Saturday, August 06, 2005

The Vegas Option

Ever since I read Laurel Snyder's essay a Slut for Faith, which is about people who aren't religious yet throw religious weddings, I've been sort of torn on it. I don't like her tone. She writes in the essay that she probably comes of as judgemental, and she's right. She does.

I also fear that she's talking about me, the humanist who got married in a Presbyterian church. Now my wedding was humanist, mind you, but the service did take place under the watchful eye of the Ascension window at the Church of the Pilgrims.

God was not mentioned in my wedding, but it was a religious wedding in a humanist sort of way with non-theistic bible readings and a focus on our responsibilities to one another and to other people. I am deeply religious in my way, but my way is not my mom's way.

As the CSO is a kid of divorce, we actually has a lot of religious leanings to contend with:
  • CC, a UU of humanist theological bent.

    • The CSO, also basically a UU, though he thinks the UUA speaks for us too much so he hasn't officially joined.
    • The ChaliceMom and ChaliceDad. Presbyterians
    • The CSOmom, a non-denominational Christian who has been to several different churches in the Charlotte area. Last I heard, her favorite was a liberal Baptist church, but she in no way considers herself Baptist.
    • The CSOdad, a Lutheran.
    • Assorted Grandparents and other relations. Mostly Lutheran on his side, I think, all Presbyterian on mine, except my Aunt Jackie and Uncle Hale (My dad's sister and my mother's sister's second husband) are both into all things Quaker.

    It also came down to who we would get to marry us. CC, as she has mentioned, has a bad habit of befriending ministers. Our choices included:
    • Mary-who-dances, a lesbian Presbyterian minister whose firing was the impetus for CC to stop faking it as a Presbyterian and actually find some church where people believed what she did. Of course, we got married in the church that fired her so that would have been weird.

    • Lindsey-of-the-Overalls, a beloved Southern Baptist friend of CCs. A Baptist wedding would have nicely appalled my mother but wasn't really what we were looking for.

    • The very good minister of the church where CC currently attends, whom we don't know well.

    • the Minister of the Church of the Pilgrims, who preaches like William Shatner. (OK, he was never seriously considered)

    • Katy-the-Wise

    In the end, the choice was obvious, especially when Katy was willing to fly up to perform the ceremony mere days before the Conference on the Free church.

    The ceremony was held in my mother's church because when I suggested otherwise, I got a speech that began with "You were baptized in that church! I was baptized in that church! Your father and I were married at that church! And you're thinking of getting married somewhere else?" and went on for awhile.

    Ok, ok, we got married in her church.

    The point of all of this is that, well, modern weddings are like this. We're not talking one family being Baptist and one family being Episcopalian and cultural hilarity ensuing. We're talking about a wacky mishmash of cultures and traditions.

    There will always be marriages of the kids of two Jewish families, two Pagan families, two Methodist families, etc.

    But I don't think that's the norm now, and I don't think there's any way it's going to ever be the norm again. So do we kick God out of every wedding?

    We also have the further confusion that these traditions are about more than religion. My mother didn't give a damn about me coming back to Jesus. She wanted me to get married in that church because that church is where members of my family get married. I feel like I should mention here that my mother and father fought like hell to keep that minister from being forced to resign. To them, that incident was the church they love doing a very bad thing. But that church is their life and that bad thing is not the sum total of what that church is to them. My mother has been a member for her entire life. My grandfather helped start the place. To get married somewhere else would have been about more than rejecting my childhood faith, which I've already done. It really would have been taken as a slight on my family.

    We've been talking a lot on the blogosphere about what constitutes expropriation from Christianity and I think that is the central thrust of what Snyder also is getting at. I would never dream of smashing a glass at the end of my wedding, though as a tradition, I think it is seriously cool.

    But I wasn't escaping to Vegas to avoid the conflict, either.

    For the CSO and me, it was more about finding common ground and focusing on shared values. Admittedly, it is a lot easier to cherrypick from traditions that don't have a set script for the wedding, but as far as I can tell, Judaism and Christianity are a lot the same outside of actual ritual. That Snyder couldn't come up with something that would resonate with people of both faiths is a little mystifying to me. If you're talking about the same values and reading poems from whichever faith that resonate with both of you, is the ritual itself really the important part?

    This is to some degree a very Unitarian problem for this woman to have and while I'm not crazy about her solution, I'm aware that mine doens't exactly cut it either. But running of to Vegas to avoid the conflict, literally or not, just doesn't strike me as the way to go.

    Ps. Don't kid yourself, lady. EVERY bride considers running off to Vegas. MULTIPLE times. But when you're standing there with tired feet and a ring on your finger and your mother's sister's husband is telling your linguist friend about how the wedding was really sort of Quaker and your ten year old groomsman cousin is bragging on how he got to escort your husband's sister and she's "the HOT bridesmaid" and your mother and your favorite college professor are chatting and looking on with joy as your husband cuts a rug with his Momma, you realize that the wedding isn't really about just you. You made your commitment in front of God when you took care of him when he was sick, when he bought you flowers one time when you depressed, when y'all agreed to accept one another's annoying relatives as your own. The wedding itself is about joining two families and two communities into one. Hard to do that in Vegas by yourselves.

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