Different unions, different compromises   Leave a comment

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg

Earlier this week, it was discovered that Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is considering sending his eldest son to an exclusive Catholic secondary school, the London Oratory. As a politician who has openly declared himself to be an atheist and who is the leader of a party who oppose faith schools in their current position, it seems a rather strange development. However, Clegg is not the only parent who gets a say in his children’s upbringing, and his Spanish wife Miriam Gonzalez Durantez is a practising Catholic.

When the Liberal Democrats agreed to work with the Conservatives to form a coalition government, they made a similar commitment to the one made by couples who enter so-called ‘mixed marriages’. In both cases, the two parties involved need to be prepared to make compromises to create a promising future together.

When two people from differing religious backgrounds fall in love, there may be a difficult path lying ahead of them. Interfaith unions (including those which involve a partner of no faith) have three big hurdles in particular to jump: worship, the wedding and bringing up the children. Of course, they may be other problems to face such as specific beliefs, but those can occur even when both partners are of the same religion. However, with those three big hurdles, the leaps needed to clear them are much greater and the feelings of other family members often need to be considered too. Whilst many religious believers accept that these mixed marriages are now common, there are still those who are concerned by them as religions see their numbers of followers dwindling.

When it comes to raising a family – even in a modern society where many women go out to work – it is the mother who is usually the one who spends the most time with the children. This inevitably means that she is the one who will be passing on her beliefs about the world, including her faith, to the children. The Headmaster of the Oratory, Mr McFadden, is recorded as saying, “I think his wife seems to be the driving force.” This seems to be true as all three of Clegg’s sons currently attend Catholic primary schools.

Many parents try to educate their children in the family religion as well as making them aware of other beliefs, but as a person obviously knows much more about their own faith than about the beliefs of those from other religions, it’s going to be an unequal comparison – luckily, religious education in schools is supposed to be there to fill this gap in a parent’s knowledge.

Also, what is the ‘family religion’ if a child’s parents don’t have a background in the same faith? It would be two different religions (or a religion and an atheistic worldview) and, if both parents took the time to explain their beliefs and the reasons behind them, then maybe the child would actually benefit more from that. The child would probably be more comfortable questioning and debating religious arguments without it damaging their own opinions than other children. When I was at university studying Theology, many of my fellow students found it extremely difficult to retain their faith over the three years of analysing religion in depth.

Whilst the media is portraying Clegg as going against another Liberal Democrat manifesto pledge, maybe the party should really just consider it as a compromise Clegg has made for the sake of his marriage rather than as a sacrifice of his credibility made to fit in with other politicians. After all, Clegg has previously said, “I’m married to a Catholic and am committed to bringing up my children as Catholics. However, I myself am not an active believer, but the last thing I would do when talking or thinking about religion is approach it with a closed heart or a closed mind.” It seems that he has decided to permit his wife to be in control of his children’s religious upbringing, but from this statement you can also tell that he himself will be teaching his children the value of tolerance and an open attitude towards those who don’t share a culture background with you. Definitely a good personal trait to have; especially if they end up following in daddy’s footsteps and become politicians.


Posted 17/10/2010 by thinkmindy in belief, Politics, Religion

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