I participated in a Catholic wedding today, because the priest was sweet enough not to do that Catholic exclusionary thing I've encountered before and refuse to let the PROTESTANT take any role at all.
He was an old dear, and very very welcoming of me. It was a beautiful wedding.
Someone from the Catholic side of the wedding party approached me and said,"It was so nice of you to agree to do those readings and to lead those prayers." And I said, "I was very happy to do it. The pastoral prayer is almost exactly like the one I pray every night from one of our Unitarian or Universalist prayerbooks." She couldn't hear this. She mowed me right over like a steamroller, so determined was she to insist on our great religious difference. In a tone that implied, "This must have been very hard for you
" she said, "We know it's not your faith, so it was really generous of you to be here."
By then I was getting frustrated and offended.
I put my hand on her arm and in the same slow, sympathetic tone she had used on me, I said,
"I. was. happy. to. do. it. I thought all those readings were JUST. LOVELY."
I was irritated for several reasons. First, that this woman actually thought I would get up and read prayers or scripture that were contrary or objectionable to my religious beliefs and my faith tradition. Second, her total inability to stand in front of a non-Catholic and see them as a fellow Christian. Did she assume I was Jewish? I'm a Reverend; not bloody likely, despite my Jewish last name. I can only assume that she found out that I was a Unitarian Universalist and assumed I was a Christian-phobic crank. Ay, ay, ay. Whatever the reason, she was just determined to cast me in the role of emotional martyr, resentfully trading away my Protestant authority to the priest just for the privilege of being able to be there for the UU bride.
As if any clergyperson with any personal integrity would do that.
And as if I wouldn't find the words of the Tobit, I Corinthians and the pastoral prayer beautiful, loving and a privilege to bring before a group of dearly beloved on a wedding day. I have this vision of myself throwing the Bible across the room and yelling, "I can't SAY THIS GARBAGE!" I mean, c'mon,
lady! Is that really the reputation Unitarian Universalists have earned?
And did you actually think the bride and groom and the priest and I weren't going to carefully discern appropriate things for me to do in the service? Like I was going to walk through the door and he'd say, "Oh here. You sing the 'Ave Maria and distribute the host, 'kay?"
Yes, it was hard to lose another UU kid to the Catholic church. But that's what happens when two people fall in love and one person's tradition insists on their marrying and raising their children in their Church, while the other tradition doesn't seem to much care whether or not they go to church at all, or how they raise their children. When a religious liberal person falls in love with an orthodox person, the liberal by definition will be more likely to abandon their tradition on behalf of the other's. You know why? Because the orthodox person will ask them to.
I can only hope (and trust) that the couple will make compromises and work it out so that the Unitarian Universalist stream of argument will be part of their spiritual lives. And in the end, I care more that they share a spiritual life together than in dictating what tradition they observe. It is my observation that intellectually curious, tolerant people find a way to be intellectually curious, tolerant religious people even within orthodox traditions.
And so it goes with the sectarian turf wars throughout human history.
Ninety percent of the congregation this morning could not even share Communion with the bride and groom because they were not Catholic. And I had the personal feeling that if that priest was in charge of things, every one of us would have been welcome at the table.
And so it goes.
And so I
go off to NYC to see MotherBang do her cabaret act tomorrow afternoon at Danny's Piano Bar on 46th and 8th. Come if you can and cheer her on. It's at 2 pm.