The Royal Wedding and the Wrong Kind of Fairytale Romance

The Royal Wedding and the Wrong Kind of Fairytale Romance May 19, 2018
Photo via WikiMedia

The romance between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle is just like a fairy tale–if the princess-to-be had starred in a cable television program and a couple of Hallmark movies. Of course, in this fairy tale, the princess-to-be is also divorced. She has already sworn to be faithful to one man until her death, and she has reneged. This makes hers a perfectly modern fairy tale. Where the older fairy tales emphasized chastity and faithfulness, the story Ms. Markle has told emphasizes that, once in a while, a woman’s dreams of trading up do come true.

This is one reason the royal wedding has generated so much interest. To understand why, we must understand a bit of backstory. Ms. Markle divorced her first husband, a film producer, in 2013.  Now, she has married an English prince.  In doing so, she has incarnated the modern fairy tale.

The modern fairy tale goes something like this: If you have the courage to follow your heart, it will lead you to the one who is right for you. The instruction of your heart trumps all other considerations.  If you listen closely to your heart and are sufficiently obedient to its dictates, your relationship with that person will flourish.

Embedded in this myth is an explanation for why so many relationships fail: the people involved simply did not listen closely enough to their hearts, or in some way failed to obey perfectly its directions. The heart is never wrong; therefore the fault must lie elsewhere.

And thus is not only Ms. Markle’s divorce legitimated, but also the dissolution of thousands, perhaps millions, of other marriages.

What makes the most recent royal wedding significant is not that it is the first to proceed on the grounds of this modern myth, but that it is the culmination of a story that so profoundly reinforces it. Ms. Markle’s  marrying an English prince will seem to millions to be proof that, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, the myth of modern romance is true.

In the older understanding of marriage, of course, the heart mattered less. People married for a variety of reasons, and surely some level of affection was often among them. But, marriage was not seen as the ultimate fulfillment of some romantic fantasy. Once in the marriage, of course, getting out was much more difficult. In the older understanding, divorce was discouraged. Now, it is celebrated as a sometimes necessary step, if one is to follow one’s heart bravely.

Ms. Markle’s wedding encourage many people to take these impulses more seriously. Watching Ms. Markle follow her heart all the way to a place in the royal family will inspire them to believe that if they too follow their hearts, they will find a better place, a better spouse.

Thoughts of this kind are, of course, just part of human nature. In the past, culture put limits on the degree to which people  could act on them. Their freedom to trade spouses was limited in the interests of the rest of society, especially children. In the age of following one’s heart, all such limits have been dismantled.

 

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TRENDING AT PATHEOS Evangelical
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • There’s no such thing as Abrahamic royalty – anyone foolish enough to declare himself a King, Queen, Prince, Prophet, etc. in the name of Moses is going to spend eternity in solitary confinement.

    Remember, that’s King Jesus as in high treason against God, King and Country – penalty is death and damnation.

    That’s Pharaoh as in high treason against God, King and Country – penalty is death and damnation.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tez4te6O07E

  • Al Cruise

    ” the princess-to-be is also divorced” . Just like many evangelical pastors. I listened to an evangelical pastor preach on the bible being the sovereign word of God. After the sermon in the adult Sunday school class in a discussion about his sermon , I asked him if he felt that strongly about scripture, how come he was on his third marriage ? The moderator said I was out of order and kicked me out of the class. Maybe look at the plank in your eye first. /www.christianpost.com/news/divorce-rate-higher-in-counties-with-more-conservative-protestants-study-says-113392/

  • Salvatore Anthony Luiso

    I agree with the main point of this article, but I think the author may not be completely fair to Princess Meghan. I used the link to the article by The Sun, which tells about her divorce from Trevor Engelson. Apparently all that is known publicly about its cause is the legal reason of “irreconcilable differences”. So I do not know how much she is to blame for it. I also do not know what the vows of her first marriage were, so I do not know if “She has already sworn to be faithful to one man until her death and she has reneged”.

    No doubt that at the time of the divorce, the now-princess had no idea that one day she would even meet Prince Harry, let alone marry him. Of course, Prince Harry has long known about the divorce, and he decided to marry her anyway–so it isn’t as if she is tricking him.

    I share the author’s concern about how no-fault divorce has become commonly accepted in Western societies. It is disturbing that the fact that the bride is divorced from a previous husband has received so little attention by the American public (I don’t know about the British public), and that almost no one is concerned about it. Before I saw this article, I was the only person I knew of who was concerned. I do not think that today’s royal wedding will have any effect on public perceptions of no-fault divorce, because it is already so widely considered to be legitimate.

    It is not only women who have desired to divorce a spouse in the hope of marrying someone better. Indeed, I think men have acted on this desire far more than have women. The author should be familiar with the term “trophy wife”. Google defines it as “a young, attractive wife regarded as a status symbol for an older man”. There is the woman whom a man marries early in his career, with whom he raises children, and who stays with him “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health”. After he has become highly successful in his career, he discards her in divorce, and marries a trophy wife.

    The “evil spell that causes us to see the world upside down, to imagine divorce is good, fidelity bad” is not as powerful as the author seems to think. There are still people–including people who are not Christian–who believe that an ideal marriage is for life. I have noticed this when someone has died who has been married to one person for many years. For example, when Barbara Bush died last month, I heard a few people on television remark with amazement that she and George H.W. Bush had been married for 73 years.

  • Jeff

    Your story is not true.

  • Jeff

    I honestly do not understand the point of this article. Everyone that is even remotely familiar with this couple knows that Prince Harry is a philanderer who has had sex with probably dozens (maybe hundreds) of women, and Princess Meghan is a divorcee. In its purest sense, there is nothing sacred about this marriage.

  • Valorie Cooper

    There are many reasons for divorce and I do not know the reason for Meghan Markle’s divorce. It is not for me, or anyone, to judge her, or anyone, for being divorced. Women who divorce physically abusive husbands often have no other alternative. Neither do women who are divorced by husbands who prefer solo adventure to marriage. Judge not. God knows the depths of every heart and He knows the reasons behind every divorce. He is the only One in a position to judge.

  • Denise

    Does Meghan Markle being a divorcee make God love her any less. I know God does not like divorces, but as a believer/ christian I know all to well about God’s grace. God is a God of second chances third chances and on and on. I have yet to read why her and her 1st husband divorced, we know it wasn’t because she was having an affair with Prince Harry.
    We are to follow God not other peole who seemingly have a better life because they divorced their 1st spouse and upgraded to a Prince( literally). Prince Harry and the Royal family knew her past. They accepted it. We all are entitled to our opinion here. But this article is demeaning, jabbing at her character. Now if the author knows her personally then, well ok I guess. Otherwise its sad. I wish her/them the best of happiness. May their union bring purpose that glorifies God, because at the end of the day thats all that matter.

  • RustbeltRick

    If you truly want to contribute to the strengthening of marriage and the family in the U.S., you will address the key stressors that plague married couples and support universal healthcare, paid family leave, and a vastly increased minimum wage. Going on a nasty rant about Meghan Markle is pointless.

  • Carlos Santiago

    Those are good questions and a person ought to ask them lovingly. Unfortunately having an adult conversation is rare these days.

  • A Pastor

    I have had two friends who have been in Ministry 20+ years recently leave their wives of 30+ years for other women (including a spiritual daughter who was 26 years younger) and walked away not only from there families but their church and God… It is not for the people of the world to set the example for Morality and Fidelity but for the leaders in the Christian Church…

  • BWH

    I do agree with the concern over the modern fairytale myth that views the ‘heart’ as the infallible ‘guide’ to behaviour, trumping all other considerations. But why is this a ‘wife’ problem? As per Luiso’s earlier post, I suspect this has characterized men (and has long done so) far more than women. For many reasons, statistically speaking, men are far more likely to be unfaithful to their marriage vows than women. (Include the unfaithfulness of pornography in the age of the internet and I suspect we get close to 100% of men succumbing to the lure of fantasy over faithfulness.) So I find myself asking why the emphasis on ‘wives’? It strikes me as disingenuous.

  • Karin Isbell

    For once I am glad not to be the only one not smitten in awe by this royal marriage (costing millions which could have been applied to better health care, particularly in the UK; and besides, marriage in our society having deteriorated from covenant relationship to contract relationsihip bodes ill for our children and moral standards in general. Yes, the Bush couple represent a role model to be presented to our children, rather than Playboy and Penthouse, pornography and transgenderism.

  • Hilary

    My father in laws parents stay married until death. They never spoke to each other once the last child left. In order to send Christmas cards, their grandchildren had to send two separately labeled cards to the same address, because they wouldn’t touch the other persons mail, even living in the same house. When they died they were buried in separate states, and not one of the three adult children came to the fathers funeral. But at least they didn’t divorce.

    Would you want someone to stay with you only out of bitter obligation, going through the barest motions of being a spouse with resentment or at best dull indifference?

  • Illithid

    “The results of this change are everywhere: employers mistreating workers, workers cheating their employers, parents abandoning their children…”

    Yeah, back before divorce was normalized, that stuff never used to happen.

  • Deborah Weiler

    Hello… This Royal family use to stand for the Biblical term of marriage. They ruled by the importance of obedience to God and then country but that no longer applies. It started with Prince Charles loosing respect for his position by giving into temptation as his “now” bride had no problem with the broken vow against God (of this magnitude) in order to get her man, either. This devastating impact on his ex-bride, princess Dianna, led her to considering marriage to a Muslim… knowing her church opposed it. Princess Kate has been photographed sunbathing topless… The new princess has had no problem with acting in revealing clothes. She also has disrespected the President of her own country because someone led her to think he was a racist and she believed them instead of finding that to be false and publicly praising him for putting the black Americans back to work. This, to me, is a sign of political immaturity yet she’s married into one of the strongest political families. So, we know the difference between lust in a heart and God’s love guiding a heart. But if God is no longer a guiding force with the Royal family…these things will no longer matter.

  • Dean

    I agree with most of what you say though my essay is not an ugly rant.

  • Ulf Turkewitsch

    Perhaps we are confusing the old time religion with the new one. The old religion exhorts us to follow the ten commandments ; the new one says follow your heart. Did kings and queens of old live by their old religion? Not always. Does the modern religion exhort us to live by the ten commandments ? No. The modern world follows the modern religion. Why have people not seen that? Christians now live in a mainly heathen ,seculur world. This society places no real value on Christianity. So why should the royal family of Britain.

  • CA Scott

    Thank God for forgiveness and grace . . .
    Also, wonder if Harry asked for forgiveness for his past?

  • John Tremayne

    I suggest the social benefits you mention will do as much to strengthen marriage as a fancy top hat and a set of tails. Might be fashionable, but does not matter. Not a bit.
    If only Ms Markle and the First had a social safety net it would be a different fairy tale.

  • celticcoll

    Right, so people don’t mature and your past single life determines how you will conduct yourself in marriage. If that’s the case, maybe we should get rid of the institution of marriage.

  • Judgeforyourself37

    You know this because?

  • Judgeforyourself37

    Thank you for your kind, and sensible remarks.

  • CelestialChoir

    You bring up many good points! This article seems to be too centered upon Meghan Markle’s marital sin, and neglects other key
    issues, such as:

    1. The fact that MOST royalty in Europe–like all royal dynasties–NEVER incorporated biblical views of marriage
    (look at the adultery of Prince Charles with Camilla Parker Bowles even BEFORE he wed Diana Spencer);
    2. We have a large number of American presidents who ALSO committed plenty of adultery and fornication,
    including the present POTUS;
    3. Desertion of mates and children has been done by males for CENTURIES in all civilizations of this planet;
    4. The idea that women are suddenly going to “trade up for a better model” just because Meghan snagged an English prince.
    Most of us never believed that fairy-tale weddings equal fairy-tale marriages.

  • Roger Morris

    By the way, the “Road Home” is the road to here and now, not some ethereal Platonic immaterial realm. We remain now and forever earthlings, earth bound, hominids. Best we realize that.

  • mjg

    For two people with many charitable interests, the reported possible $40 MILLION dollars that went toward this wedding, would have done incredible things for those charities. Especially when the average British citizen is now paying for this wedding.
    If this couple was truly interested in helping their ‘interests’, a more modest wedding would have been appropriate, particularly when this was her second marriage (I do believe a full white gown and veil is not applicable for second marriages, at least never has been ’til now!!)
    This was strategically planned to establish Hollywood contacts for future ‘charitable’ endeavours. Look who was invited….Oprah????!!!! Why?
    I hope Harry and Meghan won’t be like all those ‘environmentalist’ who fly around the world to their various homes, and then tell everyone else to conserve!! Maybe this couple could set an example for humility and true charity. After all, he’ll never be King, he’s only a Prince. Even his father’s second marriage was low key.
    I was disappointed in the whole thing. Rather hypocritical.

  • soter phile

    It’s one thing to say religion is keeping the rules.
    It’s another thing to say the rules are how we were designed.
    And it’s yet another thing to say the rules actually are the character of the God who loves us & is pursuing us.

  • Shirley Blake

    Actually the royal family we’re just as human as the rest of us. They have had their share of infidelity, promiscuity and oh yes murder for generations. Let’s get real. There is per Solomon nothing new under the sun and if any human was an epitome of sacred character they would be Christ. We are all broken. And there is no perfect soul but he who came as the Word.

  • Eserafina42

    Henry VIII certainly “followed his heart” – 6 times – and that was almost 500 years ago.

  • John Tremayne

    I suggest the social benefits you mention will do as much to strengthen marriage as a fancy top hat and a set of tails. Might be fashionable, but does not matter. Not a bit.
    I guess If only Ms Markle and the First had a social safety net we would be celebrating a different fairy tale.

  • Sue

    I understand your basic points, and I think a lot of people treat marriage as something you can just quit if you don’t get it right the first time (an acknowledgement that vows don’t mean that much) but you make some assumptions that aren’t quite right – first off, she didn’t trade up. She divorced her husband before she met Harry. She got the job on Suits, they lived in completely different cities, they had a lot against their relationship. (He apparently wasn’t willing to move to Toronto for his own work, so I’m not faulting her more than him for any of this!). This also coincides around the time she became more vocal and incredibly active in her philanthropic interests. If he doesn’t share that same activism on anything, I would imagine this would be a huge barrier in a relationship.
    I’m one of the people who probably fall into your category when you talk about the interest this wedding/relationship generated. For me, however, it had nothing to do with her “trading up” and it doesn’t make me want to ditch any relationship. What I loved about this was that they are matched in their passion for helping others – if there was a power move by her in this relationship, it’s in finding a love who can help elevate her work, and partner with her as she does so. And she can do the same for him.

  • SDLKJ

    and it IS for the leaders in the church to be the example of what Christ taught and that doesn’t include hypocrisy. We already see too much of that now, which is why the Church is losing way too many over that very fact.

  • P. McCoy

    There were RC monarchs marrying nieces and 1st cousins with Papal Blessings. Even Catherine of Aragon was his brother’s wife in every sense or why the Papal permission granted FOR that marriage? The Pope should have told HER be a nun in England or go back to Spain and marry someone ELSE but Not your brother in law!

  • VMWH

    Interesting. You don’t appear to realize that you are contradicting yourself on the points you make about white wedding dresses, assorted guests etc. You start with complaining about a bride married before wearing a dress that in CHRISTIAN churches indicates virginity and why that bothers you leads me to believe you live and breathe gossip. And you don’t like their selection of friends? When did their friends become YOUR business? Perhaps from now I I should be in charge of telling you who your friends must be and who cannot be your friends.

    The wedding with the exception of security was paid for by the royal family. Security was a government expense as it always is because of the intense interest that the people have in the royal family. http://www.businessinsider.com/prince-harry-meghan-markle-royal-wedding-who-pays-2018-5

  • Michael Newsham

    For those complaining about the cost- Prince Phillip referred to the Royal family as “the Firm” for good reason. They bring in much more money to Britain than they cost- one of the reasons is the pageantry (compare to other European “bicycle-riding” royals).

  • Velaseri

    It makes complete sense John and this concept is hardly new.

    People with less economic stress are more likely to self evaluate; as they have more time to spend pondering than worrying, they are able to contemplate beyond their ID. We know the connection between violence, depression and poverty. It’s not a mistake that nations with more social incentives and access have lower divorce rates. This doesn’t make social incentives a “fix it all” scenario, but it surely does help.

  • WotIThink

    Considering how much will be raised in direct donations to the charities by guests to the charities they asked to be supported, and the donations received because of the raised awareness of those charities because this couple bring the into the public eye …
    All the funds anyone pays out for weddings could go to ‘better’ things but actually there is more to charities in 21st century than money. It is awareness and action. This couple will be in the forefront of charity and working for the improvement of the world. And so will their friends, both famous and not famous, who attended the great day.

  • WotIThink

    Security is also to do with the safety of all the people who came to Windsor and the Royal Family can’t really be responsible for that security all on their own, it isn’t as if all pop stars or football players etc pay for all the security for the crowds when they go places.

  • sg

    I don’t understand why a widow can’t remarry.

  • sg

    I think the divorce issue matters. However, I thought Markle’s first husband divorced her.

  • Vanessa Loy

    How do you know Harry isn’t the one who traded up? Republican groups in the UK are calling for a referendum to abolish the monarchy when Queen Elizabeth dies. If that happens, having an American wife could be beneficial for him.

  • Ulf Turkewitsch

    I agree with you, however it is not by following the rules that we are made acceptable in the sight of God. It is only by faith. After we want to do the right thing. I mentioned the kings and queens of old because many of them probably thought that by following all the rules they would be acceptable in Gods sight. Big mistake. Why? Because organised religion told them that. And they did not check it out in the scriptures for themselves.
    By modern religion I mean the worldly kind. Not true Christianity

  • fractal

    AMEN!

  • Erp

    Widows can remarry in Catholic and Protestant traditions (Orthodox tradition tends to frown upon it and if you’ve outlived three husbands [or wives]there is a ban on marrying a fourth) but there was/is a prohibition on marrying your dead brother’s widow (or from the woman’s point of view, your dead husband’s brother); this prohibition is in the Bible though another Bible (but not church) law requires a man to marry his dead brother’s widow if his dead brother has no sons in order to produce a son who will inherit the dead brother’s property. Henry and Catherine got a papal dispensation from the prohibition (IIRC it was also stated by Catherine that her first marriage had never been consummated [Arthur was 15 when he died; Catherine was16; and they had been together 6 months]). Many years later Henry sought an annulment (not divorce) on the grounds they should not have gotten the dispensation. The pope refused.

    English law had the prohibition on marrying a dead brother’s widow until 1921.

  • paintinggeorgia

    As a wedding planner of over 13 years and educated as a historian I wish to clarify the meaning of the white dress. It is not purity. Once women getting married would don their Sunday best dress and those of means would have a new dress made for their wedding that would become their Sunday dress later. Those that were wealthy would don their “wedding” dress for every special occasion for the first year or two while they honeymooned (yes the rich had 12 to 24 month honeymoons)

    Victoria (as in Queen) had a white dress made for her wedding signifying her great wealth in being able to have a white dress(tough color to keep clean)and a dress that was only used for her one day wedding. She started a trend with the wealthy that now has become custom for all brides with a Christian heritage. Before Victoria a pure white dress only used for a wedding was unheard of.

    The veil does represent purity unlike the dress. I am thankful we live in a time where a woman’s worth is not her purity of body but her purity of soul. It is time we stop valuing women based on their physical purity. We are not commodities, not owned by our fathers or husbands and each woman has intrinsic value far beyond wearing or not wearing a piece of white veiling on her wedding day.

  • melanie white

    Your false piety is offensive. This person wrote a very wise and insightful article, and you would rather badger a fellow member of the Body of Christ than to acknowledge the sin of this adulterous women Meghan Markle. Repent! I ignore the other ignorance within this comment section, but you claim to be a member of the body of Christ but you don’t act like it!

    “I know God does not like divorces”

    Matthew 5: 31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

    Therefore, by divorcing her previous husband and marrying Prince Harry, Markle has led herself and Prince Harry into committing acts of adultery with each other. This is not pleasing in the eyes of God. When you get married you are bound to the person for life, until they die (1 Corinthians 7:8-9). You can divorce the person in the case of sexual immorality, but you cannot remarry.

    May their union bring purpose that glorifies God, because at the end of the day thats all that matter.

    You care more about the opinions, happiness, and well-being of man rather than the things of God, if you can’t fool me, you certainly can’t fool God. Your willfull ignorance in light of this great sin is unsettling. God is not pleased with you or Meghan Markle. Such a union will never glorify him, because it is ADULTERY. You know what would glorify God? Their disunion. Meghan Markle needs to get on her knees and beg for forgiveness, and repent of her sins and believe in Jesus Christ, and get back with her real husband or remain single.

  • melanie white

    What does that have to do with the author? Is she divorced? Is she in her third marriage? What kind of objection is this?

  • melanie white

    She chose to talk about women instead of men. What is wrong with that? It is irrelevant to the situation. Meghan Markle is the subject.

  • Dr Sarah

    1. Did you seriously just blame Kate for having been photographed sunbathing topless?? You do realise that the reason this happened was because a sleazeball spied on her and photographed her when she was topless while alone with her husband on private land? And you’re actually talking as though this is something Kate did wrong? Whoa. Way to blame the victim.

    2. I suspect the ‘someone’ who led Meghan Markle to think that Donald Trump was a racist is Donald Trump. He’s got a long and well-documented history of making racist comments and of running a company with racist practices, as well as waving aside and excusing racist hate crimes/Nazi support.

    3. I find it incredibly ironic and bizarre that, in the same paragraph as criticising members of the Royal Family for divorcing, remarrying, and wearing ‘revealing clothes’, you are criticising someone for not respecting a twice-divorced and remarried notorious womaniser who has bragged about grabbing women’s genitals.

  • Dr Sarah

    Agreed, although I think with cheating men the heart is not the organ most typically running the show…

    By the way, I’d like to know where the blog author thinks we’re getting all these messages about following the heart? I agree that it’s the message of a great many TV shows, but magazine articles/books on the subject typically take a much more nuanced view, writing about the many things that must be considered in thinking about marriage.

  • Dr Sarah

    THANK YOU. Just look at what happened in Victorian times; divorce was illegal, and concern about employers mistreating workers was so great that… that workers could be made to work 12-hour days, with no annual leave or sick leave, in appalling conditions, risking life and limb with unsafe machinery or down the mines. Including children. Oh, and child abandonment (actual abandonment, not just broken marriages where the parent still sees the child) was rife. I’d far rather live in the society we have today.

  • John Tremayne

    It makes sense that less economic stress is a benefit to families (marriages) that live in hunger or homelessness, or even a paycheck away. So for the other 80%( I pick that % out of a hat, you can fill in the blank if you don’t like it) the truly wonderful benefit of economic stability and time to reflect just as often feeds our insatiable desire for more/better, also known as “trading up”. The crippling weakness in marriages is much more cultural than economic, especially in a time and place that only knows relative stability and leisure. Again I make the case based on the subject of the original post.

  • summers-lad

    Your last paragraph means a lot to me. My uncle and aunt didn’t quite make George and Barbara Bush’s total but when my uncle died, aged 97, they had been married for 72 years. I am happy to say that theirs was also a very strong and loving marriage, and they were a source of strength to their family and others. I agree that a marriage like theirs is greatly admired.

  • Illithid

    So, I often check the profiles of people who reply to me, and I saw your comment with the link to the Children of War HP fanfic, and I’m up to chapter 18 and I was almost late to work and it’s all your fault. So there. 🙂

  • Harry Mlondobozi

    Lol ur judgement is elusive, but I caught it.
    Women leave because of abuse, men leave to chase skirts. Got it.

  • Harry Mlondobozi

    You know there is a 3rd option. Submission to the husband’s leadership.
    No?

  • Harry Mlondobozi

    She’s older than him. Strike 1.
    She’s been divorced. Strike 2.
    She left her husband. Strike 3.
    Match made in heaven hey?

  • Harry Mlondobozi

    Forgiveness for his divorce…?

  • Harry Mlondobozi

    And feminism.

  • Ulf Turkewitsch

    I think that most, if not all of the 600 or so Mosaic laws were actually nailed to the cross with Christ. So we dont have to follow them. We are not living in the old Testament. Check the NT book of Galatians for a comprehensive treatment of this topic.