The Meming of Life: on secular parenting and other natural wonders

My Big Fat Christian Wedding

Wedding4An ever-less-frequent series of posts while I’m working on a book about the secular/religious mixed marriage.

Deep into the wedding chapter now, including examples of the three general wedding flavors for secular/religious mixed couples: Sacred, Secular, and Swirl.

Mine was Type I, a traditional religious wedding. No one there would have guessed there was an atheist in the room, much less that he was the one in tux and tails. The setting was a beautiful, historic Lutheran church in San Francisco that we’d chosen not because it was Lutheran but because it was beautiful and historic and in San Francisco, Becca’s hometown.

We upped the religious ante with not one but two ministers–a Methodist friend of the family, and a Southern Baptist uncle of Becca’s whose contribution included a rafter-rattling reference to Matthew 21:21, the assurance that faith can move mountains. The readings were all Christian, ranging from the indispensable “love is patient, love is kind” from First Corinthians to a popular excerpt from The Prophet by the Christian mystic poet Khalil Gibran.

Ten years later, I’d have probably wanted to include some secular poetry or meditations and maybe nudged the scriptures a little — a nice humanistic bit from Ecclesiastes, say, instead of a verse on the telekinetic properties of faith.

But here’s the thing: At that point in my life, even though I was no less secular in my point of view, that played a much smaller part of my identity than it would later on. At 28, I was defined by music. My degrees were in music, and I was about to begin a 15-year career as a conductor and professor of music. I’d have been more offended by lame music than by all the Psalms in the KJV. It could rain little pillows embroidered with Proverbs for all I cared. The music was mine.

Included was Ravel’s Jeux d’eau and the “Menuet” from Sonatine, both played by my insanely talented brother Ron, plus Bach’s secular cantata “Sheep May Safely Graze,” a warhorse gone awesome in an arrangement for strings and two recorders. Becca entered to Bach’s “Air on the G String,” one of the most perfect things ever written, played by the San Francisco Conservatory String Quartet. We lit the unity candle to a prelude I wrote myself, also played by Ron, and we left to the ridiculously exuberant Widor Toccata for organ played by the organist of San Francisco’s Grace (Episcopal) Cathedral.

For those of you keeping score, we had now achieved the Protestant quadfecta: a Lutheran church, an Episcopal organist, and Methodist and Baptist ministers. I was awash in Christian ritual, text, and symbols — and I didn’t care a bit. I’d made my own heaven musically.

Are you in a secular/religious mixed marriage? This is the last week to submit your wedding story for possible inclusion in my book. Do it here!