Bart Barber has been one of my favorite bloggers for years, even when he infuriates or annoys me, or disagrees with me – a sin I consider unforgivable. I like bloggers who make me think, who bring a new, fresh perspective to a discussion instead of rehashing the same old stuff over and over and over. When there is a hot topic, you will often see a flurry of posts that give variants of the same view. With Bart (for good or ill) you usually get something new and fresh.
Wow, has he outdone himself this time. I am concerned that he has lost his ever-loving mind. Dude may have moved to crazytown; I just don’t know.
First, Bart published a post called “How I Do Weddings Now” that I thought was a spoof about a new contract he is considering enforcing with all couples he marries. He followed that with a post called “Explaining My Wedding Ceremony Contract” which removed all doubt that this was anything but serious.
Bart’s idea is to make couples sign a contract that costs them nothing (an initial $10) if they stay married but gives him the right to demand a $10,000 payment if they seek a divorce.
As I told him last night on twitter, he is about 2/3 genius and 1/3 certifiable nutcase. Or perhaps the ratio should be reversed. Is it legal? Enforceable? Biblically and morally justified? I encourage you to go over to Bart’s site to read the two articles in their entirety. But here is the contract that he is going to be asking couples to sign:
CONTRACT TO PERFORM A WEDDING CEREMONY
I, the undersigned Christopher Bart Barber, an ordained Christian minister, agree to conduct the wedding ceremony of the undersigned bride and groom [“the couple”] in exchange for the sum of $10,000 and according to the following conditions:
- PREMARITAL CONSULTATION: The couple agrees to attend sessions of premarital consultation as required by Christopher Bart Barber.
- CHRISTIAN WEDDING: The couple agrees that the wedding ceremony will be in the form of a Christian worship service. The couple awards to Christopher Bart Barber the right to remove from the wedding ceremony at his sole discretion any content that is contrary to his personal convictions regarding the nature of Christian marriage. The couple hereby agrees that the nature of the wedding ceremony and the nature of the marriage covenant that they are seeking is in accord with the Principles of Christian Marriage that Christopher Bart Barber has presented to them during their premarital consultation with him.
- RECIPIENT: The sum is payable to Christopher Bart Barber personally and not in his capacity as an employee of First Baptist Church of Farmersville. First Baptist Church of Farmersville is not a party to this contract. Agreements between the couple and any venue that may host the wedding ceremony or any related ceremonies or events are separate from this contract and do not affect it. Monies paid to First Baptist Church of Farmersville do not satisfy this debt.
- FINANCING: The undersigned couple hereby enters into a financing agreement to pay the sum to Christopher Bart Barber according to the following terms: (a) Upon completion of the wedding ceremony the couple must make a down payment in the amount of at least $10 (TEN DOLLARS); (b) The remaining balance will accrue interest at the rate of 0% (ZERO PERCENT) PER ANNUM, which interest rate is fixed for the term of the loan and may not be changed; (c) The couple must make regular payments due on the first day of each month in the amount of $0 (ZERO DOLLARS); (d) Any additional payments shall be applied against the principal sum of the indebtedness.
- JOINT AND SEVERAL LIABILITY: The obligations of the couple hereunder shall be joint and several.
- FORGIVENESS OF INDEBTEDNESS: In the event that either the bride or the groom should die before the acceleration clause has been invoked, Christopher Bart Barber shall forgive the aggregate amount of the indebtedness.
- ACCELERATION CLAUSE: In the event that the marriage of the couple should end in divorce or annulment, Christopher Bart Barber may, without notice or demand, declare the entire principal sum then unpaid immediately due and payable.
The second post explains some of the thinking behind this. I won’t copy that. The links are above. Read it before you start commenting. I’d just like to give you my thoughts on the topic, then open the floor for discussion.
I wish I knew how to add a poll. Bart Barber is a) genius or b) crazy or c) ample measures of both.
Here are my reflections:
1) The motive is noble.
Divorce is all too normal, even in the church today. And you can’t always see it coming. Any preacher who has been at the task for any length of time has pronounced a young couple husband and wife with full confidence that it was a permanent bond, only to see the marriage crumble later. Broken lives. Damaged children. The testimony of the church sullied. It is easy to see why Bart would feel a burden to do something.
Bart is to be commended for finding a creative way to deal with the problem. Is this the best way to deal with it? I don’t know. Will it make a difference? I don’t know. But it is a creative approach to a real problem.
2) The legality is questionable.
I’m not a lawyer. I just don’t know if something like this is legal or enforceable. I guess if everyone signs the contract freely, they are bound by it. I just don’t know.
SBC Voices has a few lawyers who lurk in the background here. Maybe some of them will want to weigh in.
3) Bart won’t be doing many weddings.
I would love to have a camera on the prospective bride or groom who calls Bart to see if he will perform their wedding and then finds out about the contract. They will be asking the same question I asked above, “Is this guy nuts?” The question will be whether they say goodbye or just hang up so they can call the church down the street.
Is that a bad thing? The only people who would ever get married under this contract would be deeply committed to their marriage and confident about their future. It does not seem to me to be a bad thing to discourage the kinds of marriages this would discourage.
By the way, Bart has made it clear that he will do premarital counseling and focus on the demands of Christian marriage. The contract is part of an overall strategy.
4) What about the lawsuit issue?
There is some divergence on the extent and reach of Paul’s command, but in 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 he discourages taking a fellow-believer to court. Enforcing such a contract would almost certainly produce a trip to the courts. Would that be a violation of 1 Corinthians 6? I don’t know. Something to think about, though.
5) If this worked, it could become a national movement!
I’m joking about Bart’s sanity, but I’m not kidding that I go back and forth on this idea. Genius. Nuts. Creative. Bizarre. Fascinating. Unthinkable. I just don’t know what to think. But if this worked, it could catch on.
6) A suggestion for Bart.
It might be helpful to include another paragraph in the contract. I’m not going to attempt legaleze, but a stipulation could be added in which Bart offers his services in counselling to the couple if their marriage hits the skids. The purpose (as he has made clear) is not to raise funds for the Barber Evangelistic Association, but to prevent divorce. A clause stating Bart’s willingness to meet with the couple to attempt to resolve issues before it gets to the point of enforcing the contract might be helpful.
Honestly, I am not sure what I think of all this. It is creative and unique. But is it a good idea. I’m guessing this discussion might help me decide what I think.
But there is one more thing I want to bring up: Did anyone else know Bart’s first name was Christopher?