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Let’s be honest: this isn’t a particularly fun time to mention “Christian” and “Wedding” in the same sentence. Smash those two words together and plenty of people hear “bigot” or “hate” or “oppression.” For me, publicly professing to be a Christian often means enduring eye-rolls, mutterings about fairy tales and fantasy followed up with hurtful accusations that those people making news for their messages of hate and exclusion are indicative of my heart and my application of my religion to my life and my treatment of others. Additionally, for some time now, feminism and Christianity have been at odds with each other, especially in terms of marriage and relationships. Words like “submit” and “obey” can feel like a gut punch to a strong, independent, modern woman, but there are plenty of reasons I’m not in the least irked by the terminology.
So who am I? I am a Christian. I am a feminist. I am an ally. I’m also totally convinced I can be all three and apply these messages to our wedding ceremony in a way that doesn’t compromise any one for another.
There are all kinds of reasons religious messages make it into wedding ceremonies. (Note: I’m going to stick with Christianity in this post because I think it’s more respectful to stick with what I know!) Some couples are simply expressing their deeply held beliefs. Others are honoring the wishes of family members. Either way, if you’re looking to add Biblical readings into your ceremony or vows, some of the most frequently used passages really come alive with you consider the contexts and backstories.
The Traditionalist- Ephesians 5:25-33
There are actually three places (along with Colossians 3 and 1 Peter 3) “Wives submit to your husbands … ” shows up in the New Testament. I find this one the prettiest and most descriptive. I mentioned that as a feminist, that whole “submissive” thing isn’t quite my style, but the true crime in these passages is that the whole thing is rarely read. In each of the three passages, wives are told to submit to their husbands as the head of the household, but it’s more in a spiritual sense. Husbands, however, are told to love, respect, care for, be kind to, protect, and even die for their wives. There are no literal mentions of how to divvy up the housework, but the more I read these verses the more it sounds like, “Please take a cab if you’re going to be drinking,” than, “Make me a sammich.” Personally, I’m willing to obey a man who’s living up to his end of the bargain on this. He’s only supposed to be requesting of me the things that are in my best interest and I’m supposed to respect him knowing my physical, mental and spiritual well being are his priorities. I’m calling it a fair trade.
The Peace-Keeper- 1 Corinthians 13:3-13
Love is patient; love is kind, and love described this way is completely accessible no matter what your beliefs. Although it’s part of the New Testament, these verses are popular at interfaith weddings for sheer beauty of the words and emotion behind them. My favorite is, “[I]t keeps no record of wrongs.” I just think that’s the greatest, regardless of religion or faith. While it may be a “predictable” reading, there’s no controversy in it. Sometimes that’s a real perk. It makes a great reading as is, or modify it to fit your personal voice and include it in vows. Either way, there is an amazing sentiment that leaves most everyone with warm feelings.
The Progressive- Ruth 1:16
“Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay,” makes its way into a lot of marriage vows and might sound like another example of female submission, but this verse is really something special. An often overlooked fact is that Ruth is actually making this profession of devotion to her mother-in-law Naomi after her husband died. The Hebrew word used to describe their bond is actually the same word used to describe that of Adam and Eve, so it’s no wonder this verse makes its way into a lot of LGBTQ ministries. And Ruth is totally awesome. She chose to stay and care for Naomi even though they were painfully poor and Naomi pretty much tells her, “Hey, if you stay with me, you’re probably not going to find another husband.” If you’re familiar with the story, you know she eventually married Boaz who fell in love with her because of her kindness and treated her with respect and dignity that most ancient Israeli women didn’t receive. Plus, Ruth is one of only four women specifically named in the lineage of Jesus in the book of Matthew, so score one for the ladies, here.
I am never ashamed of my faith, but recognizing that there are many, many people who feel marginalized by others who claim the same religion makes me want to be very deliberate in choosing my readings and incorporations. Are there any passages you’re leaning towards? Let us know in the comments!