Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Merry Wives of Windsor and some thoughts on getting married.

You do amaze her: hear the truth of it.
You would have married her most shamefully,
Where there was no proportion held in love.
The truth is, she and I, long since contracted,
Are now so sure that nothing can dissolve us.
The offence is holy that she hath committed;
And this deceit loses the name of craft,
Of disobedience, or unduteous title,
Since therein she doth evitate and shun
A thousand irreligious cursed hours,
Which forced marriage would have brought upon her.

The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act V

It was such a wonderful experience going to the Globe Theatre on the South Bank of the Thames and seeing this play performed. It is hugely funny - I have not laughed so much in a long time. If anyone asks, methinks The bard invented situation comedy! As with many of Shakespeare's plays, The Merry Wives of Windsor (hereafter referred to as the play) is about disguise, and marriage. With plot and sub plots, the play is far too complicated to explain fully here, but the bit that I want to focus on is the daughter of one of the 'wives', Anne Page, has three suitors, who are:

Master Abraham Slender: Shallow's cousin. He is shy and self-effacing, and always defers to his uncle, who wants him to marry Anne Page. Slender's servant Simple describes him as having "a little whey-face, with a little yellow beard" (whey means pallid.) Slender is not particularly interested in marrying Anne Page, but he is willing to go along with what his uncle has arranged for him. However, Anne Page thinks he is an idiot, and has no intention of marrying him.

Dr. Caius: Dr. Caius is a French physician who seeks to marry Anne Page. He speaks bad English with a French accent. He is also hot-tempered and challenges Evans to a duel. Mistress Quickly, his housekeeper, devises a scheme whereby he will be able to marry Anne, but the plan fails.

Fenton:  in love with Anne Page and seeks to marry her. At first he sought her hand only because of the money she is inheriting, but he soon fell in love with her for her admirable qualities. Anne's father opposes Fenton, however. He believes Fenton is unsuitable because he comes from a higher social level and is too sophisticated and worldly for Anne. He also thinks that Fenton is motivated by a desire for monetary gain.

The notes above are taken from this website:

Master Page, Anne's father wanted Anne to marry Abraham Slender.
Mistress Page, Anne's mother wanted Anne to marry the French doctor.

The quotation I started this blog off with are the words of Fenton.  In a hugely funny scene at the end, the other two suitors find they have been duped and almost married off to boys, pretending to be the lovely Anne.

So much for the story: Why am I blogging on this subject? Well, I believe that down through the years, this matter of marriage and suitable marriages has been a major issue and although we are now in the twenty-first century, we cannot take for granted that people are getting married for the right reason to the right people. Different cultures have different perception of arranged marriages - that is where people other than the two people concerned make the decision to marry.  

My father always jokes that he married for money: He was thirsty at the time and my mother had two shillings and sixpence: The price of a beer in those days!

Jokes aside, for many people marriage is all about money. People decide to marry or NOT to marry based on whether or not they will be better off financially.  Some tax systems are set up such that the married couple gets certain benefits that single people are not entitled to, whereas other systems are "individual" based and as such tax both parties in the marriage separately without taking into account the marriage at all. I am no tax expert,  but suffice to say, that taxation has played a significant role in decisions on whether to marry or not to marry.

In this era of "free love" the concept of keeping sexual intercourse to the confines of a marriage is regarded by many as quaint.  People cheat on their spouses, and sleep with other people, and when challenged their defense can be summed up in the words: "It's just sex" - I don't love him/her, I love you. In the words of that famous Tina Turner song - "What's love gotta do, gotta do with it?"  Love is nothing but a second hand emotion - or so she thinks.

Marriage for cultural and religious reasons. Recently, the UK had to introduce laws that prevent people being taken out the country and forced to marry someone (usually a total stranger to them).  This is because many Pakistani parents have pledged their daughters' (mostly) hands in marriage to a stranger (in Pakistan). I mention Pakistan simply because it is within this community that the issue is most prevalent.  We have read of serious crimes being committed against people who have attempted to avoid this - or where the daughter has become involved with a man who is not the one her parents intended for her to marry.  The expression "honour killings" springs to mind.  I understand that there are some marriages that had been so arranged that have worked - and that the couple do love each other, or at least grow to love each other, but personally I am most sceptical about such unions.

Marriage to gain residential and citizenship status in a country. Citizenship is something that is granted to people who are born in a country or people who have entered a country in terms of the laws of that country with the stated intention of remaining there. However, as with marriage, the decision to go and live in a country is often driven by economics. Immigration laws are thus set up to prevent an influx of people from all over the world who would represent a drag on the economy - who would use resources that are needed for the citizenry. However, no country can simply pull up the draw bridge and let nobody in or out. There are clearly defined grounds under which a person can become a permanent citizen. One of those grounds is marriage. If a person marries a citizen of certain country they gain the right become a citizen of their spouses country. Sadly however, there are people who will stop at nothing to gain citizenship to which they would normally not qualify, and there are others who see the chance of financial gain, who facilitate such marriages. In the UK, there are thousands of such fake "passport" marriages.  

On the other end of the spectrum is the PREVENTION of marriages for religious or cultural reasons. Apartheid laws in South Africa made it a criminal offence for people to marry people of a different race - that is so-called "mixed marriages".  I think the same was true under the Third Reich, and also in certain Southern States of the USA.  Church leaders preached against "mixed marriages" and quoted passages from the Bible to support their prejudice against these unions.  Fortunately, most places in the world have dispensed of these antiquated ideas, and in so far as race is concerned, people are free to marry whom they will.

Some people object to "inter-faith" marriages where the people of different religious backgrounds marry.  Christian/Jewish, Muslim/Christian, Muslim/Jewish, Catholic/Protestant, etc.  In the Bible, Paul writes that we should not be yoked together with unbelievers. (2 Cor 6:14) Does this mean that a Christian can never ever marry someone who is not a Christian? The thing is how can a person be sure that the person they are wanting to marry truly is a Christian and is not just saying they are a Christian because they want to be married? I suppose one can use the old Evangelism Explosion 3 question: If you die now would you be going to heaven? And if yes, why? However, we know there are a lot of people out there who can "talk the talk" but they don't "walk the walk." Thing is, at the end of the day, one cannot be sure, and one has to take a person's word for it.  Not only that, but was that meant to be injunction against Christians marrying non-Christians - there is a verse in the 1 Peter where Christian women married to non-Christian man was urged to live a life that would be a testimony to her husband and thus win him over to Christ.  There is another verse where it says that a non-Christian can leave a Christian, but that a Christian should not divorce a non-Christian purely on that basis. Some religions will tolerate a non-adherent being married to one of their faithful, provided the non-adherent converts to the religion.  Personally, I question the genuineness of the conversion if it is purely to make oneself marriageable to a person. I, for one would not convert to any other religion for ANY reason, because I believe what I believe. Equally, I would not want to put the person I marry under that kind of pressure. Of course I would want my spouse to share my faith in Jesus, but it should be because of who Jesus is, and not because of me.

I am not saying that conversions before marriages are not genuine conversions - that would be highly judgemental and improper, and, in many cases I am sure that the conversions are very heartfelt and true. The questions remains that in matters of faith, do both parties have to see eye to eye? Let us push the envelope out a bit further - assuming that both parties are Christian (or Jewish or Muslim) do they have to believe the same things about their religion or is there room for differences of opinion on questions of doctrine? Can a tongue-speaking Pentecostal marry a Roman Catholic who prays to the saints? Can a Calvinistic Presbyterian wed an Arminian Methodist? Can a baptised-by
-full-immersion Baptist be wedded to a baby-sprinkled-with-water Anglican? I'm sure you get my drift. I believe the answer is of course, YES! Not only can it happen, it does, over and over.  I am not going to be a Pollyanna and  pretend everything will naturally work out - I believe that inter-faith marriages have stressors that strain at the bonds that would bring a couple together - but the fact is, that if a couple can see past the religion - and love the individual, then the differences in faith can be worked out in the long run. Marriage is, after all for this life, and NOT for eternity - as Jesus clearly stated that marriages do not continue into the hereafter.  For further discussion of this aspect, look at the following website: Religious Tolerance

The story of Romeo and Juliet, was also about "forbidden love" between two families - who had some on-going feud. That was one of Shakespeare's tragedies. Another barrier that rears its ugly head is that of class or social status. On the one hand there is always that sneaking suspicion of the motives of the person set gain the most from the marriage that they are merely marrying for money/fame. It is very unusual for royalty to marry commoners. Even in the play, Master Page was suspicious of the motives of Fenton for wanting his daughter's hand in marriage. However, just as in Romeo and Juliet, where the couple can see past the differences and still love each other, it is often those that surround the couple that want to see the marriage breakdown and may make it their purpose to firstly prevent the marriage, and secondly, if that fails, meddle to such a degree, that they cause rifts in the marriage. This is where "in-law" problems often come to the fore. You often hear at wedding receptions, statements to the effect that it is not just about the bride and groom, but that two families are being united in the marriage. With the greatest of respect, I beg to differ - a marriage between two people is about the two people getting married, and choosing to share their lives thereafter.

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. Gen 2:24

There comes a time when other members of a person's family must withdraw themselves and allow the couple to make their lives together - and accept the decisions they make even if those decisions aren't those which they would make themselves. This is not to say that circumstances cannot arise where one's family must for a while take priority over one's partner, but such circumstances should, in my opinion, not be open ended - and even in such circumstances, the partner's needs should be considered, and communication should be open and honest between the partners.

There is one area in which I have no cut and dried answers as to what I think should occur, and that is in the case of people with special needs (learning difficulties) needing and wanting to get married. There are two sides to this discussion and they go around the question of the ability of an individual to give informed consent. In the UK, the law states that

People with learning disabilities have the same rights in law as anyone else to marry, have a civil partnership, or live together. Providing the person is over 16 years and has a general understanding of what it means to get married, he or she has the legal capacity to consent to marriage. No one else's consent is ever required. (NHS) - emphasis mine.

That may be the case, but for practical purposes, families and loved ones of people with learning difficulties, will be concerned that he/she is entering a relationship he/she will not be able to cope with or that he/she will be taken advantage of by the spouse. There are cases, where people with learning difficulties have been duped into entering marriages of convenience - so that the other party can obtain a visa or even citizenship

Licensed to abuse: a question of dishonour

While every effort should be made for an individual with difficulties to get married, either to a person who is not got learning difficulties or a person who has, they must at the same time, as vulnerable adults, be protected against unscrupulous people who make take advantage of their limited ability to understand, to trick them into marriages that they neither want nor are in the person's best interests. Personally I don't quite know what to think about this issue. I would welcome people's comments.

Finally, I come with much hesitation and great trepidation to the topic of great controversy - that of same-sex marriage. I am going to address this topic, though I realise that even as I state my opinion, I will upset and probably disappoint a great number of my readers. In stating my opinion, I will try and set forth my reasoning as clearly as I can. I trust that for the most part, if you disagree with me, you will, at the very least agree to disagree, and not allow our diverging opinions to cause a dissolution of our friendship. I have no problem with you adding a comment to my blog or indeed my facebook page. I have set up my bog such that all comments need to be approved by me before posting - but you have my word that I will post every comment I receive unless it is abusing or uses inappropriate words - regardless of what opinion is being made.

I believe that homosexual men and women should have the same right to marry each other as heterosexual men and women. Notwithstanding that some Christians believe homosexuality is a sin, and that homosexuals cannot be Christians, this does not give the Christian church a right to limit the rights of individuals (whether they regard themselves as Christians or not) to choose the partner with whom they wish to spend the rest of their lives. I would go further to suggest that surely it is preferable for people who regard themselves to be in a committed relationship with one another (as signified by marriage) rather than living separately. Marriage laws are set up to protect the rights of both parties in that marriage, should it fail. Gay people should have access to such protections as well as straight people. In California, Proposition 8: which was voted for by the public and effectively banned same sex marriages in the state has been revoked and overturned on constitutional grounds. While I would be concerned if the right of Churches to refuse to perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples, that is the limitation of that right. A pastor with a marriage licence should, if he/she is willing, be able to perform a marriage right with same-sex couples if he/she has no objections to it. On the other hand, agents of the state such as marriage officers and magistrates should perform same-sex marriage ceremonies if they are called upon to do so. Some may feel that my feeling on this matter is at odds with my faith. I will simply state that I don't believe so. Firstly there exists a sizable number of Christians who don't believe that homosexuality is a violation of God's law. Secondly, regardless on my stand on the above issue, my morality has nothing to do with other's right to live according to their own conscience.

Men and women who are homosexual but are failing to acknowledge this publicly or even to themselves in some cases, may marry a person of the opposite gender in the futile attempt to change their sexual preference, or at the very least hide their same sex attraction (SSA) and may even have children. However many such marriages fail. The fallout is even more acute than in cases where a straight couple separate or divorce. The other partner may feel used and abused by the gay partner, and gutted that the love portrayed by the gay person to their spouse, may appear to have been a pretense, thus making it harder to bear. The aggrieved party may feel cheated even if the gay person had not actually cheated (had a relationship with someone else). Far more preferable is that a person finds the partner with whom they can connect emotionally, psychologically and sexually and that they can build a relationship based on honesty and trust.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

My work is to help children with a specific type of Autism - known as Asperger Syndrome. There are a lot of sceptics in regard to conditions such as these, but believe me it is very real. I am by no means an expert - but learning more and more about it every day. The real experts are the parents of these children.

Asperger Syndrome is only one part of what is known as a spectrum disorder that is - there are different manifestations of the condition and it may affect people differently. There is no "cure" for Autism - the best we can do is control and minimise certain behaviours associated with the condition.

I include the following clip which can give you glimpse into the lives of parents whose children are autistic. Next time you are in a shop or some public place and a child kicks off and behaves "inappropriately" please don't be to quick to judge the parent - or the child for that matter - he or she might be autistic.

The children depicted in this clip are (as far as I can tell) not Asperger Syndrome Children but more what is known as "classic autism" .

If you would like to comment, or ask a question please feel free to add it. I or my many friends who are experts (see above) will do our best to answer.