The poetic, playful and prophetic musings of quintessential voices trying to keep up with life

Friday, March 8, 2013

Faith & Romantic Relationships

Between wedding shows, talks with friends and talks with my mother, a common question keeps popping up:

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.

... ... ... ... ... ...

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?



  1. The problem with this, Madie, is that it presupposes that the love, justice, etc., aspects of the religion are what makes the religion important to the individual. Yes, I think those things are all important facets of my Christian faith, but ultimately, that's not what my faith is about. My faith is about God/worshiping God and those things just happen to come along with that. I completely agree that people of faith and people without faith can agree on those concepts, but (especially in something so important as a marriage) those concepts mean little to me (and many others) unless they stem from a love of God. So essentially, a big reason why interfaith relationships are harder (and are not for some people) is because it does not simply come down to how one lives in the world, but also, and maybe more so, to how one loves God. For me, justice and love are not ultimates; God is ultimate. And even if our "worldviews" are the same, a major disagreement in what is ultimate is a deal-breaker to me.

    1. Understandable! My Christian faith is a little different - while I believe in and worship God, the act of worshipping is not the end all-be all for me. I'm more into the teachings of Jesus more than the act of worship (as imperfect as I am at following his teachings). I understand that this isn't how everyone feels about their faith. Maybe it makes me especially adaptable to an interfaith relationship? :)

      How do you feel that a partner not loving God would affect your relationship with him or her? Would it be something you would argue about? Or would it just be a gut feeling for you?

      P.S. I'd love to know who I'm taking to! :)

      xo Madie

    2. I think it would affect our relationship because if I find God as ultimate, then I don't necessarily find political and social structures as ultimate. What I mean by this is, if my partner was an atheist, she would not be able to stand in radical witness the way that I think Christians are called to (i.e., rejecting many of the foundations we are told we have to play into).

      Even more than that, though, I would not be able to build her up in her faith (or lack thereof) as much as someone who shared her faith or non-faith, nor would she be able to build me up in my faith as much as another Christian. We believe what we believe because we think it's right. While I think we can have interfaith conversations that are healthy, uplifting, beneficial, etc., honestly, I would still disagree with her on (presumably) a very fundamental belief to both of us. And, because if I believe God is the sole purpose for all I do with my life and she doesn't, I don't think we'd be able to understand one another very well.

      That being said, OBVIOUSLY interfaith relationships work for some people. In no way am I trying to say that interfaith relationships are wrong or any less legitimate than other relationships, so I hope I haven't come across that way. I'm just trying to say that I don't think it's so simple as to say "ultimately, faith doesn't matter because we all love people."

      P.S. I bet if you think hard enough you know who I am. ;)

    3. I guess I don't see why you don't think an atheist (for example) wouldn't be able to stand up for the same beliefs you would in "radical witness." Perhaps she wouldn't be doing it for the same reasons, but why wouldn't an atheist be able to stand up for peace, or against starving children? What foundations do you think she would be unable to reject, as an athiest?

      Very true. Clearly we believe it, otherwise it wouldn't be a belief, haha. I guess I see this issue a little differently. For example, Jake offers to go to church with me all the time, even though he doesn't believe what I believe. He does is literally out of the goodness of his heart because he knows this is important to me and he wants to make me happy. He wouldn't go and make fun of the service the whole time because he loves me. I think that in a respectful relationship, people lift each other up, whether or not it's religious. Along with that, Martin Luther once said that doubting one's faith ultimately made the faith stronger each time you came back to it. I would see dialogue with a partner about faith to be an ultimately uplifting experience for both of you!

      Maybe you wouldn't share the belief that God is the sole purpose for your life; what if doing good for others was her sole purpose in life? Would that be too far away from "God" for you to share common ground on that? I say the "what if" statements (even though I hate them) because I don't know anybody who want to do harm to others or make this world a worse place. There are so many people of other faiths who are working towards the very same goals as we are. They're not trying to make the world worship God, but they are working to create a world Jesus would be proud to see come to fruition.

      Oh, absolutely, I know you're not dissing on me or interfaith relationships. And I would never claim that any issue is so black and white, haha. I wish it was, but that is not the world we live in. I'm assuming at this point that I'm talking to Chris R, but I'm not very good at this game, haha.

      xo Madie

  2. Divorce rate is at an all time high as is interfaith marriage..coincidence?

    1. I do think it is a coincidence. We live in an increasingly integrated world, which means people we usually wouldn't meet or be able to connect with now have that option.

      I could rant for pages about marriages and the divorce rate, haha. I think our problem is that, as a generation, we think that relationships should be easy like they are in movies and stories, and when they're not, we think it's just not meant to be and bail. When we had arranged marriages, people learned to deal with the situation at hand because there wasn't a choice; divorce literally wasn't an option. Now we believe marriage is for love, and when that warm, fuzzy feeling wears off, we think that we're no longer in love and (in our pleasure-driven society) shouldn't waste our time in a loveless marriage.

      Clearly I'm using extreme examples, but I think the point remains. :) What are your thoughts?

      xo Madie

  3. Honestly, it doesn't sound like you and Jacob are in an interfaith sounds like you both worship love, not causing others harm, and your relationship with one another. For many people, reducing faith to those tenets isn't sufficient.

    1. True. I certainly do, though I don't want to speak for Jacob. I don't think that we have an "extreme" interfaith relationship by any means, but it was something that my girlfriends weren't willing to take on themselves. One of them (no disrespect) refused even the idea of dating an athiest.

      I think that's a strong possiblity. My question is, then, what aspects of faith do others find more important than, for example, love? My friends seemed to have an issue with marriage within the church, which I don't see as a personal issue but more of a community issue.

      xo Madie

    2. The aspect of faith that is more important than simply love, at least to me, is God.

    3. God and love wouldn't be synonymous to you? :)

      xo Madie

    4. No ma'am. Love is a description, not a synonym.

    5. Oh, I would have to disagree with you here! Love is an action, a thing, a committment, a feeling; God is love! While that doesn't necessitate that love is therefore God, 1 John does say that one who knows love, knows God. That's good enough for me. :)

      xo Madie

  4. Great blog, Madie! I was really excited to read this because I have yet to find a guy on the same page of faith as me. I would put myself in your boat, "questioning Christian." After four years at SimpCo my mind has been blown way too many times to narrow my faith back down to a straight/smooth path that I could blindly walk. Back to the point though, I haven't found another questioning Christian like myself...what I have found are atheists, agnostics, and even a Hindu. And throughout these various relationships not once has my faith been threatened, but in fact, I feel like I've grown in my own faith the more I learn about what they believe in. We believe in a lot of the same principles. I think my Christianity resembles Bhuddism (okay - brain fart, is it Bhuddism or Hinduism that believes that everyone has his/her own way to get to god?) whatever the case, it means that I don't need someone of my same belief in a relationship because I know we'll take our own paths to God even if we did share the same exact faith/beliefs.

    -Danielle Caswell

    1. Hey Danielle! I'm so glad you liked it, I was hoping it would resonate with someone else. It's nice to be understood. :)

      I totally understand what you mean. I was talking with Jake about this yesterday in the car ride back from Des Moines - I was saying that even my parents, who both grew up in small town Iowa as protestants, have pretty significant ideas about religion. My dad grew up "Christian" but his family never went to church. My mom grew up in a very liberal, open-minded, but very religious household. My dad is definitely questioning even now, but goes to church and supports my mom because he cares about her.

      I guess what I'm getting at is, I grew up with the concept that, as you said, we each have our own religious (or nonreligious) journey to make and it's not going to be the same for everyone. That doesn't mean that we need to be with someone with the "same" journey, because no path is going to be the same. You articulated it much better than I think I could. :) I'm sure it helps relationships to have both partners understand that idea, whether they're the same faith or not.

      Thanks so much for commenting!

      xo Madie

  5. And I think it might be fair to say that the diversity in a relationship makes for a much more exciting relationship! Otherwise your conversations might be: "Hey - I think sin is bad" reply, "yeah me too."

    You're welcome! I love reading all the blogs, very inspring and great food for thought on a monotnous work day ;-)


    1. Hahaha I totally know what you mean. I just read a blog yesterday from Thought Catalog about how, in a relationship, you need a "bird" and a "hand." Basically that one person is more nuturing and the other needs more space - like opposites attract. The bird and hand can switch roles throughout their relationship, but when there are two "hands," they smother each other and when there are two "birds," they can't connect properly. What I got from it (besides the metaphor) was that variety is good in a relationship. If you're too similar and nurturing and smothering, you won't have anything to talk about and there won't be any spontineity in the relationship. Likewise, if you're too similar and flighty and spontaneous, you won't feel as loved or cared for and will probably crave someone to love you like that.

      I don't know if I agreed with the whole article, but I do think you're completey correct - we need differences! Even if two people were the same faith, I think they would need to be different enough to keep each other interested in the long run. Along the same lines, a more diverse couple would need enough similarities to keep them connected in the long run.

      Awww, you have no idea how much I (and we) love hearing that! It makes me so happy that you enjoy it too, because it's a blast for me, haha! :)

      xo Madie


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