Until the recent times when the grave consequences attending the total neglect of genotype started taking a worrisome dimension, true love, which is considered by all as a rare and only God- given virtue, would have been all that is required for a couple to walk down the aisle to tie the nuptial nut.
While love stands as a pivotal constituent in seeking future life partners, the onus lies on Christian organizations to verify the compatibility of the intending couples before proclaiming them husbands and wives. This is so because as soon as the proclamation is made, the spiritual law of what God has joined together, let no man put asunder takes immediate effect.
But with the high rate of awareness regarding the social implication and the attendant trauma of a church wedding incompatible couples, there seems to be a great contention between love and the role of genotype in the marriage process.
Prior to this era which is witnessing numerous breakthroughs in medical science, many sickle cell related diseases were being interpreted as spiritual manipulations. This was in the days when civilization was yet to kick humanity in the face. Marriages were being contracted merely on erotic love and most times with parental recommendations without recourse to ascertaining the genotype of both couples.
However, with the advent of science and the continuous quest for knowledge and the cause and effect of certain ailments, people and religious leaders are gradually becoming aware and some are putting stringent laws to verify the genotype of intending couples before walking them down the aisle and making the pronouncement “I do.” Although the final say rests squarely on the intending couples, most Christian organizations have continuously advised incompatible couples against tying the nuptial nut.
The advice has become necessary considering the trauma most families have found themselves as a result of ignorance or neglect of the life time consequence of the importance of ascertaining genotype before proclaiming “I do”. With the knowledge of this, most churches have made it compulsory for all intending couples to go for medical test, to ascertain their compatibility before taking them to the altar.
In sharp contrast to what obtained in the early times of Christianity where many place less emphasis on medical issues in terms of marriage, many married out of love and faith without recourse to medical checkup. But it began to dawn on them when they began bearing children who are sicklers, which resulted to them wasting huge amount of money on drugs and other medications to keep those children alive.
This is even more painful where in some communities, instead of tracing the cause of the children’s death to medical grounds and their genotype, many pour venom on relations, describing them as witches and the cause of their children’s death. In some societies, husbands and wives have continued to trade blame on each other as the cause of their children’s death. On most occasions, the wives usually bear the brunt and the consequence is usually devastating.
Today, the tide has changed, going by the experience of others as well as close relations, the fear of bearing a sickler and living in perpetual torture has become the beginning of wisdom. However, while many are getting aware of the importance of ascertaining genotype before proceeding in the marriage process, many intending Christian couples have continued to ask this heart searching question: what takes pre-eminence, is it love, the leading of the Holy Spirit or genotype?
While these questions cannot be explicitly answered without the input of the intending couples, the fact remains that God is not the author of confusion. This is so as God cannot allow his children to marry and bear children that would give them sorrow and die when they are mostly needed.
This is true as most SS children die most times between the age of 20 and 30. This is when they must have graduated from the higher institutions and set to fend for their parents and contribute to society. Even before getting to this age, a lot of money must have been spent on drugs to prolong their lives.
While some Christian organisations are opposed to joining couples who are not compatible genotype wise, others merely give advice and abandon the intending couples to state their ground and when they decide to go ahead either relegating the role of genotype to the background or that a miracle would happen, the church goes ahead and joins them as husband and wife.
For Rev Dickson Ozah, General Overseer of Faith Foundation, Obiaruku in Delta state, the contraction of any marriage union should be based on the conviction of the intending couples. Ozah explained that although sickle cell disease is a reality, some churches only give advice to those who are not compatible but cannot prevent them from getting married. “What most ministries with a few exceptions do is to sensitize such couples on the looming consequences that might surface if they go on with the marriage, if they decide to go on it is their choice,” he said.
For some, what is most important in marriage is love. This school of thought is of the view that love supersedes genotype tracing their argument to the Bible reference which says: “many waters cannot quench love.” To them, when the heart has been linked together and the emotions are connected, it will be too impossible to separate as a result of genotype incompatibility. As such many are of the view that it would rather be too costly to forgo love, not even in the instance of genotype incompatibility.
A civil servant who does not want his name in print is of the opinion that what really matters in marriage is love and not genotype. To her, love rules the heart and takes precedence in the decision of who to marry. She maintained that when love is high and the affections are intact, genotype cannot be an excuse to stop them from marrying.
In Christendom where faith is one of the determining virtues for good Christian practice and life style, some believe that irrespective of genotype incompatibility, one has to take a step of faith. Pastor John Efajemue of Christian Assembly, Kwale, Ndokwa West local government area of Delta state, said over the years as a marriage counselor, the issue of genotype incompatibility had not surfaced in his ministry. He, however, added that faith, love and divine direction should be the main determinant of marriage.
According to him: “Many of us did not go through any genotype test, we depended on faith and the leading of the Holy Spirit. These days, my fear is that many are walking according to the dictates of their flesh and so it is very difficult to determine how many are very sure of God’s leading.’’
Irrespective of the divergent views on the role of genotype in marriage, there is a high turnout among couples for genotype test before marriage. Investigation in hospitals reveal that there has been an increase in the rate in which people turnout for genotype test. According to a medical lab scientist at the Federal medical centre, Asaba, Delta state, Mr. Anthony Iyasele: “Before now the statistics of people living with the disease was very high but with the awareness that is going on and the way people are getting educated, on a daily basis, between 20 and 25 people turnout for genotype test.”
Iyasele said due to the awareness level, many churches are sending their people to carryout genotype test before proceeding on the marriage process. He added that once intending couples are discovered not to be compatible, they are advised continuing the marriage process. He, however, noted that lab scientists do not have power to compel couples who are not compatible not to marry if they so wish.
But one challenge he identified is that many couples go for genotype test when they are through with their marriage plans. “Some will be in their courtship before coming for coming for test while others come a week to the wedding, so, it is impossible to advise such to abort the marriage process,” he said. However, he said irrespective of their love for each other, when couples are discovered to be incompatible, they must play their roles as medical personnel.
On the tragedies that trail incompatible partners in their homes, Iyasele said it is a painful experience that no family should ever pray top go through. “I must say that if an incompatible couple gives birth to a baby that is a sickler, that child is born into crisis. The crisis affects both the parents and the child. In the office, the parents are not comfortable because they must be thinking of the welfare of the child.
“Whenever the child goes into admission in the hospital, you pay heavily of the bills. As for the child he cannot do what other children can do. The child normally experiences stunted growth. So, it is advisable the trauma is prevented than planning to manage it,” he advised.
Again, he said the children that are ss are never physically fit for any exercise. Moreover, no man will want to marry a girl who is a sickler because he knows that such marriage will cost him his life.” For those who are already trapped, he said they have no choice but to manage the trauma.
According to Gregor Mendel, the scientist who did research on genotype and principles of inheritance, incompatible couple risks the danger of producing one sickle cell patient in every of four children they bear. But as the principles of Mendel are based on probability, there is the likelihood that the couple could produce all children as sickle cell patients.
Sickle cell anemia is a genetic disorder that cuts across all races and as of today, it ranks amongst the topmost challenges of modern medicine because there is yet no clear remedy to menace. It is a problem inherent within the blood system, the basis and features of which cannot be expounded within the context of this report. The fact that the victims of this genetic disorder suffer as a result of the ignorance or selfishness of their parents makes it quite pathetic.
Anyone who has ever been a witness to the great anguish that a sickler goes through during the period of crisis will definitely not need the eloquence of a preacher before reconsidering the decision of going into marriage if both partners are incompatible. The fact remains that many have diverse views over this issue, Christians should remember that love, faith and the leading of the Holy Spirit are essential in marriage, but sickle cell anemia is a bitter experience that has plagued many families and led to the death of many innocent but promising children.