What does God think of arranged marriages and other questions I hadn’t thought to ask

Arranged child marriage theology

One of the beauties of moving and living in different countries and continents (hence the ‘dislocated’ in the name of this blog) is getting to experience different cultural interpretations of Christianity. God is the same, but all of us are influenced by our culture and individual worldviews, which affect how we see God and work out our faith. In some cultures, a lot of time is given over in church, during teaching and in discipleship groups, to issues that just wouldn’t be addressed in my home churches in Britain.

I am living in Nepal right now

Here, converts to Christianity from Hinduism have often had arranged marriages. Frequently, the woman was a child when the marriage was arranged for her by relatives. Knowing if they should continue their marriages once they’ve converted is a considerable dilemma. Generally, church leaders advise them to persist with the marriage and forgive their spouses for wrongdoing. The church here believes marriage is sacred, even if arranged. Divorce is permitted when there is abuse (of any kind). I don’t feel all that comfortable with their conclusion. Still, if the church began preaching that arranged marriages were wrong, many would convert to Christianity to escape wedlock. This would not go down well in wider Nepali society. I’m grateful I grew up in a culture that didn’t have to think about such a difficult question. However, I believe all cultures have their own particular issues.

When we lived in America

Over there, much time was spent discussing the Christian approach to covering healthcare costs. How should the church respond to someone in the congregation who needs a $50k operation but has no (or gaps in) health insurance? Should the church cover the cost, do they organise a GoFundMe or hope someone else can help? Should fundraising be churchwide or at the small group level? Again, since healthcare is free in the UK, I had never had to think about this problem before.

Covid only served to highlight this problem in the US. In the UK, if someone had Covid (before the vaccine rollout), it was obvious they should stay away from work to protect their colleagues. Yet, in America, staying at home may mean the business will go under, thus ending their colleagues’ company-provided health insurance. What is the best way to love your neighbour and colleague in this instance?

Of course, the UK is not exempt

Applying Christian principles to unique and tricky situations that perhaps wouldn’t be addressed or thought about elsewhere occurs in Britain too. A lot of time has been spent by churches trying to achieve fairtrade status; I have not seen this issue feature on the teaching schedule for a church in Nepal or the US. Might the UK’s preoccupation with global trade equity be a result of our legacy of slave trading? There are many churches constructed with the profits of such commerce. Perhaps the calling to right these wrongs is unique and appropriate for the British church to address.

These are just a few examples that I have observed

I know there are countless other examples of countries, cultures and practical theology that emphasise how Christians do things differently from country to country. I’d love to hear what you think is either focused on too heavily in your Christian culture or completely overlooked. Please feel free to comment below. Thank you.

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Just as we are each a work in progress, so too is DislocatedChristians. Sometimes I’ll get things wrong, and I hope you’ll forgive me and continue to stick around when that happens.

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