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At the beginning of June 2015, the Belz sect of Hasidic Jews in London issued instructions that their women were not to drive cars.
In fact, Belz rabbis said that mothers would be prohibited from dropping their children off at the sect’s schools starting in August. The Jewish Chronicle reported:
According to the letter — which was signed by leaders from Belz educational institutions and endorsed by the group’s rabbis — there has been an increased incidence of “mothers of pupils who have started to drive” which has led to “great resentment among parents of pupils of our institutions”.
They said that the Belzer Rebbe in Israel, Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach, has advised them to introduce a policy of not allowing pupils to come to their schools if their mothers drive.
Whilst this is serious — more about which below — the head rabbi of the Belz sect, Belzer Rebbe (his title), gave these instructions to female adherents in 2014:
“You should shave your entire head and not leave even one single strand of hair,” Rokeach thundered.
“You should not eat at a home in which the woman does not shave her head because the food is not kosher,” Rokeach added.
Rokeach also prohibited women from applying makeup.
“The only makeup that is allowed is that of a natural color, and any eye makeup is prohibited,” the rabbi said during his speech.
The rabbi said that women should not use any perfume.
Rokeach did not forget to attack women’s shoes.
“You should not wear any shoes that make noise while walking, as noisy shoes was the reason God destroyed ancient Israel,” he said.
It is difficult to know whether that is a satire. However, an anonymous commenter wrote that the rabbi is in competition with others to make sure one of them is the most observant — ‘frum’ — as ‘kosher’ refers to food laws. Emphases mine:
This time you are exaggerating,
I have the letter in front of me. What he actually did was put all the rules in writing. Belzer women have been shaving their heads for years and years as do all women from Hungarian, Galitzianer and Yerushalmer Chassidus. Only Russian Chassidus does not do this. He said that this is perferable and no hair should be sticking out of their tichel. If they need to wear a shaitel they should also wear a hat or headband on top so that it is obvious that it is a shaitel … for the word loud regarding the shoes, he meant not noisy but loud colors that attract attention. What bothers the women is that all of a sudden clothing that was permissible for their mothers and grandmothers became forbidden, as for makeup this was always his rule, he just never was strict about it but all of this was taught in his girl’s schools for years
You need to be accurate and not go overboard even though you and most others find his “takonos” ridiculous. Don’t forget he is in competition with his brothers in laws the Vizhnitzer Rebbes, The satmer Aharonis and Skver as to who can be the frummest!
However, another controversy in the Hasidic community arose in London — once again in 2014. Stamford Hill’s Shomrim group help to patrol the area. Posters suddenly appeared telling women on what side of the street they should walk (photo courtesy of the London Evening Standard via Twitter) . The Shomrim reaction was that the public overreacted:
Chaim Hochhauser from the Stamford Hill Shomrim group, whose Jewish volunteers support policing in the area, said …
“Everyone knows this story has blown everything out of proportion. I have spoken to the organisers of the parade – they have apologised [for the signs]. They did not think it would get so public. It was just a misunderstanding.”
Thankfully, this did go public. A 26-year old filmmaker Sam Aldersley put up signs saying:
PLEASE FEEL FREE TO WALK WHEREVER YOU WANT ..
Stamford Hill West councillor for Hackney, Rosemary Sales, deemed the Shomrim posters ‘unacceptable’ and Hackney Council removed them.
However, Sam Aldersley’s posters telling women to walk freely through the borough were also taken down (see the photo of the young boy on a bicycle). He would have said the posters were up for a Torah procession which, for some sects, demands a segregation of the sexes.
That said, are private citizens allowed to dictate how the public byways may be used — where people can walk — even in religious processions? It seems unlikely. Why did Hackney not see this sooner?
Now back to the driving controversy. Not all Hasidic — or mainstream Orthodox — communities forbid their women to drive. The Jewish Chronicle explains:
One Stamford Hill rabbi said that it had “always been regarded in Chasidic circles as not the done thing for a lady to drive”.
But although some Chasidic sects discourage women from driving, others such as Lubavitch have no such policy. The wives of some senior non-Chasidic strictly Orthodox rabbis drive.
One local woman said that the policy “disables women. The more kids they have, the more they need to drive.” But she believed that some women would take no notice of the policy. “They say one thing, they do another,” she said.
A Briton writing for the Daily Kos adds that there is a practical basis for Hasidic women to drive:
Stamford Hill is, well, hilly. It is built on part of the escarpment of the Thames’ river valley and as such is quite steep. For mothers with large families, the use of a car eases the burden of taking children to school, especially if the children’s ages mean they go to several different schools or nurseries (kindergarten) or to separate boys’ and girls’ schools.
Some of us will wonder how the women obtained permission from their husbands to get a driving licence in the first place. Now, all of a sudden, it’s forbidden. Hmm. There’s a story here. When an update is available, it will appear here.
Some readers might say, ‘This is a Jewish problem’. No, it is not. It is a universal issue of faith. If some are reminded of the ban on women drivers in Saudi Arabia, they would not be wrong. More mainstream Jews have objected to the Belz ban on women drivers.
I bring this story to Christian attention to warn against the dangers of insularity and extreme views. May we not fall into the same trap.
I have said in the past that a great danger faces Christians in that we are easily slipping into the mores and legalism of our brethren of other world faiths. Let’s look more closely
before we then refuse to leap.
More on the prohibition of Belz women drivers:
Harriette Thompson, aged 92 and 65 days, completed the 2015 San Diego Marathon in an impressive 7 hours, 24 minutes and 36 seconds.
She made world news. Some have questioned why the ’65 days’ has to be added. The San Diego Union-Tribune explains that:
The previous oldest woman to complete a marathon was 92 years, 19 days old.
The oldest male to run a marathon was India’s Fauja Singh who completed a 2011 Toronto marathon at the age of 100.
Thompson lives in a retirement home in Charlotte, North Carolina. She is a former concert pianist.
She is a mould-breaker in many ways. The Union-Tribune had a more in-depth profile of her on May 30, 2015.
Thompson, born in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, was the only daughter. Her four brothers — all older than she — tormented her when she was growing up, especially when she played the piano.
She began playing the instrument at the age of four and was performing by the time she was seven. As a teenager, she rode her bicycle to and from lessons: a 26-mile round trip.
As an adult, she gave three recitals at New York’s Carnegie Hall.
She attended Dickinson College in Carlisle and enjoyed rollerskating to class. The Dean of Women told her that ladies did not engage in that type of thing. Undeterred, Thompson said it was the best way for her to get to class on time!
She married a man named Sydnor who became a judge in North Carolina. Together, they had five children. When the children were old enough, Thompson took them to spend a year in Austria on two occasions. She wanted them to learn German and explore European culture. Sydnor stayed behind. Before his death earlier in 2015, he said:
She’s absolutely independent.
Sydnor battled cancer for a long time before his death on January 27. Despite Thompson’s independence, she cared for and deeply loved her husband. She is so grateful that he died in peace, without pain.
She began walking in marathons at the age of 76, when she was involved in the church choir. One of her friends said she was taking part in marathons for charity. The rest is history. The 2015 marathon was her 16th. She raised $90,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
Thompson is no stranger to cancer herself. She has suffered both jaw and skin cancer. Several family members also died of the disease.
When many of us are sitting around moping, let us remember the excellent example of Harriette Thompson. For those of us who are able, let’s get up and get moving!
Continuing with a very brief exploration of women and marriage — the first part of which was yesterday’s post on wife selling — today’s looks at old advice about this honourable institution.
Molly Guinness, writing for The Spectator, scoured the publication’s archives and reported on them in ‘Never marry a lounger, a pleasure-seeker or a fribble’.
What, readers might ask, is a fribble?
Americans living along or visiting the East Coast might recognise the word if they have ever stopped for refreshment at Friendly’s. Indeed, their home page shows CEO John Maguire with a Fribble in his right hand. Friendly’s Wikipedia page says:
A Fribble is a thick shake, originally made with iced milk, now made with soft serve ice cream.
One of my best friends loved Fribbles.
Fribbles among ladies
The word ‘fribble’ is an old one, dating from 1633, so it comes as no surprise that the two brothers from Massachusetts who founded Friendly’s revived an ancient word which was probably once widely used in New England.
Merriam-Webster defines ‘fribble’ as a ‘trifle’ as well as
a frivolous person, thing, or idea.
This is the context of the word’s use in The Spectator, specifically this passage from 1876:
As we should say to women who wish for domestic happiness, never marry a lounger, a pleasure-seeker, or a fribble; so we should say to men with the same yearning, never marry a fool of any sort or kind. There is no burden on earth like a foolish woman tied to a competent man; unable to be his sweetheart, because she cannot help dreading him; unable to be his confidant, because she cannot understand him; unable to be his friend, because she cannot sympathise even with his ordinary thoughts.
To that, I would add another piece of old advice: never marry a woman with long fingernails or a perpetual nail job. She’ll never be able to cook or clean herself. Those nails will take priority. I know of no woman with elaborate nails who cooks or cleans. It’s hiring a woman-what-does and buying expensive ready meals from the supermarket as well as dining out on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays.
A quiet home
The same article from 1876 also mandates a quiet home, for which the woman is responsible:
Let the woman’s first requisite be a man whose home will be to him a rest, and the man’s first object be a woman who can make home restful…
I know wives who think that quiet is unimportant. They are wrong. Home should be a perpetual refuge from the chaos of the outside world.
In order to achieve that, the wife must create an orderly household and make sure children make a minimum of noise when Dad is at home to unwind.
Why feminism never succeeded in France — good advice
In 1906, the French Ambassador to London, M. Cambon, was appalled by English marriages, particularly the wives’ active social lives. The Spectator‘s entry explains:
Legally, English wives occupied a better position than their French sisters, but actually the latter were better off and better satisfied. No feminist movement, he pointed out, had ever succeeded in France.
That is still rather true today, although the laws regarding women have evolved immensely.
Yes, France has feminists, but feminism is a minority movement restricted to a niche of leftist intellectuals. It is not as vocal, strident or widespread as it is in English-speaking countries.
Cambon said that a French wife is the power behind the throne. Instead of seeking a career or social life outside the home that fulfils her, she immerses herself in her husband’s. In fact, the husband asks her for advice, which she freely gives. Cambon’s view was:
… she found at home all the satisfaction and all the responsibility inseparable from power, and consequently “had no pleasure in meddling with things outside”.
Although the Frenchwomen I have known since the 1970s do have outside activities, their home life is paramount and takes pride of place.
And there is much more of an equilibrium between husband and wife in most French marriages than there is in those of English-speaking countries.
This recent complementarianism thing of a husband ‘covering’ a woman is a worrying trend.
If I had a daughter, I would be most concerned about her marrying a domineering mate ruled by a misunderstanding or over-interpretation of Pauline verses in the New Testament. Such men are turning Christianity into fundamentalist Islam.
No wonder young women are becoming atheists or agnostics, seeking a non-religious mate. I cannot blame them.
Wife selling has taken place all over the world at various times throughout history.
A woman had no rights and could not own property, which is still the case, unfortunately, in countries (particularly Muslim ones) where she is considered only a partial person, such as a slave, and feeble-minded on top of that. Legally, this affects their rights of independence, inheritance and status to work or to drive.
Historically speaking in general, Wikipedia has a good summary of wife selling in various eras and in different countries. It’s well worth a read and quite an eye-opener.
Wives could be sold because they were viewed as disagreeable and neglectful of their duties in the home. Sometimes, they were adulteresses; it was common for a husband to sell his wife to her lover. However, they were also sold when the husband was in debt or needed money for strong drink.
In England, wife selling was popular among the lower classes between the 18th and early 21st centuries. Wife selling did not end here until 1913. The Wikipedia article cited is another excellent summary of a horrific practice. That said, some women, it states, wanted to be sold.
At the time, divorce was rare and very expensive. Only the wealthy could afford it. Selling one’s wife was a way of circumventing the legal system as well as Scripture.
Lawyers tried to deny it was actually taking place. The clergy turned a blind eye. Granted, sales were infrequent — perhaps two a decade over more than two centuries. However, news about wife sales, which often took place in a public square or at a pub, spread to the Continent where it was widely condemned as being an English practice. Yet, the American colonies also had a few wife sales in Connecticut and South Carolina.
Wives up for sale in England often wore a halter, which was then given to the purchaser afterward as a sign that the transaction was concluded.
As with slaves or livestock, the women’s physical attributes and capabilities were elucidated as they stood on display. The 28 April 1832 issue of The Spectator reported on a sale in Lancashire. Excerpts follow:
The man was a farmer in the neighbourhood ; the wife, a buxom, good-looking woman, of about twenty-two. They had been married in 1828 ; and having no children, and seldom agreeing with each other, they at length agreed to part. The Lancaster Herald puts the following speech into the month of the husband ; which, if genuine, is a curiosity in its way- “Gentlemen, I have to offer to your notice my wife, Mary Ann Thompson, otherwise Williamson, whom I mean to sell to the highest and fairest bidder. Gentlemen, it is her wish as well as mine to part for ever. She has been to me only a bosom serpent. I took her for my comfort, and the good of my house ; but she became my tormentor, a domestic curse, a night invasion, and a daily devil. Gentlemen. I speak truth from my heart, whim I say, may God deliver us from troublesome wives and frolicsome widows. Avoid them the same as you would a mad dog, a roaring lion, a loaded pistol, cholera zuorbui. Mount Etna. or any other pestilential phenomena in nature …
She can make butter and scold the maid ; she can sing Moore’s melodies, and plait her frills and caps; she cannot make rum, gin, or whisky; but she is a good judge of the quality, from long experience in tasting them. I therefore [offer] her, with all her perfections and imperfections, for the sum of fifty shillings.”
After an hour or two, the lady was purchased by a pensioner, for the sum of twenty shillings and a Newfoundland dog.
It is interesting that marriages in England needed no legal registration or church ceremony until the Marriage Act of 1753 was introduced.
After marriage, even before this time, women were at the mercies of their husbands and the legal system. In fact, the legal wording behind this is reminiscent of the language present-day complementarians use. Also note the sugary condescension (emphasis mine):
Women were completely subordinated to their husbands after marriage, the husband and wife becoming one legal entity, a legal status known as coverture. As the eminent English judge Sir William Blackstone wrote in 1753: “the very being, or legal existence of the woman, is suspended during the marriage, or at least is consolidated and incorporated into that of her husband: under whose wing, protection and cover, she performs everything“. Married women could not own property in their own right, and were indeed themselves the property of their husbands. But Blackstone went on to observe that “even the disabilities the wife lies under are, for the most part, intended for her protection and benefit. So great a favourite is the female sex of the laws of England“.
It would not surprise me if, 20 or 30 years from now, wife selling were to start again somewhere in the West, albeit privately.
It does not surprise me that young Western women are increasingly apprehensive about Christianity. Whilst I have discussed history and a secular legal system here, a small, yet growing, number of young churchgoing men would have no problem with coverture. Very sad, indeed.
In February 2015, I wrote about how the attire of Muslim women from the Middle East to Afghanistan changed dramatically from Western to mediaeval in 40 years.
For those who missed it the first time, I highly recommend it for the links to photos from the 1950s through the 1970s.
Le Monde has a blog post on a new socio-religious campaign in Algeria, ‘Be a Man’, which advocates that good Muslims cover every woman in their purview — wives, daughters, mothers, sisters:
Don’t let your women leave the house in daring attire.
The post has a campaign photo of a young father in normal street clothes sitting with his four young daughters, two of them toddlers, all wearing veils and leg-covering garments. The Koran does not suggest veils until puberty.
Le Monde explains:
According to CNN Arabic, numerous sheiks have given their support. Such as Monhim Abdel Samad Qoweider, imam of a mosque in Borj el Bahri, a suburb of Algiers, who believes that clothes indicate proof of a person’s morality …
Although there is a backlash on social media, it is unclear how effective it will be. We can but hope it is. Film director Sofia Djama, writing for France 24, lamented the state of women in Algeria:
Today, verbal violence is (a) daily (occurrence) and normalised. It’s super violent walking in the capital, Algiers, in a skirt or trousers.
Inevitably, some will say, ‘So what? That’s in Algeria’.
The issue is that this attitude is already prevalent in parts of Europe, particularly France. A few months ago, French media was full of news and comment on harassment of women in larger cities and on public transport: insults, propositions and groping by non-European men.
Of course, those familiar with poor French suburbs will know that this has been going on for at least 15 years. Gang rape is a real risk for young Muslim women who dare to walk around unveiled or in a modest skirt.
Now this harassment is going mainstream.
It is deplorable. But, who will stop it — and how? Without a constant reminder in the media, with the frequency of anti-‘racism’ rhetoric which now seems to encompass all conditions, this degrading trend seems set to continue.
The three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.
Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.
My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.
31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
Matthew 5, 6 and 7 recount Jesus’s entire Sermon on the Mount. We often stop at the Beatitudes, but the three chapters have difficult verses, many of which we ignore in our own notionally Christian lives.
Our Lord’s objective was to pierce the self-righteousness of the Jewish leadership and impress upon those who heard Him preach that the ordinary Jews were not to imitate the hierarchy’s example. They invented a number of get-out clauses for their own sinful convenience.
Last week’s post looked at Matthew 5:25-26, verses which urge us to come to an arrangement with those who accuse us of wrongdoing. Where we can mend the relationship, Jesus urges us to do so rather than risk a judgement by a court — or an eternal one by Him on the Last Day. We are to resist anger, grudges and bitterness.
Today’s passage is preceded by His condemnation of lust and adultery:
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
The message is not so much to remove our right eye or hand — traditionally considered by the Jews to be the most powerful body parts — but to pray for the divine grace and Spirit-inspired fortitude to avoid temptation.
Today’s two verses are found elsewhere in the New Testament. I wrote about Mark 10:10-12 in 2012 and Luke 16:18 in 2014. Both of those posts discuss the rampant divorce, particularly among the Jewish leaders, which had been escalating throughout the Old Testament era to Jesus’s day.
From the beginning, God made a covenant with Israel, the precursor of Christ’s with His Bride, the Church. Nothing could break the Old Covenant, despite God’s punishments of His people; in the end, after repentance, He forgave them and showed them mercy. In the Christian era, despite false teaching and apostasy, nothing shall ultimately come between Christ and the Church.
The covenant started with the creation and union of Adam and Eve. John MacArthur explains how this works in a context of couples, which they then marred with Original Sin, the tensions of which exist today (emphases mine):
Now prior to the fall marriage was pure bliss, the man was the head, the woman was the help meet. The man’s headship was a loving, caring provision of understanding. The woman’s being a help meet was a loving, caring submissiveness to the one who was given as her leader. It was beautiful, her heart was totally devoted to him, his heart was totally devoted to her, and according to Genesis 1:27 and 28, they ruled together, they ruled together. But that ended …
… literally what happened was in the fall man was elevated to rule in the house, to rule in the home. He’d had a soft kind of dominance before, held had a loving, caring approach before but now he is set in a place of ruling with authority. [‘Mashal’] is a different word than the word for rule in Genesis 1:28, completely different word, completely different concept. A new dimension of his rule has come about. The woman then is made immediately subordinate to the man.
People say, oh there’s too much male chauvinism in the world, and they’re exactly right and this is why. Because of the curse and because woman led in the sin God set man over her to control her, to subdue her as it were, to be her head. And frankly without Jesus Christ it can be very abusive, I agree, sinful man has been chauvinistic, I’m the first one to agree, only in Christ, only in the Spirit can a right kind of headship be restored and that’s the meaning of Ephesians chapter 5. Only in Christ, apart from that there will be oppressiveness. On the other hand, man is installed in this case as a ruler and woman, it says, her desire shall be to her husband.
In Moses’s time, adultery began to become a problem. In fact, so much so that he allowed a bill of divorce, which in the Jewish religion is called a get. Deuteronomy 24:1-4:
Laws Concerning Divorce
24 “When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, 2 and if she goes and becomes another man’s wife, 3 and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife, 4 then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the Lord. And you shall not bring sin upon the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance.
From this, we understand three things: divorce is permitted because of a wife’s ‘indecency’, remarriage can lead to another divorce and excessive adultery would have led to defiling the land God gave to His chosen people.
Although stoning was allowed and took place in cases of adultery, as time passed, it was done less and less.
A certificate of divorce became the norm. Note that it had to be written out. This was to eliminate impulsive decisions taken in anger. A husband couldn’t tell his wife he was divorcing her, he actually had to be able to write such a statement. Most men could not write in that era and, for this reason, divorces were relatively rare.
On the other hand, the Jewish leaders, being educated, were able to add new meanings to the word ‘indecency’. From an original context of adultery, it came to encompass anything which displeased the husband: his wife’s looks, her ability to cook, her family and so on. Although the leaders presented themselves as following every aspect of the law, they created various means of twisting it to fit their own appetites. By the time our Lord began His ministry, divorces among the Jewish elite were frequent.
Therefore, although Jesus acknowledged that divorce is allowed (verse 25), He said that improper divorce is akin to adultery (verse 26). It may be driven by lust for another, fornication. Ultimately, remarriage often involves marrying a woman to whom a man has no right.
Matthew Henry explains:
He reduced the ordinance of marriage to its primitive institution: They two shall be one flesh, not to be easily separated, and therefore divorce is not to be allowed, except in case of adultery, which breaks the marriage covenant but he that puts away his wife upon any other pretence, causeth her to commit adultery, and him also that shall marry her when she is thus divorced. Note, Those who lead others into temptation to sin, or leave them in it, or expose them to it, make themselves guilty of their sin, and will be accountable for it. This is one way of being partaker with adulterers Psalm 50:18.
Thinking about divorce today, our reasons for undertaking it are similar to the Jewish hierarchy’s, especially the notion of ‘irreconcilable differences’.
the point that the Lord is making is just know when you go in you’re going in on the right terms with a commitment to stay there. Because divorce proliferates adultery.
Jesus elaborates on this in Matthew 19, which we will look at in due course, as it is also not in the Lectionary. It seems its compilers and editors did not wish to offend our delicate sensibilities. Matthew 19:3-9:
3 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” 4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” 7 They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” 8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”[a]
The message for us is to take marriage seriously. It would be a mistake to marry for sexual attraction alone, although that seems to be an overriding reason for many couples. We need to look at long-term compatibility and pragmatism: cooking, housekeeping, cleanliness, managing money, child-rearing, restraining impulses (anger), avoiding addiction (gambling, drink, drugs) and so on.
The Catholic Church has a lengthy pre-marital course lasting several weeks. This used to be called Pre-Cana and now goes under another name. I knew a couple who attended it in the 1980s. They were shocked at how ill-matched and ill-prepared some of the other couples in their class were. It was not unusual for couples to argue during the courses. Some engagements were broken as issues regarding children, money and gambling came to light.
I am not sure how strict certain Catholic parishes are on these pre-marital classes now. I know of a couple who were able to claim an excused absence for several of them. After a few years of marriage, they recently divorced. The husband ran off with another woman.
This is only one example of many proving our Lord’s point about divorce.
Regarding the marital covenant and the parallel with God’s covenant with His people, the Old Testament has examples of how serious this is. He will reject our praises and worship. Could this be one reason why our churches are emptying? MacArthur cites Malachi 2:
Judah Profaned the Covenant
10 Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers? 11 Judah has been faithless, and abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem. For Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the Lord, which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god. 12 May the Lord cut off from the tents of Jacob any descendant[e] of the man who does this, who )brings an offering to the Lord of hosts!
13 And this second thing you do. You cover the Lord‘s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. 14 But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. 15 Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union?[f] And what was the one God[g] seeking?[h] Godly offspring. So guard yourselves[i] in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. 16 “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her,[j] says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers[k] his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”
The Book of Hosea tells the story of an adulterous marriage with eventual reconciliation. Hosea 1:2-11:
Hosea’s Wife and Children
2 When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.” 3 So he went and took Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.
4 And the Lord said to him, “Call his name Jezreel, for in just a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. 5 And on that day I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel.”
6 She conceived again and bore a daughter. And the Lord said to him, “Call her name No Mercy,[a] for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all. 7 But I will have mercy on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the Lord their God. I will not save them by bow or by sword or by war or by horses or by horsemen.”
10 [d] Yet (P)the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children[e] of the living God.” 11 And the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head. And they shall go up from the land, for great shall be the day of Jezreel.
Hosea is to become a dramatization; he is going to enact in his life a great drama to illustrate great spiritual truth. Now here’s what Hosea was to do, Hosea was to marry a woman, a woman by the name of Gomer, and having married her, discover that she had become a prostitute or a harlot. And in spite of that he was to be faithful to his vow, no matter what the pain, no matter what the unfaithfulness, no matter what the excruciating agony, no matter what the price he was to be faithful to his harlot, prostitute, debauched, vile wife, no matter what she did, why? Because this was a pageant to demonstrate how faithful God would be to His wayward wife, Israel. And it sets for us the standard of relationship in a marriage as it is the image for God’s relationship to His people ...
Now I do not believe for a moment that God forced her into her harlotries to be an illustration. I believe God worked in His sovereignty with her own will. But the heart of the story is that dear Hosea was to be faithful and forgiving no matter what she did. In fact as we go into the story we find out that when she went into harlotry he actually paid her bills, because he felt so bound by the vow he had made when he married her, he followed her around paying her bills.
Ultimately, Gomer failed in her adulterous pursuits, and Hosea persevered in preserving his marriage:
here in a sense is a husband who is chastening and judging all the while and supporting, so that she stays alive.
And you see exactly this in God’s relation to Israel. God on the one hand is judging and chastening and dealing with Israel, on the other hand God is the very life of the nation, right? You look at Israel today, and God is chastening the land of Israel and yet at the same time God is the sustenance of that people. And so Hosea works with this ambivalence, a wife who is a prostitute and a harlot, and he wants so much for her to be judged and he wants so much for her to be condemned in this so she’ll return and yet he, he goes along because of the vow that he has to her as a husband and he makes sure her needs are met. Incredible commitment …
The point is God’s unchanging love for Israel is based on the permanent promise He made which is based upon His character. And so even though Israel became a harlot, God said I’ll bring her back, even though she bore children of harlotry God said I’ll change their names. And so it was that Hosea was to live the illustration of an adulterous wife to be brought back, to be brought back to a place of blessing.
In closing, I wanted to bring to light research MacArthur cited in his sermons. He wrote and preached them in 1978. Even then, the damage divorce brings was becoming crystal clear.
Armand Nicholi, MD, a psychiatrist who is also on the faculty of Harvard Medical School, looked at the effect divorce and parental absence had on families. His research appeared in a 1978 edition of Christianity Today. He warned:
Certain trends prevalent today will incapacitate the family, destroy its integrity and cause its members to suffer such crippling emotional conflicts that they will become an intolerable burden to society. If any one factor influences the character development and emotional stability an individual, it is the quality of the relationship he or she experiences as a child with both parents.
Conversely if people suffering from severe non-organic emotional illness have one experience in common, it is the absence of a parent through death, divorce, etc. A parent’s inaccessibility either physically, emotionally or both can profoundly influence a child’s emotional health.
Moving around was also problematic, and some of this was driven by divorce. Nicholi’s research published in 1978 revealed that:
50% of the U. S. population lived at a different address 5 years ago. Consequently young people have no sense of roots, have no concept of extended friendships.
Nicholi saw the 1970s reality and correctly predicted a stark future:
The trend toward quick and easy divorce, and the ever increasing divorce rate subjects more and more children to physically and emotionally absent parents. The divorce rate has risen 700% in this century, and it continues to rise. There is now one divorce for every 1.8 marriages. Over 1 million children a year are involved in divorce cases, and 13 million children under 18 now have one or both parents missing.
First, the quality of family life will continue to deteriorate, producing a society with a higher incidence of mental illness than ever before. 95% of our hospital beds will be taken up by mentally ill people. This illness will be characterized primarily by a lack of self-control. We can expect the assassination of people in authority to be frequent occurrences. Crimes of violence will increase, even those within the family, the suicide rate will rise. As sexuality becomes more unlimited more separated from family and emotionally commitment the deadening effect will cause more bizarre experimenting and widespread perversion.
We’re seeing and living this out today.
Our Lord is perfect in all things, including His exhortations about marriage and divorce. Why do we continue to ignore Him?
Next time: Matthew 6:7-15
Interviewers sometimes ask jobseekers questions which are beyond the pale.
Graduates and others looking for a new employer would do well to research what cannot be asked at a job interview.
An article dated April 29, 2015, revealed questions that British graduates have been asked, among them:
Can you flirt with customers to make them stay longer?
Do you get PMT?
Can you wear more makeup next time?
Are you planning on having children soon?
In the 1990s, it was still acceptable to ask about prospective children. I’m of two minds about it, because, whilst it is intrusive, I knew a woman who started a job only to become pregnant within a year, then return to work after maternity leave and, shortly thereafter, announce she was expecting another child. There was nothing the employer could do. After all, one cannot fire a woman for having children. Nevertheless, other employees began to write her out of the everyday work picture and resented her for ‘playing the system’.
As for the others — and there are more in the article — instead of getting angry, the applicant should discern that these types of questions reveal more about the employer than illegality or inappropriateness. Working in such companies is bound to be stressful and unpleasant.
The UK Government has a site which briefly explains what employers can and cannot ask when interviewing. However, women should be as honest as possible with regard to children and childminding arrangements. An employer generally will expect — at least silently — that a newly-wed woman of childbearing age would stay at least a year before becoming pregnant.
An American site, PayScale, has a helpful list of what is disallowed in interviews along with constructive ways for the applicant to respond. Citizenship is one example. Whilst it is illegal for employers to ask if an applicant has US citizenship:
Their article states that questions with regard to arrests and/or convictions are legal in certain states. Those applying for a security-sensitive job should be aware of this and explain their own circumstances, if applicable.
In short — instead of getting defensive or testy — the applicant should evaluate why certain questions are being asked. Often, the employer has a reason. Be polite and, where possible, give a considered response:
as the interviewee, it is up to you to gauge the intent behind the questions and answer accordingly. You could also choose not to answer.
Anything offensive, such as the British questions, should be ignored or gently laughed off. One would be within one’s rights to terminate the interview politely. Tell them they’ve just lost an excellent prospective employee.
On March 19, 2015, the French government voted to suppress the mandatory seven-day cooling off period between the first and second medical consultations for women seeking abortions.
The Socialist parliamentarian Catherine Coutelle expressed the sentiments of many in the pro-choice lobby:
This delay is infantilising and stigmatising.
However, that is not entirely true. Le Monde asked for women who had had abortions to describe their experiences. The paper received 70 responses.
Whilst stigmatisation was part of having an abortion in France, as one woman said:
… the unsympathetic look from the obstetrician, an even more critical one from the midwives …
other women described crises of conscience.
That was the objective of the cooling off period, intended to provide an enforced time of reflection.
The article has a photo from a feminist demonstration which took place on January 8, 2014; their banner says:
1 child, if I want, when I want.
Last year legislators began relaxing the process leading to abortion: no questions asked if a woman seeks a consultation up to 12 weeks into her pregnancy and more information about the procedure.
What women told Le Monde about the now-repealed seven-day period of reflection is interesting. Most of the comments indicate their personal psychological discomfort during that time:
Even if you have made up your mind, those days of waiting give rise to questions, to guilt. You can’t escape it.
The most incredible comment, however, was this:
a real Calvary.
What a choice of words. I wonder if that woman even knows the meaning of Calvary.
(I did work with a woman who thought that ‘martyr’ meant ‘crybaby’, thanks to her father’s atheistic influence. After hearing the umpteenth misuse of this word, I advised her to look it up in the dictionary. She did so and stopped saying it.)
I do hope that the French abortion folks use a set of pictures and descriptions as to what happens to the foetus within a short space of time.
These two resources are very useful. Girls would do well to study them carefully:
Far from being the well publicised ‘mass of tissues’, a foetus at six weeks has a beating heart. At seven weeks, fingers and toes begin to develop. At eight weeks, the baby can bend his knees and elbows. At nine weeks, the baby has eyelids. At 11 weeks, the baby starts stretching and kicking. At 12 weeks, synapses begin forming in the brain.
Yes, abortion is death. Feeling guilty about it is entirely the right thing to do.
Choices, choices. A bit of reflection before engaging in coitus prevents difficult decisions afterward.
So far, we have read about early Christian liturgy, that of the East, changes during the Dark Ages, Mass during the Middle Ages, Martin Luther’s liturgy, Zwingli’s rite in Zurich, the German liturgy in Strasbourg and Calvin’s rites in Strasbourg for the Huguenots and later in Geneva.
Today’s post takes a brief look at John Knox’s Reformed rites for the English speakers in Frankfurt, Geneva and, later, the Scots.
Unless otherwise indicated, source material is taken from W.D. Maxwell’s 1937 book A History of Christian Worship: An Outline of Its Development and Form, available to read in full online (H/T: Revd P. Aasman). Page references are given below.
John Knox in brief
Space prohibits a full account of John Knox’s turbulent life and times.
A few descriptive terms about the man come to mind which I shall suppress.
Knox supporters in North America find it inexplicable why those of us who are not Presbyterians could not admire him. Yet, the facts show that he was contentious and disagreeable from the start. No doubt he was very nice to his family, friends and followers.
However, for the English, he goes against what they appreciate as moderation in spirit and personality.
Even Calvin advised him in Frankfurt to
Calvin carefully chose his battles — principally about Communion frequency — even if he fell foul of the Geneva city council. However, Geneva invited him to return from Strasbourg in 1541.
Knox, on the other hand, was a firebrand at every opportunity. Sadly, a few lay Presbyterians and their supporters have adopted Knox’s unfortunate manner in their online discourse. Look to Calvin, friends. He was much more measured in his speech and relationships.
Knox’s litany of self-imposed trouble included many episodes.
His first sermon to the garrison at St Andrews pronounced the Pope as the Antichrist.
Two months later in June 1547, Mary of Guise (Queen Mother and Regent to Mary, Queen of Scots) asked the French to intervene at St Andrews. The French took as prisoners a group of Protestants, including Scottish nobles and Knox. They all became galley slaves. Knox was freed in February 1549.
Knox settled in England where he became a chaplain to Edward VI in 1550. Prior to that, as a licensed minister in the Church of England, he was sent to Berwick upon Tweed, where he promptly modified the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) to make it a more Protestant rite. He met his first wife Margery Bowes at this time and, although he married her, he did so without her family’s consent.
Knox’s fiery preaching was highly popular among influential English Protestants. His clerical star continued to rise in subsequent parish appointments in England. When Mary Tudor succeeded Edward VI, Knox’s allies told him to flee the country.
In 1554, he sailed for France and continued his travels until he reached Calvin’s Geneva. Calvin gave non-committal replies to his contentious questions about female and ‘idolatrous’ rulers, referring him to Heinrich Bullinger in Zurich. Bullinger gave him no quarter. Undeterred, Knox published a diatribe in July of that year verbally attacking Mary Tudor, her bishops and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.
In September 1554, a group of English exiles invited Knox to Frankfurt to be their minister. Calvin encouraged him to go. Knox found a congregation torn between using the BCP and those who favoured a more Protestant version of it. It was about this controversy that Calvin advised Knox and his colleague William Whittingham to avoid contention. A new group of refugees arrived, including Richard Cox, who had substantial input to the BCP. Cox informed Frankfurt’s authorities of Knox’s pamphlet attacking Charles V. The authorities told Knox to leave the city, which he did on March 26, 1555.
Knox returned to Geneva, where he was put in charge of a new church.
Meanwhile, his mother-in-law wrote him asking him to return to his wife, who was living in Scotland. He went home in August 1555.
Knox’s warm welcome home by Scottish Protestant nobles saw off opposition from the Scottish bishops who found him deeply worrying and arranged a hearing with him in Edinburgh. Accompanied by his powerful allies, he appeared in front of them on May 15, 1556. The bishops cancelled the hearing and granted Knox the freedom to preach in Edinburgh. Knox’s friends among the nobility persuaded him to write to Mary of Guise, the Regent for Mary, Queen of Scots. Knox wrote a letter calling for her support of the Reformation and deposing her bishops. Mary of Guise ignored it.
Meanwhile, his new congregation in Geneva called. They had elected him their pastor on November 1, 1555. He returned to the city in September 1556. This time, he took his wife and mother-in-law with him.
The next two years were blissful for Knox. He felt at home in Geneva. Life and spirituality were unsurpassed.
But that wasn’t good enough.
In the summer of 1558, unbeknownst to Calvin, Knox anonymously published a diatribe called The first blast of the trumpet against the monstruous regiment of women. Even given the general misogyny of the time, Knox went way over the top in attacking women rulers to the point where he could have been charged with sedition. He took strong issue with Mary I of England and Mary of Guise. Wikipedia says:
In calling the “regiment” or rule of women “monstruous”, he meant that it was “unnatural”. The pamphlet has been called a classic of misogyny. Knox states that his purpose was to demonstrate “how abominable before God is the Empire or Rule of a wicked woman, yea, of a traiteresse and bastard”.
A royal proclamation banned the pamphlet in England.
The pamphlet came back to bite him when Elizabeth I ascended to the English throne. Geneva’s English speakers felt comfortable returning home now that they had a Protestant Queen. Knox left Geneva in January 1559 for Scotland. He should have arrived long before May 2 of that year, but Elizabeth I, aware of the pamphlet and deeply offended, refused to give him a passport to travel through England!
Not long afterward, Scottish authorities under Mary of Guise pronounced Knox an outlaw. He and a large group of Protestants travelled to Perth because it was a walled city they could defend in case of a siege. Once there, Knox preached an inflammatory sermon in the Church of St John the Baptist during which a small incident sparked a riot. The result was a gutted church. Not only that, but the mob went on to loot and vandalise two nearby friaries.
Later, safe in St Andrews, Knox preached there. Another riot broke out which resulted in more vandalism and looting.
Knox cannot be personally blamed for the Protestant uprisings occurring all over Scotland that year, but did he ever appeal for calm and godliness? Hmm.
On October 24, 1559, the Scottish nobility deposed Mary of Guise of the Regency. She died in Edinburgh Castle on June 10, 1560. The Treaty of Edinburgh was signed, which resulted in French and English troops returning home.
During the rest of that year the Scottish Parliament, Knox and a handful of fellow clergymen devised the Book of Discipline for the new Protestant church. Knox’s wife Margery died in December 1560. He was left to care for their two little boys.
Mary Queen of Scots returned from exile on August 19, 1561. She and Knox had several personal confrontations over his inciting rebellion, her right to rule as a woman and her impending marriage. He told her he owed her no allegiance. He continued his fiery sermons in the pulpit of St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh.
On March 26, 1564, Knox married a 17-year old member of the nobility, Margaret Stewart. He was 50 years old. She bore him three daughters.
Near the end of the decade a complex civil war broke out involving nobles from both sides of the religious question. Knox moved around Scotland during this time, although he returned to Edinburgh as and when he could. He wrote his History of the Reformation in Scotland during these years.
In July 1572, he was able to freely preach once again at St Giles. However, he had grown progressively weaker. He died on November 24, 1572, surrounded by his family and friends.
Knox is the founder of Presbyterianism.
The following is taken from Maxwell’s book and describes a typical Knox liturgy from his book The Forme of Prayers (p. 123, 124).
Knox largely borrowed from Calvin but Maxwell notes a BCP influence as well. As with Calvin’s liturgy, there is no Peace.
The format is as follows for a Communion service, still divided into the Liturgies of the Word and the Upper Room:
– Confession of sins;
– Prayer for pardon;
– Psalm in metre;
– Prayer for illumination;
– Scripture reading (only one, although there were sometimes separate Scottish Readers Services before the Liturgy of the Word which included more Psalms as well as Old and New Testament readings [p. 124]);
– Sermon (lengthy, as was the Scripture reading; together, they could last over an hour [p. 124);
– Collection of alms;
– Thanksgiving and intercessions;
– Lord’s Prayer;
– Apostles’ Creed, spoken;
– Offertory, including presentation and preparation of elements and a sung Psalm;
– Words of Institution;
– Prayer of Consecration which included adoration, thanksgiving, anamnesis and Doxology;
– Ministers’ Communion;
– People’s Communion, apparently given by assistant ministers because the celebrant read the account of the Passion of Christ during this time;
– Post-Communion thanksgiving;
– Psalm 103 in metre;
– Aaronic or Apostolic blessing.
The readings appear to have been through one book of the Bible at a time until concluded — ‘in course’. The sermons were always about the readings given (p. 124).
The Forme of Prayers was never intended to be used as uniformly as England’s BCP was. Knox allowed for local variations on prayers and parts of the rite.
Although Knox sought to abolish kneeling and feasts of the Church calendar, these seem to have continued in some Scottish churches.
Communicants walked to the Lord’s Table where a separate Communion Table with chairs was installed (p. 126).
The people took their places and sat down to receive the Sacrament.
An Act passed by Scotland’s General Assembly in 1562 indicated that the Sacrament was received quarterly in the large towns and less frequently in the countryside (p. 125). Clergy were fewer outside of the former. Furthermore, people at that time were still used to infrequent Communion, perhaps only annually.
This custom of the Communion Table disappeared in the early part of the 19th century, when English Nonconformist procedure was adopted. This is reminiscent of the Zwinglian practice of receiving Communion in the pews, although people remained standing for this in Britain.
Introduced to Scotland in 1560, Knox’s The Forme of Prayers — or Book of Common Order — was used for over 80 years, despite attempts to revise it (p. 127). It was replaced in 1645 by the Westminster Directory.
This is the final instalment of verses from Luke’s Gospel which have been excluded from the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.
Many churchgoers do not notice the truncation of the Scripture readings for Sundays and weekdays. Anytime we see an ellipsis in our church bulletins listing the readings for the day — … — we would do well to go back to the Bible and note carefully what has been omitted. Often, these are difficult verses, pointing to our own weaknesses in character and faith.
Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry.
11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.
It was nearly two years ago to the day — March 16, 2013 — that I began going through the passages from Luke which do not appear in the three-year Lectionary. As with my similar studies of Mark’s and John’s Gospels, they are a revelation. You can read them all on my Essential Bible Verses page in canonical order.
These last two verses pertain to our Lord’s resurrection. The empty tomb is confusing and puzzling. His female disciples among the 72 went to the tomb to find it empty. They told the Apostles, likely to have been in their own homes and not together. Luke 24:10:
10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles,
The Apostles immediately dismissed their testimony. Why? Were they associating it with the notional female hysteria, emotion and fantasy? No doubt.
Yet, who was at the Crucifixion? Only one Apostle — John. The others were women.
Who denied Him, as our Lord had foreseen only hours earlier? Peter.
Who stayed away a week after the Resurrection before daring to show himself and, even then, in doubt? Thomas.
Yet, these eleven promised they would always be with Jesus. Matthew Henry wrote:
One cannot but be amazed at the stupidity of these disciples …
This is one reason why egalitarians in terms of marriage have a difficult time accepting male supremacy in all things where women and children are concerned. Men do not have all the answers. They need women — and not just for cooking, cleaning and childbearing.
Jesus’s female followers were there throughout in dangerous circumstances. The men were afraid, fearing imprisonment, torture or death. The women powered on regardless.
Verse 12 tells us that Peter had visited the tomb — but only after Mary Magdalene told him it was empty. The coast was clear. Henry chides the Apostle’s cowardice (emphases mine):
Peter hastened to the sepulchre upon the report, perhaps ashamed of himself, to think that Mary Magdalene should have been there before him and yet, perhaps, he had not been so ready to go thither now if the women had not told him, among other things, that the watch was fled. Many that are swift-footed enough when there is no danger are but cow-hearted when there is. Peter now ran to the sepulchre, who but the other day ran from his Master.
Not only that, but Peter was every bit as sceptical as Thomas was eight days later. He entered the tomb to verify that it was empty and to see the linen cloths for himself. Henry:
He was very particular in making his observations, as if he would rather credit his own eyes than the testimony of the angels.
Students of the Bible must wonder why, with all of Jesus’s many words regarding death and resurrection, the Apostles did not grasp what had happened. Even when they encountered Him on the road to Emmaus later in Luke 24, they still didn’t understand fully. We see that temporal glory was still at the forefront of their minds:
21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
One cannot say any of us would be better. We focus on incidental or non-essentials instead of the essentials, then wonder why our churches are empty and why young people find Christianity irrelevant. Henry reminds us:
Note, A seasonable remembrance of the words of Christ will help us to a right understanding of his providence.
There is many a thing puzzling and perplexing to us which would be both plain and profitable if we did but rightly understand the words of Christ, and had them ready to us.
Something to ponder in the approach to Easter.
Next time: Matthew 1:1-17