Romeo loved Juliette. Juliette loved Romeo. But alas, Romeo was a Montague and Juliette
was a Capulet, and those two clans were embroiled in a blood feud in Renaissance
Verona. So to circumvent the customs and
rules of the day, they approached Friar Lawrence, who agreed to officiate their
wedding in secret.
It’s a classic story because the tension created in the
conflict where star-crossed lovers are willing to hazard any risk for the sake
of love and romance has universal appeal to all ages and cultures. For the romantic, the enchantment doesn’t
fade with age.
Many couples fall in love, marry and retire together. Often they’ll emigrate from the hostile climes
of the North and settle into retirement communities in sunny Florida. But they don’t live happily ever after: one of them succumbs to the ravages of nature
and leaves this mortal plane, leaving their spouse alone, once again, in a
community of others of a similar circumstance.
No longer having jobs to occupy half of their waking hours,
and all the children having grown and flown away, the new widows and widowers
have abundant idle time and spend it socializing, finding solace in the
companionship of others, and camaraderie in the fellowship of sufferings.
It is not uncommon in that community of shared grief and
loneliness that a widow and widower will meet, share their hearts, and fall in
love with zeal and passion equal to that of Romeo and Juliette. Yet while they don’t face the dilemma of
springing from rival clans, they face a new challenge: the government.
They’re sole source of income is their retirement benefits,
calculated according to their previous marriage. If the woman was a homemaker, those benefits
are spousal. But if they remarry, they
lose those benefits. It is against their
traditional upbringing to shack-up, but marrying would be financially untenable.
So they seek out a Friar Lawrence: a member of the clergy who is willing to wed
them in secret, in a union ordained of God but hidden from a malevolent
Twenty years ago I attended a Bible study in a traditional,
conservative church, where an elderly student raised the above scenario and
asked the pastor if he would be willing to perform a secret ceremony under
those circumstances. Without hesitation
he answered, “Absolutely not. When a
pastor performs a marriage, it is in conjunction with the civil authorities and
must comply with their guidelines.”
I considered that an uncharacteristically heartless answer
and challenged it. Scripture says that when a man and woman marry, they are no
longer twain, but one flesh. Their retirement benefits are hers at his
passing because our culture recognizes that both parties played equally
significant roles in the production of a family, the foundation of society. The benefits are her property. To deprive her of them is theft, which, scripture condemns. When government violates God’s law, civil disobedience is
justified. The Government – man – is
putting asunder, that which God hath joined together.
But he remained resolute.
Before he tells the groom that he may kiss the bride, he says, “By the
powers vested in me by the Church and the State of Indiana, I now pronounce you
man and wife.” Those powers are only
vested in him so long as he abides by their precepts.
On the drive home I couldn’t help wondering if that was a
ploy. A Bible study is a public setting
and it would be foolish to proclaim publicly your willingness to violate the
Then I wondered how firmly he would stick to those guns when
the government tells him that he is obligated to perform same sex
marriages. At the time (and currently)
open acceptance of homosexuality in the church was a controversial topic, and
he boldly proclaimed from the pulpit that if the denomination were to endorse
it, the local church would secede from the denomination because it was
impossible to reconcile that position with scripture.
At the time, it would have been a ludicrous
proposition. Not today. If you’re a member of the clergy, you might
want to start thinking about how you’re going to respond today. Surely you’re aware that bakers, florists and
photographers have already endured the onslaught.
Given the recent developments where municipalities and
schools are changing their standards based on what gender a person considers
themselves to be at any given moment;
the fanfare and presidential applause regarding the recent
“Trans-Jenner” circus, make it apparent that those who seek to devastate the
underpinnings of Western civilization intend to nullify arguments against same
sex marriage by merely normalizing declaring yourself to be another sex.
Same sex marriage is the zeitgeist. “Romeo and Juliette” is a classic because it
has universal and timeless appeal. Had
it been titled, “Romeo and Walter,” we would never have learned the name
Pastor, what are you going to do when the government orders
you to bless Romeo and Walter’s union?
Mike VanOuse is an Indiana Factoryjack, and can be reached