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- Religious Reality - 20/25 -

of the foe: that not all killing is murder, and that to rob a man of physical life, as an incident in the assertion of the claims of righteousness, is not, from the point of view of those who believe in human immortality, to do him that ultimate and essential injury which it might otherwise be held to be.

No one, however, who has had anything to do with modern war can doubt that it is intrinsically beastly and devilish, or that it is apt to arouse passions, in all but the saintliest of men, which are of an extremely ugly kind. To affirm that it is possible, as a matter of theory, to fight in a wholly Christian spirit and temper, is not to assert that in actual practice more than a small minority of soldiers succeed in doing so. It is possible to be devoutly thankful that when the issue was posed by the conduct of the Germanic powers in the August of 1914 the British Empire replied by entering upon war, to hold that it was emphatically the right thing to do, and that it represented a course of conduct more intrinsically Christian than neutrality would have been. But it is not possible to maintain with truth that the British nation as a whole has been fighting either in a Christian temper or from Christian motives. It is undeniable that uglier motives and passions have crept in. Sermons in Christian pulpits upon such themes as the duty of forgiveness or the Christian ideal of love towards the enemy have been neither frequent nor popular. Undoubtedly the German Government in its general policy, and particular units of the German Army and Navy upon many occasions, have acted in such a way as to give provocation of the very strongest kind to the unregenerate human impulses of hatred and of revenge. It is not surprising, though it is regrettable, that under the influence of this provocation many persons, otherwise Christian, have either frankly abandoned the Christian doctrine of human brotherhood, or else have denied that the Germans are to be regarded as human beings. On the whole, and speaking very broadly, it may be said that the troops have shown themselves more Christian in these respects than have the civil population, though there are many exceptions upon both sides. It is to be feared that the Church, in so far as she has been represented by her clergy (though here, again, there are many exceptions), has been too anxious to be identified with a merely Jingo patriotism to exercise any very appreciable influence in restraint of unchristian passions. It is to be hoped and anticipated that there will be a strong reaction after the war both against militarism and the less desirable aspects of the military mind, and also against the belligerent temper and spirit--especially, perhaps, on the part of the men who have themselves served and suffered in the field.



No element in Christian practice has been more widely challenged in modern times than the Christian ideal of marriage. Our Lord's standard in these matters was simple and austere. "Whoso looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery already in his heart." "Whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication" (the exceptive clause is of disputed authenticity) "causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery."

The _State_ in certain cases gives legal sanction to "adultery" in this latter sense, and there is a vocal and probably increasing demand that legal facilities for divorce upon various pretexts, with liberty of remarriage, shall be further extended. The Divorce Law Reform Union has announced its intention to promote in Parliament a Bill which, if carried, would have the effect of reducing legal marriage to a contract terminable after three years' voluntary separation by the will of either party. Doubtless a robust opposition will be offered by Christian people to the adoption of so lax a conception of marriage even by the State. Experience in other countries seems to show that unlimited facilities for divorce do not tend to the promotion either of happiness or of morals. But it needs to be recognized that the State, as such, is concerned only with the legal aspect of marriage as a civil contract, and that it has to legislate for citizens not all of whom profess Christian standards even in theory. The law of the State may well diverge from that of the Church with regard to this matter, though it does not follow that so lax a standard as that which is now proposed would be in the best interests even of the State.

The Church regards Christian marriage as indissoluble. In cases of adultery she counsels reconciliation, wherever possible, upon the basis of repentance on the part of the guilty and forgiveness on the part of the injured partner. If this is not possible the Church sanctions, if need so require, separation, but not remarriage. There are also unfortunately other cases in which the married relationship proves so intolerable as to render a temporary or permanent separation admissible as a last resort. The remarriage of either party during the lifetime of the other is nevertheless held to be unchristian. With the practical difficulties which beset the Church in the attempt to maintain within the circle of her own membership a stricter standard than that which is recognized by the Civil Law and by society at large we are not here concerned. Our concern is with the Christian standard as a positive ideal, on the effective maintenance of which, as Christians believe, depends the stability of the home and the Christian family, and the redemption of sex-relations from mere animalism and grossness.

A Christian husband takes his wife in matrimony "for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death them do part, according to GOD'S holy ordinance." The step is irrevocable. The union is intended to be life-long. It has, moreover, in view not only "the mutual society, help, and comfort that the one ought to have of the other," but also "the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of His holy Name." A few words may usefully be said under these heads.

(i) Marriage ought to be based upon love; and love, though naturally and normally involving the element of sexual attraction, ought to include also other and deeper elements. A Christian man who has lived a clean and disciplined life ought to be sufficiently master of his passions to avoid mistaking a merely temporary infatuation for such a genuine spiritual affinity as will survive the satisfaction of immediate desires and prove the stable basis of a life-companionship. Hasty marriages are a common and avoidable cause of subsequent unhappiness. It is obviously undesirable that couples should enter upon matrimony until there has been a sufficiently prolonged and intimate acquaintance to enable them to become reasonably sure both of themselves and of one another. In many cases there is much to be said for regarding betrothals in the first instance as provisional. It is better to break them off at the last moment than to marry the wrong person.

The Victorian conventions with regard to all these matters were thoroughly bad. Girls were brought up in carefully-guarded ignorance of the implications of matrimony and shielded by perpetual chaperonage from anything approaching comradeship with the opposite sex. Eventually they were in many cases stampeded into a marriage which had its origin either in a clandestine flirtation or in the designing operations of some match-making relative, who made it her business first to "throw the young people together" and then to suggest that they were virtually committed to one another by the mere fact of having met.

The reaction which has taken place against all this is upon the whole salutary. The new social tradition which is growing up makes it possible for the unmarried of both sexes to meet one another with comparative freedom, and to establish relations of friendship, which may subsequently ripen into love, unhampered by any such morbidly exciting atmosphere of intrigue and suggestion on the part of relatives and friends. But the new freedom of social intercourse, if it is not in its turn to prove disastrous, demands on the part of the young of both sexes a higher standard both of responsibility and self- control, and of knowledge of what is implied in the fact of sex. The experience of married life is, moreover, not likely to prove a success, save in rare instances, unless there is between the parties a real community of interests and tastes, unanimity, so far as may be, of ideals and of religious convictions, and at least no very great disparity of educational and intellectual equipment.

(ii) A Christian marriage includes among its purposes the procreation of children. It is here most of all that unanimity of ideal and of conviction between husband and wife is essential. A man and a woman ought not to take one another in marriage without first being assured of each other's mind upon this subject. "If marriage is to be a success each must learn respect for the other's personality, real give and take, and the horror of treating the other just as a means to his own pleasure, whether spiritual, intellectual, or physical: and both must think seriously of the responsibilities of parenthood. Husband and wife must work out their ideals together, in perfect frankness and sincerity, and it is impossible to have true and sacred ideals of their joint physical life unless there is the same openness and understanding and sympathy on this point as on all others." [Footnote: _Ideals of Home_, by Gemma Bailey (National Mission Paper, No. 43).] There must be mutual consideration and self-control: the need for self-restraint and continence does not disappear with the entry upon marital relations: it is if anything intensified.

There is a real problem here which needs to be thought out. To the practice of "race-suicide," by which is meant the artificial restriction of parentage by the use of mechanical or other "preventives," Christian morality is violently opposed. On the other hand, it may reasonably be held that people ought not to bring children into the world in numbers which are wholly out of relation to their capacity to feed, clothe, educate, and train them. "The enormous families of which we hear in early Victorian times were not quite ideal for the mother or the children, nor for the father if he were not well off." [Footnote: _Ibid_] It may be found necessary in practice to limit the size of the family either upon economic grounds or (in particular instances) in the interest of the mother's health.

It is to be feared, however, that the modern tendency in both respects is to shirk the responsibilities of parenthood on grounds which are thoroughly selfish. The Victorian doctrine that "when GOD sends mouths He sends food to fill them" may have been unduly happy-go-lucky. The recent remark of an officer in a certain British regiment, that since he and his wife had only L8000 a year between them, he felt that he could not afford to have more than one child, was entirely shameless. It would seem, moreover, that the comparative childlessness of modern marriages is sometimes due not to the husband's reluctance, upon economic grounds, to beget children, but to the wife's reluctance to bear them, a reluctance which in some cases arises either from such shrinking from the physical pain and sacrifice of motherhood as goes beyond what is really justified, or from mere self-indulgent absorption in social pursuits and pleasures. There ought to be in a Christian marriage more of the true spirit of adventure and romance, a greater readiness for sacrifice, a more willing acceptance of parental responsibilities, and of the obligation of self-denial for the children's sake. There can be no question but that modern families--

Religious Reality - 20/25

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