Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Sir Thomas More and A Man For All Seasons

A Man for All Seasons is one of the best written and best acted films of all time. The title is borrowed from a description of Sir Thomas More made by the theologian Erasmus. That A Man for All Seasons received nary a vote on my poll suggests that too few have seen it.

The film is adapted from a stage production (at least I think that it is), and it tells the story of Sir Thomas More (now St. Thomas More--or is it St. Sir Thomas More or Sir St. Thomas More?).

Too few people know that England's King Henry VIII wanted a divorce from his wife, Catherine, but the Church (i.e. Catholic Church) refused to grant him the divorce. Henry wished for the divorce upon two grounds:

1) Catherine had borne him only a daughter--Mary (i.e. "Bloody Mary"), and he needed a son. He "needed" a son because he was only too aware of the potential for dynastic strife should he die without a male heir (no woman had ever taken the crown, and Henry's own father--Henry VII--had usurped the throne via a dynastic struggle (i.e "The War of the Roses").

2.) He wanted to "get it on" freely with his mistress, Ann Boleyn.

Sir Thomas More was Henry VIII's Lord Chancellor, but More was more (pun intended) devoted to his faith (Roman Catholicism) than his king. When Henry VIII severed ties with the Church, made himself the head of the church in England (i.e. Anglican Church) and gave himself a divorce so as to marry Anne Boleyn, Sir Thomas More resigned, for he did not accept the king's authority to usurp religious matters (ah yes, Golf Guy, the state has not the authority to dictate religion--including the rite of marriage).

More never spoke against the king, but he privately believed that the king's assumption as head of the church in England was illegitimate--even though parliament had approved it (indeed, parliaments and congresses cannot make decrees upon that which is not in their just authorities).

This meant that More did not recognize the legitimacy of the subsequent marriage between Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, implying that he did not recognize the legitimacy of any sons that Anne might bear (which she didn't--and died for not doing). Since Sir Thomas More was the most respected intellectual from England, his silence on the matter was considered opposition to the matter. He was thus charged with treason and executed--though the evidence against him should not have effected a conviction.

I respect Sir Thomas More because he held to his faith. He did not waiver in the face of threats from the government. He knew that God would be his only judge, and that any punishment exacted by the king and parliament would be more than repaid in blessings in the afterlife.

More's example is a good one for anyone who thoughtfully considers what governments are all about. They are not about protecting the people--in spite of what they claim. They are about controlling people. Too often, governments are powerful enough to kill those who do not comply.

You might think that we can never live under such a government. Read your history, and learn the truth.

See the movie. I would have posted more, but I just returned from my vacation to the Bahamas. I'm tired, and that is all.

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