On April 25 I wrote a blog about a wedding between two young Christians, one Protestant and one Catholic. This wedding was performed by my good friend Andrew Sandlin, one of the ministers of the Church of the King in Santa Cruz, California. I expect this blog generated three responses. The first one is the response I grew up with in the Bible-belt. Such weddings are "mixed" marriages and will lead to nothing but heartache and turmoil. The children of such a union will be completely confused and probably lost to the gospel. The second response would be one of liberal toleration that misses the fact that there are still real differences in our views of the church. This one leads to a shrug which says, "It doesn’t matter." The third response, which is the one I would appeal for personally, is that such a wedding has inherent problems but these problems can be overcome and should not prohibit a Christ-centered home and family. In fact, such problems could, in very strong marriages, produce fruit that is rarely seen in modern Christian homes on the left or right. So, while I do not generally advise marriages where the bride and groom have such radically different approaches to the church, and thus to important issues like liturgy and church authority, there is no biblical basis for prohibiting it. The idea that such a wedding is a mixed-faith marriage is ludicrous. And it generally leads to something less than charity, inviting the kind of rancor that is still quite evident in many sectarian settings. This was the original point I made by citing Sandlin’s blog entry.
As providence would have it, the groom in this marriage wrote me a personal note about my blog. He gave me permission to post his response. I think this letter is both edifying and insightful. It also has a sad note to it. It demonstrates that post-Vatican II Catholicism is not the same as that which I grew up with in the 1950s and 1960s. A new day has clearly arrived and many of us welcome it since we pray and work for the unity of the Christian church. But it also shows that extreme sectarianism will keep up the resistance movement against real changes. This means that we must arm ourselves with the love of Christ and continue to press the claims of the gospel, which calls us to a grace that loves even those who oppose us and feel led to attack our character and beliefs.
Here is the letter from the groom.
Thank you very much for your positive comments on Andrew Sandlin’s April 22nd blog entry, "Catholics and Protestants Together – Literally." I am the groom – the Roman Catholic – mentioned in the post. I was rather shocked to find out what a stir our marriage has caused in the ‘blogosphere’. My wife and I knew that we would lose some friends over our decision to follow God’s call to get married despite our disparity of cult. However, I did not anticipate just how much strife it would cause among people we don’t even know. I am saddened by the lack of charity that many people are displaying by hurling invective at Andrew, questioning the validity of our marriage, and making assumptions about the spiritual health and development of our future children.
The thing that bothers me most, though, is that many have either implicitly or explicitly called into question my faith, salvation, and overall Christianity. In a few cases, this Inquisition rhetoric has also extended to my wife and to Dr. Sandlin. It is clear that when the comments stray into this realm, they cease being merely offensive. They become patently diabolical.
That said, I greatly appreciate the grace and charity with which you’ve handled this issue, and hope that your stance will not cause you too much grief.
May Christ richly bless you, your family, and your ministry!
PS – I was blessed to be able to hear your sermon at COTK a few months ago. It was one of the most true, inspiring, and Godly sermons that I have ever heard. Thank you, and keep fighting the good fight!
Well, thank you Nick! And may God bless your Christ-centered union with much joy and grace my dear brother. Sadly, you will need much more grace to deal with the harsh critics on both sides of this debate, both sectarian/contrarian Catholics and evangelicals. May your life together become an icon of the love of Christ that we all need to see in real life.