If you are not growing weary from Christendom’s talking past each other on the issue of religious freedom/anti-gay discrimination/a rarely-more-nuanced-middle-ground-description of the brou-ha-ha; if you are not weary then you are a tribalist, controversialist, who gets off on sparing with any comer. How’s that for vitriol? Consider yourself judged by me! I kid, I kid.
Toward the goal of not talking past each other, I want to briefly consider the state of marriage in ‘Merica.
A Celebration of Love, Commitment, Etc etc
When you attend a 2014 wedding in the great US of A, you are most likely to hear, even in the most churchy of church ceremonies, a few blasé reflections on love, a few comical anecdotes about commitment, and maybe even the rare exhortation that “marriage ain’t easy.” The ceremony, often times called a celebration (along with funerals, but that’s another post), is all about the future bride and groom, celebrating their love, kicking off their new digs in style, and generally treating the get together as a slightly-more-formal Super Bowl party.
If this is what marriage is defined as (indeed, the majority position of our day) then it makes perfect sense to allow anyone and everyone to celebrate love, commitment, and having-a-good-time with any guy, gal, guys, or gals of their choosing. You’re probably picking up on the fact that I think marriage is more than that.
“Speak now or forever hold your peace”
This vestige of a bygone era occasionally appears in modern day weddings, and is really only relevant today because movies still use this brief pause in the ceremony so the protagonist can rush in at the last moment and rescue his true love from a miserable, second-choice matrimony (see the video below).
Even those who elope in Vegas, the county courthouse, or any number of other very-informal, strictly-civil wedding ceremonies still must have witnesses. These witnesses sign the marriage certificate, whether in Vegas or in the First Baptist Church.
So what is the point of opening up a wedding ceremony to public debate? Why does the state require random-stranger-in-Vegas or your brother and sister-in-law to sign a wedding certificate?
Like any assembling of the church, a wedding ceremony isn’t about the individuals on stage, but is about the Body of Christ gathering together and giving faithful testimony. When the church gathers to affirm the wedding of two people, they are there to testify before God that these two should be wed, are not already married, or aren’t brother and sister among other considerations. The last line of defense, for protecting the sacred nature of the matrimony was for the church to “speak now” or thus endorse the union. Then the two closest persons involved in this sacred vetting process put their names on a paper to make it official.
So what? What does this have to do with the marriage brou-ha-ha in Arizona and Kansas?
On Speaking Past Each Other
It seems that most people on the side of “support don’t condemn” gay people and gay weddings are assuming the present day definition of what a marriage is. On the other side, the argument is that anything we contribute to a gay wedding, from the wedding cake to the RSVP “Yes” is an endorsement of the proceeding. The former says “judge not lest you be judged,” and the later says allow me to “speak now” in peace.
I know this debate involves more complexities: civil vs religious, marriage as a picture of Christ+Church, and the serious claim of Pharisaism being hurled from both sides of the divide.
In any case, we would do well to acknowledge the meaning somebody is attaching to the wedding ceremony, seeking to understand where they are coming from, however deficient you might think their underlying presuppositions are. We can debate the merits of laws, what true Christian witness is, and other very important theological-practical discussions. But please, please, at least try not to speak past each other.