COHABITATION / LIVING TOGETHER – Long Neglected Social Atrocity
by Elui, Chukwuma Jude SAC
Researcher, David E. Pratte, states that ‘a major social change has occurred during our lifetime’. This has accompanied the acceptance of the changes in sexual and family values such as divorce, homosexuality, abortion, etc; which is viewed as the result of the sexual and industrial revolution of the 60’s.
As though we are tired of news of terror, war, various forms of violence, scandals, corruption et al, which partially place our attention oversees, with little interest and attention on our immediate society. Come to think of it, morality which is often spoken of as the bedrock of a godly society is actually dying a natural death in our own society, and no one cares.
Most people today are drowned in the ocean of twenty first century life style and modus operandi. For instance, gone are the days when Supper Eagles of Nigeria uses their slow-them-down techniques to win a soccer match against the fast and mighty German Machines. Nowadays, they put us on the run, and we run with them, and consequently we come out defeated and exhausted. As such, the mighty Eagles have fallen. There is no more time for reflection or retreat; time to observe and even listen to what is happening within and around us. Imagine a battalion that continuously march forward without a retreat command!
Today we hear stories of rape, baby factories, street kids, drug addiction and trafficking, marital infidelity/promiscuity, high divorce rate, sale of human body parts/mutilation of babies, practitioners business of Caesarean Section (CS), ritual killings, high rate of suicide, many forms of crime in the house of God (miracle churches), high rate of prostitution, various forms of abuses et al. Notice that all these crimes directly sprang up from the decay in value and morality within our society; perhaps, we seem to care less since everyone is too busy to notice.
However, the focus of this article is on the fastest growing phenomenon called cohabitation; which like MTN is, ‘everywhere you go’. Cohabitation is a social trend which is defined as ‘two unrelated persons of the opposite sex who share common living arrangements in a sexual intimate relationship without legal or religious sanction’ (Jackson 1983).This living arrangement can be found within our immediate environment, in our tertiary institutions (known there as campus marriage), in and around the military and police barracks.
Although we have no statistical record of this social issue in Nigeria, cohabitation has entered deeply into our social fabrics that it is actually replacing legal marriages today. As such, like today’s issue of gay right it was proposed a decade ago that Nigerian law should give a legal right to cohabiting couples; considering the fact that other countries like Ghana and Kenya have already developed such law, and that the spate of cohabitation in Nigeria flows through the progressively changing socio-cultural attitude of Nigeria to this family form.
Meanwhile, in the past people seldom cohabite, and when it happens people generally view it as shameful and immoral. Among the Igbos, for example, it is mostly regarded as taboo for couples to start living together (cohabiting) without first paying the necessary bride prize; those who do it are usually ashamed to admit it. Today, in our generation, it has become socially acceptable; people see it as something normal.
With the advent of Christianity, this way of living (according to Christian perspective) is viewed as ‘living in sin’. As such, among the Catholics, marriage begins after Christian marriage or church wedding as some may like to call it; otherwise you are living in sin, and cannot receive any sacraments of the Church.
Perhaps, cohabitation as a lifestyle is on the rise either because we have refused to notice or because we appear to have changed our attitude to this reality. According to Thaibat Abubaka, University of Maiduguri Mass Communication student, cohabitation is a deadly trend in Nigerian tertiary institutions. He partly blamed this on the government policies and the poor attention given to student’s hostel system in the country; thereby, forcing several students off campus for accommodation. Cohabitation emerged with it – students refer this as ‘campus marriage’ – where two students actually live like husband and wife without marriage. One day, a passenger jokingly said on one occasion of my travel to school that “what is actually left is to invite Pastors or Reverend gentlemen to consummate these marriages in our campuses”.
Maybe, cohabitation can be blamed on the high level of desperation for marriage among ladies in our society today. Any Nigerian girl from the age of 18 is seriously expecting suitors to start knocking at her father’s house; otherwise she will seek out for them, and end up cohabiting with the hope of an eventual marriage. Perhaps, Isaiah 4:1, ‘seven women will take hold of one man on that day, saying: “we will eat our own food and wear our own clothing; only let your name be given us…”’ prophesy has come to pass. On the other hand, we seem to be perpetrators of this. Since we have deviated from our moral and cultural values, so we are ripping the consequences. Originally, men do not ‘know’ their wife-to-be; as a matter of fact, families contract marriage. However, what we see today is that men would severally ‘test-drive’ the would-be-wife, and will eventually contemplate (either forced or persuaded) marriage when the girl is already pregnant, else he would do away with her pretending that she might not be fertile. This same people will argue against the Church’s teaching that among the basic aims of marriage is procreation.
This social dimension is increasingly taking shape within and around the military and police barracks; and most cohabiting relationships here involves children. And these children whose surname will they bear since cohabitation is not the same as marriage? It is neither recognised as marriage by the State or the Church.
Cohabitation is without doubt changing the cultural landscape of our society. Increasing number of cohabiting couples sends mixed messages to our children. On the one hand, they hear parents and priests/pastors proclaim the value of marriage. But on the other hand, they see a culture condoning cohabitation. Although some people will argue that a cohabiting couple is ‘married both in their own eyes and in the eyes of God’; that is not true. They are neither married in the eyes of God nor in their own eyes because they are living contrary to biblical statements about marriage, see: (Gen 2:18, Eph 6:1-2, 1 Cor 7:2; 6:16; 5:1-3, Lev 18:8, Deut 22:30, Mark 7:21-23, Thess 4:3-5 etc ); and they have specifically decided not to marry.
Meanwhile, most couples who cohabite claim to do so based on the assumption that “I think we should live together before we get married to see if we are compatible”. This can be referred as ‘test-drive mode of relationship’, and common sense tells us that it is a false assumption. Some will say ‘test/try before you buy’. ‘Of course, you can’t just buy a car without a test drive’. The problem here is that you dehumanise the other person, you view the other person as an object; perhaps a sex object, like a car that can be tested and rejected. Frankly, test-drive relationship is only positive if one is the driver.
Another dubious assumption or claim as to why people cohabite is love. ‘ “I love this guy/girl so much that I can’t let go, I gave him/her my life”, “I had the first child for him and then the second child, but now he has brought another girl into the house, he even chased me and the kids out of the house”’. Such are stories you hear on a daily basis. Thus, the acclaimed love here is absolutely farfetched. Love never existed here in the first place.
Certainly, men and women have different perception as far as cohabitation or living together is concerned. Men often enter the relationship with less intention to marry than women do. They may regard it more as a sexual opportunity without the ties of long-term commitment. Women, however, often see the living arrangement as a step towards eventual marriage. Now, what happens when students cohabite? If they do not break up today, tomorrow either of them might leave for IT or Youth Service, consequently, life continues with whatever it presents.
Recently, research conducted on the danger of cohabitation by two Rutgers University Sociologists, David Popenoe and Barbara Dafoe Whitehead concluded among other things that those who live together before they get married are putting their future marriage in danger. They view marriage negatively since it involves the assumption of new responsibility that contrasted with their former freedoms; in other words, cohabiting people feel trapped when they enter marriage. Also, they found that cohabiting appears to be counterproductive to long-lasting marriage, and that it poses lots of risks to both women and children. For instance, women who cohabite suffer twice more physical abuses, and are nine time more likely to be killed by their partners than those who do not. On the other hand, children in this relationship, have significant more behavioural problems and lower academic performances. They suffer 20 times child abuses, and have bad marriages themselves in the future. The risk of break up can create even more social and personal difficulties, David Popenoe and Barbara Whitehead 1999.
Furthermore, the study states that couples who live together are more likely to divorce than those who do not. They are less happy and score lower on the well-being indices, including sexual satisfaction, and cohabiting couples are often poorer than married couples.
Finally, from these views, it is obvious to say that this research backs up what the Bible has said for centuries past. Besides the Bible, it has a great moral and cultural value. If you want a good marriage, don’t do what society says. Do what is morally acceptable and what the Bible teaches us to do.
Ifeji Paul Mauka SAC
The Golden Rule
The history of the human society has demonstrated that Law is essential in the order of any society. No human society can thrive successfully without observing some code of conduct. Hence the history of creation found in the Holy Book (the Scripture) clearly stressed law as divine in which God himself forbade Adam and Eve to eat the fruit in the middle of the garden. What is Law then? Law is often a command that is binding on the community or individual, it forbids certain actions. Break a law and suffer for it. Law as it were is given under the binding of pain and sin. This write-up will take a closer look of the Laws of Moses and the beatitudes of Christ in comparison and complementary.The Golden Rule
When we look at the people of Israel and Moses as narrated in the scriptures, we can simply notice that the people of Israel experienced the consequences of breaking the law of which Moses (the prophet of God almighty) received for them amidst thunder and lightening and other celestial phenomena on that holy mountain. God had put – on these celestial phenomena to show the people of Israel that which awaits anyone who dares to break any of the Laws. Often Laws are observed in other to escape the punishments attached to the law should anyone go against the command. The thou shall nots command of Moses are simply demands that they are to be observed or perish by fire and thunder.
The people of Israel in fearful and trembling blindly obeyed the Law of Moses while Moses was with them. No sooner than Moses had gone to speak to his God on the mountain had the people wanted to be free from the bondage of the Law of Moses, hence, made their own god (golden Calf) and began to worship it. This became a clear indication that law is often observed not out of love of the lawgiver but out of fear of the punitive nature of the law itself. Thus, laws are observed pretentiously. In as much as laws are essential part of human life, there is no need to worship law as if it has power to destroy both body and soul (Mtt.10:28) Labeling a mother who allows her daughter to marry outside her own religion as a public sinner simply makes law the ‘all powerful’ Thus, suppress the internal gift of Love which God himself (not through a prophet or a holy man) gave to all humanity. Law ought to be a complement as instrument is to song and not vis-a- vis. Who is worthy to draw the attention of the Lord? But God willingly out of love came to rescue us from destruction of sin and death. It is worth noting that ‘The Thou shall nots’ of Moses did not solve the immediate problem facing the people of Israel at the time. It rather did complicate issues of daily living, in that thousands of laws emanated from the Ten Commandments of Moses – tooth for tooth and eye for an eye policy. The trouble with an ‘eye-for-an-eye’ policy is that in the end it makes us all ‘blind’ – we are no longer able to see. – Let alone do – the sort of things that make for peace and love and justice.
On 9-11-2001, Osama Bin Laden ordered an attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Center at the heart of the American Empire. As the world looked on in astonishment Bin Laden cried out ‘Here is America struck by God Almighty in one of its vital organs, so that its greatest buildings are destroyed.’ In retaliation George Bush ordered an attack on Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan – and also an attack on Saddam Hussein in Iraq (who did not have any weapons of mass destruction, or anything to do with the 9-11attack, although he had tried to kill Bush senior.) Bush claimed ‘God told me to strike al-Qaeda and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did.’ As a result, over 100,000 innocent civilians have been killed – and we are still counting the cost of that attack. The Law of Moses accentuate retaliation as the only remedy to deal with the daily life challenges, which at the end brings to nothing the real purpose of the law as complement to Love. ‘Treat others like they treat us’.
In 1993, the Parliament of the World’s Religions was convened in Chicago, with 8,000 people from all over the world coming together to see if they could find a common ethic in their religious traditions that they could use to address the issue of violence. And they came up with the Golden Rule. ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. It’s a call for all people – regardless of religion – ‘to be the change we want to see in the world’- the ‘people-that-be’ over against ‘the-powers-that-be’. This is the soul of the beatitude of Christ, Being the attitude you want to see. According to the Catechism of The Catholic Church; ‘The Beatitudes reveal the goal of human existence, the ultimate end of human acts’. It summarized the Christian vocation. By their nature the Beatitudes are oriented toward Practice; they call for Imitation, They accentuate the Work of Man. Thus …then He taught them, saying: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for my sake”. Notice the contrast between the Moses’ ‘the thou shall not… and Christ’s the blessed are those…’ the tone differs from the roaring lion character to a loving voice of the father to his lovely children. The beatitudes commission us to practical actions to cultivate for a better society. .
In as mush as the Decalogue of Moses is worth celebrating, it is vital that we appreciate the beatitudes which by its nature calls for immediate action toward ourselves, our obligation towards neighbors and the society at large. The Beatitudes has no ambiguities in them. It makes the Christian values clear and distinct of what and how to live in the present world through the grace of Baptism. Thus, exhumes authentic Christian values. As followers of Christ the Beatitudes are not an option, they are a Divinely Ordained obligation.
What is important about the Beatitudes?
The importance of the beatitudes is that they provide us guide to what ‘attitudes’ we need to take in order to please God and live happily and better our present society, thereafter enjoy the blessedness of Heaven. Thus given rise to generally accepted term ‘The Golden rule’ the strength of the Golden Rule is that everybody agrees that it is great place to start. Many of us desperately want to change our present world. But it is an illusion to think we can change anybody else but ourselves. The truth is that we cannot change them – we can only change ourselves. Even when we recognize we need to change ourselves, our desires are often too pretentious. As we know that all fingers are never equal, so it is for our actions. Big people can do big things. But we can only ever be big people in our own minds. In general terms, we will only ever be little people. And, as little people, we can only do little things. If the little people do little things, great things can happen. Not as a result of little people trying to do impossibly big things; but as result of the cumulative effect of lots of little people doing lots of the little things we can do. Like Mother Teresa, doing ordinary things in an extra ordinary way.
As little people and realizing our littleness, we all know that there is nothing big we can do to change the present world. But that does not mean there is nothing we can do. We can be the change we want to see in the world by simply persistently doing all the little things we wish they (the big people) would do. And, when a majority of us in each country, state, and community persistently do all the little things we can do, ourselves, then it will be in the self-interest of those politicians, and religious leaders who want to ensure their own political, and religious survival, to develop policies that better reflect our concerns for the world.
This is the reason Jesus of Nazareth spent so much time unpacking the specific implications of the Golden Rule in his Sermon on the Mount – summarizing his suggestions in his Beatitudes – enabling us to understand our obligations to our present world. The great value of the Golden Rule is that it is acceptable not only to religious, but also to secular people. The Sermon on the Mount embraces both spiritual and secular affairs. The Beatitudes can be beneficial to the governance of a society as a set of ethical guidelines, if only we re-acquaint ourselves with the Be-Attitudes and re-discover the workable virtues they embody. We can see the workable virtues advocated in the values that are blessed in the Be-Attitudes, thus applying what looks like the spirituals to the affairs of the world. Thus:
- Blessed are the poor – or poor in spirit – who do not trust in status or riches
2. Blessed are those who mourn – who grieve over the injustice in the world
3. Blessed are the meek – who get angry but who never get aggressive
4. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness – who seek justice
5. Blessed are the merciful – who are compassionate to everyone in need
6. Blessed are the pure in heart – who are whole-hearted in desire to do right
7. Blessed are the peacemakers – who work for peace in a world at war
8. Blessed are those persecuted for righteousness – who suffer for just causes
Mahatma Gandhi once famously said: “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” If we commit to practice the Be-Attitudes, we can be the change we want to see in the world.