My dear Jil, does faith or religion matter in a relationship? Well, I get this question regularly. In asking me this question, I suspect you’ve met a charming guy whose only disqualification for you is his faith. If we seek to answer your question from the proprietary perspective of each faith, we’ll get ensnared in relativism. So, let’s take a common sense approach to your question. Hopefully we can derive some wisdom.
Faith is deterministic. Religion is potent. Faith influences outlook on life, cultural taste, philosophy of marriage, values, fashion sense, communication. Intra-faith differences matter, not to talk of interfaith differences, not to talk of counter-faith differences. Suppose one party belongs to a denomination whose tenets forbid jewellery but the other belongs to one with liberal outlook… If you probe you’ll discover the issue is not really jewellery. The jewellery problem is symptomatic of something larger, deeper. There’s a whole ascetic philosophy underguarding the jewellery issue, a rigidified and uncompromising ideological bend. That philosophy will determine something as basic as celebration of valentine. It will determine rites of funeral of parents. It will affect which schools the children go to, social interactions, relationship with in-laws, business approach, etc. If both parties subscribe to these tenets, there’ll be no problem. But if one is opposed, there’ll be disagreements. And since that tenet is rigid, there’ll be no room for compromise. It’s so fundamental.
Let’s look at another dimension: Some Christian denominations have a peculiar optics on witches and wizards. They constantly discern signatures of witches and wizards, especially in a situation of late conception. As is often the case, it’s a matter of time before someone’s mother is identified as the witch holding up conception. Which then creates paranoia. And soon comes the instruction the couple must distance themselves from the mother-in-law. If that mother-in-law sacrificially brought up her son, how’s he going to run from his kind and loving mother? And what happens when the wife begins to invoke death sentence on the groom’s mother? How’s that marriage going to hold? Let’s take a combination of non-faith with faith, say husband is atheist, wife theist. How is it going to work when the central figure in the faith of one spouse is derisively regarded by the other spouse? What happens if there are difficulties and the wife wants joint prayer but the husband says he doesn’t believe in God? On what values will the children be brought up? Godly values or secular humanism? And it gets worse when a Satanist marries say a Christian. Both will need to marshal forces against each other.
The relationship is a conceptual incongruity however the liberal bend of the parties. For like Paul asked, what harmony can there be between Christ and Belial (Devil)? In fact, Paul says such a relationship is not a partnership but war! Does Christ go strolling with the Devil? He asked. And so you can begin to see problems in these alliances. The partners will keep bumping into contradictions. And some faiths actually ban marriage to people of other faiths, or no faith. Some insist that when a marriage occurs the other party must be converted forcefully. Promises will be over-ridden by dogma. Something has to give, one way or the other in these relationships. It’s hard to eat one’s cake and have it.
Now if your faith is no big deal to you, it may of course work. There’ll be adjustments and compromises. But where your philosophy of life is a derivative of your faith it’s going to be tough, especially on conscience. And opposing faiths need not even be as radical as that of the Satanist versus Christian. Relationships where both parties believe in Jesus albeit as different personages can prove problematic. In some religions, Jesus is nothing but a guru. In some other he is nothing but a prophet, albeit an extraordinary prophet. But in Christianity Jesus the Christ is God, the creator who incarnated for the redemption of mankind. The question then is, which Jesus is which in that home? And which Jesus is supreme? Jesus would be a rock of offence in such a home. And you can take that literally. And which Jesus would the children believe in? The guru, the uber prophet or the one who is God? Or will it be up to the children, which then defeats the very purpose of parenting. Kids need guidance. It’s why they’re called kids.
If faith is important to both parties in that marriage, there’ll be countermanding on salient issues. Some denominations don’t even permit inter-denominational marriages. The other party must convert. The party in the weaker position is often asked to pledge post-wedding denominational allegiance. Of course he or she can break such promise, but doesn’t that then break something in the marriage? The only way this relationship can work is if your faith is subjugated or goes on sabbatical. How will you handle that! In a marriage consideration you don’t just think of the now, you think of tomorrow. And the future is always pregnant. I’d say whatever you do, avoid a situation where pleasing your spouse amounts to displeasing God. He made your spouse. Such situations create internal turmoil. It’ll be either constant fight or you live under a burden of guilt. And Satan will pile it on, making you feel awful and unworthy. Which then drives you away from God. I’d therefore ask you to think twice before committing. Think through.
Don’t also put yourself in a faith-abusive relationship. Some men have been known to get violent because their wives go to church. That’s a faith abusive relationship. And it’s because her faith reminds the man of his sinfulness. So he takes it out on her. And some are sons of Belial. Some are deceitful. They’ll assure you you’ll be free to practice your faith in marriage. Until you say “do”. Then you’ll see the animal emerge. It’ll be like Satan flipped a switch. And some set out to disvirginize and impregnate a godly lady as satanic accomplishment. Anything God tells you not to do, don’t do. Even if his instructions seem “anachronistic.” God knows what he’s talking about. Beware of the deceitful man, and beware of the deceitful accommodator of faith.
Your mentor, LA
© Leke Alder email@example.com