cohabitation

New York Times features free church weddings for cohabiting couples, with predictable criticism

New York Times features free church weddings for cohabiting couples, with predictable criticism

The story is about a Texas church offering free weddings for cohabiting couples who agree to undergo premarital counseling.

The publication is the New York Times.

So it’s no surprise that the feature eventually gets around to same-sex marriage and how the church involved won’t allow it.

But overall, it’s an interesting piece.

Let’s start at the top:

A few months before Kelvin Evans married his live-in girlfriend, Pa Shoua Pha, in 2016, uncertainty gripped him.

“I had convinced myself that I wasn’t going to have any more children,” said Mr. Evans, 44, the father of two boys from a previous relationship. But his girlfriend, he said, wanted to start a family and “it became a huge sticking point.”

Fortunately, the couple had a support network through the Concord Church, a nondenominational Christian church, in Dallas. Alongside five other cohabiting couples, they signed up for a “step into marriage” challenge and worked out their issues. On Aug. 27, 2016, all six couples, plus 19 other couples who also took the challenge, married in a mass ceremony. Mr. and Ms. Evans now have a daughter, Ava Naomi, who was born this past March, and Mr. Evans couldn’t be happier. “If I was doing any better,” he said, “it would probably be illegal.”

“If I was doing any better, it would probably be illegal.” Love it! I appreciate it when the writer rewards the reader with a great quote up high.

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News ghosts on the march: Thinking about cohabitation and the ties that don't bind

News ghosts on the march: Thinking about cohabitation and the ties that don't bind

There are times when it's easy to forget how many moral and cultural changes have taken place in North America, and the world, during the past half century or so.

When it comes to news, the tendency is to focus on stories that create the flashiest headlines. In the world of religion news, most of those have focused on LGBTQ issues. How many reporters will flock to the scene when the Episcopal Church consecrates its first trans bishop? Quite a few, it is safe to say.

However, when you look at statistics, even bigger changes have been taking place elsewhere -- among the lives and, from a biblical point of view, the sins of others. For example, if you talk to pastors -- in the most conservative, traditional churches -- you will discover that one of the most divisive issues they face, week after week, is how to handle the weddings of couples who have already been living together. Often the hottest arguments are with the parents of these young, or not so young, people.

This brings me to an interesting think piece in Christianity Today that ran with this headline: "The Three Myths of Cohabitation." As you would expect, CT knows that there are religion angles in this topic. However, for mainstream news reporters, this is a question-and-answer interview that is haunted by news angles -- national and global -- for those with the courage to cover them. Here's the overture:

According to a recent sociological study, cohabitation has a notably deleterious impact on one particular group: kids. “As marriage becomes less likely to anchor the adult life course across the globe, growing numbers of children may be thrown into increasingly turbulent family waters,” writes Bradford Wilcox in Foreign Affairs.
A professor of sociology at the University of Virginia, Wilcox and his colleagues recently completed a new study, The Cohabitation-Go-Round: Cohabitation and Family Instability Across the Globe. The report is the fourth edition of the World Family Map project -- which tracks various indicators of family health -- and is sponsored in part by the Social Trends Institute and the Institute for Family Studies.
The main study included the United States and 16 European countries. “We were looking at the odds that kids who were born to married or cohabitating parents will still be with their parents when they turn 12,” says Wilcox.

At the heart of the interview, obviously, are "three myths" about this widespread global trend in sex, marriage and family life. There is no way to sum this all up.

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On divorce: Is Pope Francis acting like a loving pastor or a clever Machiavelli?

On divorce: Is Pope Francis acting like a loving pastor or a clever Machiavelli?

So we have another major document from Pope Francis, with yet another wave of coverage in which the pope's intentions -- just as much as his words -- are the focus of a tsunami of media coverage.

Of course, "Amoris Laetitia (On Love in the Family)" wasn't just another 60,000-word church document. This apostolic exhortation from Pope Francis followed tumultuous synods on issues linked to marriage, sex and family life. The stakes were higher.

After reading waves of the coverage, and commentaries by all kinds of Catholics, I was struck by the degree to which journalists continue to view the work of Pope Francis through a lens that was perfectly captured in the following Associated Press statement (note the lack of attribution) about an earlier papal media storm:

Francis has largely shied away from emphasizing church teaching on hot-button issues, saying the previous two popes made the teaching well-known and that he wants to focus on making the church a place of welcome, not rules.

The "Amoris Laetitia" coverage offered more of the same formula, which can be summed up as,"The pope didn't change any church documents, but it's clear that he's trying to change such and such (wink, wink)." Thus, this week's "Crossroads" podcast (click here to tune that in) returned to a familiar question: Is Pope Francis acting like a loving pastor or a clever, stealth-mode liberal Machiavelli?

To be perfectly frank with you, I was intrigued by the degree to which traditional Catholics were divided on this issue, in their discussions of this document -- especially on the issue of Catholics receiving Communion after second, civil marriages. I am always intrigued when conservatives take stands that make other conservatives nervous and liberals take stands that make other liberals nervous.

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Sing it! Going to the 'chapel' (maybe) and we're gonna get married (on our terms)

Sing it! Going to the 'chapel' (maybe) and we're gonna get married (on our terms)

There is an old saying in the religion-beat world that goes something like this: You can always find interesting news trends if you keep looking at what happens when each generation moves through the symbolic crossroads of life -- being born, getting married, having children and dying.

During this week's Crossroads podcast (click here to tune that in), host Todd Wilken and I talked about a number of different trends linked to marriage in this day and age, spinning off from two New York Times stories. One was about people flocking to New York City for secular weddings in a state-run marriage bureau chapel. Yes, "chapel." The other was about the trend toward very sexy -- but still white -- wedding dresses.

All kinds of issues came up in this discussion. For example: Lots of churches have had to establish policies on how to handle couples who have been "living in sin" -- that's what people used to call it -- before marriage. There are still interesting stories to be found linked to that topic. But times move on. I am curious. In the age of R-rated wedding dresses, are religious leaders going to have to have wedding dress codes for brides? Do priests and rabbis need to approve wedding dresses in advance?

Truth be told, there is a big, big subject looming in the background during this chat. We are talking about radical American individualism and its whole "this day is all about you" wedding ethos that produces both gigantic, break-the-bank church weddings and all of those destination weddings on beaches, mountain cliffs and who knows where.

The bottom line is even bigger than the financial bottom line: Is the wedding a sacrament or not? Is the rite defined by individuals or by worshipping communities?

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Concerning secular chapels, racy white wedding dresses and other non-religion news

Concerning secular chapels, racy white wedding dresses and other non-religion news

A long, long time ago I was fascinated by a New York Times story about a hot trend in the Big Apple -- all of those folks lining up at the Manhattan Marriage Bureau. I started work on a post, but one delay led to another.

So deep into the GetReligion file of guilt it went, until a saw another wedding story with a sexy, literally, new news angle and the two got hitched.

On one level, the Marriage Bureau story had a simple business hook, and a valid one at that. You can see that in this fact paragraph near the top:

Weddings at the Manhattan bureau have increased by nearly 50 percent since 2008, according to the city clerk’s office. The increase has been coaxed by two changes in recent years: the legalization of same-sex marriage and an effort by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in 2009 to reimagine -- and relocate -- the bureau to rival Las Vegas as a wedding destination with pizazz.

Then later there were references to events inside and outside the "chapel." Such as:

Around 11:15 a.m., the pair entered the chapel of Angel L. Lopez, an officiant who had performed 86 weddings by the close of business. (A colleague handled another 15 during Mr. Lopez’s lunch break.)
Mr. Lopez stood behind a lectern on what appeared to be a doormat.

Interesting. Now, if one looks up the word "chapel" in a dictionary, one finds something like this:

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And this just in! Southern Baptists still convinced Christianity has been correct on marriage for 2,000 years

And this just in! Southern Baptists still convinced Christianity has been correct on marriage for 2,000 years

I think it is time for a moratorium on the use of the word "rail" by mainstream journalists, or at least by those who are not writing editorial columns or essays for advocacy publications.

Maybe it is time to say that we should only rail unto others as we would like them to rail unto us.

Now, I know that the word "rail" is legitimate and can be used accurately. I am simply saying that there is a high test for communications that can be accurately described with this word. Consider the following online dictionary material:


rail ... verb (used without object)
1. to utter bitter complaint or vehement denunciation ... to rail at fate. complain or protest strongly and persistently about. "he railed at human fickleness"

Elsewhere, you can find synonyms such as to "fulminate against, inveigh against, rage against, speak out against, make a stand against" and so forth. Now, some of those are fairly neutral and others capture the way this term is commonly used in news reporting. I think "rage against" is the hot-button concept.

So with that in mind, consider this USA Today report about the current Southern Baptist Convention conference on the dark side of family life in a post-Sexual Revolution world. 

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Concerning Pope Francis, 'trial marriages' and poorly covered media rites

Concerning Pope Francis, 'trial marriages' and poorly covered media rites

When covering major events that are directly linked to the liturgical work and authority of the pope, it never hurts to spend some time reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church. In this case, let's look at the material found at this reference point: Paragraph 2391 -- IV. Offenses Against the Dignity of Marriage.

Some today claim a “right to a trial marriage” where there is an intention of getting married later. However firm the purpose of those who engage in premature sexual relations may be, “the fact is that such liaisons can scarcely ensure mutual sincerity and fidelity in a relationship between a man and a woman, nor, especially, can they protect it from inconstancy of desires or whim.” 184 Carnal union is morally legitimate only when a definitive community of life between a man and woman has been established. Human love does not tolerate “trial marriages.” It demands a total and definitive gift of persons to one another. 185 (2364)

Now, with that in mind, let's look at some important -- yes, rather picky -- issues of verb tense in the mainstream news coverage of that remarkable wedding rite that took place at the Vatican.

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