White weddings, farm boys, and drag queens: Adorning and adoring the church

Ryan Jantzi’s column, ‘Honouring the bride of Christ’ struck a chord with me. In the short article Jantzi conjures the well known image of a group gazing at the adorned bride coming down the aisle of at a wedding. Jantzi observes, this is how we adore brides, but this is not how we adore the bride of Christ, the church. I admit that I was put off with Janzti connecting the church to imagery that remains deeply embedded in the history of brides as prize and property. It is easy to offload all of our ideals of purity, beauty, and faithfulness onto women who already face endless demands by our culture while excluding those who do not conform to these traditions.

However, as I sat with my discomfort this image did bring to mind a memory growing up on the farm. I was probably around 8 years old when my two older sisters dressed me up as girl by putting me in a skirt and makeup. I remember twirling around to make the skirt rise and fall, much to the joy of my sisters. My sisters then brought me out to the field where my fathers and uncles were working. I remember going in anticipation, carrying my experience of being adorned and adored, hoping to bring them this joy as well. I don’t remember exactly what happened when I got to the field but I was left with a feeling of wrong doing; that such adornment was not to be repeated and was certainly not adored.

I agree with Jantzi this is indeed is how the bride of Christ is often left to feel. Adornment is not a traditional value for Mennonites. But thinking of myself as part of the church, thinking of myself as the bride of Christ I was encouraged to wonder about how men (in particular) can embrace being adorned and adored. In May a number of drag queens are offering public readings for children at two libraries in Winnipeg. I confess that I had mixed feelings hearing about this event. I still have my own gender stigmas and preconceptions. However, thinking of my own experience I was reminded of how easy it is to internalize shame and criticism then projecting it onto others; the cycle is easy to reproduce. I really did find joy dressing up as a girl, I enjoyed the beauty that this performance offered my sisters. Why would I want to take that from others?

I am as active as any in criticizing the church. I am never sure if or when I cross the line from being insightful and creative to being boring and cynical. While I will continue to strive for healthy criticism I also want those in and around the church to be renewed with a sense of how to adorn and adore themselves and each other.

One thought on “White weddings, farm boys, and drag queens: Adorning and adoring the church

  1. Really interesting, thank you for this. “Adorning” is usually a word restricted to women’s clothing, I’ve never heard of a man being adorned with a three piece suit. I feel sorry for little David and all the other boys who are told they can’t be adorned.
    I am also fascinated by the fact that the more restrictive a church is with regard to women’s roles, the more frequently they use the language of “the bride of Christ” for the church. When I was pastoring in the MB church, it was extremely disturbing to have male leadership on a stage filled only with men all talking about adoring the “bride of Christ”. In these restrictive and often evangelical contexts, they “adore” a bride and treat a woman like she’s invisible. (I’m not even going to go into the problems of the biblical text which so often paints women as a pure bride or the whore of Babylon.)
    In the end, the proof of adoration of your partner is how you treat them in marriage. I feel married to the church and just as with a real-life partner, there is some adoration, but also a lot of appreciation, some criticism, some boredom, some days you wonder what have i done; but do you stick with it, still show up, still try to live up to those vows of love?

    Liked by 2 people

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