All the talk about religious freedom has turned the calendar ahead to June — the traditional month of weddings. Kevin DeYoung reminds us why marriage ceremonies are so important:
A wedding ceremony, in the Christian tradition, is first of all a worship service. So if the union being celebrated in the service cannot be biblically sanctioned as a an act of worship, we believe the service lends credence to a lie. We cannot come in good conscience and participate in a service of false worship. I understand that sounds not very nice, but the conclusion follows from the premise; namely, that the “marriage” being celebrated is not in fact a marriage and should not be celebrated.
Moreover, there has long been an understanding that those present at a marriage ceremony are not just casual observers, but are witnesses granting their approval and support for the vows that are to be made. That’s why the traditional language speaks of gathering “here in the sight of God, and in the face of this congregation.”
This is true.
But have Christians truly been relying on such convictions in the way they practice wedding ceremonies? When my brother was married in 1973, the ceremony was simple and the reception even simpler — cake and punch in the church basement. (For all fathers with daughters out there, one phrase — “cake and punch, cake and punch.”) By the time of mine eight years later, we upgraded to upscale finger food, and a trio of string instruments at an offsite location — one that wouldn’t allow champagne or wine (which was just as well because both sets of parents were abstainers). Today, a Christian family can’t hold a wedding and reception for under five figures — or a good down payment on a home, and the list of guests is a sign of which friends and family need to be honored or included.
In other words, Christians have hardly preserved a distinct way of doing marriage but have joined the surrounding culture in turning it into something excessive — sort of the marriage version of the Super Bowl.
So if Kevin wants us to go back to simpler times, fine and good. But let’s not act like Christians have been preserving the sanctity of ceremonies or vows or commitments. And let’s not forget the way gay marriage has spooked us into rethinking marriage. We didn’t object to weddings when our non-Christian neighbors invited us to the local mainline Protestant church for the ceremony and the country club for the reception. But now we do.