Got this in:
Hi John, I had a friend turn me on to your site today and I have been sitting and reading a bunch of your posts for the past few hours. I thought I might share something that happened to me.
My husband and I were married this past October. We had a non-denominational ceremony with a small group of about forty people. It was a lovely ceremony, nothing overly religious. Neither my husband and I are what I would call Christian, but we both believe in God. We don’t attend church. My family is Native American, and there are three types of people in my family: the ones who distrust Christianity for wrong-doings of the past, the ones who have converted to evangelical Christianity, and the ones who do not care about religion at all, or abide by our tribe’s teachings.
Two weeks after I was married, I attended the wedding of my cousin. As children she and I were close, but her husband’s family are strict evangelical Christians. We have had many arguments over her sudden disinterest in her own family. Nonetheless I was happy to go to her wedding.
As their pastor was giving his speech at their reception, he said, “The only love that is real in the eyes of God is Christian love, and Christian marriage.”
How was I supposed to feel about that? I had just gotten married outside of the realm of Christianity. Yet I feel an enormous amount of love towards my husband. It was the best day of my life. I promptly removed myself from the table and drove home. My cousin and I have not spoken since—although her mother, also a converted evangelical, did call me to tell me how rude I was to leave the wedding.
What do you say?
Dear young woman who wrote me the above:
I say that pastor had as much in common with Jesus Christ as Ronald McDonald has with Julia Child.
Why, as an authoritative representative of a faith tradition, would you stand up at a wedding reception, and start talking about how the only people in the world who can possibly experience true love are those who believe the same thing you do? What could be less appropriate—especially when you know that many of those listening to you have all kinds of great reasons not to hold the same beliefs you do?
If the pastor at my wedding reception had stood up and said what that pastor did, I’d have jumped out of my chair, and said, “Excuse me. I’m sorry. Would you please be quiet and sit down? I can’t believe we hired you. Are you drunk? Friends and family: so totally sorry about that. I didn’t realize we’d accidentally hired a Nazi. What Pastor Wingnut just said in no way represents what I or my awesome new wife believe. Again, sorry. If you’d all hold up your glasses now, let’s have a toast to the idea that every single person on the planet is capable of establishing their own relationship with God, or the Divine, or The Infinite Nothing, or however they conceptualize whatever they do in that regard. Here’s to the personal, private, spiritual integrity of us all.”
Anyway, I’m sorry to hear about your cousin’s reception. And I’m sorry that your cousin isn’t smart enough to support you in your leaving her reception. Maybe she’ll come around. Maybe you could write her a short note, and just explain how difficult it was for you to suddenly hear in front of a whole bunch of people that your brand-new marriage is invalid, delusional nonsense.
If you do write that note, I hope she responds to it in a positive fashion. Either way, she’ll at least know why you left her reception—not, I guess, that at this point she’s much wondering about that.
Man, it’s so frustrating to have the faith in which I have such faith so constantly being used to denigrate others.
There’s Christ, trying to show a new way to love. And there, time and time again, are ridiculously inadequate representative of Christ, showing ever new ways to hate.
It’s just so awful.
Oh well. One day pastors like the one who did your cousin’s wedding will die. And there will be God, waiting for them.
“No heaven for you!” he will say.
UPDATE: In the comments section below, one reader wrote in to say: “I think the wedding attendee overreacted. All of the comments are suggesting that he made some big pronouncement and went on and on or something. As far as we know, it was just one statement. We don’t know the context.” To which came this response:
I can clarify this for you, since I am the one who wrote to John with my experience. The pastor made multiple comments like this during their actual ceremony, but the offending line was directed straight towards me and my husband when we met him at the reception. My cousin introduced us, and told him that we (my hubby and I) had just gotten married two weeks prior. He asked us who our pastor was, and we told him that we used a non-denominational minister, and explained we are Native American. The offending line followed, and it took everything I had in me not to punch the man in the face. I thought it would be better for everyone involved if we just left, because clearly, we were not welcome.