Wednesday, December 19, 2018

My Marriage Is So Good, I Forgot "Unequally Yoked" Was Supposed To Be A Problem

A man and woman praying at church. Image source.
So I read this article, from The Gospel Coalition: Help! I Married a Spiritually Immature Man. It's about Christian women who marry men that aren't good enough Christians- how women end up in that supposedly bad situation, and what the women can do about it. Weirdly, sometimes the article seems to be talking about a husband who is not a Christian, and sometimes it seems to be talking about a husband who's a Christian but just not as "mature" as his wife. Umm... referring to all non-Christians as "spiritually immature", assuming that they're not good enough husband-material- this is Christian supremacy and it's not "loving your neighbor as yourself."

I'm not going to actually go through and respond to specific points in the article, because the writer's perspective is just so completely different from mine, it's hard to know where to even begin. Instead, I will write about my own marriage, and how my "spiritual life" is related or unrelated to my husband.

All right. I am a Christian, and my husband (Hendrix) is not religious at all. We've been married for 1 year, and in total we've been together for 5 years. And us being different religions is just... not an issue at all.

When I was a kid, I was taught that it was a HUGE PROBLEM if a Christian married a non-Christian. They would be "unequally yoked." The Christian would always worry that their spouse was going to hell. The Christian would be constantly trying to change their spouse, which isn't healthy in a marriage. The non-Christian would try to get the Christian to sin, or would convince them it's okay to not go to church and not read the bible and not care about religion. And so on.

Indeed, back then, long before I met Hendrix, I was the sort of Christian that would not have been compatible with a non-Christian. I would have believed he was going to hell. I would have worried and tried to change him, and always felt superior because I'm right and he's wrong. I believed a husband is supposed to his wife's "spiritual leader," so obviously he needs to be at least as good of a Christian as me. And I used to get all worried and guilty over my "sins", blowing them way out of proportion, and I would NOT have been happy with a husband who told me those "sins" are just normal human things that aren't a big deal and I don't need to worry so much. "Sins" like wanting my friends to care about me, rather than believing "God is all I need." And rushing through my "daily quiet time" because I'm tired. And being attracted to people.

But I'm a completely different kind of Christian now. I don't believe in hell- or rather, I don't believe in the "accepting Jesus into your heart is what decides if you go to heaven or hell" version of hell. I'm not concerned about people I care about going to hell, because I believe that God is just, so They're not going to be giving out huge unreasonable punishments like eternal torture. I'm totally not interested in Hendrix becoming a Christian. Like, I have had enough problems being a Christian... I'm proud of my faith and it's really important to me, but I wouldn't necessarily recommend this to other people. I don't think it would massively change anything if Hendrix became a Christian- he already has all the qualities that make him a great husband for me. I feel weird even writing that, because it's just not even a possibility, and that doesn't matter to me at all.

And back then, when I was a good evangelical, I needed "accountability" because following God meant forcing myself into things that were unnatural and painful for me. I had to repress so many emotions, had to read the bible every day (no excuses), had to awkwardly force people into religious conversations they didn't want to have (ie "sharing the gospel"), had to deny myself and give up whatever God asked me to give up, had to be fighting my sin all the time, couldn't rest, had to constantly question my motives because if I was doing a good thing for "selfish" reasons then that was a sin. On their own, nobody can force themselves to live under that many restrictions constantly, so I believed Christians need "accountability," which means your Christian friends frequently check in with you to encourage/guilt you into it. 

So of course it would be bad if I was trying to live that way and also had a non-Christian husband. He would "tempt" me into believing it's okay to relax a bit and let some of those things slide.

It was a lifestyle that I now see as anti-human and unnatural, and that's why I would need other Christians to constantly push me to keep living that way. 

But my spiritual life now isn't like that at all. It's about being healthy and loving myself and loving people from all kinds of diverse backgrounds and learning from them. And it feels so good; it's not something that needs to be constantly pushed on me. I still feel that I need other Christians to talk to about my beliefs, and my husband isn't able to meet that need, but I have Christian internet friends and I write a huge giant blog about that stuff. So I'm good. I don't believe that married people are supposed to get all their needs for human connection met through their spouse. Of course we need friends too. That's a good and healthy thing. Not a "this is less than ideal, but we make it work" thing.

Also the idea that one person can be another person's "spiritual leader" no longer makes sense to me. Back when I was evangelical, "spiritual growth" was one-dimensional: there is one ideal way to be a Christian, and "spiritual growth" means moving toward that ideal. We all knew the things we were supposed to do: read the bible every day, pray, go to church every Sunday, be more loving, be more patient, don't be angry, don't be selfish, share the gospel, and so on. A "spiritual leader" should encourage you to do those things. They would look at your current situation and tell you what you need to do to become that "ideal" Christian. Your "spiritual leader" is farther along than you, on the one-dimensional path towards that "ideal Christian" goal.

But I no longer believe there's one correct "ideal" for people's spiritual lives. People believe in many different religions for different reasons, and that's fine. For ex-evangelicals in particular, some of us are still Christian and some stop believing in God altogether. I'm still Christian but I think it's totally fine for other ex-evangelicals to stop believing in God. (Or change to another religion. Or whatever.) That's valid. I get that. And some ex-evangelicals go to church, and some don't. Maybe we find a better church and we're happy there, or maybe we've experienced so much trauma in church settings that we're just not able to go to any church at all, even a "better" one. I wish I could go to church but I haven't found one that doesn't cause me to have depression. And some ex-evangelicals study the bible, and some have so much bible-related trauma that they don't want to read the bible at all. And some pray and some don't.

My point is, everyone has to be in charge of their own spiritual life (or lack thereof), because there's no one-size-fits-all answer. Nobody else can know what you need as well as you. Nobody else can tell you what religion you should believe. Nobody else can say whether going to church would be helpful or harmful to someone who's had bad experiences in church but still identifies as Christian. There's not one "right answer." It's different for everyone. And that's why the idea of having a "spiritual leader" no longer makes sense to me. I need to be in charge of this myself.

Yes, I sometimes ask my husband "should I go to church for Christmas?" (or other religion-related advice questions) and we talk about the pros and cons, and he's very helpful, but of course in the end it's always my decision. It has to be my decision. Nobody else knows what I need.

So that's our situation. I'm a Christian, and my religion is very important to me, and my husband is not religious. And... it's just not a problem at all. I can see how it would DEFINITELY be a problem for certain types of Christians- like when I used to be evangelical and I believed non-Christians were going to hell, and my "relationship with God" meant constantly repressing myself. But I don't believe that anymore. I now believe it's fine to believe whatever religion you believe- what actually matters is how you treat people. And nobody is qualified to take charge of another person's spiritual life and be their "spiritual leader", because nobody knows your situation better than you.


Boundaries in Dating: In which I roll my eyes so much
I'm dating a nonchristian and I want to marry him. Here's why I believe that's not a problem.

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