Has Political Correctness Gone Mad?

Recently I have noticed a number of people using the phrase ‘Political Correctness gone Mad!!!!!”

 

There are stories around about how university staff are being sacked or disciplined because they use ‘trigger’ words, which may re-ignite someone’s trauma. Examples are easily found, thanks to a ‘Google’ search. People are being warned not to use the word ‘violate’ (as in ‘violate the law’) because it may trigger a sense of unease in students who have been violated in the past.

 

Recently the Midwives association has put out a document recommending that in referring to ta mother giving birth, ‘woman’ be replaced with ‘person’: as if anyone other than a woman might be capable of giving birth. (Shades of ‘Loretta’ in the ‘Life of Brian’).

 

So I wonder if being Christian has anything to contribute here.

 

The first thing that comes to me is that the term ‘politically correct’ derives from the opponents of a certain form of speech.

 

Certain forms of language do exclude, or do presume a norm to which everyone should adhere. We have learned not to use exclusively masculine language when in fact we mean the whole human race, so that almost universally in theological books when previously one might have read ‘The advent of Christ radically changes the place of Man before God’, now, in order to include the whole human race we say ‘The Advent of Jesus Christ radically changes the position of Humanity’ before God.

 

For me this took a bit of doing, but I could see the case that was being made by women that my language excluded them. So on it goes.

 

I say “If some one asks me to do a thing and I can easily do it then in kindness, why not?”

 

The original impetus behind what was derided as ‘political correctness’ was simply a request to be aware of how some one else experiences a given form of speech, and to modify my own according to their request.

 

But things get murkier! Power is inevitably involved. When I am asked to change my language, it is another person who is trying to make me change. That is the exercise of power.

 

Being the subject of another person’s power is an altogether more difficult matter than my being kind, because now I am not sure of their motives.

 

Here is an example from another sphere.

 

When I was working as a Theological Teacher, it was part of my responsibility to produce liturgies for various occasions. I would make up a draft, and then show it to the Principal of the college. He would then send it back with the changes that he wanted.

 

I had done certain things. Based on my skill set as Priest, and for good reason. He wanted changes, because he thought that he was the ‘author’ of the liturgy, and I was his helper, providing a first draft. I had not signed up to be his secretary.

 

The power imbalance between me and my boss meant that his will prevailed, but I was not happy, because I was not treated as a colleague who also had skills, and it was not clear to me at first what the process was meant to be.

 

Could I, on the basis of my feeling ‘uncomfortable’ accused him of bullying? The key to the situation was that I thought that I was not being treated ‘fairly’. I began to feel uncomfortable because power was being exercised over me, but that I had not given my consent to this structure.

 

I think that those who use the catch-cry ‘political correctness gone mad’ feel the same way: that somehow they are being made to do something by people whose motives they do not trust, or made to do something is circumstances in which the power dynamics are not clear.

 

One becomes ‘defensive’ in situations where one feels attacked, and needs to ‘defend’.

 

This is where a Christian catch phrase becomes important. It is ‘Mutual submission in love’ (Ephesians 5). Then the exercise of power one over the other, when I am asked to do something, comes not from someone whom I think is trying to destroy me. It comes from someone whom I know would also submit to med if I asked.

 

I have been impressed in some recent conversations when a person has said to me as locum “Well this is how we have done it, this is what I like, but it is your call”. Here I get a sense that the other person has a view, but is exercising ‘mutual submission in love’.

 

I think that if the ‘politically correct’ thing to do were to exercise ‘mutual submission in love’ we might have fewer problems. But then those who have power do not always see what power they have, and will not willingly give it up. It is the mutuality of submission that makes this way of being work.

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On The Weather and God’s Judgment

Everywhere that I go in the last few days people have been commenting on the weather: how humid it has been and how unseasonally wet this amount of rain is. More importantly, people have been talking to me in quasi spiritual terms about the weather, as if this kind of weather has some meaning.

 

Well they would not be alone there! Ever since the story of Noah came into existence, the human race has been connecting events in the weather with the spiritual condition of the human race. Psalm 107 expands the idea by connecting soil salination with the sinfulness of the population when it says ‘He (God) turns a fruitful land into a salty waste because its inhabitants are evil.

 

Most people have made this connection. Here is a quote from Mid- summer Night’s Dream, where the weather is blamed on the custody battle between the king and queen of the fairies over a young boy. Titania (the queen) blames Oberon (the king) for the bad weather saying

 

“But with thy brawls thou hast disturb’d our sport. Therefore the winds, piping to us in vain, As in revenge, have suck’d up from the sea Contagious fogs; which falling in the land Have every pelting river made so proud That they have overborne their continents:”

 

I have also heard on the talk-back radio some people making comments to the effect that the ‘bad’ weather is God’s judgment on the two big social changes that have been made in Australia in recent times: the passing of same-sex marriage legislation, and the passage of assisted dying legislation.

 

I think this connection needs some unpacking.

 

First of all I do not think that there is a direct connection between the weather and social changes, which have no causal pathway which would connect social conditions at any given time to God’s judgment.

 

So I do not think that the weather has anything to do with same sex marriage, and assisted dying.

 

But I have seen a fruitful land turned into a salty waste!

 

When I was studying agriculture, I lived in a place with river flats that gave way to treed hillsides. The clearing of the hillsides for pasture reduced the transpiration of water from the hills, and so caused the water table on the flats to rise. This brought salt with it, and so ruined he lucerne and other crops that were grown there.

 

Here is a clear case where ignorance (living in darkness) and sinfulness (lack of good stewardship of the environment, and lack of understanding about the responsibility we bear, one for the other) means that a once ‘fruitful land’ has been turned into a ‘salty waste’.

 

In this case I am happy to see these natural consequences as God’s judgment on our sinfulness, because he sinfulness directly affects the natural order.

 

The same can be said for the current weather, including the increasing variability of the weather patterns, and the increasing frequency of cyclones and hurricanes.

 

These, the scientists tell us are consequences of the increasing pollution of the atmosphere by carbon dioxide and other green house gasses.

 

We cannot say that we have not been warned. To refuse to do anything about this lack of care for the whole creation, which is a trust, given to us by God, is a willful blindness. This is a definition of sin. If we persist, we cannot complain about the weather.

 

The Gospels for this Sunday call on us to ‘stay awake’. I think that being in denial about the connection between the weather and our selfishness is a decided form of ‘being asleep at the wheel’. Our politics is captured by vested interests. This state of captivity prevents the politicians who are serving these interests from moving in the way that everyone knows that we need to go.

Again, we are asleep at the wheel, preferring to be blind than to see.

 

Those who cry ‘jobs, jobs, jobs” and go ahead with destroying the environment are the same people who, in the name of market forces, refuse to help those people whose jobs are at stake if we do the environmentally sensible thing. Again, willful blindness is a sin.

 

Now here is a complicating factor. Some of those who are ‘climate change’ deniers claim to be ‘awake’. They see a conspiracy behind the attempts to reduce our carbon emissions. I know one person who in an attempt to ‘stay awake’ thinks that the earth is flat, and that the moon landing was a set up job.

 

Everyone I suppose wants to think that they are ‘awake’ and that the rest of us are duped.

 

This reflection is a cry for the righteousness that comes from a responsible stewardship of the environment, and a commitment to one another as brothers and sisters, rather than ‘economic units’ in the religion of the ’Market’

Your companion ‘on the Way ‘

 

Paul Dalzell.

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Mass Emotion, Societal Repression, Collective Action

I saw an interesting documentary about the Beetles’ coming to Australia. We saw the screaming and almost hysterical devotion of the young girls who came to see them. One of the people who did this, who is now an older woman, made an interesting comment. She said “We could, of course, not do this kind of thing singly, but as a group! Something else happened.’

 

I started to think about other occasions of mass behaviour that were like this. The death of Princess Dianna evoked a similar outpouring of emotion. This time it was an outpouring of grief, not of devotion, but what joins these two events is the process of collective outpouring.

 

But then there is also the constant ‘low grade’ kind of collective outpouring. I remember when everyone was suffering from Repetition Strain Injury. No one suffers from it now. I think that the reason this response is different now is that we are used to computers! The RSI epidemic came at the same time as people were required to learn new technology, and raise their level of functioning. Repetition Stain Injury was an allowable form of mass resistance to this change, to which we have now all adapted.

 

From these three stories I am thinking that it might be possible to say something about repression and oppression in a society. Here it is: if you want to know where a society is either repressed or oppressed, look for these mass outpourings.

 

You could say that the Western world was very repressed, sexually, after the long period of austerity since the depression. Along comes the contraceptive pill in 1961, along with the Beetles soon after and bingo: an acceptable way of ‘cutting loose’ presents itself, and everyone takes it up.

 

It is also possible to make the case that in the UK, after the Thatcher years, there was an awful lot of sadness about: sadness about loss of jobs; sadness about the loss of community; sadness about the changes in the economy that removed people’s sense of security.

 

Because it is the employers who offer the jobs, it is very difficult for individuals to complain or to make their unhappiness known. The object of the emotion changes, but the emotion itself does not.

 

Karl Marx, when making his critique of religion says that religion functions in this same way. He says that religion is ” the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.”

 

This to me is the attractiveness of some forms of Pentecostal Christianity. While being conservative politically, it offers an emotional release, and healing of things that make a big personal difference, but do not make much of a social difference.

 

This is not in itself bad. I love it that in Church I can also offer my devotion by the singing of hymns and so on.

 

But repression cannot be dealt with simply by a mass outpouring of emotion, helpful though that might be. All the flowers laid at the gate of Buckingham Palace, or all the screams of a young girl will not bring back one lost job, or help a young person grow into a sexually mature adult, with new control over their reproduction.

 

What is also needed is the channelling of this emotion into well thought out collective action, in the right direction.

 

But looking at today’s readings it is clear that the Reign of God is about the fact that loving God with all our heart is about how we respond to the claim of our neighbours upon us.

 

The letter of James has this really well when it says “If you see your brother in need, and shut up your heart against them, how does the love of God dwell in you?”

 

I remember the movie ‘Women in Love” In one scene, Gerald Creitch gallops away on his horse and Gudrun asks “Well, he has get up and go, but where does his get up and go go to?”

 

That is the right question. It is proper that we are able to identify our places of repression and oppression. It is right that we look for places to ‘cut loose’ so that we can ‘flow’ as people, emotionally, but it is vital that we also look, in the cold light of day, for the proper way to direct our actions. Emotions can be the signal that something has captured us. Emotions can be the energy that will drive our action. But in the long run it is ‘In as much as you did it to the least of these my brothers and sisters’ that we will be judged.

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Reflections on Same Sex Marriage

Yesterday, at the announcement of the results of the postal survey senator Penny Wong burst into tears. I joined in. I asked myself ‘Why did you do that Paul?” Back came the answer ‘Because you too know what it is like to walk around with secret shame.’ This is not the shame that others have attached to being gay, but the shame of somehow feeling like ‘the black sheep’: wanting to be valued, but somehow inheriting the unconscious sense of not being worthy.

 

I also recall the many women (mostly) in the Bible like Mary, whose shame at being pregnant too soon as taken away because ‘what was at work in her was from the Holy Spirit’, or of Sarah and Hannah, whose shame was taken away by the birth of Isaac and Samuel. Like senator Wong, they too broke out into song and tears of relief and joy at the news.

 

So, now that the results are in, I want to offer my account of why I think that the ability of same sex couples to become married is a good thing.

 

First, I have often heard the assertion that “I believe marriage I between a man and a woman”, as if asserting something makes it so. What is going on in this assertion?

 

The position of the Diocese of Sydney and those that follow them, goes something like this: “True love can only happen between opposites, with people who are not ‘like us’. Hence Homo (like) sexuality is inherently defective love.” (This was Pope Benedict’s argument too). Men and women complement one another, and so for there to be a Godly ‘marriage’ it must be one of opposites: ie, between a man and a woman.

 

I agree with this proposition’s first part. St. Paul writes “God shows Godly love in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.’ God’s love is not about people who are ‘like’ us, but for people who are not like us*

 

But I am of the view that ‘otherness’ does not necessarily reside in another gender but in the mystery of another person. There is enough ‘otherness’ in another person to make loving them as challenging as it is for those of us who are attracted to the opposite gender.

 

This is the more true, when I think about the fact that ‘personhood’ does not simply live in only two genders, but that male and female are two poles of a spectrum of gender description, as the existence of intersex people, or people of indeterminate gender shows.

 

As well, sexual attraction is not simply a matter of all for women or all for men. One’s sexual identity falls somewhere on the spectrum between homosexuality and heterosexuality, which includes bisexuality and any number of points in between.

 

I am left handed for most things, but I play the guitar right handed, I bat at cricket right handed, I hold a knife and fork in a right handed way, but I eat with my spoon in my left hand. I use my left hand mostly for strength, but will use my right hand’s fingers for tasks that need fine motor co-ordination.Sexual attraction, like ‘handedness’ has been equally the subject of Biblical and social approbation.

 

The evidence now shows that sexual orientation is a similar kind of thing: it represents not as a binary state, but as a continuum.On this basis I think that it is that the mystery of each person be sufficient to represent an ‘other’, who calls forth Godly love in each partner.

 

The other thing is this. I used to have some small reservations asbout gsy love, until I went to the Anglican Church of All Saints Haight Ashbuy in San Francisco. There the congregation was made up of ninety per cent gay couples, with a small minority of others.

 

I thought, “I can only express my reservations because I am a majority! I could not do it here, where I am as minority.” This is what I think ‘straight’ people should keep in mind. Privilege accrues to them by chance, and makes them a majority. The privilege of being ‘straight’ is the privilege not to see their biases and discrimination. I think it was a huge humiliation for LGBTQI people to be subjected to the opinions of others about their love for one another.

 

This idea comes to me from Stephen Fowl’s idea of Biblical interpretation. He says that no one ought to have an idea but another, until they have had several dinner parties with them. It was the explicit presence of the Spirit in gentile Christians, around a table, which forced the Church into accepting them uncircumcised. The same I think applies to LGBTQI people. We do not have the right to say anything about the quality of their love, until we also allow ourselves to be loved by them, and to love them as dinner guests. Then see where you get to.

 

Last, many gay people have been forced into unsavoury means of finding partners, because their love was at first illegal, and at a minimum, seen as shameful. Recognising gay personhood and equal love by opening the institution of marriage to them does not diminish marriage, but increases the amount of love and fidelity in the world. This cannot be a bad thing.

* In spite of the fact that in Genesis, when Adam meets Eve he actually says ‘Well! Here is someone who is like me: bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.”

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“Prayer-Work”, Like ‘Space-Time’ Forges Sacramental Being-before-the -face-of-God”

This week has seen me out in the garden a lot. I have been mowing the lawns, and looking to see where the pipes for our garden’s watering system go, so that we can keep the garden alive, without wasting too much water, and without the continual moving of sprinklers. As well, I serviced the ride on mower. Getting the oil filter off for the first time required the invention of a tool to grab it tightly, because he tool that I bought was no where near strong enough for the job. All in all, I finished each day like the end of an Enid Blighton novel: “Tired but happy’.

 

All the day I was singing hymn tunes to myself. The one that came to me has a lovely tune, but the words applied too.

 

“Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wandering from the fold of God
He, to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood

 

Oh, to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be
Let that goodness like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above.”

 

This hymn was important because there was conflict during the week too.

It is not a pleasant feeling to be confronted by some deep seated and ancient responses, which make me resentful and angry.

 

So while I was going about the physical work to making things and problem solving, I was also reminding myself of my need for God’s grace.

 

So while grateful of the forgiveness that makes continuing on in relationships possible, I was also helped by the combination of physical work, and the prayer that the hymn represented.

 

Now I do have a prayer room. I do go there to say my prayers morning ad evening, but it was not there, this time, that the healing of my spirit happened. Rather it was in the physicality of work that I could get in touch with what I needed.

 

There is a lot of evidence in the literature about this. The monks used to say that the best cure for depression was physical labour.

 

I remember when the actor Gary McDonald suffered a severe bout of depression, he said that the fixed and absolutely essential part of the day, when he could do nothing else was the walking that he did.

 

Hatha Yoga is a way of bringing ones body to bear on one’s whole being. Perhaps it is similar to ‘work’ in its effects and benefits.

 

I also remember a police chaplain telling us about the physiology of stress. He said that stress is brought about by the hormones adrenaline and cortisol. He wet on to say that these hormones are designed to get or muscles ready for running away or fighting, so that the only way to deal with these hormones is in fact to do some physical activity.

 

The Rule of St. Benedict talks of ‘Work and Prayer’ but in my experience of this week, it was a case of ‘work ads prayer’

 

My definition of prayer is ‘coming into contact with my deepest self in the company of God.’ So this week, in times of stress and emotion, the physical activity of working while singing helps this to happen in ways that just ‘being spiritual’ via prayer and bible reading or thinking cannot do.

 

For me, it is this unity of what we call ‘the spiritual’ and ‘the physical’ that is the basis of the sacraments.

 

I actually hate it that we have the terms ‘physical’ and ‘spiritual’. Just as the scientists not have a single entity called ‘space-time’ I would live it if we had a term that captured this unity.

 

Other cultures had it, they just spoke of ‘people’ which included everything. But we cannot get past the fact that we now have words that make this distinction.

 

Even the definition of a sacrament that talks about an ‘outward and physical sign of an inward and spiritual grace’ seems to me not to do justice to the mystery of the sacrament of a ‘human being before he face of God’

 

Yesterday was a sacrament because all that I am was brought into the company of God. I know that a ‘sacrament’ is the right word for tis kind of day because every Sunday in Church that is what we do. We acknowledge the holiness of physical being.

 

It is why in Church I do the same thing. I sing my heart out; I enjoy the smell of incense (at least here in Kilmore); I love he dressing up; I love the movement from one location to another.

 

This too is not ‘just’ spiritual, but is a concentrated form of the day that I spent yesterday.

 

If there is one thing that makes me sad about the drift of people away from Catholic style Anglicanism toward other forms of protestant expression is the loss of this deep sacramentality of life.

 

As I said when I was married “With all that I am I honour you.” This could be said to God as much as to my wife. It is what makes marriage a sacrament too

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The 500th Anniversary of the Reformation and the ‘Individual’

This week marked what is kept as the 500th anniversary of the birth of the Reformation.

 

One of the big changes that happened during that time was Martin Luther’s translation of the bible into German. This happened at about the same time as the invention of the printing press and the subsequent rise in literacy among the general population.

 

This change gave individuals, for the first time, access to the Bible. It made a huge difference, because previously, the only way people knew about what was in the bible was through the teaching of the clergy (read The Church) or through images, like the stained glass.

 

The consequence of this was a seismic shift in how people thought about themselves, and about God. It is as though the category of ‘the individual’ was invented then!

 

People who could now read the Bible for themselves were able to say “I know what is there now! I don’t need a priest or the Church to tell me what God wants!”

 

You can hear the echo of this sentiment when it is shifted from the reading of the Bible, to going to confession. It’s the same idea “I don’t need a priest to tell me my sins are forgiven, I can have a direct relationship with God.”

The emergence of the category of ‘the individual’ means for us that in our relationship with God, with others, and in our knowledge of the faith, so much more is demanded.

 

Instead of seeing ourselves as members of a group first and foremost, now it is ‘my needs’ that are foregrounded. In matters of the faith, this means that small groups, where people have the opportunity to address their personal issues, and where individual questions can be answered ought to become the norm.

This is what the Wesleyans did with their converts a little while later.

 

Perhaps it is people’s needs for this individual attention, when it is missing, that accounts for some of the dissatisfaction with the institution of the Church.

 

Thinking about the idea of a relationship with God, the same applies. Personal prayer becomes more important than before. ‘I have prayed about this’ becomes the argument against which no counter argument can be brought. The rise in ideas of mysticism also highlights the unmediated qualities and authority of our personal relationship with God.

 

On other other side of the ecclesiastical coin, it has become the norm for some parts of the church to ask for ‘a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour’ to be the hallmark of genuine faith.

 

But like any movement that foregrounds one aspect of reality, the ‘other side of the coin’ is always there, in the background, creating the back -drop against which this ‘foregrounding’ is even possible.

 

In this case the background is the mediated nature of our relationship with God and the collective reality within which we live. As John Donne wrote: No man (sic) is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.

 

The primary reality in the universe is Christ. The primary reality on earth is the Body of Christ: the Church. It is the collective reality, which is primary. This means that reading the Bible, and discovering what God wants is not only an individual thing, to be put against the reality of others, but that the reading and interpreting of the Bible is a collective activity, in which individual readings and interpretations are tested and confirmed, or not.

 

This is safety too, for it is far too easy for a powerful group to pick off individuals, one at a time, once the group is scattered, or to ‘set off’ something as if it should be opposed by individuals.

 

We can see this in the field of wages growth, where low wages are the product of the loss of collectivity in bargaining. Recognising the claim of the Church on us as a corporate entity not only matches the corporate nature of Christ, but provides a safety net for us.

 

Take one example: the dying with dignity legislation currently before us. It is the whole of the state of Victoria, a collective, which is making this new possibility come into force. The big danger is that the option to ‘die’ may become the norm, instead of putting resources into palliative care. If the Church is serious about protecting the value of human lives, then it will take collective action to make sure that the State Government does not use ‘dying with dignity’ as an excuse for saving money on good quality palliative care for everyone. No individual can do this.

 

Collective reading of the Bible, listening to the heritage of the faith and relating to God all have a collective dimension, as well as a personal one. It is a mistake to put asunder what God has joined together. John Donne in the rest of is poem expresses this ‘foreground and background’ character of the relationship between individual and the collective.

 

So on this Reformation anniversary, I want to affirm both my ‘self’ and my personal relationship with god, and my membership of the Church and the benefit that this brings.

 

No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as any manner of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

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Refletions on Being At A Civil Marriage

Last Saturday I went to a wedding. Normally when I go to a wedding I am either presiding over the marriage, or I am at my own. But this time I gad the privilege of seeing what, I am told, nearly 75 per cent of Australians now do: they make use of the services of a civil celebrant. I was interested to see what happened.

 

The first thing I noticed was that there was a frame, like an arch, hung with fabric under which the couple and the celebrant stood. This arch was placed at the end of a kind of ‘grassed arbour,. The effect was to create a ‘garden room’ into which the guests entered, and sat on their chairs, or stood at the back.

 

There are people, who choose to be married in the larger rooms of hotels where the reception will be, but this time the reception was at a winery, and the ceremony was ‘outside’. I was interested to note that even though we were in ‘nature’, it was ‘built’ nature: there was the arch, and the garden.

 

In a church, the same elements are present. Most churches have a kind of ‘arch’ and often there are flowers.

 

So the difference between the two spaces did not lie in anything qualitative, but in the amounts of things. In a Church the amount of construction is much more than there was in this outdoor wedding, while the ‘plan t’ elements are less. In this wedding, the proportion of ‘building to plants’ is reversed. The building is ‘decorative’ like the flowers, and the plants are arranged to act like a building.

 

From this I get that weddings are definitely ‘culture’, and that just as a building serves to focus our attention in certain ways, so too did the garden at this wedding.

 

I am particularly interested in the ‘arch’. In a church, the ’arch’ forms a roof or canopy under which the wedding happens. This is most obvious in Jewish weddings, where the canopy is carried around and placed directly over the heads of the couple.

 

People often talk of being ‘under the canopy’ meaning that the roof of the building that they are in supplies the meaning or context of the marriage.

 

This is clearly true for religious people where the roof or canopy might be painted with Christian or other symbols. This roof says ‘What you do here is under the protection and aegis of the God in whose house you are.’

 

In this case, the groom made the canopy. Which brings me to two other reflections.

 

Since the ‘building’ did not set the context of the wedding,’ the meaning making ‘framework’ of this wedding was set by the celebrant’s recital of how the couple met and why they decided to get married. From time to time the celebrant would also offer meaning making statements like ‘Today is not about words, but about actions.’ As well, the vows that the couple took were personalised.

 

I think that this represents a big difference today. In a Church wedding, the meaning of the wedding is clearly stated to be under the ‘canopy’ of God’s purposes for the world. This is presented both in the building, and in the preface that is read before the wedding. While in a Church wedding the couple enter into the Christian story as they marry, for those who do not share the Christian story, the meaning of their being married has to come from somewhere else. But it has to be done. The meaning of the actions has to be spelled out.

 

When Christians enter into marriage, it is less ‘personal’ because what they are doing is not just ‘about them,’ but it is about ‘them as Christians before the face of God.’

 

I think though, that the desire for the rituals of life to be intensely personal is justified.

 

We live in an age where if something does not really mean anything ‘to me’ then there is something wrong with that thing. This speaks to me of the integrity with which we approach the promises we make. We do not want just to go through the motions, which represents of some one else’s idea of what a marriage is.

 

This makes life harder for the celebrant. In speaking to her after the ceremony, she said that she had about thirty different options for beginning a wedding ceremony, which a couple could choose from, or not.

 

I am a bit sad that more people do not really ‘get’ the Christian story, because for my marriage it makes such a difference to how I am, day by day. I am always saying to my self ’ love keeps no record of wrongs but rejoices in the truth’, from 1 Corinthians 13, and saying ‘with all that I am and all that I have I honour you.’ Being in the Christian story gives me a path and an ideal into which I can grow. The canopy stays. I often quote Bonhoeffer to myself ‘It is not your love that will sustain your marriage, but your marriage will sustain your love.’

 

My reflections are twofold. First, it ids impossible to get away from ‘structure.’ The difference between a church and other places is just one of degree. Second, if one is not going to be married under the Christian canopy, I see a lot of integrity going into how these two people did it.

 

 

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