LOSING MY RELIGION – MYTHS & FACTS ABOUT MARRIAGE.

Posted in Uncategorized on January 7th, 2017 by John Coxon

I am a retired education professional but also a professional photographer specialising in social & family landmark events and wedding photography. I have had the privilege of covering so many weddings , all unique and special including two same sex marriages (both ceremonies in licenced venues not churches ) which I so enjoyed being a part of. One of these was a last minute booing where the original photographer took payment but reneged on the deal when he realised it was two women getting married and that is outrageous and I happily stepped in to cover it for the happy couple .

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Looking again at this little wooden item, right of shot (I made when brainstorming for original ideas to produce  as hand-made wedding gifts or venue decorations for online sale  ) caused me to reflect on societal attitudes to civil partnerships & same sex weddings. I campaign for equality and have done for yonks as well as challenging discrimination of any kind usually here and on Twitter and supporting those who are discriminated against. Discrimination based on religion particularly erks me because all major world faiths promote love, compassion, justice & respect for all , including those of a different faith , race or sexuality.

Headlines like some “Christian clerk” refuses to grant  a wedding licence to a gay couple so frustrate me as did a couple of some “Christian “ bakers  in Ireland who refused to bake a wedding cake when they found out the couple were of the same gender. Marriages take place in venues licensed to conduct marriages & not only in churches of course. During any marriage service underpinning it is conforming to the law as marriage is a legally binding contract with its obligations.

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The religious element is not obligatory & never was originally as marriage in England  goes back to Anglo Saxon times when tribal chiefs  decided whom their daughters married & the couple had no say . Back them it was not about love at all bur a political & social strategy. It was about establishing peaceful relationships, trading relationships, mutual obligations with others by marrying them. Marriage began as a way of surviving, helping out or pacifying your neighbour instead of fighting with them. Who married who was decided by tribal leaders, matching up their children according to the importance of each family, or the childbearing potential of a daughter

It was not until 600 years later that love entered into the equation. Circa  1140, by which time  Christianity was  the dominant religion, we finally see mutual love starting to become an important aspect of marriage as a choice thanks to the Italian canon lawyer Gratian. He wrote the canon law textbook Decretum Gratiani, which required that couples give their consent to form a marital bond. marriages thereafter in England took that contract as a basis for matrimony and ended it being about money and Gratian’s mutual consent contract was the law until the law was changed in 1917!

Before 1836 you had to marry in a church and a law was passed that year to enable people to wed in register offices underpinning the legal rather than formerly religious nature of marriage over which the church had control. It was only in 1956 that marriages of under sixteens became unlawful! Civil Partnerships became lawful in 2005 and same sex marriages in 2013 , both changes in law in the light of Equality legislation where previously same sex couples did not have the same rights as hetro couples.

I got married in a Welsh Chapel simply because that was my ex wife’s family’s church , the wonderfully named “Particular Baptists. My mum was and is a Baptist & I was baptised or rather dedicated to that church as a newborn & still have the certificate somewhere ! My given Christian name (forename) is a biblical name , John, which means “Servant of the Lord” derived from the role of John the Baptist. I went to a church of England primary school  but towards the end my time there I had formed the idea that the idea of there being a god was too hard to believe although the actual wisdom and especially the compassion of Christ I could identify with.  So I was and remain an atheist but with the core decent values common to all major world faiths.

Society thrives on stability , social interaction and long term relationships are key, for example, for bringing up kids and contributing to social stability. Long term relationships can exist without any public contract or public commitment but I firmly believe anyone should have the right to hold a ceremony where they publicly declare their love for each other and a life time commitment. Love and such commitment is not exclusive to hetro-sexual couples and to be happy and fulfilled is everybody’s right.   In the UK we have equality laws which are binding and thus I feel that certain churches and their clergy who refuse to wed people of the same gender are in breach of established law and are discriminating in the worst way.

Marriage was once justified as having the purpose of enabling a man and a woman to raise children and it is not so long ago that the law was in collusion with the church denying for example basic rights like inheritance to children born out of wedlock making such children stigmatised.  It is a convenient myth that same sex couples cannot provide the same stability

and love afforded to children with hetro-sexual parents and it is also true that having hetro-sexual parents guarantees a safe and happy upbringing. With surrogate parenting as an option these days and the need for families to adopt greater than ever same sex couples can be great parents we must define family in a broader sense to embrace that.

( matrimony curiously  derives from matremoine “matrimony, marriage” and directly from Latin matrimonium “wedlock, marriage,” from matrem (nominative mater) “mother” (see mother (n.1)) + -monium, suffix signifying “action, state, condition.” )

Wedlock  comes from Old English wedlac “pledge-giving, marriage vow,” from wed + -lac,  meaning “actions or proceedings, practice,” the Suffix lac  was altered  folk etymology to  lock through association with lock meaning “condition of being married”  recorded first  from early 13c.

Marriage comes from Old French mariage “marriage; dowry” (12c.) reflecting the business contract nature of early versions of marriage.

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