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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

I'm dating a nonchristian and I want to marry him. Here's why I believe that's not a problem.

Two cows in love. Image source.

Yes, I am unequally yoked.

I used to believe that was the worst possible sin you could commit. Well, no. Marrying a non-Christian would be the 2nd-worst possible sin. The worst is actually believing that it's okay to marry a non-Christian.

But I reject the belief that it's not okay to marry him. In fact, I also reject the idea of arguing that it is "okay" to marry him. This relationship is not just "okay" or barely permissable on the basis of a technicality- NO. This relationship is wonderful and life-giving and awesome and healthy. (Perfect Number's in love, y'all.)

I'd like to give an answer to the question, "How can you possibly think it's okay to marry a non-Christian?" Not because I need to submit my personal life for judgment and approval by other Christians- of course I don't need to do that. I am already loved unconditionally and accepted by God. And so is my boyfriend. (And if you just said "yeah God loves us but that doesn't mean we can do whatever we want" then hold on a minute, I will get to that.) I want my people- American evangelical Christians- to know that it's possible to be a Christian and not believe it's a life-ruining sin to marry a non-Christian. (And that my belief is 100% rooted in the bible and the character of God. Not because I was "led astray" or whatever.)

My goal is not exactly to convince people. "The rules" say don't be unequally yoked, so maybe there are some of you who just KNOW this is BAD, and that Perfect Number is ignoring the clear teaching of Scripture and just following what she feels, like she's in a Disney movie or something. Doesn't matter what kind of wacky ideas she has to justify her sin. Yeah, if you're one of those people, it's not my responsibility to prove myself to you. Go ahead and judge me and assume the worst about my character. Whatever. (But I hope you remember 1 Corinthians 12:21, "The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I don't need you!'") I know I am a Christian and God accepts me.

So, here we go:

1. The reason my guy is not a Christian has absolutely nothing to do with him being "in rebellion against God" or such things. There is nothing wrong with him.

He just doesn't believe in Jesus because, you know, he believes other stuff. It's not because he hates God. It's not because he secretly knows God exists and doesn't want to follow him.

It's just because he doesn't believe that.

(Related: I don't believe in hell because I don't think God is going to punish people just because they hold factually incorrect views.)

And obviously I disagree with my boyfriend about religion stuff- I think he's wrong, but not "wrong" in the sense of being immoral. It's not like only Christians can be moral people. My boyfriend is pretty great and cares about me a lot and cares about people in general.

We disagree on the facts, but we agree the most important thing is to love others. Personally, I believe that one of the most important concepts within Christianity is "the kingdom of God." Jesus talked about it a lot. I believe the kingdom of God is the world as God intended it to be, where there is love and there is no pain or injustice. Jesus taught us to pray "your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

Someday, Jesus will come and resurrect this world, restoring it to the way it should be. 1 Corinthians 15:20 says, "But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep." (Can I get an amen?) Jesus Christ was the first to be resurrected, and shows us that God has power over death, and someday all of us will be resurrected. Someday God will "wipe every tear from their eyes" (Revelation 21:4).

I believe as Christians pray "your kingdom come," we should work to make it happen. Treat others with love, and fight against the sinful, oppressive structures in our society. We should work to bring the kingdom of God. Indeed, in Matthew 25:31-46 (the parable of the sheep and the goats), Jesus says that our reward would be given based on whether we helped those who were in need- "I was hungry and you gave me something to eat", etc. (If you're thinking "oh my, Perfect Number is advocating works-based salvation! Heresy!" then you should probably talk to Jesus about that first; he seems to be preaching it in Matthew 25.)

I believe in bringing the kingdom of God to this world. My boyfriend believes in that too- but he doesn't call it "the kingdom of God." Maybe he calls it "helping people, treating them with love and respect, and generally trying to make the world a better place." And I believe anyone who's doing that, regardless of their religion, is doing God's work.

2. And to be honest, I don't want to be with a Christian guy.

Christians are always judging me. Oh you don't hold the approved view on issue XYZ? Well let me monologue at you as if you have no idea what you're talking about, and then when that fails I'll conclude you're not a real Christian.

And when I'm dating a guy, I just want to be myself. I just want to be honest and free to talk about this and that and everything that's on my mind. I want my guy to understand me and value my point of view.

And I really can't do that in a Christian setting.

But you guys, with my boyfriend... I tell him all this, and I used to tell him how worried I was because "I'm a bad Christian." And over and over he told me to stop saying that. "I hate to hear you talk about yourself like that. You're not a bad Christian."

My boyfriend accepts me and loves me unconditionally. I have not found Christian friends that do that, ever since I, you know, was led astray by the world and I rejected the bible. Oh wait, no, that's not how it happened. But I haven't found Christians who would see it any other way. (Except some of my internet friends- SHOUT OUT TO Y'ALL! You are the best!)

And let me tell you a story. About a year ago, I wasn't sure if I wanted to marry him or not. He and I had talked about marriage, but I wasn't ready to make a decision. Because, you know, what if it IS true that it's always a bad idea to marry a non-Christian? I didn't believe that anymore, but I was still unsure. What if all that fear-mongering I heard in the church had some truth to it? What if marrying him would be a huge mistake?

And then, a Christian "friend" decided to "confront me about my sin" of living with my boyfriend. And as I tried to defend myself and tell her why I don't believe it's a sin and why it's not loving for her to judge me like this- she barely even knew me- I thought, "Yes. Yes, I would marry him."

That was the moment that I switched from "if he asked me to marry him, I would say no because I'm not sure yet" to "still not 100% sure, but I would say yes." Because who loved me, in that situation? My boyfriend, who respects my right to believe what I believe and completely accepts me, or my Christian "friend" who believed she was on a mission from God to examine my personal life and tell me why I'm wrong?

(And if anyone wants to make some kind of "hate the sin, love the sinner" argument here: No, you don't love me. You love the "perfect Christian" I could become if I decided to agree with you. I don't accept your claim that that is love.)

3. Can we talk a bit about the "unequally yoked" passage?
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said:
“I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”
Therefore,
“Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.”
And,
“I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”
2 Corinthians 6:14-18
So wait, the reason Paul gives for "do not be yoked together with unbelievers" is along the lines of "what do righteousness and wickedness have in common"? So my boyfriend is basically "wickedness" and I am "righteousness"? He is darkness and I am light? Really?

Nah. I know both of us better than that. This verse does not apply to me and sweetheart at all.

And I know we do work really well together. We both want the same things, and we both support each other. And I think it's a bit insulting to claim that non-Christians are not marriage material because they are pretty much the embodiment of evil itself.

4. How about the Old Testament though? All those times that God commanded them not to marry people from other religions? 

I believe that the reason God didn't want them to follow other religions was that those religions were doing awful things, like child sacrifice and forced prostitution. The bible consistently uses language about prostitution or adultery when it talks about following other religions (Exodus 34:15-16, 2 Chronicles 21:13, Jeremiah 2:20) and I believe it's not just some kind of spiritual metaphor- God had a problem with those religions because of the prostitution-related human rights violations going on. Also, verses in the Old Testament which condemn Israel for turning away and following idols are very often followed by a verse about sacrificing their children to these idols (Jeremiah 32:33-35, Deuteronomy 12:31, 2 Kings 17:16-17, Psalm 106:36-39). It's not just "you used the word 'Baal' instead of 'Yahweh' to refer to God"; no, these religions were actually destroying people who were made in God's image. That's why God could not tolerate them.

Additionally, much of the Old Testament has an "us vs them" mentality. We have to be different, we have to be better than those people. In the context of God creating a special nation, it makes sense I guess, but in the New Testament, there is a radical change, and Gentiles are accepted into the church. Ephesians 2:14 says, "For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility," talking about Jews and Gentiles being reconciled because of Jesus.

Yes, this verse seems to be just about Christians of different races being reconciled, but it illustrates the point that followers of Jesus should be much more inclusive than the Old Testament dictated.

Also, within every religion, there are people who are inspired by the religion to do good in this world, and people who use the religion to gain power for themselves. Isaiah 58 blasts those who "day after day... seek [God] out, they seem eager to know [God's] ways", who fast and pray but use their power to oppress others. "Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers." They believed in the "correct" religion, but they were working against the kingdom of God.

The bible also gives examples where followers of other religions were commended. Ezra records how Cyrus, a pagan king, supported the Jews' right to rebuild the temple. No one in the bible says Cyrus should be killed for being the "wrong" religion, and no one tries to get him to change religions.

Matthew 2 gives the account of the wise men visiting Jesus after his birth. They were certainly the "wrong" religion, but they found Jesus, and they are definitely portrayed very positively in the bible. No one tells them they have to change religions or they're going to hell.

I believe that all religions have members who are working to bring the kingdom of God to the earth. They might not use language like "the kingdom of God." They may even be atheist or agnostic and not use any religious language at all. But as Jesus said in Matthew 25:40, "whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." They serve Jesus without even realizing it.

Jesus declared, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Yes, Jesus is the only way. But we can come to Jesus without using the name "Jesus." Some people might call him by the name of a deity from another religion. Some people might just use the word "love" (indeed, the bible is clear that God is love). Though their terminology is inaccurate and they may have some facts wrong (as a Christian, I believe the most accurate representation of God is the bible's account of Jesus- other religions have their facts wrong), their heart is in the right place. And the bible teaches over and over, "I desire mercy, not sacrifice": the point is knowing God's heart and loving people as God loves them, not doing all the right religious things, or even getting all the information about religion correct.

5. But is he helping me grow spiritually, or not?

All right, so here's the thing. What does "grow spiritually" mean? I mean, I used to be a "good Christian" and I knew all the answers and I knew that you grow spiritually by reading the bible and praying more.

"The rules" say you have to marry someone who will help you "grow spiritually," which means they will encourage you to read the bible and pray more, and they themselves will be very devoted to God and that will inspire you to be more devoted to God.

Back then, I knew everything. Now I'm not so sure. Back then, there only seemed to be one direction in which we could "grow spiritually." As a Real True Christian, it was obvious to me who God was and what I had to do to communicate with God.

But now I see that many people have different opinions, different interpretations, and I have to figure it out for myself. I don't want a guy telling me what to do, as if he somehow has the answers that I don't. If I'm going to "grow spiritually," it'll be on my own terms. No one else can dictate what "grow spiritually" means for my life. (Maybe you could say my boyfriend helps me "grow spiritually" by not trying to tell me what to do, respecting that I need to figure stuff out for myself.) We're all just human. We don't know.

However, I would like to become a better person in general, and learn to love people/ the world more. And my boyfriend does help me do that.

6. Maybe, since you don't feel close to God currently, right now is not a good time to be making huge decisions like marriage.

So, this objection assumes that right now I'm going through some kind of temporary phase where I'm all confused and doubting, and I'll get through it and back to knowing all the answers.

I used to think I would too.

But I've come to realize, I don't "have doubts" about Christianity or about the bible. No, I am very certain that a lot of the things I used to believe are wrong and harmful. I am very certain that the bible is not inerrant.

And even though the process of re-thinking everything I believe has been very hard, I truly believe that I'm better off now than back when I believed All The Correct Things That Good Christians Believe.

7. So, should I pray for him to find Jesus?

Yeah, I used to wonder about that question. But I realized the real reason I would want him to be a Christian was so I wouldn't have to worry about how I'm breaking the rules. You know, how I'm "unequally yoked" and that's bad and I fear other Christians won't accept me and I have to go around making excuses and blah blah blah.

Do I want him to be a Christian because it would benefit him? Well... he's fine how he is. There's nothing wrong with him. And I respect him and love him (and I don't believe in hell) so no, I don't think I want him to change.

Sometimes I tell him "I believe God loves you!" Just because I really do believe that. And it's fine if my boyfriend doesn't agree. God loves him. Unconditionally. And I tell him because maybe it will make him feel good, to know that I think God loves him. Not because I'm trying to force him to believe anything.

There is nothing wrong with him.

8. What about Christian stuff I want to do in the future? Like volunteering at church. Would he support me?

Yes, he will support me- I've talked to him about that. And I really hope in the future I can do some stuff like that- maybe be involved with leading bible studies at church or whatever.

But really, the issue with this question is not "would my boyfriend support me?" but "would I even be able to find a church that accepts me?" My boyfriend has been wonderful. The church has not.

9. What will we teach our kid(s)?

Uh, just teach them Mommy believes this and Daddy believes that, and we both believe the most important thing is love, etc. And then we respect whatever religion the kids want to believe. BUT most importantly, we teach them about LOVE and COMPASSION and RESPECT and all that. Teach them to bring the kingdom of God to the earth, even if they want to use different terminology to describe it.

10. Would I be better off leaving him and hoping I meet a Christian guy who's like him?

Umm, what? No. There's nothing wrong with him. There's nothing wrong with our relationship. Our relationship is a good thing and we love each other. It's not some kind of subpar thing because he's not a Christian. I'm not trying to make excuses to bring this up to some bare minimum standard of acceptability. No. We are totally awesome, y'all.

11. If I marry him, I'm basically saying I will never be a "good Christian" again.

Yeah, basically. But that ship sailed a long time ago, and it continues full speed ahead every time I hear about some evangelical person or organization who decided some other Christian isn't Christian enough. Yeah, no thanks.

12. Okay, guys, hold up. We're so focused on "the rules" here, what about the actual man who actually loves me?

Yes. Like I said, this relationship is a GOOD THING. We love and support each other. We make each other laugh. We go out for dinner and try new foods together. He was there for me when I had depression. He tells me I have the right to make my own decisions- something that I NEED to hear, but the church would never say.

13. Umm Perfect Number, what about what the bible says? And have you prayed about it?

As you can see above, I've included a lot of references to the bible, so I don't really know what you mean by this question.

OH WAIT haha yes I do! When you use the term "what the bible says" you don't actually mean "what the bible says", you mean "my opinions about what Christians are supposed to believe." (I will grant that your opinions are based in the bible. But so are mine.)

As for your second question, no I haven't prayed about it. I no longer believe in asking God for help making decisions. It doesn't make sense that God would directly communicate with me on this, while also allowing tragedies to happen every day. And I don't believe "God has a plan for my life" because for me, that leads to a lot of worry about how I need to pray really really hard and know exactly what God wants me to do, or else I've ruined the plan (and, by extension, my life). I believe God gave us a brain so we could make our own decisions.

14. But Perfect Number, why are you ignoring the clear teachings of Scripture?

... Uh. I already covered this.

Like, what do you want me to say?

15. Okay so basically you started dating a non-Christian guy and it's all a slippery slope and now you're abandoning your deeply-held beliefs and you want to marry him.

Umm. So I guess there's not really anything I can say to those who want to hold this view- if I say I love him, they'll say "AHA! You've been led astray by your FEELINGS!"

But I will say my beliefs have been changing for years and it's not because of my boyfriend.

-------------

Anyway, the point is, we're engaged.

Beyonce. "Put a ring on it." Image source.

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