. And he and his wives recently released a tell-all book about the very real struggles that they've encountered as polygamists both within their relationships with one another and with the outside world. (It's really a great read if you haven't picked it up, yet.). They don't sugarcoat anything and they have repeatedly shown themselves willing to answer tough questions.

 

And it's working.

 

Almost entirely as a result of their show, a very large number of people are reconsidering their views on polygamy. Personally, I would have sworn up and down before I watched their show that polygamy was NEVER a good option for women, that it should ALWAYS be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, and that there was no room in our free and modern society for people seeking to live a polygamous lifestyle. Now, however, having watched two seasons of "Sister Wives," my views on polygamy have changed. I have a much more nuanced opinion. My husband and I joke that every time we watch "Sister Wives" for 30 minutes we sit and discuss polygamy and society for 4 hours. Kody Brown's hearts and minds campaign is working. And it's working because he's willing to sit and answer the tough questions.

 

Then there's Steve Maxwell. *Sigh.* Steve Maxwell should NOT be a very controversial figure. As I said above, his beliefs, though extreme, are not that unusual, particularly among conservative Christians. But Steve Maxwell does everything that Kody Brown doesn't. His approach is to try to control as much of his world as possible. To avoid critics. To ignore the tough questions. To build walls and shields around his family so that they never encounter people with views hostile to their own. He's willing to sit in his house and issue forth parenting advice and judgments (remember the whole "she's going to hell because she was a Catholic" fiasco?), but he's not willing to confront his critics -- or even let them SPEAK if he can control it (unfavorable comments get ignored, questions get screened). It's cowardly AND it limits how powerful his message can truly be. Steve is LOSING the hearts and minds campaign. Half of his readers are probably people (like me and everyone else on this board) that log on to his family's blog just to gawk at how truly bizarre and cultish they are. This is not an effective ministry.

 

I would feel very different about Steve Maxwell if he showed up on Free Jinger one day and said, "Hi! I'm Steve Maxwell. Ask me anything!" and then truly engaged with his critics. Or, shoot, if he were just willing to have an open Q&A at the end of his presentations. His beliefs might be extreme, but if he were even willing to have an open conversation about them, I think most of us on this board would view him very differently. We would at least *listen* to him and it wouldn't be so easy to snark on him afterwards. Note, for instance, that while people on this board have qualms and various peccadilloes about certain members of the Brown family, NOBODY is accusing them of being a cult. And the history of this community demonstrates that most of us have substantially more respect for people who are willing to show up and have a conversation. Steve Maxwell, thus far, is NOT that person. It appears that he probably reads this board somewhat regularly but actively works to avoid having to speak with any of us (or even acknowledge that he has any critics at all).

 

Steve Maxwell's story is one of a small man being limited by his smallness. It's a parable about how control and isolation are not effective positions from which to minister. Steve Maxwell could be a substantially more influential and well-respected figure, but even among conservative fundamentalists he's viewed as strange and extreme (at least according to the conversations we've had on this board with people high up in the movement). How sad for him.

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Interesting thoughts. From what I've seen of Kody though he is controlling like Maxwell. The Browns have a 'friends only' fb page and fans often have comments deleted, get told they can't talk about his hair, told they can't mention seeing the Brown's anywhere, etc.

Yes he has answered some questions about polygamy but he has never answered questions about the specifics of his faith (that you need 3 wives to get to the highest heaven) or about their use of food stamps WHILE they were filming the show, or about the fact that every single wife has filed bankruptcy (which is fine, hey we all have hard times but if you need to file every 5-7 yrs, you need to STOP HAVING KIDS).

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I think what's the best about the Browns is that they don't seem to be forcing their children to follow their lifestyle. No way would Sarah Maxwell be allowed to publicly say she doesn't want to follow her parents' brand of religion, but at least one of the teen Brown children have done so. That's the biggest and best difference, IMO.

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I think what's the best about the Browns is that they don't seem to be forcing their children to follow their lifestyle. No way would Sarah Maxwell be allowed to publicly say she doesn't want to follow her parents' brand of religion, but at least one of the teen Brown children have done so. That's the biggest and best difference, IMO.

This is the #1 reason I actually like the Browns. With the exception of Meri's only kid, all the oldest have openly stated they have no desire to be polygamists. All the parents have expressed their wish that the kids follow their faith, but yet the kids don't appear to be expected to fit in this box of "yes, I 100% agree with my parents on 100% of the issues 100% of the time."

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I think polygamy has its own inherent problems, and as it is practiced in America it does tend to be associated with some very restricted religious sects, but maybe it's theoretically like legalizing prostitution: take away the stigma and the 'problems' with the practice will go away.

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I agree that the Maxwells have control issues and likes to avoid confrontation and dissent. I find it interesting that even among "like minded" Christians (i.e those that come to his shows), Steve won't allow on the spot Q&A. Hey, if you are trying to sell a lifestyle, you can't ignore your critics! The Maxwells are afraid of any conflicts. They like their lives carefully choreographed. It's like they fear someone will ask them questions which forces them to pause and think. The Maxwells have always felt paranoid about outsiders. I feel their weird lifestyle---so bizarre that even other fundies think them strange---is met with so much derision that they have closed themselves off. Or, Steve just has some control issues...

Whatever the reason, the family refuses to confront any naysayers. They like their lives tightly scheduled, done with a smile and finished with Bible study. I think the Joseph engagement fiasco is the first time in a while their tight routine was disrupted. I mean, they were planning on a major production, followed by possible testimonies about courtship, then the start of indoctrination of another Maxwell....all that made moot because of a young girl. That's got to hurt Steve more than anything else. A young girl disrupted his tightly wound world. I figure this is one more reason for the family to close themselves off even more.

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This is the #1 reason I actually like the Browns. With the exception of Meri's only kid, all the oldest have openly stated they have no desire to be polygamists. All the parents have expressed their wish that the kids follow their faith, but yet the kids don't appear to be expected to fit in this box of "yes, I 100% agree with my parents on 100% of the issues 100% of the time."

I also like the Browns for the reason ElphabaGalinda stated. The Brown kids have more freedom than the Maxwell kids do. The Brown kids will leave the family and do ok. If Sarah or one of the NR kids left, they would have a lot of issues to deal with.

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The Maxwells and the Browns have very different agendas, and I think that is reflected in how they present themselves.

The church the Browns are affiliated with, the Apostolic United Brethren, is definitely fundamentalist and far from mainstream. Dorothy Allred Solomon has written two memoirs that detail the history and lifestyle of the group, and more recently a former member wrote a satirical blog spoofing the modern church, "Always Heaven, HoneyDawn's Polygamy Blog". I know it's satire, but the author states that it is all based on first hand knowledge and that she wrote it as therapy. I have interacted with her on other blogs and trust her.

The AUB shares roots with the FLDS and the groups have intermarried extensively, which is true of all Utah area Mormon fundamentalist groups. Saying that at least they aren't the FLDS really isn't saying much. It is an extremely patriarchal community in which girls and women are undereducated and denied self determination. The Browns are presenting an EXTREMELY liberal interpretation of the groups lifestyle, and former members have speculated that they have received permission from the church leadership to do so to further the polygamy legalization agenda. Most members homeschool or use the community school, as the Browns did before they moved to Las Vegas. I certainly wouldn't want my education to be under the sole instruction of Christine, who didn't complete high school. Most women in the AUB are skirts only. They do work outside their homes to help provide for their mega families, but many claim welfare as well. Contraception is strongly frowned upon, and most families with four wives have many more children than the Browns. In AUB doctrine, women only enter heaven at the request of their husbands, and the husband has every right to deny them entrance to his kingdom. Women are pressured to marry married men because they are told they have to live polygamy to enter the highest echelon of heaven, and often marry before 18.

The Brown children may have mainstream options, but that is largely thanks to the spotlight of the show and them trying to show that they aren't fanatics. Most other AUB children, especially girls, will never have those freedoms without sacrificing their relationships with their family.

The Browns have consistently danced around spelling out their exact beliefs publicly. They are not just like the Mormons down the road but with a few extra wives. The statements they have made about live and let live jn relation to homosexuality are in direct contradiction to their faiths teaching and obviously part of a ploy to redefine marriage to allow for their marriage to be legal. They do all they can to appear mainstream and non threatening and to give the impression that they are the norm for Mormon fundamentalists, but they simply aren't.

Christine has been heavily involved in groups in Utah that have been lobbying to legalize polygamy, and before the show she stated that she would welcome prosecution to bring a test case. This family has long been chosen as the public face of polygamy and have shown themselves accordingly.

The Maxwells, on the other hand, are not trying to gain the worlds acceptance. They dont want the world to accept them, they want the world to become like them.

So they have no interest in trying to appear mainstream, they want to appear set apart, isolated and special.

They are also preaching to the choir - their message is "we are good Christians like you, only more so". They are not fighting prejudice because most Americans will see any christian as a good person. A little extreme, in the case of the Maxwells, but basically good and trustworthy. They don't have to prove themselves to the mainstream, so they dint try to.

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Both Steve Maxwell and Kody Brown have a religious viewpoint that they're trying to express to the world, and a set of core guiding principles that they are wholly committed to. Kody Brown, however, has a viewpoint that is much more unpopular and hard to sell to the general public: he believes in polygamy and thinks that it should be legalized. Prior to his show, I think you would be extremely hard pressed to find many Americans (outside of the LDS and existing polygamous communities) that supported polygamy. On the flip side, at least from a fairly abstract perspective, Steve Maxwell's ideology and religious perspective is NOT particularly strange or unpopular. He believes in -- and this is certainly a Cliff Notes version of what I gather from his blog to be his views -- commitment to Christ, strong families, shielding children from worldly influences, and living in a way that honors God. I am probably 25 notches to the left of where Steve stands on any given issue and even I, at a very basic level, don't technically disagree with any of that. And I think that a huge number of Americans, at least in theory, subscribe to most of those views, as well. So, Steve Maxwell -- as someone who wants to promote his views -- has a FAR easier task ahead of him than Kody Brown.

I disagree with you that Steve does (or should) have an easier task than Kody. I think they differ in what their tasks are or aim to do.

Kody wants to show people "hey, we do something that squicks you out, but look at us, we're not the evil you think we are." Kody doesn't want every man in America to take 3 wives. That's a terrible idea anyway, because after 33% of the men get wives, what are the other 66% going to do? There will be no women left. Kody just wants his family to be accepted, not shunned.

Steve wants something entirely different. Steve doesn't just want to be accepted. (In fact, I submit the theory he wants non-Christians to NOT accept him. "Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise." 1 Corinthians 3:18 KJB) But he think's he's put off the world BEST of all, so he thinks all Christians must be just like him, or are really false Christians. He will claim the ebul Catolicks are following a man on earth (the Pope), but he wants all the Protestants to do exactly as he does. You let your wife wear pants? You're not taking dominion over what the Lord has given you, and she is sinning by wearing separated garments. Your wife has depression and she takes prescription meds to get through life? God made her depressed and it's a cross He wants her to bear! How dare you say better than God!? Your children's clothes have fallen apart and been repaired so many times they are beyond repair again, and you have given up all luxuries totally and you can't afford to feed them or buy them clothes but you can afford a birth control pill and insurance? You sinner! God will protect your health, and you are not trusting your fertility with him! That insurance and contraception money could totally cover your kids' clothes and food, don't you DARE think otherwise, it's NOT TRUSTING GOD.

Among a certain Kind of Protestants beliefs about Mormonism (whether fundamentalist or not), you get anywhere from "not doing Christianity right, and even the Catholics have it better than you" to "evil cult that is NOT Christian, even if they believe in the resurrection of Christ." So Kody is yes, at a disadvantage to Steve, if he were attempting to gain converts. Because Steve's Christianity is accepted as Christian, and among those same Kind of Protestants maybe even quite similar.

But if Steve came into my house and told my stepdad that marrying a divorcee who worked for a living and using birth control and letting the women in his family gain higher education and wear pants and cut their hair and drink all the soda they like and get help for their psychological issues and rise after 4:30AM and not exercise daily and watch tv and listen to secular music and let his stepdaughter make her own decision to convert to Episcopalianism and on and on ad nauseum, was WRONG AND EVIL AND YOU'RE ALL GOING TO HELL. My stepdad (who is an ordained Baptist minister) would be highly frustrated and attempt to point out to Steve why Biblical literalism is inappropriate, which Steve would never be able to handle.

If Kody brought his family to my house (which, I guess technically he kind of does, on TV) and let us watch his family's life and said "hey, can you just not hate us?" My stepdad would probably be like "hey, sure!" And then if he said "hey, what if it was legal for me to marry my other wives?" My stepdad would probably be like "well, maybe."

The reason why the Public's reaction to Kody is much better than the Public's reaction to Steve is because Kody isn't asking everyone to be just like him. (Not even his kids!)

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Cody Brown and his wives are the perfume on the rotten smell of Mormon polygamy. There show is a sham to try and trick people into believing these polygamists are just nice mainstream middle class professions with some quirky religious habits. They are to the AUB what the Duggars are to Gothardism.

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Steve Maxwell has no chance of gaining any type of following aside from a few hundred sheep. He isn't packaged and Hollywooded up like the Brown or the Duggars. You listen to him and go through his site and the first thing that hits you is that he is NOT like anybody or anything you know.

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Cody Brown and his wives are the perfume on the rotten smell of Mormon polygamy. There show is a sham to try and trick people into believing these polygamists are just nice mainstream middle class professions with some quirky religious habits. They are to the AUB what the Duggars are to Gothardism.

QFT.

You said in a few words what I tried to say in many.

It makes me furious that it's working, that people are accepting the Browns as representative of all fundamentalist Mormons, not the tiny liberal elite that they are encouraged to be for good publicity.

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While I think that the Browns made a foolish decision by going public (their children's lives were seriously uprooted; that is a problem for me), I do respect that they are open and honest with their critics, and that they think that America has room for people of all lifestyles.

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At the end of the day, the Browns and their children (whether they practice monogomy or polygamy) are Mormans. From what little I've seen of it, it's not that far removed from some of the Fundamentalism beliefs and secrecy.

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I just recently watched sister wives, and the browns family are really nice. That doesnt mean that every poligamy family are like them, but i think they are right in they demands, it just feel stupid prosecuting them, i just didnt see that they did anything illegal, and i personally like them more than the normal mormon family, they are really more tolerant, for example when they talk about the posibility that some of their kids being gay...i mean they are not hypocrites, they want to be acepted and try themselves to accept everyone also.

About the Maxwells, well, i try to be tolerant, but i have to say that it is dificult to feel empathy for Steve, probably because he doesnt show empathy for anyone different that him.

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I just recently watched sister wives, and the browns family are really nice. That doesnt mean that every poligamy family are like them, but i think they are right in they demands, it just feel stupid prosecuting them, i just didnt see that they did anything illegal, and i personally like them more than the normal mormon family, they are really more tolerant, for example when they talk about the posibility that some of their kids being gay...i mean they are not hypocrites, they want to be acepted and try themselves to accept everyone also.

About the Maxwells, well, i try to be tolerant, but i have to say that it is dificult to feel empathy for Steve, probably because he doesnt show empathy for anyone different that him.

An the fact that Mr. Brown is pretty much a grifter and plays favorites with his wives doesn't bother you at all?

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While I think that the Browns made a foolish decision by going public (their children's lives were seriously uprooted; that is a problem for me), I do respect that they are open and honest with their critics, and that they think that America has room for people of all lifestyles.

I don't think they're open and honest at all. They tend to sidestep any real questions preferring to tell us again about how they "don't do anything weird" like threesomes over and over and over. Nobody cares.

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The Brown children will be more equipped to deal with the real world in terms of education and careers, perhaps. Other than that, I think Kody's tried to portray them as the "hip cool" fundamentalist Mormons. Ironically, not explaining their religious reasons for polygamy makes him look more like a douche (not that I buy that Joseph Smith ever received any such fuckery as a revelation on multiple wives)

Interesting that the Brown's sect is more tolerant of alcohol and caffeine use....guess the elders thought that could go but needed to keep the polygamy thing going.

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Interesting that the Brown's sect is more tolerant of alcohol and caffeine use....guess the elders thought that could go but needed to keep the polygamy thing going.

I dunno. Mariah freaked the fuck out when Maddie and Logan told her (as a prank) that Hunter had been caught drinking. So I don't think the Browns are so okay with alcohol. Of course the very fact that the teens could pull a prank like that shows how much better off they are than the Duggar spawn. Or the Maxwell spawn.

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I dunno. Mariah freaked the fuck out when Maddie and Logan told her (as a prank) that Hunter had been caught drinking. So I don't think the Browns are so okay with alcohol. Of course the very fact that the teens could pull a prank like that shows how much better off they are than the Duggar spawn. Or the Maxwell spawn.

Could be, but she also could've freaked because Hunter's still (I think) under 21 so it's illegal for him to drink.

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Could be, but she also could've freaked because Hunter's still (I think) under 21 so it's illegal for him to drink.

Well, Maddie and Logan said that she would freak out because it was against their religion and she was the one the cared the most about things like that.

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