Monday, May 30, 2011

Do you vow?

I just got back from Young Adult Conference (it rocks, you should go) and have several potential blog posts churning around in my head.  And y'all may get nag e-mails from me to get you to write as well.  But since it's 1:20 AM and I'm packing for California, I'll keep this one brief.

We closed our final worship by reciting a vow.  Unfortunately I can't tell you what it was, as the slip of paper seems to have removed itself from my pocket between then and now, but it definitely included the word "vow."

For me, this stirred up some dissonance with my understanding of the Brethren tradition of declining to swear oaths, such that I decided not to participate in the reading.  But I'm curious to see some discussion:

  • What have your experiences been with the issue of swearing oaths?  Do you consider refusing to do so an important part of your faith tradition, or is it something that doesn't seem to matter much?
  • Are there some circumstances in which swearing an oath is more acceptable than in others?  Is making an oath to God OK, since it's not binding oneself to an earthly institution?
  • Is saying "I vow" different than saying "I swear?"
Do contribute!

(Update 5/31/11)

I found the paper.  It reads as follows:
We vow to serve and follow Christ as children of God.  We realize the road ahead may not be easy all the time, but we, as the future of the church, strive to hear the call, and go.  We say yes to God, but realize that saying yes comes with a responsibility.  As we leave this place, may we go re-thinking church by the way we live, the things we say, and the actions we portray.  Christ leads and guides us, but we have a choice.  Will we walk in his footsteps?  Will we press on with courage and hope?  Even if we're still waiting, let's enjoy the call of the journey that is before us right now as we continue the work of Christ living peacefully, simply and together!


Anonymous said...

Nick, I think this is an interesting question. I might just say that some of our sisters and brothers might quibble some- especially those who are married and have taken vows, or those who have recently been baptized and spoken their faith as vows.

I think the element of our tradition that has rejected the swearing of oaths was more based on the scriptures which call for our yes to be yes, and our no to be no. In other words the swearing of an oath- especially on the bible- implies that we are not speaking the truth otherwise. Its kind of an issue of character.

I think what your reflections highlight is the role of respect for conscience in our tradition (strangely now called forbearance- which implies still that one is wrong and needing a little grace for their error). Your response to not share in the vow is a sign to me that the space was right for not judging the internal reaction to saying the vow or not.


Nico said...

Yeah, I agree on your analysis of where the tradition comes from; if swearing something makes it *more* true, then by implication non-sworn statements are at risk of being *less* true, whereas the ideal behavior is to speak the truth whether or not you're swearing it.

In this case, I didn't see it as a moral/ethical issue; I didn't think it would be somehow *wrong* for me to participate, nor did I think others shouldn't have done it. I think I'm just so coded against oaths that I was more comfortable not saying something that began with "I vow." Kind of like how specific kinds of plain dress aren't just an ethical matter of simplicity, but a participation in tradition.

Anyway, I just found myself mulling on it and wanted to share.

Nico said...

The wedding vows thing did cross my mind, too. But I've yet to make any ;)