"Sir Thomas More is more important at this moment than at any moment since his death, but he is not quite so important as he will be in a hundred years time." - G. K. Chesterton, in 1919
At our school we've added classic/significant movies to our English summer reading lists to help promote cultural literacy. For the seniors, who are taking what's basically a British literature course, the movie is A Man for All Seasons
I've always loved that movie. I've also had a fondness for St. Thomas More for his faith and his courage, but also for the fact that he was a Secular Franciscan.
He's been on my mind lately.
More died because he refused to go along with King Henry's desired to challenge the Church over it marriage rules. Henry wanted the pope to grant him an annulment from his first marriage - never mind that the pope had given his special permission to marry Catherine of Aragon in the first place - but the pope refused. So Henry broke from the Church, dissolved the marriage, and married Anne Boleyn.
More sided with the Church, and quit his government post. But he also did not say anything, hoping that as long as he did not publicly states his views he and his family would remain safe. As the movie makes clear, he did not even tell his family his views so that they could not be called upon to testify.
But everyone knew where he stood.
Henry then got a law approved that required people to swear that they supported the King - and thus More's silence could no longer protect him.
I was thinking about More because we are faced with another marriage issue - and one in which people of faith are increasingly being forced to go along or face persecution.
The current issue is, of course, homosexual so-called marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court decisions last week are just another step in the process toward legal recognition of such marriages - which are allowed in a number of states (including my own).
We've received all sorts of assurances that churches will not be forced to perform such wedding ceremonies, and that people will not be forced to go against their religious beliefs when it comes to such marriages.
But it's already begun to happen - and it will increase.
People who defend traditional marriage can't do so at work. If they speak out, they can be fired. Some had hoped they could simply keep their mouths shut, but in some government agencies they are now required to at least pretend they support such marriages - just as Henry required peopel to take an oth in support of his marriage and defiance of the Church. Some government workers who perform wedding have already been forced to quit their jobs because they will be required to perform such weddings.
Meanwhile, photographers, florists, inn keepers, and more have been sued if they have declined to provide their services for marriages and couple they don't recognize on moral grounds.
There are more and more stories of people facing persecution because they do not go along with the homosexual agenda. Like More, they are increasingly not protected by silence.
We are faced with the kind of choice More faced. He provides an important model for us. We too may be called upon to pay a price for upholding our beliefs and our Church (though, we don't face death for doing so, at least not yet).
It seems that Chesterton's 1919 prediction is indeed coming true a century later.