I’ve been following the emerging blogosphere the last days, and I notice that there has been a bit of a storm around a post from Andrew Jones (the tall skinny kiwi) whose blog post had been interpreteted as another announcement of the end of the emerging church. I didn’t read it that way, and I don’t care much about labels, so I won’t even enter the discussion about emerging/emergent being dead or emerged or going up in whatever mainstream is supposed to be or moving on to the smurf village… And My opinion wouldn’t change much either… But a lot of other people did, including the other emerging Jones: Tony…
But there is another disagreement between the emerging joneses one that I want to get into. Tony has posted an article “A Call to Clergy: Stop Performing (Legal) Marriages!“. His reasoning is that “it requires the clergyperson to act as an extension of the state.” So I guess he argues the best would be to give the marriage business completely over to the state. Which Andrew did not agree with and which I do not find an interesting option at all I am affraid. Marriage is way too serious to be defined by something as trivial as the State. But I may be controversial too, or onorthodox… I think I have a more realistic view on marriage as a creation reality, and an more relativistic (anarchistic) view on the state and its right to define marriage…
Now, I do live in a secular european country where only the state can perform a marriage. You cannot marry for the church. You can do such a thing later afterwards, but it has no official meaning except for the church… And marrying to the church before you marry to the state (something I did btw) would be considered illegal.
And I do strongly believe in marriage. I do think it is an important subject as a Christian. But I do not think that ‘legal marriage’ equals ‘biblical marriage’. If we would look at the gospels, it is very significant that when the pharisees try to trick Jesus into a discussion about divorce and the law of moses, that He does not refer to that law at al, God-given as it may be. No, Jesus points to the Creation, where God created man and woman to ‘cleave to each other and be one flesh’. So marriage is not first and foremost something any law can define, but something that has been instituted and defined in the creation of man and woman.
Marriage is contextualised differently in different cultures. And it is good that there are laws to protect it. But no state can define what is already defined within creation. When man and woman become one flesh, they are married. And it is incomplete without confirmation to society (and God), but in the end it is God who joins people, not any human authority… In some cultures and times people just went to live with each other and they were considered married and a family, in other situations there are lots of laws and regulations to be followed. But they do not say what a marriage is. ‘living together without being married but with a legal contract’ as is the norm for my generation here is just fooling yourself. A legal contract for living together is some kind of ‘legal marriage light without sing the name’ anyway, and You become ‘one flesh’ and form a family, so it is marriage, or at least it should be treated like one…. Paul even calls sex with a prostitute ‘becoming one flesh’ so the problem is not that there is no marriage, but the problem there is one, or there is something that should be one… The same problem with ‘pro-marital sex’, it may more likely be a unhealthy unbalanced ‘pro-marital marriage’ that might even get aborted before it gives birth to a family. (and it damages people, it’s sin for a reaon…)
Now to my own story… Due to some complicated situations, I have been married ‘illegally’ for a while myself before marrying officially to the state. We made vows to each other and God in a self-invented church ceremony (with a catholic priest off-duty) with the ones present as witnesses. It was a sacred moment. Some of my Christian friends thought it was a bad idea or possibly even heresy to do it that way(but they mostly didn’t dare to tell me, and I don’t want to know what had been said behind our backs…) But to others, and especially to some non-Christians, it was really impressive, and they started thinking about the seriousness of marriage. It is not just a legal contract. Our vows were much more real. They still are.
[Btw, our ceremony was very 'emerging church', without even knowing about the term or the ideas behind it, we had deconstructed all human constructions and reconstructed them in a way that did make sense to us -unlike most traditions surrounding marriage we knew of- and to do it together with God in a new way, even if the church wasn't ready for it -we had asked the catholic priest and used his chapell because no-one in the evangelical churches around us wanted us to help with it-]
Half a year later we did it over again with our confirmation to the state. It was okay, but in the end it was just a legal transaction… The state has never been the one who joined us… Jesus never says anything about what the state Joins, the state can tear apart again… I still believe it was right to affirm it to the state, and if it would’ve been possible we wouldn’t have separated both. And still, I wouldn’ve done the church first, and speaking the vows in the face of God is much more real and binding than any legal contract can be.
So I would say do not mind too much about how the state defines marriage, and let the marriage be sealed with vows of 2 people with God as their witness, and the community. That includes the state too yes, but that’s just a cultural contextualisation of marriage. It has nothing to do with the essence of it. The essence is 2 becoming one flesh, one unit of life, and being serious about that in a life-long commitment. And if we as Christians can show the world around us that love is real in our marriage relationships and family , they might be touched by it more than any law or contract forced to the whole population could ever do…
Love is the first law, vive la revolucion!!!