Goin’ to the Chapel

There is a place near where I live called “The Chapel Events Venue.” It looks like a small country church. This led me to wonder what kind of people would hold events there, and what kind of events. I have a strong suspicion that it is primarily used for weddings.

But then this begs the question, why would you want to have your wedding in a fake church? If having a wedding in a church building is important, then why aren’t you a member of a church? Is it that the idea of getting married in church is important? Is it more personal than getting married at the courthouse? It isn’t where you get married that makes the marriage stick, but perhaps it helps you get your head in the right place.

But then why have a fake church wedding? If going to church isn’t important to you then why go through the motions on your wedding day? Now don’t get me wrong, I’m totally for people not feeling compelled to go to church and for many opportunities for people to get married. I don’t understand why it is so hard to get someone to officiate at your wedding if you aren’t part of a religious community. For a civil union it is really just a legal contract. Why can’t an attorney perform the ceremony? Why can’t there be a little kiosk in Wal-Mart or Sears like they have for eyeglasses and haircuts?

This may seem callous and cold. Should it be that easy to get married? Look how hard it is right now and yet the divorce rate is so high. Perhaps making it easier to find a place and an officiant would make it possible for more people to get married. I support the idea of premarital counseling. In Tennessee the fee to get a marriage license is cut dramatically if you can prove you have had six hours of counseling. It isn’t mandatory but there is a definite incentive. Honestly I don’t think six hours is anywhere enough time to get you acclimated to the reality of sharing your life with another person.

Perhaps what we need to make it easier to get married but harder to get divorced. If you go into marriage thinking that it is easy to get out if then you probably won’t work at it when it gets hard. Marriage shouldn’t be a disposable item. Once you decide it doesn’t fit you can’t take it to Goodwill and trade it out for another one in a different style.

Marriage isn’t for everyone. It is really hard. There isn’t really anything that prepares you for how strange it can be. Often it is a weird blend of two people who have a lot of baggage and problems. Then you realize it is a weird blend of two families who have the same issues. While you are trying to work out your own mess you have another person’s mess to deal with. There sometimes is no getting around the idea that you are both very different people with very different needs and ideas about how to do things.

Perhaps classes on nonviolent conflict resolution would be helpful. Certainly both should take home economics classes. There should be counseling available if you think you might want to have children. There should be further counseling to teach you how to prevent having children if you don’t want them.

Right now we leave this all to chance. We assume that parents teach their children all these skills. It has become woefully obvious that this isn’t happening. People are getting marriage advice more from TV and movies than from real people.

There also needs to be a mindset change that it is OK to be single. There are a stunning amount of books for women who are over 30 who haven’t found “Mister Right” yet. Why are women so encouraged to find a man? Why aren’t women encouraged to be whoever they need to be? Why are women made to feel that they aren’t quite complete unless they are married? I think this contributes to a lot of divorces. If you enter into marriage thinking that this someone else is going to fix all your problems then you just have created another problem. Another person can’t fix you. Two broken people don’t make a strong union.

Perhaps marriage needs to be seen as an option rather than an expectation. It is should be the same way with children. There is an immense amount of pressure to have children. When I got married everyone felt that it was their business to ask when I was going to have children, and to then bully me when I said I wasn’t interested. What, are they salesmen? Is there some bonus prize for making the population bigger? Total strangers would hound me about my private life. What is it about getting married that says it is anybody’s business if I spawn or not?

A simple “No” does not suffice. When I say that I don’t want children, people would always counter with “That attitude will change once you have them.” I would always answer – “What if it doesn’t?” They aren’t like puppies. You can’t give them back. You are stuck with them. Well, you can put them up for adoption, but that is a long process. I know far too many people who were obviously overwhelmed with their first child who then proceeded to have more. I hear that it gets logarithmically harder with each one. I know plenty of adults who are still raising themselves and have no business trying to raise children.

But then this leads us back to the beginning. What is the impetus to get children baptized when the parents don’t go to church? If you don’t believe in raising your child as a Christian, then why baptize your child in a Christian church? Is there some “just in case” magic that is going on here? Does baptism hedge bets? This was driven home when I talked with a chaplain at a children’s hospital. It was very common for parents of a child who was dying to ask that the child be baptized. If baptism alone is enough to ensure you’re “In” then why even go to church at all?