Fasting 10/14/22

Memories with Richard Bleil

Credit card companies, if they were truly “services”, would turn off men’s credit cards between the hours of three, in the morning and five in the morning.  Working as a professor some years ago, I had trouble sleeping.  So, I hopped onto the internet and happened upon a website claiming to belong to a church.  For twenty dollars, I could become a minister in the church.  Well, yes, I was willing to risk losing twenty bucks on a con, so I signed up.  A friend of mine is an actual minister, having had divinity classes, and a congregation and everything, so the next day I asked him if he has ever heard of this church.  It turns out, it’s legitimate.

The church is recognized in most states, and as such, they can decide the requirements for ministers.  It started off as a tax dodge where people would become ministers so they would be tax exempt.  The government became wise to the game and decided that ministers do not have to pay taxes, but only on church related income.  This means that ministers still have to pay taxes on income from other sources, so the tax loophole was closed.  The church, however, came up with a great idea.  They still advertise, but now they do so saying that if you become a minister, you can marry your friends.  If somebody is particularly important in your life, that person can become a minister and perform the ceremony.

I’ve performed a few ceremonies in my day, mostly former students.  I am not a religious person, but I take marriage seriously.  It’s basically a step beyond a civil service since it’s somebody important to you performing the ceremony.  One of the most unusual ceremonies was performed during a renaissance fair and was a traditional hand fasting ceremony.

Divorce in the renaissance was rare, but there was a fabulous tradition that the betrothed couple could do to be sure that they were a good match.  One full year before the actually formal ceremony they would undergo a “hand fasting”.  It was performed by the priest, and in full view of the entire village where they couple would declare their intentions to be married.  Their hands would be fastened with a cord tied loosely around them.  The couple would then spend the next year living together as if they were married.  If, at the end of the year, they decided they still wanted to be married, they would go through the formal marriage ceremony, and their hands would be fastened with a cord tied tightly this time, and their marriage would be permanent.  If, on the other hand, they decided the match was poor, they would simply go their own ways.

I think about this periodically.  These days, a couple does not have to be married to live together, and, in fact, it is a relatively common thing.  Statistics have shown that a couple that lives together before getting married are less likely to be divorced, which makes me wonder why society tends to look down on the practice.  I’ve had female friends who refused to do this, saying that the man has no obligation to stay and can walk away at any time, but this isn’t exactly true.  These days, most states recognize “common law marriages”, designed to protect those who have put significant time and effort into a relationship without being formally married to ensure equitable division of assets in case the relationship dissolves. 

The concepts of cohabitation and common law marriage seem, to me anyway, as the modern-day equivalent of the hand fasting ceremony.  A couple will live together in a relationship before a formal marriage to see if they are compatible.  In the end, either they will go their separate ways, or get married, either formally or common-law. 

As a minister, my philosophy has always been that one should be married even before the formal ceremony.  By this, I mean they should be married in their hearts, with the same dedication for each other, and emotional commitment to be together for their life.  Of course, I also recognize that I’m old-fashioned in this way.  It’s becoming more common with couples to have the attitude of being together only as long as it’s desirable.  The idea is that people used to stay together because their lives were much shorter, and people were never meant to be together as long as we live today.  As such, my friends to ascribe to this belief, once it’s no longer worth the effort, a couple can simply split and go their own ways.  I guess this also fits in with hand fasting, except that there is no prescribed time limit. 

And the point of this blog?  None, really, I guess.  Just something to think about.  I’m a huge romantic and kind of wish I was living with somebody, but alas, it’s not meant to be.


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