Very interesting post and comments at Faith and Theology: why churches should stop performing weddings. One of his main points is how we sometimes elevate romantic love and marriage to an idolatrous level, and he has some potent quotes from Bonhoeffer.
If we begin to refuse church participation in wedding ceremonies, perhaps the way will be opened for a renewed sacramental understanding of marriage. The church refuses to recognise the marital relationship – or, for that matter, “the family” – as the fundamental social unit. Instead, the Christian community recognises the body of Christ as the fundamental social order of the new creation. And within this new society, within this economy of friendship and hospitality and self-giving, the church also bears witness to particular instantiations of Christian friendship, to specially gifted loci of generosity and hospitality and self-giving love.
This, of course, goes against a fair amount of popular evangelical teaching on the nuclear family. I suggest reading the whole post and some of the comments to better understand what’s being said. I think he raises some good questions, and the dialogue that results is very interesting.
I really liked this comment from Kristie:
One thing I might venture to suggest for those who are having a difficult time grasping the point here is to sit down and really talk with the single people in your churches. Not necessarily with the college students or even the twentysomethings, but those who are 30 or 40 or 50 and still unmarried. Ask them how they perceive their singleness to impact their inclusion in the church body. Are they treated in accordance with Ben’s paraphrase, “For in Christ Jesus, neither marriage nor singleness is anything; what counts is a new creation”? Or are they marginalized and made to feel less than human? I believe that they are often marginalized, and this is because (I think) the church has indeed bought into society’s idolatry of romance (and marriage and “family values” for that matter) and doesn’t quite know what to do with those who are “alone” in this sense, except pity them or perhaps play matchmaker for them. I love reading Bonhoeffer on this point – he actually seems to take Christ’s redefinition of the family seriously: “Who are my mother and my brothers?…Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” Ben is absolutely correct—the body of Christ is fundamental social order of the new creation, and so it ought to be of the church here and now in anticipation of the new creation. All other relationships must be understood in appropriate relation to this supreme reality.
I so relate to that. I like my church, and feel I have a place there, though I do wonder at times where I fit in as a 30-something single. Most of my friends are A) single college students or B) married couples, because, well, that’s primarily who is part of our church and coffee house, and my heart resonates with so many of these people. I don’t relate best to people in my ‘season of life,’ but to people who have the same passions and interests and questions. It’s just hard to get away from the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) pressure put on me by society, and sometimes by church culture, of what my life is supposed to look like, when I should be married, and all that, especially when I would like to be married, with all the self-denial and growth that comes with it. But you know, I have a good life, and there’s plenty I am doing and can do for the kingdom, and my life will be worthwhile, whether I ever get married or not. So it’s refreshing for me to read post’s like the one above to be reminded that God’s kingdom is not always like what some church cultures say it is.