Tuesday, September 08, 2009

More On Marriage

People who know me know that I consider Wendell Berry one of the finest theologians in print. (I should probably tone that down: He is my favorite non-theologian theologian.) He rarely, if ever, has written a "theological" piece. But in the writing he has done, he has guided the world in the ways we should go. He professes to be a Christian, and while he doesn't go all "sermony" most of the time, the vision he draws of how the world is, according to the intentions of God, and of where we have screwed it up and continue to screw it up, and of how we might repent of our actions and failure to act is so far as I can see wholly consistent with the Law and the prophets -- and as those have been fulfilled in Jesus.

Here is a little something on marriage that is better than most church's formal statements on the sacrament. If I were a pastor, I would make reading it and discussing it the centerpiece of any pre-marital counseling that I was called on to do.

Lovers must not, like usurers, live for themselves alone. They must finally turn from their gaze at one another back toward the community. If they had only themselves to consider, lovers would not need to marry, but they must think of others and of other things. They say their vows to the community as much as to one another, and the community gathers around them to hear and to wish them sell, on their behalf and on its own. It gathers around them because it understands how necessary, how joyful, and how fearful this joining is. These lovers, pledging themselves to one another ‘until death,’ are giving themselves away, and they are joined by this as no law or contract could every join them. Lovers, then, ‘die’ into their union with one another as a soul ‘dies’ into its union with God. And so here, at the very heart of community life, we find not something to sell as in the public market but this momentous giving. If the community cannot protect this giving, it can protect nothing – and our time is proving that this is so.

-- Wendell Berry, Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community: Eight Essays (New York: Pantheon, 1993), pp. 137-38.

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