• Time for her to get married: forced marriage as a trope in Jerome Berryman’s Godly Play

    Cath Kennedy (see profile)
    Forced marriage, Sunday school literature, Religious education of children, Christian life--Biblical teaching, Berryman, Jerome
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    Forced marriage (FM) is an ongoing problem worldwide. For example, in the United States approximately 5 in every 1000 non-Hispanic white children have been married, and the average for all US children is 6.3. The lasting detrimental effects on the victims of FM are widely documented and recognised. Customs and realities vary but universal warning signs of FM include surprise, isolation of one or both spouses, and the threat of exclusion from the family or community. Despite FM being illegal in the UK (explicitly since 2007) and sustained rhetoric against it, it persists alongside widespread institutional apathy. For some reason, British society is incapable of taking FM seriously and erroneously associates it exclusively with recently migrated communities. In fact, child marriage and forced early marriage are practised in some white Christian communities (in the US, for example) in which case these practices are generally not linked to unplanned pregnancy. Many religious materials for children encode the characteristics of FM in traditional narrative, thus normalising it and associating it with belonging, virtue, and family life. Jerome Berryman’s Complete Guide to Godly Play is a particularly clear and constructed example of this, and so it is offered here as a case study. Each of the common factors listed above features in narratives retold within Berryman’s Complete Guide, and he offers no competing or mitigating narrative of choice or consent. Given the profound effect of narrative on children’s emerging worldview, it would be preferable for church communities and schools to review the materials they use, become skilled at identifying the trope of FM, and adapt their resources accordingly.
    Pre-print version of a forthcoming book chapter. Full publication details will be included when they are available.
    Last Updated:
    2 years ago


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