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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.

Language Matters

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“What’s in a word?”, asks Michael J. Knowles (1990 – ), host of the Michael Knowles Show, in a Prager University YouTube video entitled “Control the Words, Control the Culture.”

Knowles asks the viewer to consider the difference between an illegal immigrant and an undocumented immigrant, or the difference between a Christmas tree and a holiday tree. The answer, he tells us, lies in semantics. It is not the objects in themselves that are different, but the words used to define and describe them.

The manner in which we define and describe different things has a powerful effect on the way we view them. Our thoughts are processed and articulated through words. And it is through this articulation that our worldview is formed.

Language, therefore, is a vital cornerstone of civilisation. When it is used properly, it leads people towards truth and reason. But when it is abused, it leads people towards lies and irrationality.

The Judeo-Christian tradition is based upon written and verbal articulation. God’s first act of creation is the verbal commandment “let there be light.” Moses is commanded to write down the Ten Commandments. And Jesus Christ, the Messiah, is described as “the word of God made flesh.”

The left has come to realise that they can use language to manipulate the way people think. Through their domination of academia, culture, and media has ensured that it is their definitions and descriptors are the ones accepted within the larger culture.

The left controls language by using euphemisms to distort and obscure facts. These euphemisms make it easier for lies to be accepted by the larger populace.

Through their perversion of language, the left has all-ready been able to engineer significant social change. Would society have accepted gay marriage had it not been deviated from its original definition of the union of husband – man – and wife – woman? And would society have been so ready to accept abortion if those being killed were referred to as unborn babies and not as foetuses?

And the left continues to use language as a means to engineer social change. They refer to policies that favour groups based upon arbitrary factors such as race, gender, or sexuality as “social justice.” But to be just means to have “the quality of being fair and reasonable.” In reality, there is nothing just about the policies that comprise “social justice.”

Likewise, policies that unfairly favour non-white, non-male, and non-heterosexual individuals in academia and the workforce is referred to as, alternatively, positive discrimination and affirmative action. In reality, such practices are discrimination.

Intellectual conformity is enforced in the name of “diversity”, opposing points of views are censored in the name of “tolerance”, and voices of dissent are silenced because they are dismissed as “hate speech.”

When you control the words, you control the culture. And when you control the culture, you control the future of a civilisation.

MARRIAGE AND THE LATE BARBARA BUSH

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The recent death of Barbara Bush (1925 – 2018) and her seventy-three-year marriage to former US President, George H.W. Bush (1924 – ) has got me thinking about the state of marriage in our society.

According to a report by the West Australian, marriage rates in October 2017 had dipped below that of the Great Depression, the lowest in Australia’s history.

More surprising, however, been the conditions under which this decline has occurred. The modern decline in marriage appears to be the consequence of changing cultural norms and social attitudes that are dismissive, even hostile, to the idea of lifelong, monogamous marriage.

By contrast, the low rates of marriage during the Great Depression was largely the result of poor economics. Low wages, wealth destruction, and unemployment meant people couldn’t afford to get married, so they didn’t.

Similarly, research has revealed that marriage in the United States is fracturing along socioeconomic lines. Today middle and upper-class Americans are far more likely to wed than the American working class. Only thirty-nine percent of the American working class are married compared to fifty-six percent of members of the upper and middle classes.

Our socio-political culture has slowly but surely stripped marriage of the privileges that were once exclusive to it. Casual and extra-marital sex is almost encouraged, sexual licentiousness is no longer frowned upon, and the existence of the Welfare State means that women no longer have to rely upon a husband for financial support (rather, she relies upon the government).

Sexual behaviour is a key indicator of a society’s moral character. Ethical sexual relationships, including good marriages, are based upon love and respect. The problem with the modern conception of sex and marriage is that it has forgotten that sex concerns flesh and blood human beings. It has therefore fooled itself into believing that it can be divorced from emotions, responsibility, morality, and consequences.

While society continues to value licentious sex over long-term commitment, the institution of marriage will continue to decline. Things could change, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

The Hierarchy of the Catholic Church

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Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, established His Church with a definitive structure. It is the duty of every Catholic to understand this hierarchy and how it helps Christ’s Church lead the faithful at both the local and overall level.

The most basic level of the Church is the local parish. This is where practising Catholics are baptised and confirmed, get married and have their funerals, attend weekly mass and receive the sacraments. Often the parish is named after Christ himself (Blessed Sacrament, Sacred Heart), the Virgin Mary (Our Lady of Mercy, Our Lady of Good Counsel), or a Saint.

After the parish, there is the diocese: an amalgamation of parishes controlled by a local Bishop. The Bishop of the diocese is seen as an authentic successor to the apostles and is not just an ambassador to the Pope. Following from the diocese is the archdiocese controlled by an Archbishop, and finally, the Catholic Church headed by Saint Peter’s successor, the Pope.

The order of precedence for the Catholic Church can be found here.

THE RAVEN

 

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The writings of Edgar Allan Poe (1809 – 1849) evokes images of murderers, madmen, premature burials, and mysterious women who return from the dead. Our common image of him is of a mysterious, somewhat melancholy figure who frequents cemeteries and other creepy places. However, his influence extends far beyond the gothic and the macabre, he is credited with the invention of the modern detective story and with innovating the science fiction genre. Over the course of his lifetime, Poe wrote hundreds of essays, books on scientific theory, short stories, poems, book reviews, and novels. His classics, like The Tell-Tale Heart and The Fall of the House of Usher, have thrilled readers for nigh-on two centuries. For this week’s cultural article, we will be examining his poem, The Raven.

BIOGRAPHY

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Edgar Allen Poe was born on January 19th, 1809 in Boston, Massachusetts. Both his father, David Poe, Jr. (1784 – 1811), and mother, Elizabeth Arnold Hopkins Poe (1787 – 1811), were travelling actors who died by the time Poe was three-years-old. While his siblings, William Henry Leonard Poe (1807 – 1831) and Rosalie Poe (1810 – 1874), were sent to live with other families, Poe was adopted by the wealthy tobacco merchant, John Allan (1779 – 1834), and his wife, Frances Valentine Allan (1784 – 1829), in Richmond, Virginia.

In 1826, Poe left home to study ancient and modern languages at the University of Virginia. Unfortunately, John Allan had provided Poe with only a third of the funds he would need to support himself at the university. Although Poe excelled in his classes, he managed to accumulate a considerable amount of debt. By the end of his first term, Poe’s financial situation had become so dire that he was forced to burn his furniture to keep warm.

Poe left the university after just a year and returned home. Back in Richmond, Poe discovered that his fiancée, Elmira Royster (1810 – 1888), had become engaged to Alexander Shelton (1807 – 1844). He lived in John Allan’s home, but animosity between the two caused him to leave after only a few months.

John Allan had raised his adopted son with the intention that he would become a businessman and gentleman. Poe, however, rejected his adoptive father’s aspirations and set out to emulate his hero, Lord Byron (1788 – 1824), by making himself a great writer and adventurer. He achieved the former with the publication of his first book, Tamerlane, at the age of eighteen. The latter he achieved by enlisting in the United States Army. Two years later, he was accepted into the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Following his expulsion from West Point after only eight months, Poe travelled to Baltimore, Maryland – the home of his biological father – to seek help from relatives. Although one of his relatives robbed him in the middle of the night, Poe was able to find refuge in the home of his aunt, Maria Clemm (1790 – 1871). It was there that Poe met and fell in love with his cousin, Virginia Eliza Clemm (1822 – 1847). Around the same time, Poe’s adoptive father, John Allan, died. Poe, who was living in poverty at the time, was left out of Allan’s estate.

Despite this, Poe’s writing career was progressing at a steady pace. He was already publishing his short stories and was able to gain an editorial position at the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond. The combination of Poe’s scathing book reviews and his sensational stories made the Southern Literary Messenger the most popular magazine in the southern United States.

In 1835, the twenty-six-year-old Poe married the thirteen-year-old Virginia and brought her and her mother with him to Richmond. Later, dissatisfaction with his pay at the Southern Literary Messenger would cause Poe and his young wife to move to New York, and later Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he would write for numerous magazine publications.

Poe wrote his most famous poem, The Raven (1845), whilst living in New York. Its publication made him a household name and provided him with the funds and opportunities to buy the Broadway Journal, publish two books, and demand higher wages. However, rumours of an extra-marital affair, financial difficulties, and Virginia declining health forced Poe to leave the city in 1846. Poe moved to a country cottage where, in 1847, Virginia succumbed to tuberculosis.

Poe slipped into a deep depression and lost the ability to write for several months. Then, in the summer of 1849, he returned to Richmond and rekindled his relationship with his former fiancée, Elmira Royster Shelton. Elmira, like Poe, was a widow. The pair became engaged and planned to marry when Poe returned from a trip to Philadelphia and New York.

On his way to Philadelphia, Poe disappeared in Baltimore for five days. He was found in the bar room of a public house (which had been used as a polling station in a recent election) in a state of delirium. Poe was taken to Washington College Hospital. Edgar Allen Poe died there, aged forty, on October 7th, 1849.

POEM

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Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—

    While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,

As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.

“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—

            Only this and nothing more.”

    Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;

And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.

    Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow

    From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore—

For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—

            Nameless here for evermore.

    And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain

Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;

    So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating

    “’Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door—

Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;—

            This it is and nothing more.”

    Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,

“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;

    But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,

    And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,

That I scarce was sure I heard you”—here I opened wide the door;—

            Darkness there and nothing more.

    Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,

Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;

    But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,

    And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Lenore?”

This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Lenore!”—

            Merely this and nothing more.

    Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,

Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.

    “Surely,” said I, “surely that is something at my window lattice;

      Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore—

Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;—

            ’Tis the wind and nothing more!”

    Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,

In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;

    Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;

    But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door—

Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door—

            Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,

By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,

“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,

Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore—

Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”

            Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

    Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,

Though its answer little meaning—little relevancy bore;

    For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being

    Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door—

Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,

            With such name as “Nevermore.”

    But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only

That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.

    Nothing farther then he uttered—not a feather then he fluttered—

    Till I scarcely more than muttered “Other friends have flown before—

On the morrow he will leave me, as my Hopes have flown before.”

            Then the bird said “Nevermore.”

    Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,

“Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters is its only stock and store

    Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster

    Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore—

Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore

            Of ‘Never—nevermore’.”

    But the Raven still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,

Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;

    Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking

    Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore—

What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore

            Meant in croaking “Nevermore.”

    This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing

To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core;

    This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining

    On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o’er,

But whose velvet-violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o’er,

            She shall press, ah, nevermore!

    Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer

Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.

    “Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee—by these angels he hath sent thee

    Respite—respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore;

Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!”

            Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

    “Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!—

Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,

    Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted—

    On this home by Horror haunted—tell me truly, I implore—

Is there—is there balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore!”

            Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

    “Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!

By that Heaven that bends above us—by that God we both adore—

    Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,

    It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore—

Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.”

            Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

    “Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting—

“Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!

    Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!

    Leave my loneliness unbroken!—quit the bust above my door!

Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!”

            Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

    And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting

On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;

    And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,

    And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;

And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor

            Shall be lifted—nevermore!

 

POEM ANALYSIS

The Raven is characterised by the nightmarish nature of its images and themes. There is talk of wild dreams, burning souls, and imaginary perfumes. The poem’s most vivid image, that of the stately raven, tortures the narrator with its continuous repetition of the word, “Nevermore” (whether or not this is just a figment of the narrator’s imagination is never established). Similarly, the poem mentions “quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore” as a reference to antiquated, and forgotten, books of antiquated traditions and knowledge (who knows? maybe the narrator was experimenting with pagan or occult practices). Elsewhere, the poem mentions “a bust of Pallas”, a reference to the Greek titan Pallas, and “Night’s Plutonian shore”, referring to the underworld of Roman mythology.

THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF MARRIAGE

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The focus on rights and privileges has become a major characteristic of our modern culture. This focus has manifested itself in a variety of ways. One of these has been the focus upon the denial rights of the so-called underprivileged and oppressed – these namely being women (who, for some reason, are considered a minority), homosexuals, transgendered peoples, non-whites, non-Christians, and more. This focus on rights and privileges has perverted and corrupted all aspects of social and cultural life, including marriage.

For centuries, numerous political philosophers have seen the organisation of sex and reproduction as being vital to the health of a society. The most obvious form of this organisation could be found in marriage: an institution used by society to regulate family life, sex, and reproduction. The American political scientist, James Q. Wilson (1931 – 2012), said in his book, the Marriage Problem (2002): “Marriage is a socially arranged solution for the problem of getting people to stay together and care for children that the mere desire for children, and the sex that makes children possible, do not solve.”

Wilson observed in his book, the Moral Sense (1993):

“In virtually every society, the family is defined by marriage; that is, by a publicly announced contract that makes legitimate the sexual union of a man and a woman. Even in societies where men and women have relatively unrestricted sexual access to one another beginning at an early age, marriage is still the basis for family formation. It is desired by the partners and expected by society. Marriage, in short, is not simply a way of legitimizing sex, and so it cannot be dispensed with just because sexual activity need not be made legitimate. Marriage exists because people must take responsibilities for child care and assume economic obligations. Marriage, and thus the family that it defines, is a commitment.”

Christianity sees marriage as a covenant based on duty and commitment, not one based purely on feelings. Christian marriage is based on agape: the sacrificial love for another person. It is a love that is genuine, that endures through both good times and bad, that is not diminished by time or circumstance, that has a spiritual dimension, and is based on words and actions. This is a compassionate love, not a romantic one.

Marriages work when husbands and wives contribute equally to its health and vitality. Suffice to say, both husband and wife have duties and responsibilities in this regard. The first duty of the individual, then, is to psychologically separate themselves from their parents and siblings and form a new identity as husband or wife. (It is important to note here that this does not mean alienating or abandoning one’s birth family). After this, husbands and wives are duty-bound to love, honour, and trust each other. They should avoid any activity that may cause reasonable suspicion our jealousy so they may live in peace and harmony with each other. Finally, they ought to treat each other with reverence and respect: tolerating each other’s imperfections and being kind and charitable with one another.

The modern obsession with rights and privileges has created an imbalance. This imbalance can only be redressed by asserting the importance of individual responsibility.  One of the central places this can occur is through the focus on the obligations and responsibilities of spouses within the confines 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.