I never imagined how "holy" an experience it would be to register at the courthouse for authorization to legally offiate at weddings.
- I provided papers proving that I am a called and ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (We call you to exercise among us the ministry of Word and Sacrament which God has established and which the Holy Spirit empowers, one of the documents reads).
- I provided $29 in cash, bearing the words In God We Trust, as payment of the courthouse's administrative fee.
- I took an oath which concluded with the words So Help Me God (and yes, in a strange feat of government orthography, the first letter of each word in that phrase was capitalized).
- And to top it all off, as I walked into the Arlington County Courthouse I passed the seal of the Commonwealth of Virginia, which prominently features the Roman goddess Virtus.
All this God-talk is required so that I can be authorized to declare a marriage legal. I'd expect God-talk in the church and in preparation for my ordination, but to formalize a state-sanctioned, legal relationship? I don't see how such language is necessary, to be honest.
One thing this experience has taught me is that when it comes to God's role (or the role of ancient Roman dieties, for that matter) in our state and society, I think we're a confused lot …
(Click here for more of my admittedly radical perspectives on the separation of church and state.)