Thursday, February 12, 2009
out of wedlock and out of step
this tuesday past i met with a couple who wanted to get married. they seemed very young, but were old enough at least to have two children. the man has been recently laid-off and the woman is a stay-at-home-mom. all in all they appeared to be very nice kids.
during the conversation i asked if they had any church affiliation, and straightforwardly they answered no. i then asked one of my favorite questions: "why then do you want to be married in a church?"
you could see this idea had never entered their minds, which led to a rather awkward silence. finally the woman mumbled something about this is how it's done. i took this to mean that church weddings were how things got done in her family because she went on to describe how the church where her parents and the rest of her family had been married was not available to them.
not willing to let this go, i asked why, and she paused, giving me a sheepish look, and then said, "their pastor turned us down because we have two children out of wedlock, and the church people wouldn't let him do something like that."
in that moment, facing this couple, this other pastor’s answer seemed very dated and it seemed counter-intuitive (re:stupid). i wondered, does anyone use the word wedlock any more? and then i realized he was telling them they needed to be married, just not in his church because, “we do have standards, after all!” (my words, not his)
so, what he really had done was just push the problem(?) to someone else. in this case me, the liberal baptist.
to be honest, my initial response was actually more like righteous anger, with my thoughts running something like this: "how dare this blockhead deny these kids a wedding." but then later that day i simmered down because as a baptist i believe in church freedom, which means every church calls its own shots based upon its own calling and collective conscience.
then yesterday, i began thinking about those two kids and what their impression of the church must be. i wondered, do they feel judged, or were they just relieved to find someone willing to do the ceremony? will this be the excuse they needed to dismiss church altogether for a lifetime? is their any chance their two children could have a church foundation? after some thought my actual impression was they couldn’t have cared less about the entire thing.
finally, then, today, thinking about this incident, i had to confess to myself that i am just plain lost in this post-christendom world. almost everything i once knew blew-up in my face a few years back and i seem to be permanently out of step. it’s like being in a foreign country without familiarity of language or culture.
so today, i feel very old...