The Shunned Bride

Posted: May 18, 2015 in Uncategorized

It was a lovely wedding – an outdoor-on-the-farm kind of affair replete with pasture and small gazebo for the small wedding party. Best of all it was for my nephew and his betrothed. He had asked his uncle to perform the ceremony and I was delighted. As they made their vows I remembered his childhood, the great successes he enjoyed as well as some of the challenges he confided to his uncle along the way. The wheel turned and I was filled with joy.

The only sadness had to do with the bride’s family, or should I say the lack of them. None of her family, save one sister, showed up for her wedding day. The rest of us assumed the roles normally occupied by fathers and mothers. Why?

Her family belonged to a religious movement that was more cult-like than anything else. The way they enforced uniformity of the flock was to “shun” them if they stepped out of line. In her case she stepped over more than a line; she stepped out of that religious group once she separated from her unhappy marriage. At that her family shunned her. Her parents would not even attend their own daughter’s wedding. The rest of us, her new family, tried to compensate.

After the ceremony, as we stood drinking lemonade under the willows, a stranger meandered up to me carrying a question. It took her a while to put it into words. I suppose she felt awkward asking the minister such a thing. The gist of it was this: “Did her family refuse to attend the wedding? Because she stepped out of line, left an unhappy marriage, and found joy in a new one? Well, I am a spiritual person, I think, but not really religious as it goes. I don’t affiliate with any group. So I guess my question is what does that behavior, shunning your own daughter on account of some church doctrine, have to do with God? I mean, doesn’t faith and belief have something to do with loving God and each other? And what does that have to do with Jesus anyway? I thought I’d just ask somebody who should know these things.”

I told her that she had asked exactly the right question. Indeed, what does this have to do with God or the God of love? But I also suggested that it had nothing to do with Jesus, one whose entire ministry was about welcoming all manner of social outcasts to his kingdom meals. I could never imagine Jesus condoning or even imagining that shunning a daughter for non-conformity would have the slightest thing to do with God.

I think lots of people who understand themselves to be “spiritual but not religious” have many of the same questions about the practices of the church in its many forms. So much of what we preoccupy ourselves with, the kinds of issues that seem so important, have so very little to do with God. And most of these people will have exactly the same kind of disgust that the woman under the willows had with a family who shunned their daughter for so-called religious reasons. And they are right.

As long as religious communities define themselves by hate and not love they will continue the long slow slog not only into irrelevancy but also into something repulsive, the kind of thing from which moderns will flee. Pick your issue. With each renewed effort to reject some person or group on the basis of our own self-righteousness, we will secure our shrinking territory as the loneliest place in town.

They no longer have any time for this foolishness. We shouldn’t either.

Comments
  1. Mary Yerington says:

    Thank you.

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