Ethos Education

Doctor Who: The Angels Take Manhattan: What makes a marriage work?

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Learning Objectives:

  • Understand Christian beliefs about the roles, commitments and responsibilities of husbands and wives.
  • Consideration of why some marriages succeed and others fail.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Reflect upon different examples of commitment.
  • Analyse the role of commitment within marriage.
  • Reflect upon the difference between emotions and decisions in a committed relationship.
  • Synthesise a list of ingredients for a successful marriage.
  • Analyse Bible passages to produce a list of ingredients for a successful marriage from a Christian point of view.
  • Compare different perspectives on what makes a good marriage, analysing any surprising similarities or differences.
  • Synthesise a list of rules to govern Christian and secular marriage (if the two were to be made legally distinct from one another).

STARTER:

Ask the students to think of examples of commitment. For example, a footballer who signs a contract to play for a particular club for a particular period of time, such as five years. Once the class has suggested several different examples, ask them to compare them. Which commitments do they think are the most demanding to live up to? Which are the most significant? What factors can make commitments difficult to stick with?

Explain that in today’s lesson you are going to be thinking about the place of commitment within marriage, and looking at why it is such an important part of making marriages work.

MAIN ACTIVITIES:

Introduce the clip from the Doctor Who episode The Angels Take Manhattan. This is available on the DVD Doctor Who: Series 7 part 1B (BBC DVDs, 2012, certificate 12). Click here to buy the DVD online.

Explain that the Doctor, along with Amy, Rory and River, have been caught in a time-loop. They have just witnessed the death of an elderly version of Rory, meaning that it is now impossible for Rory to escape from the trap laid by the Weeping Angels. Ask the students to pay particular attention to his wife Amy’s response to Rory’s plan of overcoming this dilemma.

  • Start time: 0.32.11 (beginning of chapter 9 of the DVD)
  • End time: 0.40.09
  • Clip length: 7 minutes and 58 seconds

The clip starts with Rory running out on to the rooftop of a tall building. The first line is the Doctor saying, ‘Okay, fire escape’. The clip ends as the scene shifts to the inside of the Tardis after Amy has followed Rory back in time via a surviving Angel. If you want a shorter clip, you could stop at 0.36.02, after the screen fades to white. This would omit Amy’s decision to get herself trapped in time with Rory, but would still leave her initial decision to risk death in order to be with him.

Remind the students of Rory’s claim that to save Amy, he could do anything, and Amy’s answer to the Doctor’s question ‘what are you doing?’: ‘Changing the future, it’s called marriage!’ In what way did the fact that Amy and Rory were married make an impact on the decisions they made in this clip?

Draw out that Amy and Rory both showed an absolute sense of commitment to one another. Rory was willing to die in the past to get Amy free from the time trap, whereas Amy willingly joined him, both in apparent death and then again in returning to the time trap, rather than be separated from him forever. Remind the students that central to the idea of marriage (and contained in the usual church marriage vows) is the idea of a couple committing themselves to one another. Does this level of absolute commitment appeal to the students? Do they think it is realistic and achievable? Is it found in most marriages? What difference do they think this kind of commitment makes to a marriage, both long-term and on a day-to-day basis.

Give out copies of the article When I Don’t Feel Love for My Spouse by Steve Cornell and ask the students to read it. You might want to read out the opening two paragraphs (up to the headline ‘Being and behaving in love’) and then ask the students whether their view is closer to that of the writer or the woman he describes. Then give out the articles for the students to read. Once they have read the rest of the article, ask if any of them have changed their mind now that they have seen the writer’s line of argument explained.

You can find the article at http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/03/08/when-i-dont-feel-love-for-my-spouse.

Do the students agree with the distinction drawn in the article between being in love and behaving in love? Is this a helpful way of thinking about love? Draw out that a definition of love, in the context of marriage, which emphasises the feelings (such as the one this article warns against) will also have the effect of downplaying the importance of commitment within a marriage. Do the students think that it is possible for someone to show that they value their spouse while also acting on romantic feelings towards another person?

Ask the students to work in pairs or small groups to compile a list of important ingredients for making a marriage (or other serious relationship) work. Their list should include at least six items. Once everyone has had time to complete the task, bring the class back together to share their results. Were there any suggested ingredients that other students disagreed with? What were the suggestions that recurred most often in all the lists?

Give out the worksheet of Bible verses about husbands and wives, and ask the students, in the same pairs or small groups as the previous exercise, to read the passages and extract from them another list of ingredients to make a good marriage according to the Bible. Students may refer to other relevant Bible passages as well if they wish.

How do the two lists compare? Ask the students if there are any ingredients on the new list which they find surprising, or which they disagree with.

Tell students about the book The Sixty Minute Marriage by Rob Parsons. Rob Parsons is a Christian speaker and writer, although the book The Sixty Minute Marriage is written for people of any faith or none. It contains advice on marriage which corresponds with biblical advice, but which is put forward using arguments based on common sense, not simply saying ‘the Bible says…’ Click here to buy The Sixty Minute Marriage online.

The Sixty Minute Marriage recommends the following recipe for a successful marriage:

  • Effective communication
  • Making time for each other
  • Surviving conflict
  • Forgiveness
  • Accepting things you cannot change
  • Identifying and dealing with ghosts in your past that can affect the way you respond to situations

Ask students how this list compares with the previous ones. If the students’ lists based on the Bible are notably different in character to the above, ask students whether they can see anything in the Bible passages they looked at to support this perspective on what makes a marriage work.

SUMMARY AND ASSESSMENT OF LEARNING:

Read the following quote from C.S. Lewis to the class:

‘My own view is that the Churches should frankly recognise that the majority of the British people are not Christians and, therefore, cannot be expected to live Christian lives. There ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage: one governed by the State with rules enforced on all citizens, the other governed by the Church with rules enforced by her on her own members. The distinction ought to be quite sharp, so that a man knows which couples are married in a Christian sense and which are not.’ 

(From the chapter ‘Christian Marriage’ in Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. First published 1952.)

Click here to buy a copy of Mere Christianity online.

More able students may benefit from reading the whole chapter (which is fairly brief – only eight or nine pages), to understand more of Lewis’ reasoning, and his understanding of the principles that underpin a Christian understanding of marriage.

Ask the students to draw up a set of rules for governing each of these two types of marriage. How would the Christian marriage be distinguished from the state-governed one? What would the two types of marriage have in common? Which type of marriage would the students prefer to be part of if they were to marry at some point in the future?

YOU WILL NEED:

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