Does sharing the same faith really matter in a relationship?
I don't think so.
Some of my girlfriends and I talked about this last fall. Most of them said that they wouldn't marry a guy if he wasn't the same denomination as her, or at least a Christian. Some of them said they wouldn't even date a guy of a different faith.
This isn't to shame them or laugh at my own superiority; they had some good points when asked why.
One friend said that there would always be something between them, that they wouldn't have the same view of the world. Another said that they couldn't get married in her church if her fiance wasn't of her faith. Another pointed out that raising kids would be a lot harder when their parents have two different faiths. I've been preached at by random people that Christian marriages last longer; that couples who pray together or read the Bible together last longer than couples who don't.
All good, valid, points. I just disagree.
(1) Worldview Differences
Take my life: Jake and I don't share the same faith. Jake's a nontheist. He's just not religious. He doesn't believe in God, and it's not something that bothers him.
I'm a questioning Christian. I have a very personal faith. I believe in God. Jesus and I are friends. I like going to church and singing and worshiping and rejoicing in love.
Maybe it's the Interfaith nerd in me, but I'd argue that our worldview isn't very different at all. We both believe in justice and truth and fairness and honesty. We believe in helping others; not because we need to, but because we should. We believe in love and that food is delicious. We believe that trust and equality are essential in a relationship. We put each other first - always - even if it means doing more work yourself.
Is that very different than what two Christians would believe in? Or a Christian and a Muslim? Or a Jew and an atheist?
For me, that world view is so much more important than whether or not my boyfriend / spouse / life partner believes in God. My belief doesn't condemn him to some fiery torment or push me to convert him. My belief doesn't tell me I'm sinning by loving someone. I don't care if we get married in the Christian church or not (though my preference would be yes). I understand that his beliefs may prevent that from happening, and that doesn't bother me.
You know what I care about? I care about my family being at our wedding, his family being there, and our close friends being there. I care about the people we love surrounding us and blessing our relationship. I care about having a celebration of love. I care about loving Jacob. Which brings us to:
(2) Marriage in the Church
This could get trickier, but stay with me here. This might not be preventable. Straight up. One of my friends is Greek Orthodox. If her fiance doesn't convert, there will not be a wedding. Period.
My solution here isn't easy, but it starts off that way: Why do you want to get married in your church?
Let's say you're Catholic, but your girlfriend's an atheist. Do you care about getting married in your church because you want her to be a Christian? Is your family pressuring it? Do you want the people in your church to be there? Is it a spiritually moving place for you? Or is it just about appearances?
Is your church worth losing the person you want to spend the rest of your life with? Or having them change who they are to be with you?
It's a serious question! If your church is more imporant to you, this probably isn't the right relationship for you to be in; but at least figure out WHY you're so set on your church and WHY the church says you can't be with this person.
Take 1 Corinthians 7:13-14:
And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.Clearly Paul doesn't have a problem with Interfaith marriage in Corinthians. Paul's not like, "Well, she's a heathen, so convert her and THEN it's totally cool to marry her." God's not all, "I know you really love Chris and all, but... don't. Sorry I'm NOT sorry!" Literally, the opposite thing is happening here. Think on these things.
I'm not saying one verse should be enough to convert you to the idea (see what I did there?), but try to keep an open mind to the idea that maaaybe God doesn't care about this issue quite as much as people claim God cares. Like, maybe God cares about you being happy with the one you love. Maybe God wants what's best for you, and maybe what's best for you is an Atheist. Maybe a Muslim spouse will strengthen your Christian faith and maybe that's totally awesome. Interfaith relations can be cool like that.
(3) The Kids
I don't see the "kids" issue as much of an issue at all. For one, we're all going to mess them up anyway, be honest. When you find the parents who did everything perfectly, come talk to me and we'll write a book. Secondly, communicate with your partner for goodness sakes. Talk to them about how you want to raise your kids. You'll probably disagree on something whether or not you're both Christians. If you can't agree on how to raise them, try compromising. It's not like we're Congressmen - we're grown adults, we can give and take and make some compromises here and there.
It turns out, Jake and I are pretty much on the same page with the whole "kid" thing because (SHOCK) we've talked about it. When we do have kids eventually, we will let them be whatever faith they would like to be. I would be thrilled if they wanted to be Jews, of course, but I don't want to get ahead of myself. If they don't believe in God at all, that'll be fine. If they want to be Muslims, that'll be fine too. As long as we raise our kids to be kind and loving, I'll consider that to be more than a success.
(4) Marriages Last Longer
As for the articles on Christian marriages lasting longer: I'm not here to dispel that, but what I see as the point of those facts or articles is not that the couples are Christian - the couples are doing something together, every day. They bond over something they mutual agree with. They make time for each other and don't break up over something small because they've made a committment.
It's not magic Christian fairy dust that makes marriage easy or last; it's the committment and the dedication to working on this relationship. That's beautiful. It's something all couples can take as a lesson.
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What really is the most important thing in a relationship? Do you think that a similar worldview can make up for differences in faith? Would you ever date or marry someone of a different faith? Do you agree with my friends or me? Why? Would your church look down on you if your partner wasn't the same faith as you?