I woke up this morning, as I often do, happy.
The coffee was hot, it isn’t raining, and despite a terrible knee injury suffered during dinner last night (don’t ask), my DEMM (DesCamp Early Morning Mood-o-Meter) was hovering right between “pretty good” and “slightly awesome.”
Then I turned on the news, and all I want to do today is go back to bed.
I don’t have the energy this morning to blog about the terror attacks in Brussels. You can all certainly find pundits online who will try to sort through the latest attack in the name of God.
Instead, I give you this rewritten rerun, which speaks for itself on the issue of religious “tolerance.”
This letter is also good because as we swing into the wedding season, I am getting an uptick in letters on various wedding-related problems. Later this week I’ll answer a question from an ex-wife who REALLY doesn’t want to be photographed with her ex-husband at their daughter’s wedding in August.
My son is getting married in June and his father and I committed to paying for the reception when he became engaged last year. He is our only child and we are thrilled he is getting married. And we love his fiancée! So what’s the problem?
We raised our son in a God-fearing Christian household. He went to private Catholic school, including college, and religion has always been a central component of our lives. His grandparents, all of whom are still living, are also deeply religious.
So imagine my reaction when he announced there would be no mention of God during the ceremony and that rather than our family priest, he was having a friend conduct the wedding and that friend was ordained on the Internet! Apparently my son and his future wife are atheist, which came as a very disturbing surprise to me and his dad.
His father and I are deeply disappointed and angry. This is not how we raised our son. Not only will we be very offended if God is ignored in the ceremony but I know his grandparents will be horrified.
We are considering withdrawing our offer to pay for the reception if he does not compromise and use our priest for a traditional Catholic wedding. His fiancée’s parents don’t have very much money so I don’t think they can just pick up the tab, nor can my son, who is just beginning his career in insurance.
We would still attend the wedding but don’t want to contribute financially if it is going to be a huge slap in the face to our family and our religious beliefs.
Thoughts? My best friend thinks I am being unreasonable, but my husband and I are in total agreement on this issue.
First of all, mazel tov on the engagement of your only child!
This is an exciting time that, insha’Allah, can be filled with joy, wonder, new friends and family, and a sense of becoming part of something bigger as you merge families with another and grow your tribe.
At the same time, weddings can be a deeply stressful and contentious time.
Because of people like you.
You Raised a Good Kid
Reading your letter, one sentence really stood out to me, and that was,
This is not how we raised our son.
Either you are dead wrong or you failed in your efforts to brainwash your kid into becoming a mindless follower, something the world really doesn’t need more of these days.
Did you not raise your son to think for himself? To stand up for his beliefs, or lack thereof? To respect the feelings of his future wife? To make his own decisions?
And then there was the clincher:
We are considered withdrawing our offer to pay for the reception if he does not compromise and use our priest for a traditional Catholic wedding.
Please consult a dictionary and look up the word “compromise,” because it does not mean what you think it means.
You are making a unilateral demand under threat of severe retaliation to have things your way and in direct opposition to how your son and his fiancée wish for things to be.
That’s not “compromise.” That’s American foreign policy.
While I understand your desire to celebrate your beliefs as part of this monumental occasion, I hasten you to think critically about who this day truly belongs to, how you are handling this conflict, and what unintended results could arise if you don’t change your attitude and approach.
In addition, your own church would tell you that if the people being married do not believe in God, a priest won’t want to participate in the theatrics being played out for your pleasure.
Using money as a weapon in such a hostile way is ugly and could do a tremendous amount of damage to your relationship with your son, his future wife, and any little babies you will so badly want to
indoctrinate spend time with.
I assume you are a regular reader of this blog and are familiar with the disclaimer language at the top of the page. In case you are too lazy to let your eyes drift upward to the disclaimer link, I’ll provide it right here:
I’m not saying you have actually entered into a legally binding contract with your son, but I do see a moral one here.
Moral contracts, according to the legal scholar moi, can be analyzed in the same terms as legal ones, so let’s take a look as I revisit my old career:
You made an unrestricted promise but now you want to attach new terms and conditions to the promise, months after offering to pay for the reception. It is now late enough in the planning so that rescinding the offer if they don’t capitulate to your new terms will constitute a material breach.
This material breach is likely have enormous negative impact on their planning, increase their costs, and exaggerate their stress. In other words: they will suffer damages.
Believe it or not, I used to be a moderately competent lawyer!
Perhaps your son and his fiancée might be open to some sort of compromise that everyone can live with. The best way to find that compromise is to change your strategy from one of commanding and control to one of cooperation and conversation.
I have written my advice to you in a convenient list format so you can pray over each item in the order in which they appear.
Please pull your rosary out of your rear and do the following:
- Have your son and his fiancée meet with you and your husband to discuss the wedding.
- Explain to them that your religious convictions are very important to you and you would be grateful if they would consider including something God-related in the ceremony.
- Ask them if they would consider honoring your beliefs by having their officiant make some sort of religious comments…perhaps about love and family and what Jesus (allegedly) said on those topics.
- Be prepared for them to say no. This is, after all, their wedding; not yours.
- Ask yourself: how would you feel if your son told you he will be holding a clothing-optional keg party for your funeral? I’m betting you wouldn’t like it one bit (but I hope to get an invite).
- Lastly, sit down with your husband and have a good talk about how you think it came to be you didn’t know your own son was an atheist. That says a lot about the status of your relationship, my friend.
Hypocrisy is Stupid so Don’t Promote It
Some atheists are very uncomfortable with the hypocrisy of including religion in their wedding ceremonies because it feels inauthentic.
I should know; I did it myself.
I’m sure you expect others to respect your beliefs; shouldn’t you do the same for your son? If you can’t find compromise and you feel strongly enough that you won’t honor your promise to pay for the reception, be prepared to pay the consequences.
Your intransigence and self-centered behavior will have long-term effects, also known as consequential damages, and frankly, it isn’t very Christ-like.