Friday, December 21, 2012

Questioning 'Christian' rites & ceremonies

As I reflect on what I consider imminent marginalisation of those with conservative Christian worldviews, I stumbled across this article reporting on how atheists and secularists are establishing or institutionalizing "church" (Hallowell, 2012). The title of the article is very catching: "A godless congregation’: British comedians launch atheist church to provide secular weddings, funerals & ‘worship’ services". Comedian Sanderson Jones in commenting about the rationale behind this initiative states:

"We thought it would be a shame not to enjoy the good stuff about religion, like the sense of community, just because of a theological disagreement"  (Hallowell, 2012).
This article lead me back to consider what are the things that Christians do, believe and practice today that are really Biblical. In fact the same rites of weddings, funerals and community gathering services are not exclusively Christian. In reality, the world turning against Evangelical Christianity is pushing Christianity back to its pure roots and foundation. What business does Christianity have in conducting marriage ceremonies or even funeral rites? Aren't such rites actually state or secular functions? Where in the Bible has Jesus ever married any couple? While he was present at a wedding in Cana and blessed the union with a miracle, he never officiated the function (see the whole story in John 2). Neither did Jesus perform any funeral rite. He was absent from funerals, markedly his friend Lazarus' (see the whole story in John 11), and even cancelled his own funeral rites by dying close to a Sabbath and rising before his followers could embalm him (See the story of the resurrection as well as the Wikipedia entry summarizing the four gospel accounts).

When we look at the early apostles and the early church, there is also no evidence that 1st century Christianity officiated weddings or funeral rites. All these came much later, when the persecuted Church became the state endorsed church of Constantine. As such, I am contemplating that the only authentic Christian rites are baptism and communion (Lord Supper). Hence, when the state decides who must marry who, is it really the business of Christians to oppose legally? Even if we do oppose on moral grounds, are we to legally fight against the passage of state laws about how marriage institutions should operate? Are pastors to even conduct marriage ceremonies or aren't these to actually be done by the state? To me certain questions have arisen about how much the church has taken on state functions and rites, which is why the faith is in so much trouble today. As the post-modern state returns to its pre-Christian state, church as we know it today will indeed need to be purified and drop all the trappings that have been added by Constantine. Only then can we go on and be the church and do what Christ really wants us to do.


Hallowell, Billy. (2012, December 21). A godless congregation’: British comedians launch atheist church to provide secular weddings, funerals & ‘worship’ services. The Retrieved from

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