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Read Letter

Clash of Civilisations

Dear Jil, the problem in your marriage is a clash of civilizations – a head on collision of three civilisations. Since each civilisation has its own philosophy it means three philosophies are clashing in your marriage.

There’s the traditional African culture, there’s secular humanism, as well as Judeo-Christian belief system. Each of these is a complete system. Each has its own philosophy, values and adjudicatory system. Different outflows. Unfortunately they are operationally contradictory. Their marital philosophies don’t agree. They have a commonality in subject matter only – marriage! But the philosophies differ.

Secular humanism for example specifically rejects religious dogma as the basis of morality and decision making. And so when couples operate a mish mash of marital philosophies there’s bound to be confusion. And quarrel. Here’s what reinforces the confusion. Because both you and your husband are Christians you got married in church. It follows therefore that the Bible is the grundnorm – the fundamental regulatory authority in your marriage. But you had to go through a traditional marriage ceremony to satisfy the aboriginal dictates of your tribe. You also formally got married under Common Law. You married at the court registry. The average African Christian elite goes through all three hoops, yet each of these marriages is actually adequate before God. We only go through each process to satisfy different requirements and generate certain outcomes. Each of them is recognised by God as a marriage. Whatever a society defines as a marital process is what God accepts.

For Adam and Eve – a society of two – a mere pronouncement and behavioral acquiescence sufficed. Adam simply called Eve bone of bones, flesh of flesh. Symbolic declaration of binary union. Agreement. Marriage.  If in your society the paying of dowry is what defines marriage, God will recognise it. And if drinking two cups of water and frog jumping is the ceremony of marriage in your community, God will recognise it. Yes, I know I’m bursting a few religious bubbles about marriages God “sanctions” but truth is truth. God recognises traditional marriages as much as he recognises Common Law weddings or church weddings. Marrying at the court registry is however indicative of a desire to SUPERCEDE the traditional marriage with Common Law.

Since convention insists you go through all three ceremonies you have to determine which you want to operationalise. You have to determine which will regulate your marriage. Each system defines roles, responsibilities and expectations. If you don’t resolve the logic of your marriage there’ll be clashes, false expectations and disappointments. A marriage can’t run on two contradictory systems. There’ll be issues. If the wife holds on to secular humanism and the husband holds on to traditional African culture, there’s going to be conflict. Ditto if the man assumes Judeo-Christian marital philosophy but the woman is on a secular humanism platform. It’s a clash of civilisations. A house divided against itself cannot stand. There’ll be a contest of viewpoints.

This clash of civilisations becomes apparent in a conflict situation. What will be the adjudicatory system? Traditional African culture says to call the families and elders. They’re court of first instance, even appellate system. They can review the administrative decisions of a husband. He’s just local government. Federal authority lies with the elders.  It’s a Presbyterian system – government by elders. (Greek: presbyteros; presbys – old man, elder). The regulatory framework is culture and tradition.

The Judeo-Christian belief system on the other hand says the regulatory framework is the Bible; it incorporates the Pastor. You can see the clash already. The systems clash because underlying philosophies differ. In African traditional marriage system the woman marries the man AND his family! She is hierarchically junior to her husband’s brothers and there’s pecking order among in-law wives. This can lead to incongruities. Under some systems a wife must defer to her brother-in-law years her junior. The Judeo-Christian system on the other hand says the man must leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife. In truth, in practical terms the logic dictates he must bond with his wife’s family.

In a secularist system both partners are co-captains. None has a higher governmental position. The system is consultative. The Judeo-Christian system on the other hand says in governmental structure the man is the head of the home. And the traditional African system is a dictatorship of one. A wife can’t confront her husband.

You guys have to make up your minds which system you want to follow. If indeed you chose to operate the Judeo-Christian system according to your faith then you can’t escape Paul’s admonition: Ephesians 5:22-24 MSG: “Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands.”

Now here’s the continuation of the Pauline adjuration (and it’s often ignored): Ephesians 5:25-28 MSG: “Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church – a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They’re really doing themselves a favor – since they’re already “one” in marriage.”

If you go by this I can’t see your marriage derailing. But of course it’s wholly dependent on you two. The good thing is, Paul never married. So no one can accuse him of prejudice or bias.

Marriage is a very, very powerful institution. It’s incredibly potent. All that’s required is you make it work. Make it work!

Your mentor, LA

© Leke Alder 2014


Tags : Marriage, Philosophy, Civilisation

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