…… having a traditional wedding and then a church wedding is just a duplication…..
Now that I am an adult and thinking of marriage my mind has been triggered to think about unions and the related issues. I have always thought of the perfect wedding, an ideal procedure and perfect timing. Why should I do a Church Wedding? Is ‘Chinkhoswe’ not enough? What makes a marriage Christian? These are some of the questions storming my mind now as I think about marriage. Well, thinking of these issues reminded me of the lecture I attended in College on traditional and church-based weddings by Professor Klaus Fiedler. He brought into discussion two terms: church marriages and traditional weddings. This is my take on the issue.
The genesis of weddings in Malawi and other communities around the world has not always been church-based, or Christian per say. There has always been a traditional take in the issues of marriages. We can borrow a leaf into the happenings of the Old Testament, to be specific, the story of Isaac and Rebecca. The process of their marriages was not more than acknowledgement of relations of both sides. In brief, let me examine for you the history of marriages.
In the ancient Israelite societies, marriage was the norm. There appear to have been few people who remained unmarried. A man selected a wife (or had one selected for him) from within his own tribe, usually at around the age of 13. The woman was then betrothed to him and in the eyes of society would be legally married. Upon consummation he would pay the bride-price to her family which compensated them for the loss of her labor. There was no religious ceremony at betrothal or any other time, although there would usually be a feast when the husband received the wife and consummated the marriage.
In the early Church there was still no marriage ceremony, it was not important for the couple to be blessed by a pastor or priest. There was no formal liturgy for marriage in contrast to formal liturgies that were established early on for baptism and the Lord’s Supper. This may reflect the early church’s ambivalent attitude to marriage and seeing the absence of family-ties and celibacy as a preferable state. There is no detailed account of a Christian wedding ceremony until the 9th Century; it wasn’t until the 12th Century that a priest became involved in the ceremony and not until the 13th Century that he took charge of it. Many of us Christians today would be surprised to find that the church did not consider itself to have a role in marriage for almost half its history.
Christians have had widely varying views on Christian marriage over the centuries – from asserting that the church has no role in marriage at all, to asserting that it has the central role. At times from permitting polygamy to celebrating celibacy, the church has changed its views many times in its existence.
To break down the topic further, Theology taught is the actual detail of activities the Bible stresses on any issues, and theology acted in the practice on the ground. It has always been noted that interpretations of scripture has been loose for a while making theology acted being a different story to the theology taught.
So what is my argument? Well, I propose traditional weddings to be understood as an authority just like church weddings in our societies. Certification need to be processed on the same even if the wedding was done within a house setting of a local structure. Of course, as long as acknowledgements of both relations from a man and woman were there in agreement, I think. I know this may attempt to make the church loose its power, but it should also be understood that marriages are an activity of this world and not of heaven as the Bible entails. The binding decisions made in all societies have power. As such, the church needs not to burden its people as if using its institution is the only channel to a real marriage.
From my Christian understanding marriages have to be based on faith in the Lord for the two involved, and the church officiating ceremony is just a process to integrate the two and families into the social order of the church. That has nothing to do with holiness of the two in eyes of the Lord, I conclude. Their faith in Jesus and acknowledgement of families matters to making a Christian marriage. Even with the Church’s procedure, but without faith in the Lord by the bride and groom, the wedding is not Christian.
As noted the reason why most churches push their lane as the only channel to a Christian wedding is due to the social order which they want to preserve. Well, most marriages are expensive as it requires a lot of money. The culture of the church makes many people fail into sin of imagination even after they have blessings of both parents and their society. For poor couples in most churches they are hindered as they try to match the standard of others so as to celebrate their day as it is the culture of many.
To crown it all, traditional weddings (‘chinkhoswe’ in Chichewa) is also a proper way to wed. Having a traditional wedding and then a church wedding is just duplication in my view. What makes a wedding Christian is not officiating it at the church, but the faith of the couple towards God. In my view God cannot declare you sinful just because you have not officiated your wedding in a church, but you followed a proper traditional ceremony where there was acknowledgements of all sides.
The yardstick of the church to keep social order is not a requirement of holiness and an authority to declare all traditional weddings done by believers wrong. I also find it wrong officiating weddings of an elder person in the name of cleansing the union, for instance, those that are married for twenty years and have kids, and passed through a traditional setup of marriage. Not recognizing the traditional marriage discriminates other members from the social setup of the church, this I find a fault. But being discriminated from the church-made laws is not being discriminated by God. I rest my case.