If "Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it," what is the doom of those who rewrite history?
This week, among progressively inclined Christians, there have been many knowing winks and nods surrounding the iconographic evidence, and indeed a ceremonial itself, that prove that the Church's current teaching on marriage is inconsistent with her own history. Most of the time, the basis for these headlines and talking-points is a book published some years ago by Yale historian John Boswell.
Boswell's highly interpretive work refers to a practice that goes by the Greek name "adelphopoiesis" (literally"brother-making" or "kinship-making"). Clearly we Westerners don't have much experience or memory of a ritual like that; an ancient image of two men being "joined" by Christ sure looks like matrimony to us. Obviously, then, we might conclude, the Church should return to its earlier, more tolerant practice.
Unfortunately for those who would like to point to adelphopoiesis as a prototype for the direction of marriage in our day, however, is that we are obliged to understand adelphopoiesis on its own terms, not those of our sex-obsessed culture. Here are two very interesting approaches:
- From an Eastern Orthodox perspective, comparing and contrasting the brotherhood rite and the marriage rite. (Especially pertinent is that this spiritual "kinship" was treated under the Canon Law related to adoption, not the laws connected with marriage.)
- From the scholar with first-person experience of a similar ceremony (in a present-day Syrian Orthodox Church) in which she was joined in sacramental "sisterhood" with a fellow scholar, on the basis of a Syrian bishop's recognition of their friendship.
Finally, here is early