the emerging Joneses and my anarchist marriage…

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!!!



10 responses to “the emerging Joneses and my anarchist marriage…

  1. Agreed. Your own experience is very ilustrating on the topic. shalom and happy 2010!

  2. thanks brother! same for you this year…

  3. hey – good thinking behind this. our story is a little similar to yours. peace. love to see you in 2010 in belgium.

  4. So I post the same question here that I posted on the Jones’ blogs:

    What makes a marriage in the eyes of God? Does some ’set-apart’ priest need to perform some ritual? Or can a man and a woman [or same sexed – not getting into that debate] just decide to consummate themselves to each other?

    As the ‘un-churched’ Christianity continues to grow, with the emphasis on the equality and the priest hood of all believers, is there a possibility that this is being raised or will be raise?

    In other words, was the priest necessary for your vows to be recognized by God?

    Must there be some intent behind the vows?
    Is just a life long commitment together enough? Even if the Christian God is not invoked?

    These questions are starting to raise others in my mind. If a couple get married by the state and only later become dedicated followers of Jesus, are they considered married in the eyes of God?

    So much of my own answers start immediately from the context of the western, modern Christian worldview which is NOT the same as Gods view regardless of what many Christians may think.

    Anyway, this controversy has used up too much of my brain cells – time to get some sleep.

  5. @Andrew
    I now feel like I shouldn’t have mixed myself in this discussion. I’m not a part of the ‘now-emerged’ conversation and I don’t share it’s common baggage, and there seem to be some personal factors involved in the whole marriage discussion that are none of my business and that I don’t want to interfere with…

    But on the other hand, we’d be glad to welcome you and your family in Belgium if you pass thru it again…


    What makes a marriage in the eyes of God? I would have a realist look from the genesis verse. All human institutions and ways of arranging a marriage are just culturally relative in my opinion. which doesn’t mean they cannot be important in a given situation, and that they are not part of it, but the core is the ‘man + woman = one flesh’ story (without the discussion about same-sex marriage; if they would be accepted it would be the same story), in which the one flesh is not just something sexual but also a ‘2 become 1’, one family out of which more people may come. So what you need for marriage is two people who have a lifelong relationship and become one unit of life, and who keep their vows alive throughout their lives… The way it is initiated and affirmed is in itself not most important thing, it’s the way it is lived out thoughout the whole life…

    (just as the christian life, you may have prayed a ‘conversion prayer’, but is that enough to be a real Christian?)

    Our story is just our story, and it worked for us in our specific situation. We had the priest not bexcause he was a set-apart catholic but as a mere representative for the Church, the whole of christs body… It was something we felt we had to do, affirm it to the Church, and it was a holy moment, a sacrament, you could feel God was there to affirm our vows… But I would not be able to distill timeless eternal principles about marriage out of my own story.

    I do think marriage is a serious matter that needs to be made public, you cannot hide it to be a family now anyway… So just doing the vows to each others with God as a witness may be something serious, breaking a vow spoken to God is not something one would do lightly if one knows what he’s doing, but still I think it surely is needed to make your choice public, and to do affirm your vows to the community your part of, in some kind of ceremony.
    And to follow the usual tradition of your community may be a good idea when you don’t have really good reasons not to do it that way… (like it has lost every meaning and has become empty, or you just can’t pay the traditional way, or stuff…)

    (Marriage also is not unimportant because it is a ‘living methaphor’ of Christ and the Church, or God and israel, but that’s another story)

    We had to ‘deconstruct’ the whole marriage because of some practical problems, and the cultural baggage had made it into something empty and meaningless for our culture, and most of the small and fragmented christian community still holds on to a tradition and also a legal view on relationships that is dead in the broader culture and I’m beyond the point of seeing value in that.

    I sometimes wish I wouldn’t be postmodern but I’m affraid it won’t change…



  6. Bram,

    I appreciate your response and your story. I do not disagree with anything you have said. My questions are honest and ones that I am truly trying to wrestle with now that the Jones’ posts have raised it in my mind. Though they may seem unimportant -even to me – I also think that there are some underline theology that I am working out.

    I understand the cultural and public aspect to marriage, however, I hesitate on the ceremony. I have no problem with a ceremony, but is it a requirement?

    Some other questions that have arose have to deal with recognition of a marriage. What is required for a ‘church’ to recognize a couple as married?

    For instance, my brother and his wife are unbelievers. They lived together and had two children before they had a ceremony in a church. As such they were legally married under common law before the ceremony and the ceremony did not change their lack of belief and thus any covenant with a god is meaningless.

    Are they married in the context of the Christian story?

    When did that marriage become effective?

    When did the ‘church’ accept it?

    If they ever to come to faith, will they need to do something else to make their marriage legitimate to them or the ‘church’?

    Similar to baptism, is there a distinction between a marriage and a believers marriage?

    To top it off, how (un)important are any of these questions?

    My faith story has recently found myself ‘forced’ outside of the institutional church. I tried for a year or more to live in diversity within a relatively conservative congregation, however that attempt failed. I say this to confess that my questions may come out of a (un)churched Christianity that I find myself in both physically and theologically.

    Though the questions Tony’s post has stirred up are currently unimportant in my actual life, the underline implications are fascinating to me. Just how far can/should we/I stray from organize/institutional Christianity?

    Any way, I should have probably just make this into my own blog post rather than work it out in your comments. Thanks for post and your story.

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  8. Whatsoever God has joined together, let not man put assunder.

    Study the issue of vows that man makes with God in the Hebrew world (Old Testament), and how that issue was ported into the New Testament. The phrase “Whatsoever God has joined together” and the issue of vows between man and God are inseparable. Figure that issue out and you will have answered the question – “What makes a marriage of which God says ‘let not man put assunder'”.

  9. Pingback: On similar misandry in Christian fundamentalism and consumer capitalism? | Brambonius' blog in english

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