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The Love Story That Changed a Kingdom

How much social prejudice would you endure to change the world?

In the 1940s, the interracial marriage of Prince Seretse Khama, heir to the Bechuanaland throne, to an English clerk, Ruth Williams, shocked the world. The couple faced criticism from his royal uncle, but soon won over the people of his nation, who were reluctant to lose his leadership. Having banned interracial marriage, the South African government exerted pressure on the United Kingdom to have him removed from power. Since England relied on inexpensive South African gold and uranium, they investigated his leadership, then suppressed the report (which found him fit to rule) and sent him and his wife into exile in 1591.

Both governments allowed Seretse to return with his wife after he renounced his throne. Discontent with farming, he founded the country’s first Democratic Party, which beat the other parties in the elections, and made him Prime Minister. When Botswana gained independence, he became their first president. Botswana was the world’s third-poorest country, with a minimal infrastructure and rampant illiteracy. Seretse instituted strong measures against corruption, adopted market-friendly policies to foster economic development, promised low and stable taxes to mining companies, liberalized trade, increased personal freedoms, and promoted non-racism, which led to Botswana having the fastest-growing economy in the world between 1966 and 1980.

Liberation from his kingship enabled Seretse to help set in place a fair democratic system which gave his people a choice in national elections! Seretse took something negative that had happened to him (the loss of his status and role as a monarch) as the result of greed and global policies and shaped the world toward a greater future, instead of mourned his loss.

The film A United Kingdom focuses on the social injustices waged against Seretse and Ruth, beginning with their meeting and courtship, and ending with his return to Botswana after his exile. It shows the racism on both sides as Ruth finds few Africans willing to support or interact with her, and rejection from the whites in Africa, and her father disinheriting her. White men harass them on a London street; Seretse’s sister and aunt ream her over the coals for “daring” to marry him and destroying all he has built; the couple endure forced separation, when the government refuses to let him return to Africa, where she waits for him.

But there’s also an outpouring of support, in England and in Africa, as the people gather to prevent the government from removing Ruth, and stand up for Seretse remaining in power when called to a vote; they refuse to turn up when the government wants them to oust him; in London, reporters and crowds gather to cheer them on.

From an objective stance, the marriage jeopardized all the wonderful ideas Seretse had for the future of his nation. In a racist world, it made both sides uncomfortable, flouted all the social conventions of the period, and elicited abuse toward them as a couple. Marriage is hard and having half the world want you to fail and fall apart makes it even harder.

Or does it?

Sometimes when the world stands against you, it strengthens your bond. Seretse could not see into the future, he could not know he would bring Democracy to Botswana. He operated on his love of Ruth, which everyone around him argued was selfish, but it flouted conventions that needed challenged. There is the slow path to racial progress and the fast one which creates controversy, forcing racism into the public eye.

Seretse and Ruth remind us that the greatest changes can require the biggest sacrifices, and sometimes, the worst persecution. Much of what happened, they brought on themselves in the belief the world was more progressive than it was. In a crucial scene in the movie, a ragged-looking Ruth admits, “I think we misjudged the situation.”

They did, but then they made the best of it, to work together for their mutual benefit, to protect and love one another despite all odds, and to become a symbol of unity between races and nations. It’s a beautiful lesson about the world-altering power of true love.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Charity Bishop devotes her free time to eating chocolate, debating theology with her friends, researching the Tudors, writing books, blogging, and searching for spiritual truth in all aspects of life.

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Shades of Evil: The Man in the High Castle

NOV / DEC 2017: BY CHARITY BISHOP

Amazon’s series The Man in the High Castle is many things… a sci-fi adventure with an alternate timeline, a mind-bending glimpse into a different history, a philosophical exploration of abstract concepts and themes, and… a heart-wrenching story of love, loss, and struggle within different households. The series’ inability to choose sides, its devotion to creating villains and heroes in every faction, and its emotional moments make it unique. Continue reading Shades of Evil: The Man in the High Castle

Dangerous Illusions: The Women of Beguiled

HALLOWEEN 2017: BY CHARITY BISHOP

The women of Beguiled live in a world of illusions, separate from the external world, where their perceptions form the basis of their reality, but over the course of the film, their darker motives come to light. The film shows the deeper, bitter nature of women, and forces them to abandon their self-perception of “angels of mercy.” The story reverses the usual traditional gender roles, with the man adopting feminine attitudes and behaviors (beguiling the women) and the women being not helpless damsels in distress, but ruthless and cunning. Continue reading Dangerous Illusions: The Women of Beguiled

Mother of a Dynasty, Founder of Universities: Margaret Beaufort

MARCH / APRIL 2017: BY CHARITY BISHOP

One of history’s more misunderstood, under-represented, and thanks to several negative depictions in fictional works, maligned women is Margaret Beaufort, mother of King Henry VII, and founder of the Tudor dynasty. I find this unfortunate because she was a remarkable woman for her time. Continue reading Mother of a Dynasty, Founder of Universities: Margaret Beaufort

The Neglected Queen: Katharine of Aragon

MARCH / APRIL 2017: BY CHARITY BISHOP

Katharine of Aragon is my spiritual inspiration. Since she’s been dead over four hundred years, we’ve never met, but every once in a while, someone comes along so devout, I can’t help taking notice and for me, that person is Katharine, first wife of Henry VIII, known for his six wives and the infamous rhyme “divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived!” Continue reading The Neglected Queen: Katharine of Aragon

The Feminist Western: A Vision of Equality

JULY / AUG 2017: BY CHARITY BISHOP

Westerns are often male-centric tales, drenched in the symbolism a great untamed frontier where you survive on pure grit and determination with a trusted rifle at your side. As women gain a more significant presence as leading characters, the modern western has evolved from a male-dominated script to stronger female roles. In many older westerns, the women serve as a backdrop: wives, sweethearts, or prostitutes. Continue reading The Feminist Western: A Vision of Equality

Fragile as Porcelain: Memoirs of a Geisha

MAY / JUNE 2017: BY CHARITY BISHOP

Dolls are non-sentient beings, created for beauty, pleasure, and play. Some of them sit upon shelves, or behind glass, while others live according to the whims of their owners. Some little girls show their dolls kindness; others do not. But the doll has no choice over its fate, its treatment, what it wears, where it sits, or what it acts out. It is helpless. Continue reading Fragile as Porcelain: Memoirs of a Geisha

The Young Messiah

MARCH / APRIL 2017: BY CHARITY BISHOP

Have you ever wondered what Jesus was like as a child? How he felt about leaving Alexandria, a great city of intellectual learning and trade, for a Judea under Roman occupation? He went from a philosophical environment to crucifixions, and although John tells us in scripture that Jesus did “many things,” enough to fill several books, we know nothing about his childhood until at twelve years old, his parents found him among the rabbis in the temple.

Speculation on the childhood of Christ is so controversial, only former vampire novelist Anne Rice dared to do it, in her first-person novel Christ Out Of Egypt, made into a film last year called The Young Messiah. In both, Christ is seeking the truth of his birth and identity at seven years old, but the subplot involving a Roman Centurion named Severus whom Herod Archelaus commissions to “find and kill this messiah-child,” was written for the screen. Young Jesus resurrects dead birds and boys, heals a relative from a fatal illness, and discovers the truth about his birth and greater purpose, while Severus faces demons from his past… he led the assault that murdered the babies of Bethlehem for “Herod the Great.”

This film aroused some controversy upon release due to its speculative nature; some felt it inappropriate to “imagine” stories centered around a young Messiah, but I find it thoughtful and well-written, based upon in-depth research, with a respectful tone toward Christ and his family. It brings awareness to what it must have been like for Jesus, to encounter his first instances of brutality… to face the horrors of a Roman occupation… and it shows how others interact with him, even as a child; through receptive hearts or resistant ones. Instead of thanking Jesus for resurrecting him after an accident, an Egyptian bully attacks him a second time; a stranger on the road, kind enough to give Jesus a carved wooden camel, turns knowledge of him over to Archelaus; when the Centurion asks why he did it, he confesses it was for money—something even the hardened Severus, child-killer, set upon the trail of slaughtering “yet another boy,” struggles to understand.

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In one scene, a man assaults a woman on the road. She’s a slave and her attacker murdered her master and mistress, raped her, and intends to sell her; she kills him in self-defense. Jesus has never seen “domestic” violence before, stricken as he encounters human cruelties unfamiliar to him from a sheltered upbringing in Egypt. He shows her kindness and forgiveness in inviting her to come with them and be part of the family; he gives her the gift of sandals “for when you walk with us,” a symbol of shedding her old life, and walking forward to a new one. The Jews could have stoned her for killing a man, and or for her rape —making her “unclean,” but he looks upon her in love.

It’s not a sin to wonder, theorize, or discuss how Jesus might have come to the knowledge of his birth and purpose, or to ponder what miracles he might have performed that weren’t written down. The film invites us to contemplate these things and more… to consider the life Jesus left behind in returning to Judea; to wonder what his first interaction with Roman soldiers was like; to imagine how he must have felt, witnessing incredible acts of violence and loss; to learn about the zealots and his people’s persecution; and to grow into the rabbi who urged a nation under domination to turn the other cheek, offer forgiveness to their enemies, and “love one another.”

Stories are powerful, which is why Jesus used them so often in his teachings; he told people parables intended to provoke them to think and change their way of thinking. A good story lingers with you longer than anything else because it engages your mind and heart. The stories that urge us to think deeper, contemplate truths beyond the obvious, and make historical or Biblical figures real in respectful ways, broaden our understanding of God. For me, few do that better than The Young Messiah.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Charity Bishop would love to spend all her free time mulling over, theorizing, and philosophizing on the vast spiritual / moral lessons of cinema and literature, but alas, she must make a living, so she spends her days doing editorial work. She devotes her free time to babysitting her bipolar cat, writing books, blogging, and searching for spiritual truth in all aspects of life… when she isn’t editing Femnista!

Substitute People: A Guide in Healthy Relationships

JAN / FEB 2017: BY CHARITY BISHOP

The world is full of lonely people who “play the supporting role” in relationships, who are the second friend you call (instead of the first), or who seem overlooked in the grand scheme of life. It’s hard to be that person. Every mortal desires an understanding with other people, to be wanted, even to meet, as Anne Shirley so famously put it, “a truly kindred spirit.”

Despite our fast-paced society, with many potential relationships at our fingertips, many people are lonely and unfulfilled in their relationships; sometimes they’re completely alone, because no one has “found” them (or they’ve “found” no one), or they’re in a relationship because it’s always been there but they really aren’t connected to that person in the way they want to be (they “settle” because it’s easier and less scary than starting over or being alone), or they’re in a relationship because it’s good, fulfills them, and teaches them selflessness and ability to put another person first. Continue reading Substitute People: A Guide in Healthy Relationships

A Life of Structure: Kylo Ren

NOV / DEC 2016: BY CHARITY BISHOP

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I heard a recent sermon series on forgiveness that hit me in profound ways. It asserted that sometimes we fail to establish boundaries, then become angry with others for overstepping our natural limits, but our anger is directed less at the person in our life than at ourselves.

Boundaries are difficult to assert, but life-saving, if you can manage it. People are more comfortable knowing where the limits are since it brings a sense of certainty to the uncertainties of life. Children in particular need boundaries from their parents. It’s true that as they get older, they will test those boundaries, but it brings them a sense of assurance and sameness, in knowing where their parents stand. Continue reading A Life of Structure: Kylo Ren