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Shepherd Of Souls - Church And Marriage
by Rev. Fr. Peter-Michael Preble

In the series finale of one of my favorite television programs, Boston Legal, the character Denny Crane, played by William Shatner proposes marriage to another character Alan Shore played by James Spader. Now I love this program and I thought this entire sequence of events was extremely good television. However it pointed out to me the need for a separation of the church from the marriage business and this is why I say that.

The reason Denny proposed was not for sexual reasons and although they both expressed love for each other it was not the kind of love that a couple has when they marry. Denny is suffering from alzhimers and he did not want to spend the end alone and he wanted to make sure that his fortune went for a good cause. So they sought a marriage license and got married. I won’t tell you the entire story in case you have not seen it yet.

In the December 15th issue of Newsweek, Lisa Miller has written an article about the process of same sex marriage. Notice I refer to it as same sex marriage and not gay marriage. The homophobes out there call it gay marriage and I do not wish to be associated with them. Love the sinner and hate the sin I always say. In any case Ms. Miller lays out the case for same sex marriage in compassion to what I will call “traditional” marriage.

She writes about marriage as two separate institutions that of the civil and the religious. The civil marriage, the reason you need a license from the town hall, blood test etc is simply a contract that brings benefits to both parties. Benefits like; insurance, care of children, the right to make decisions at the end of ones life to name just a few. This is the marriage as defined by the state. After all you cannot marry without the permission of the state regardless of a religious ceremony.

On the other hand the religious institution offers all of the above but in her words it also offers “a commitment of both partners before God to love, honor and cherish each other.” Very nice and I would agree with that. My church, the Orthodox Christian Church, has defined marriage for the last thousand or so years as between a man and a woman. Now we place further restrictions on marriage, parents cannot marry their children. The same applies to grandparents and grandchildren. Brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law. Uncles and aunts with nieces and nephews. First cousins with each other. Foster parents and foster children. Woody Allen would not have been allowed to get married in an Orthodox Church. Foster children with other foster children. And finally, Godparents with their Godchildren or godparents with the parents of their Godchildren. So the Orthodox Church places far more restrictions on marriage then the state does. We also do not allow marriages between people of the same gender.

So why did I say that the church should get out of the marriage business. Well when I perform a wedding and sign a marriage license I am acting as an agent for the state and I do not like that. I am acting as an agent for a government that maybe I do not support. The way I see it, and I agree with Ms. Miller, the institution of marriage has two parts the civil and the religious. Go see the judge and get married and sign the civil contract and receive all the rights that come along with that. After that come and see me and I will marry you in the church and you can make your promise before God and your family and receive the benefits of that marriage as well. We need to keep this separate so we do not blur the lines.

I guess what I am trying to say is the state has the right to define marriage anyway that it sees fit and the church has the right to define marriage anyway it sees fit. I don’t want the state to tell me who I can and cannot marry and I know for a fact the state does not want me telling it who it can and cannot marry.

What God has brought together let no man put asunder.

Published: Dec 23,2008 12:22
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