Now that we have taken a detour down race-relations lane, lets return to something a little more pleasant.
I have been trying to work through a few ideas that seem to run together, or are related in a way that I can’t quite get my finger on. I am hoping a discussion with our readers will bring a little clarity to it. So far, readers have not let me down in that regard.
Here are the items that I think are related, but I am not sure how:
1. Our culture (American) seems to have accepted the idea that in-laws are just not going to get along. Not with each other, or with you.
2. Our culture also seems to embrace the idea that our children are always our children, taking it to the extent that their choice of spouse needs to know they will always play a secondary role to us, long after they are married.
3. Our culture has gone “all in” for dating, a system for mate selection that essentially lets young singles loose to find a spouse with absolutely no parental involvement. It has been this way for about a century.
Let me give a couple of examples. The idea of in-law relationships as a punch line has been around for as long as I can remember. I even recall Warner Brothers cartoons (which were made way before I was born–they were reruns when I was watching them) with jokes about new cars with secluded, sound proof waaaaay back seats for the mother in law, so you didn’t have to listen to her.
Here is a good example:
Recently, a friend of ours posted this article to facebook which essentially reinforces the obnoxious mother in law meme and celebrates it. The writer makes a disclaimer at the end about being “mostly” hyperbole, but the point is not lost on the reader.
Here is an excerpt:
I pray for his future wife, that she’ll be worthy of my sweet ball of Minecraft-loving awesomeness, but I think I need to start praying not only for her worthiness, but for her stamina, with me as a mother-in-law. I am going to be this girl’s worst nightmare…maybe just in my head, but it might leak out. I might be horrible.
I used to think I’d take her out for pedicures and bonding time, but now I know that I’ll lure her away from him, wait till she’s knee-deep in soapy warm water, then strand her at the salon with cucumbers on her eyes while I head back to my sweet, sweet man-boy. I am Gollum, and he is my precioussss.
I realize most of our readers are not Orthodox Christians, but I recently was in a conversation with Fr Joseph Gleason, of the Facebook page “Ask an Orthodox Priest” about honoring parents. It was in the context of courtship. Here are his words:
There may be some exceptions (e.g. when both parents are utterly opposed to the Christian Faith). But before considering exceptions, we should begin by considering the godly ideal.
What is the *best* approach that a faithful Christian person should take, in regard to obedience to one’s faithful Christian parents?
Neither Scripture nor the Fathers tell us that there is some magical age where honoring and obeying one’s parents becomes optional.
Rather, God explicitly blesses those adults who remain obedient to their parents, even into adulthood. For example, consider the Rechabites. As adults, they determined how they would live, and how they would eat, in obedience to their father. And God blesses them for this.
If we honor our parents, we should not seek for exceptions. And as parents ourselves, we need to live in such a godly manner that our children have no cause to seek for exceptions.
The ideal is for one’s parents to be actively engaged in seeking a spouse for the child, and for the child to be patiently awaiting the parents’ blessing of a marriage partner. When two people begin their marriage in an act of open rebellion against their parents’ wishes, it is something to be grieved.
A godly marriage is the joining together of two families. It is an occasion which should manifest unity and rejoicing throughout both families. When a newlywed husband and wife embrace one another, it should be done in such a way that it manifests honor and obedience to both sets of parents.
I must admit, this priest makes me proud to be Orthodox. Where else can you find current clergy who talks like that? This post is a couple of weeks old–it is not some obscure canonical or Catechismic writing. But I digress…
I realize there are several scripture references that can be applied here. I know about “leaving and cleaving.” I know about honoring our parents. Those are fantastic starting points, but how to apply them, exactly?
So readers–are points 1, 2 and 3 at the start of my post related? I think they are, but as I mentioned, I can’t quite get my finger on how. What are your thoughts?