Last weekend my niece, Liz, married Scott.
It was a wonderful wedding in which two thoughtful human beings took responsibility for their own futures. Their union was witnessed and supported by the people who matter most – loving families and friends. I was honored to be one of those witnesses.
While I’ve attended many family weddings over the years, this wedding was special because it was my first Jewish wedding. Not only was I able to experience the ceremonial differences, I had the opportunity to confront my own prejudices and incomplete thinking.
I’m grateful for Liz, Scott, my family, and my new extended family – the world just got a little better.
Over the past two years, Scott embraced his Judaism in a deeper, more meaningful way. While I didn’t discuss this directly with Scott, my instinct tells me this was done to establish his own spiritual foundation. Blindly accepting what he was taught as a child was no longer good enough. As a maturing man, Scott wanted (and needed) a deeper foundation to live a better spiritual life whose future responsibilities were to include a wife and children – God willing.
During this same two-year period, Liz converted from Catholicism to Judaism. Liz has now embraced a spirituality based on adult learning, thinking, and reasoning. The Christian foundation Liz received from her parents as a child served her well through her childhood, teenage years, and as a young adult. Now her evolved religious beliefs will guide her and Scott and the family they create for the rest of their lives.
I’m proud of Liz and Scott for the thoughtfulness, learning, and hard work they’ve put in, developing a common spiritual foundation to create their future together.
Here are three important lessons I’ve learned about Judaism, Christianity, and my own thinking from Liz and Scott’s wedding.
- Judaism and Christianity share many foundational principles that allow men and women to live meaningful lives. Virtues such as integrity, kindness, godliness, and compassion are elements we all need individually to lead good lives. Whether an individual learns these virtues from a church or a synagogue seems less the point. Living these virtues is what counts.
- My brother’s family (Liz’s parents, Liz’s siblings, my father, and my siblings) have been very Christ-like and accepting of Scott, Scott’s family, and Liz’s decision to embrace Judaism. I witnessed open-mindedness, acceptance, and love. Good for them! Good for Liz and Scott. Good for me as they continue to teach me to be a better man. They teach by their example.
- Scott’s family taught me about open-mindedness, acceptance, and love by accepting Liz and all of Liz’s family. I know, because I felt their acceptance and love. They invited me into their house. I was made to feel welcome. I was invited to participate in their traditions. They took the time to explain their customs so I could participate fully. They taught open-mindedness, acceptance, and love by their example.
Is accepting what you’ve been taught as a child, by parents who were taught as children any more meaningful than your own spiritual self-discovery as an autonomous, thinking adult?
Is it better to marginally practice historical teachings, or is it better to fully embrace and practice one’s own discoveries and enlightenments?
Why do groups of people and individuals care what others individually choose as their own path to spiritual salvation?
Why have wars been fought over religions?
Why do prejudices and even hatred exist in the name of God?
Obviously, these are age-old questions with no simple answers.
What I witnessed at Liz and Scott’s wedding was two good families united together by two godly individuals.
Kindness towards … respect of … and love for … is what made this marriage possible. Kindness, respect, and love are what really matters.
The church and synagogue are the manmade houses and the vehicle for individuals to find their way.
I’m proud that Liz and Scott are finding their way.
I’m proud that I come from a family that continues to find its way.
I’m honored to be a member of my new Jewish family – Scott’s family.
Shalom, Liz and Scott!
Next Blog Title: Peace Love & Gumption
Next Blog Date: June 25, 2012