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A Man For All Seasons

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It is a rare occurrence to see a film that is so memorable that it implants itself on the human psyche. A film that contains such a captivating story, compelling characters, and profound themes occurs so rarely it becomes etched into our collective unconscious. A Man for All Seasons is one of those films.

Set in Tudor England during the reign of King Henry VIII (1491 – 1547), A Man for All Seasons tells the story of Henry’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon (1485 – 1536), the birth of the Church of England, and the man who stood opposed to it.

During the 1530s, King Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic Church, passed the Act of Succession (which declared Princess Mary (1516 – 1558), the King’s daughter with Catherine, illegitimate) and the Act of Supremacy (which gave Henry supreme command over the Church in England), and made himself the Supreme Head of the Church of England.

In A Man for All Seasons, Henry asks Sir Thomas More (1478 – 1535) to disregard his own principles and express his approval of the King’s desire to divorce his wife and establish an English Church separate from Rome. Henry believes that More’s support will legitimise his actions because More is a man known for his moral integrity. Initially, Henry uses friendship and dodgy logic to convince his friend. It fails, and the so-called “defender of the faith” tries using religious arguments to justify his adultery.  When this fails, he merely resorts to threats. Again, More refuses to endorse Henry’s actions.

A Man for All Seasons is really about the relationship between the law (representing the majesty of the state) and individual consciousness. In the film, Sir Thomas More is depicted as a man with an almost religious reverence for the law because he sees it as the only barrier between an ordered society and anarchy. In one scene, when William Roper the Younger (1496 – 1578) tells him he would gladly lay waste to every law in order to get at the devil, More replies that he would “give the devil benefit of law for my own safety’s sake.”

More’s reverence goes far beyond mere man-made law, however. He also shows a deep reverence for the laws of God, as well. After being sentenced to death, More finally breaks his silence and refers to the Act of Succession, which required people to recognise Henry’s supremacy in the Church and his divorce from Catherine of Aragon, as “directly repugnant to the law of God and His Holy Church, the Supreme Government of which no temporal person may be any law presume to take upon him.” More argues that the authority to enforce the law of God was granted to Saint Peter by Christ himself and remained the prerogative of the Bishop of Rome.

Furthermore, More argues that the Catholic Church had been guaranteed immunity from interference in both the King’s coronation oath and in Magna Carta. In his coronation oath, Henry had promised to “preserve to God and Holy Church, and to the people and clergy, entire peace and concord before God.” Similarly, the Magna Carta stated that the English people had “granted to God, and by this present charter confirmed for us and our heirs in perpetuity, that the English Church shall be free, and shall have its rights undiminished, and its liberties unimpaired.”

The central problem of the film is that the legal and political system in England is incapable of allowing More to hold a contradictory, private opinion. Even before he is appointed Chancellor, More expresses no desire to get involved with the debate surrounding the King’s marriage. He will not, however, swear an oath accepting the King’s marriage or his position as the head of the Church of England. More believes that it is the Pope who is the head of the Church, not the King, and he is perfectly willing to sacrifice his wealth, family, position, freedom, and, ultimately, his life to retain his integrity.

The relationship between the law and an individual’s conscience is an important one. What A Man for All Seasons illustrates is just how important this relationship is, and what happens when this relationship is violated. Modern proponents of social justice, identity politics, and political correctness would do well to watch A Man for All Seasons.

IN DEFENCE OF CHRISTIANITY

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In 2017, the online video subscription service, Hulu, embarked on the production of Margaret Atwood’s (1939 – ) 1985 novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. The story is set in the fictional, totalitarian state of Gilead: a society run by fundamentalist Christians who overthrew the previous secular state and set up a theocracy in its wake. For years, influential thought leaders and other arbiters of popular opinion have espoused the opinion that broader society would greatly benefit from the abolition of Christianity. It is my belief that such an occurrence would have precisely the opposite effect.

No group has criticised Christianity more than the New Atheists. Frequently deriding it as nothing more than “science for stupid people”, prominent New Atheists have ridiculed Christianity and dismissed its positive effects. Atheists and anti-Christians turn Christianity into a straw man by reducing it down to his most basic elements (they are helped, unfortunately, by those fundamentalist Christians who still assert that the earth is literally six-thousand years old). They then use this straw man to discredit the idea of faith. The philosopher, Sam Harris (1967 – ) argued in his book, The End of Faith that religious belief constituted a mental illness. More alarmingly, the British Scientist, Richard Dawkins (1941 – ) took things one step further by claiming that religious instruction constituted a form of child abuse.

The basis for much of Christianity’s negative portrayal finds its roots in the philosophies of the political left. A central tenet of the left-wing worldview is an adherence to secularism, which appears set to replace Christianity as the prevailing cultural belief system. (This is not to be confused with atheism, which denies the existence of a creator). On the one hand, secularism promotes both religious liberty and the separation of church and state (both of which are good things). On the other hand, however, proponents of secularism reject the knowledge and wisdom religious institutions can impart on the world. In a secular society, God can be believed to exist, but not in any sort of a productive way. God is something to be confined the private home or the sanctuary of one’s local Church. God is something to be worshipped behind closed doors where no one can see you.

Of course, anti-Christian rhetoric has been a facet of popular culture since the 1960s. Today, finding a positively-portrayed devout Christian family is about as likely as finding a virgin in the maternity ward. Christians are routinely depicted as stupid, backwards, hateful, and extreme. By contrast, atheists are routinely depicted as witty, intelligent, and tolerant. In short, Atheism is deemed as good and Christianity is deemed as bad. And, of course, this attitude has filled some with a kind of arrogant grandiosity. During an interview in 1966, John Lennon (1940 – 1980) opined: “Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue with that; I’m right and I will be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now; I don’t know which will go first, rock and roll or Christianity.”

The mainstream media rarely discusses the persecution of Christians. Indeed, prejudice and discrimination against Christianity is treated with a type of permissiveness that prejudice and discrimination against other religions, Islam being a primary example, is not.

Christians are estimated to be the victims of four out of five discriminatory acts around the world, and face persecutions in one-hundred-and-thirty-nine countries. Churches have been firebombed in Nigeria. North Koreans caught with Bibles are summarily shot. In Egypt, Coptic Christians have faced mob violence, forced removals, and, in the wake of the Arab spring, the abduction of their females who are forced to marry Muslim men.

In China, Christian villagers were instructed to remove pictures of Christ, the Crucifix, and Gospel passages by Communist Party officials who wished to “transform believers in religion into believers in the party.” According to the South China Morning Post, the purpose behind the drive was the alleviation of poverty. The Chinese Communist Party believed that it was religious faith that was responsible for poverty in the region and wanted the villagers to look to their political leaders for help, rather than a saviour. (Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the Chinese Communist Party looked at their own evil and ineffective political ideology as the true cause of poverty in their country rather than blaming it on religion?). As a result, around six-hundred people in China’s Yugan county – where about ten percent of the population is Christian – removed Christian symbology from their living rooms.

Popular culture and thought in the West has attempted, with a great deal of success, to paint Christianity as stupid, backwards, dogmatic, and immoral. It is the presence religion that is to blame for holding the human race back. It is religion that is to blame for racism, sexism, and all manner of social injustices. It is religion that is the cause of all wars. So, on and so forth.

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I strongly disagree with this argument. Indeed, it is my belief that the abolishment of Christianity from public life would have the effect of increasing intolerance and immorality. Christianity’s abolishment will have precisely this effect because it will abolish those metaphysical doctrines – divine judgement, universal and absolute morality, and the divinity of the human soul – that has made those things possible.

Christianity and Western Civilisation are inextricably linked. In the field of philosophy, virtually all Western thinkers have grappled with the concepts of God, faith, morality, and more. As the writer, Dinesh D’Souza (1961 – ) wrote in his book, What’s So Great About Christianity:

“Christianity is responsible for the way our society is organised and for the way we currently live. So extensive is Christian contribution to our laws, our economics, our politics, our art, our calendar, our holidays, and our moral and cultural priorities that J.M. Robers writes in Triumph of the West: ‘We could none one of us today be what we are if a handful of Jews nearly two thousand years ago had not believed that they had known a great teacher, seen him crucified, died, and buried, and then rise again’.”

The primary contribution of Christianity to Western civilisation has been to act as a stabilising force, providing society with an overarching metaphysical structure as well as rules and guidelines that act as a moral foundation. This shared metaphysical structure and moral foundation, combined with traditions and cultural customs, has the effect of bringing a country, a township, even a school or parish, together.

When Christianity lost its supremacy in society it was replaced by smaller, less transcendent and more ideological, belief systems. Where people had once been unified by a common belief, they have now become more divided along ideological lines. Religious belief has not been replaced by rationalism or logic, as the New Atheists supposed. Rather, people have found outlets for their need to believe in other places: social activism, political ideologies, and so forth.

The most prevalent contribution that Christianity has made to the Western world comes under the guise of human rights. Stories like The Parable of the Good Samaritan have had a remarkable influence on its conception. Human rights stem, in part, from the belief that human beings were created in the image of God and hold a divine place in the cosmos.  Christianity has played a positive role in ending numerous brutal and archaic practices, including slavery, human sacrifice, polygamy, and infanticide. Furthermore, it has condemned incest, abortion, adultery, and divorce. (Remarkably, there are some secularists who wish to bring back some of these antiquated practices).

Christianity placed an intrinsic value on human life that had not been present in pre-Christian society. As the American Pastor, Tim Keller (1950 – ) wrote in Reasons for God: “It was extremely common in the Greco-Roman world to throw out new female infants to die from exposure, because of the low status of women in society.” Roman culture was well known for its brutality and callousness. Practices of regicide, gladiatorial combat, infanticide, and crucifixion were all common. Seneca (4BC – AD65), Nero’s (AD37 – AD68) chief advisor, once stated that it was Roman practice to “drown children who, at birth, are weakly and abnormal.”

Christian morality has had a notable effect on our views on human sexuality and has helped to provide women with far greater rights and protections than its pagan predecessors. Christianity helped to end the hypocritical pagan practice of allowing men to have extra-marital affairs and keep mistresses. It formulated rules against the cohabitation of couples prior to marriage, adultery, and divorce. Unlike the Ancient Greeks and Ancient Romans, Christians do not force widows to remarry, and even allowed widows to keep their husband’s estates.

The Christian faith has been instrumental in the enactment and promotion of public works. The instigator of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther (1483 – 1546) championed the idea of compulsory education and state-funded schools. Similarly, the Lutheran layman, Johann Sturm (1507 – 1589) pioneered graded education. Christianity has been the source of numerous social services including health-care, schooling, charity, and so forth. Christianity’s positive belief in charity and compassion has lead to many orphanages, old-age homes, and groups like the Sisters of Charity and Missionaries of the Poor, the YMCA and YWCA, Teen Challenge, the Red Cross, and numerous hospitals and mental health institutions being founded by the faithful.

One of the frequent criticisms levelled at the Christian faith, particularly the Catholic Church, has been that it has stymied scientific and technological development. In truth, Western science and technology have been able to flourish because of the influence of Christianity, not in spite of it. This is because the Christian belief that God created everything lends itself to the idea that everything is worth contemplating. It is certainly true that the Catholic Church has been hostile to those discoveries that do not conform to its doctrine. Galileo, for example, was forced to retract his claim of heliocentrism because it challenged the Church’s doctrine that the earth acted as the centre of the solar system. For the most part, however, Christianity has been largely supportive of scientific endeavour. Christian scientists have included Gregor Mendel (1822 – 1884), Nicolaus Copernicus (1473 – 1543), Johannes Kepler (1571 – 1630), Galileo Galilei (1564 – 1642), Arthur Eddington (1882 – 1944), Isaac Newton (1643 – 1727), Blaise Pascal (1623 – 1662), Andre Ampere (1775 – 1836), James Joule (1818 – 1889), Lord Kelvin (1824 – 1907), Robert Boyle (1627 – 1691), George Washington Carver (1860s – 1943), Louis Pasteur (1822 – 1895), Joseph Lister (1827 – 1912), Francis Collins (1950 – ), William Phillips (1914 – 1975), and Sir John Houghton (1931 – ), and more.

The forces behind the stratospheric success of Western civilisation has not been its art or music or architecture, but the ideas it has built itself upon. It is notions like the rule of law, property rights, free markets, a preference for reason and logic, and Christian theology that are responsible for making Western society the freest and most prosperous civilisation that has ever existed. It cannot survive with one of its central tenents removed.

WHEN ARE WE GOING TO TREAT DIVORCE AND FATHERLESSNESS AS THE ISSUE IT REALLY IS?

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Since the sexual revolution, society’s attitudes towards sex and the family have been shifting more and more to the left. Today’s sexual philosophy has its roots in the prevailing social forces of the 1960s and 1970s. These forces have challenged the traditional institutions of monogamous marriage and the traditional family, seeking to replace them with their own utopian values.

The introduction of No Fault Divorce in America in 1970 signalled the most immediate sign of the cultural shift. Previously, people got married young and stayed married. Divorce was a social taboo. Shifting cultural philosophies and changing laws have altered this reality. Conservative commentator and Daily Wire editor, Ben Shapiro, blames the rise of divorce on a lack of religious fervour among young people, and the existence of a ‘divorce culture’ which celebrates serial monogamy and single parenthood.

A natural consequence of the decline of monogamous marriage and the traditional household has been the rise of the single parent family. In the past children were born within the confines of marriage. This is no longer the case, as statistical comparisons reveal: in 2015, 40.2% of live births were to unwed mothers, compared to only 5.30% in 1960. Similarly, in the United Kingdom in 2013, 46.5% of children were born to unwed mothers, compared to 11% in 1979. In 2014, a Pew Research poll found that fewer than half of American kids lived in a home with their mother and father, compared to sixty-one percent in 1980, and seventy-three percent in 1960. Across the pond in the United Kingdom, it is believed that a quarter of all families are single parent families.

Of course, single parent families are never going to be a concern for the left. The traditional family represents an obstacle to the vision of socialist utopia the left holds so dear because individuals care more about their own families than they do about the wider community. Furthermore, it is much more difficult for the state to control a woman who has the financial, social, and emotional support of a loving husband. As Ben Shapiro notes: “the left is never going to recognise that broken families are a problem because it is one of the goals of the left to break families. Historically speaking, if you read [Karl] Marx and [Friedrich] Engels [authors of the Communist Manifesto], they do not like the traditional family, they think that the traditional family is a bulwark against an overarching, brutal state.”

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A further manifestation of the decline of monogamous marriage and the traditional family has been the increase in fatherless children. Fathers today have been relegated to the role of ‘accessory parent.’ We no longer recognise the spiritual and psychological influence fathers have on their children. As a consequence, fathers are considered people children spend time with on designated visitation days rather than a permanent and necessary influence in their lives. The consequences of this attitude have been disastrous.

Psychologically, children from single parent and fatherless families are more likely to suffer cognitive, social, and emotional problems and are more likely to be emotionally, physically, or sexually abused. Fatherless children often struggle with their emotions and suffer episodic bouts of self-loathing along with a diminished sense of self and a lack of emotional and physical security. Many fatherless children have reported feeling abandoned because their fathers were not in their lives. No wonder drug and alcohol use and rates of incarceration soar in children whose fathers are absent.

Fatherless children also suffer socially: not only in the wider community but in their personal relationships as well. Children are often left to fend for themselves because their sole parent and breadwinner is away from home. This has several consequences: it forces the child to take on adult roles prematurely. Older siblings are expected to take care of younger siblings, and younger siblings are expected to learn from their older siblings. Young boys often feel the need to assert themselves and take on the role of the “man of the house” causing power struggles between himself and his mother. Girls often feel more maternal earlier in life (especially when they’ve been tasked with looking after younger siblings). As adults, these children struggle to maintain long-term relationships and, in a cruel twist of fate, are more likely to end up divorced or as single parents themselves. Both men and women are more likely to engage in promiscuous behaviour. A natural consequence of this is an increased risk of pregnancy in teenage girls. Often they struggle to raise their own children because they do not have two parents upon which to base their parenting style. In the wider scheme of things, fatherless children are more likely to struggle at school and drop out.

Economically, they are significantly more likely to suffer economic disadvantage and, in extreme cases, outright poverty (including homelessness). As a result, many of these children live in poorer neighbourhoods, struggle to have their basic needs met, and are disadvantaged in school. As adults, fatherless children are four times more likely to experience long-term unemployment, remain welfare dependent, and have low incomes.

It should be clear that our current relationship system is not working. We must destroy the cancerous influences of feminism and Marxism in the social sphere. We must use cultural means – media, TV shows, movies, novels, magazines, etc. – to properly educate the masses about relationships and sex. On the legal and political front, divorce must be made harder to obtain. No Fault divorce, a cancerous law, must be replaced with a system of Fault Divorce which is fair to both men and women, and which dignifies and upholds the integrity of the institution of marriage.

ENGLAND AND WALES: MARRIAGE AND DIVORCE ON THE RISE AMONG THE OVER SIXTY-FIVES

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Couples aged sixty-five and older are getting married and divorced at greater rates in England and Wales, a recent release from the Office of National Statistics has revealed. The release reveals that the rates of marriage among couples aged sixty-five and older have increased from 7,468 in 2004 to 10,937 in 2014, an increase of forty-six percent.

ONS statistics reveal men to be taking up the lion’s share of this increase in marriage. In 2014, fifty-six percent of men aged sixty-five and over got married to younger women, compared to twenty-six percent of women. A statistic easily chalked up to the fact that men prefer younger women.

Divorce rates among the over-sixty-fives have also been on the rise. While divorce rates in England Wales have decreased by twenty-eight percent between 2005 and 2015, it has increased among older couples by twenty-three percent for men and thirty-eight percent for women. The ONS believes this increase to be the result of higher life-expectancy, higher rates of older workers, and an increase in the number of older people using the internet, particularly online dating.

Perhaps, as the ONS suggests, the increased rate of marriage and divorce among the over sixty-fives comes as a result of an ageing population. Between 2004 and 2014, the percentage of people aged sixty-five and older increased by twenty-percent.