A Prayer Offered by an Indoor Minister at an Outdoor Wedding

Lord God Almighty, we have gathered in this place, this park, outside, miles from a respectable church sanctuary, to join these two people in what we hope is holy matrimony.  We pray that every wedding will be sacred—even those that take place in settings more fitting for a folk arts festival.

Lord God Almighty, forgive me if I should have given this assignment to a younger, hipper minister.  Several people wish I had said “No,” but Ashley was so cute when she was four years old and insisted on sitting on my lap during the children’s sermon.  I know that she has not been to church for a while—by “a while” I mean at least ten years—but when she asked me to perform this wedding I thought we would be at the church with pews and the cross.  She neglected to mention that we would be here at the Heaven on Earth Spa and Wedding Arboretum.  We pray, nonetheless, that you will look mercifully upon Ashley, in her ankle bells, flower crown, and not quite white dress, and Evan in his Urban Outfitters formal wear.

Lord God Almighty, I feel like an airline stewardess leading passengers through the safety speech.  No one is listening, but it is important, so I am going through with it.  I know that some would like for me to hurry up so they can get to the gluten-free, farm-to-table, locally-sourced, chipotle-flavored, artisanal cake.  They are eager to drink too much organic beer and dance suggestively, but they can just hold their horses, because now that I mention it, a horse would not be out of place at this wedding.  The butterflies that the groom feels may be actual butterflies.  Bambi might walk up and nibble the bridal bouquet.  Birds could flutter around the bride’s head.

Lord God Almighty, we wish it was twenty degrees warmer.  Scheduling an outdoor wedding in March is rolling the dice.  Perhaps if we had known it would be fifty degrees, the bridesmaids’ tiny turquoise dresses would cover more and my dear wife Barbara Kay would not be using a tablecloth for a blanket.  Lesson learned.  And if it is not too much trouble it would be helpful if you could stop with the wind already.  We have given up on any candles staying lit, but a lot of expensive hairdos are blowing away and the pages in my Bible are not staying put.

Help us pay attention to the reading of 1 Corinthians 13.  We feel free, however, to ignore the Apache blessing that the bride’s sister is about to read as no Apache would recognize it.  And let me make it clear that I do not approve of the lewd song the one female groomsman will be singing.  I wish we had an organ or a piano, but I confess that I liked the guitarist’s prelude.  It sounded like something Taylor Swift might have sung before she started singing too loud.

Lord God Almighty, please remind those who are only now arriving and are, at this moment shuffling people around so they can have a spot on a bench or a hay bale, that while others’ eyes are closed, you are watching them.  You might also jog the memory of the fancy photographer that we agreed that he would not move around during the ceremony; that includes the prayer.

As we think about the generations that preceded this couple, we cannot help but wonder what those couples who were married in church buildings in weddings that cost $25 including the license and a haircut would think.  But we also know that we are here by your grace, as well as that of match.com.  Things change, but couples keep making this brave attempt to love one another.  In a few minutes when they read the vows they wrote and promise to “dream big dreams, feel the wind of hope, laugh every day, and discover myself on this crazy journey we call life,” know that they are promising “for better, worse, richer, poorer, joy, sorrow, sickness, health, to love and cherish, as long as we both shall live.”

We pray this in the name of Jesus, who went to a wedding and provided refreshments of which I would not partake, Amen.

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Religious Terrorism

I belong to a religious group that has been responsible for horrible acts of terrorism.  The majority of us do not believe these terrorists are being true to our faith, but others insist on painting us all with the same brush.  Religions that include terrorists are having a hard time, but I hope those with different religious heritages will treat us fairly.

Do not judge our holy book by a few stories.  Lots of people condemn sacred texts without having read the book, but the Bible’s violent stories do not characterize the whole text.  Yes, when some boys call one of God’s prophets “Baldy,” Elisha curses them in the name of the Lord, and calls two bears to maul 42 children.  God commands the Israelites to destroy all the women, children, infants, cattle, sheep, and donkeys among the Amalekites.  The prophet Hosea promises that God will take revenge against Samaria and “their little ones shall be dashed to pieces and their pregnant women ripped open.”  Some argue that a sacred text with such terrible stories leads its followers to be violent, but do not judge the Bible by a few passages.

Do not condemn Christianity for our most embarrassing moments.  Some evaluate entire religions by the worst events in their history.  This is unfortunate because Christianity has a history of terrorism.  The Crusades were a series of military campaigns sanctioned by various Popes in the Middle Ages.  We want to think Christians are getting better, but the evidence is shaky.  In 2012, Wade Michael Page killed six people in a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, because he believed he was preserving Christian society.  The Army of God, a loose network of Christians, has a history of terrorist attacks on abortion providers.  Last summer church attender Dylann Roof murdered nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.  The stewardess who refuses to give a Christian an unopened soda can for fear he will use it as a weapon may be genuinely afraid, but we hope you do not give in to this kind of bigotry.  Christian terrorism makes it easy to dismiss us as violent people, but it is not fair.

Do not judge Christianity by those who give us a bad name.  Disparaging a religion because of its worst adherents is wrong, but many point out that Hitler grew up Catholic and talked about “divine providence.”  Pat Robertson called for the destruction of Islam and all its followers.  The President of Liberty University, Jerry Falwell Jr., encouraged students to buy guns to “end those Muslims” who might threaten them.  Jim Jones, Fred Phelps, and David Koresh are not who most Christians are, so do not judge Christianity by its most terrible members.

Do not attack Christianity for political gain.  Some politician in some country may pander for votes by calling for a ban on Christian immigration, but do not give in to narrow-mindedness.  Many Christian refugees are running for their lives.  Do not listen to any one who says an immigration policy that includes Christians is “importing terrorism.”

Do not judge us by our clothing.  Many Christians wear what are called “Christian T-shirts” that proclaim messages like:

Salvation makes everything better. Just like bacon.

I lost faith in humanity before it was cool.

White Straight Conservative Christian:  How Else May I Offend You Today?

Those who are not Christians see this kind of clothing—not to mention WWJD bracelets—as a refusal to fit in:  “Why can’t they dress like everyone else?”  The outfits may seem odd and offensive, but treat people in Christian clothing with the same respect you would give someone in a Jewish yarmulke or a Muslim hijab.

As it says in the Koran, “Had God willed, he would have made you a single community, but he wanted to test you regarding what has come to you.  So compete with each other in doing good.  Every one of you will return to God and he will inform you regarding the things about which you differed” (Surat al-Ma’ida, 48).

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