I happened to catch the movie, “The Other Boleyn Girl” the other day. It is the story of Anne Boleyn and it could be said that her story is the other side of St. Thomas More’s story. I am not a historian and I am sure that it can be said that this movie may not be fully historical fact, but it does portray a story that is pertinent for today. It is a story about marriage and the redefinition of it.
If you are unfamiliar with the story of King Henry VIII and his six wives here is the short of it. King Henry wants a new wife and the Pope won’t give him an annulment. He defines himself as head of the church so that he can divorce his wife and marry the woman he is lusting for ~ Anne Boleyn. Anne manipulates her own sexuality to ultimately become queen of England. In the process she becomes the object [or cause] of the fall of the Catholic Church in England and the beginning of the Church of England. Again, I am not an expert on history, but this is the simplistic version of what I know. You can find more of St. Thomas More’s life at: http://www.marriageuniqueforareason.org/2012/06/22/fortnight-for-freedom-day-2-st-thomas-more-married-saint-and-hero-of-religious-liberty/
Ultimately this historic story is about the defense of marriage. St. Thomas More as Lord Chancellor of England lost his life defending the Church and marriage. Anne, fueled by competitive drive, or possibly in this time of few rights for women – a sense of survival – succumbed to her own desires while fulfilling the desires of the King.
It is sometimes best for me to learn from a poor example rather than a good one. As I watched this film and the portrait of Anne – it struck me that it was her ambition that was her downfall. Her drive to be in control, her manipulation of the truth, her need to succeed that ultimately did her in. She wasn’t alone in this – King Henry’s needs seemed simpler or at least more direct – that of lust and perhaps to sire a son. Which I guess breaks down into sex and power. St. Thomas More was motivated by his knowlege of the truth. What do I want to be motivating me?
How much is our defense of marriage today like that of St. Thomas More’s dilemma?
To stand as the church teaches is not popular –while it may not cost you your life, it may cost you your friends. The acceptance of Anne Boleyn as Queen – redefined Marriage in England and King Henry created his own church so he could define the church to fit his needs. Today we have many who want to redefine marriage to suit their needs. It may be driven by power, lust or a type of manipulation – all under the guise of wanting to profess equality.
Ultimately Anne got what she wanted, but eventually lost her head and St. Thomas More also ultimately died defending marriage by not conceding to Anne as queen. It took courage. St. Thomas More showed us this courage in a few ways. First he lived his marriage rightly by loving his wife until widowed and strongly loved his family. Second, he stood strong on the teachings of the church -even though it cost him his life. He didn’t recognize the marriage of King Henry to Anne Boleyn because he knew that no one could redefine what was defined by God – not even the king.
I am left wondering how I might behave in St. Thomas More’s shoes. Or maybe I am in them. How will I defend marriage? Our defence of our beliefs on marriage today deals with the same sex marriage issue, but much can be learned from Anne and Thomas.
If you struggle with the “Church” getting involved in matters of marriage or think there is no place for it. The story of Anne and Sir Thomas may give us some historical perspective on what happens when the “state” takes into its hands – redefining marriage. You may want to pick up “The Other Boleyn Girl” and “A Man for All Seasons” and see who you want to stand with? Will you defending the truth or choose to bend with the crowd or follow selfish motives?
A St. Thomas More Prayer for Religious Freedom and more information can be found on the website Unique for a Reason. http://www.marriageuniqueforareason.org
O God our Creator,
from your provident hand we have received
our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
You have called us as your people and given us
the right and the duty to worship you, the only true God,
and your Son, Jesus Christ.
Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit,
you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world,
bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel
to every corner of society.
We ask you to bless us
in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty.
Give us the strength of mind and heart
to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened;
give us courage in making our voices heard
on behalf of the rights of your Church
and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.
Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father,
a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters
gathered in your Church
in this decisive hour in the history of our nation,
so that, with every trial withstood
and every danger overcome—
for the sake of our children, our grandchildren,
and all who come after us—
this great land will always be “one nation, under God,
indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
We ask this through Christ our Lord.