Should I Honour Traditional Marriage Rituals? // Ask an African Pastor

Is it possible to remain faithful to the call to get married without disrespecting marriage rituals required by my culture?

“The best thing young Christians can do who are struggling with cultural issues in relationship to their desire to get married is talk to your pastors. The circumstances are exceedingly different. It’s impossible with one video to give you advice and say “hey, go home and do exactly this”. However, there are broad categories for us to consider under this question.

We all have a ‘culture’

One. We all live in a particular culture. It doesn’t matter if we are from the US or in Kenya. Whether it was back in the 60s or its going to be 60 years from now. Culture is inevitable. And I guess the thing we are struggling a lot with is that our parents might exist in one culture, and the young people exist in a different culture. So, it might be useful to start off with saying young people can grow in appreciating the culture of the old folk. And as they seek to have these conversations to not have a flawed view of the fact that just because their culture is different, their culture is superior.

Culture is not necessarily Godly

in culture… there are things that, because of our fallen nature, are going to be in contradiction to God’s character

Secondly, it is useful to know that culture is not necessarily neutral. There are things that are going to be in culture that are as an effect of God’s grace. Things that will reflect truths of scripture. And there are things that, because of our fallen nature, are going to be in contradiction to God’s character. So, if you look at your tradition it is useful to say, “Hey, you know what, this cultural practice was a good way of showing respect.” We as young people, when we are addressing people of that culture, don’t have to ignore that aspect of culture. We can embrace it, we can use it, we can promote it.

Navigating marriage rituals like dowry payments

For example, for us in Kenya, you can find the ideas of giving dowry. This is exactly where problems often come up when people are trying to get married. Originally speaking, good ideas behind the concept of dowry. As time moved on it has become corrupted. It has just become a way of people getting money. Oftentimes it is a great hindrance to young people getting married.

the reason why parents of a young girl would ask for dowry was for the young man to show whether he actually is of age. He is actually able to provide

This would be useful for a young person to do who is desiring to get married. Not to just ignore the whole idea of dowry per se, but to ask themselves a question. “Is there a way in which I could actually show the things that that particular practice used to seek to prove?”

Can I provide for a family?

E.g. in our culture the reason why parents of a young girl would ask for dowry was for the young man to show whether he actually is of age. He is actually able to provide for the young girl that he is coming to ask for her hand in marriage. So that if they ask for two goats, and the young man has no clue where he is going to get two goats from, the question is this. “Well, if you cannot come across two goats how exactly do you intend to feed my daughter for the rest of life?” Now, that’s a good idea behind that.

Parents don’t have to demand that by asking for 400 goats for example. But it’s useful if the young man coming forward does not totally disregard. Dowry is not like the parent is trying to sell the child. That is not the only thing behind that. There were useful things behind it.

Mature, Godly counsellors are essential

Practically speaking, we have advised young people to go with older people. Just the same across the continent. Hopefully the people going to represent you are Godly people who understand the scriptures. They also most probably have a better understanding of culture than you do. They can really, really aid in conversations like that. So, for young people what we encourage is “do your best.” Do your best to urge parents who are putting up unnecessary stumbling blocks to your desire to get married to remove them. Do so with carefulness, do so with wisdom, do so with counsellors. Hopefully with people older than you are.

However, what I would say is, you want to keep the authority that the Lord has put you under – the local church – involved with this conversation. We would be those who would be very hesitant before we advise a young couple to ignore the words of their mum and dad. And yet, there are cases where that might be the advice that comes forth. But that’s not something that you get from a video like this. That’s the kind of thing that you talk to the people you are in church with and the authority that the Lord has put you under in your local church.

 

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