Snake oil and wedding chapels

Beloved Friends,

I am not quite old enough to remember the snake oil shows but I do remember the tent revivals and the traveling carnivals and often there was little difference. I do recall that the adults would whisper about certain tent preachers and even though I did not know why they were whispering I was sure, and as it turned out I was correct, it had something to do with sex! A Presbyterian minister friend of mine told me about a preacher who unbeknownst to his congregation owned the building where he preached and when the day came that the board of deacons decided that he should no longer be the preacher he had the joy of telling them that he owned the building and it would be them what had to vacate not him! This is a true story because the now empty building was turned into a wedding chapel by the preacher which he made into a thriving business and retired fairly wealthy!
Apparently this notion of the “wedding chapel” which I think is uniquely American continues to be a very lucrative business. In these days of the internet the snake oil has been repackaged and redesigned along with the “wedding chapel” and the “preachers” that go with it. Now you can have a minister in all manner of robes and paraphernalia with fancy titles and even coats of arms and you can have either a man or a woman or someone in between! You can even have a titled minister with a whole church served up online and in virtual space to accompany your photo album of the joyous occasion.
What we need in this country is a government required wedding registry office so that in order for the marriage to be legal you have to be “married” by a government official rather than a clergyman or woman. If you wanted a church wedding that would be icing on the cake so to speak and obviously permissible. Were this to happen in one day alone you could probably do away with hundreds of “denominations and churches” and the carnival barkers that run them not to mention the wedding chapels and wedding “cathedrals”!


Bishop Andrew Gerales Gentry


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