As a newbie Christian, this is something I’m pondering. With gay marriage topping the agenda (because, come on, if a country packed full of the devout like Ireland can do it, why can’t Australia?) could it be asked whether the church has devalued marriage by marrying non-Christians in church?
Putting aside Genesis, gender, Adam and Eve and all the offensive ‘It was Eve not Steve’ bumper stickers, it struck me that ‘marriage’ – the institution from the church’s perspective – has been under threat as soon as the non-faithful started getting married in them.
I have a bunch of aethist / agnostic mates who were married in a church because they wanted a nice architectural venue. I disappointed my Catholic in laws by refusing anything but a civil ceremony. Back then I really didn’t think Jesus wanted much to do with me (and me with him) so why pretend for a day? I suppose if you don’t believe at all, and it’s more about having the The Garrison Church at The Rocks in your wedding photos, then you can probably wing it.
It just seems a bit odd for clergy to offer Christian marriage ceremonies to non-believers. Or is it a grey area? Like, “Well, you do have a christening certificate from 30 odd years ago so we can’t say no, even if we think you’re bunging it on for the fancy photo opportunity.” Plus (the clergy will doubtless howl me down for this one) my cynical mind supposes the upkeep on all those sandstone edifices can be pricey. Taking in a few fees for BDMs (births, deaths, marriages) helps, no?
Catholics say marriage is a sacrament. Jesus doesn’t. He only gave two: baptism (my getting lipton’d) and the Lord’s Supper (Communion). But, much like reverse engineering a marketing campaign, have churches married non-believing people thinking that it was a good starting point? A way of increasing the numbers in the potential soul-saving funnel? That maybe, just maybe, it would help as a starting point for evangelism.
Yet most clergy don’t evangelise to couples asking to be married. Because the clergy are too nice. The whole watered-down, insipid Christianity thing that created my own Christian hangover. Faced with a pushy Bridezilla intent on the location, darling, the location, are there clergy with cojones saying:
“Now, this marriage covenant was ordained by God to provide believers with a picture of Christ’s love and relationship to His church. It represents your union with Jesus Christ. A successful marriage is built upon the biblical truth that God designed each of us with five purposes in mind: worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, and missions. So, please, tell me, how are you going to fulfil those five?”
Can you imagine the engaged couple’s faces? Probably the same colour as the numbers in the church’s building and repairs bank account…
Jesus, as I’ve typed before, is the lightning rod. The uber-blog post. If the clergy, through misplaced niceness (and misplaced cojones?) aren’t seriously talking him up whilst performing marriage ceremonies; knowing, deep down, it will be the first and last time they will see the couple in church, then what does it say about Christian marriage?
That the doors are wide open for business, I’d say..