Friday, May 13, 2011
Dating Someone of a Different Faith: a recipe for tragedy?
Black Socrates knows someone who will think that this blog post is directed at her. It's not, but our conversation did cause me to revisit this issue.
What is a tragedy? It’s a story in which someone (or something) great is destroyed or falls apart, often for reasons beyond anyone's control. King Oedipus marries his mother, kills his father and puts his eyes out. And, tragically, he could have done no other (well, he didn't really have to put his eyes out, but you get the point). Romeo and Juliet's deaths result from a failed attempt to continue a romance forbidden by each of their families. Because of their love and the beef between their families, Romeo and Juliet were tragically led to commit suicide (obviously, ending their relationship).
In the first example, a great king is destroyed by fate. In the second, a great relationship falls apart because of a family feud. Notice, however, that while Oedipus could do nothing to avoid his tragic demise, Romeo and Juliet could, and did, take steps to prevent their tragedy. They were not completely complicit in the demise of their relationship. They fought for what they had.
Some tragedies are inevitable. Others, we can take steps to prevent.
Here's another type of tragedy: a potentially great relationship falls apart because the parties involved have different religious beliefs.
Now, my question is this: are tragedies of this type inevitable or can they be prevented?
First, let's get clear on the type of situation I have in mind. Jamal and Jasmine meet at a party, they go out a few times, have great chemistry, similar interests (surprise, surprise, they both hate Tyler Perry movies) and agree on the big issues (abortion, gay marriage, progressive taxation, etc). But one day, Jamal, a somewhat committed Christian, finds out that Jasmine is an atheist. He decides that this is a deal breaker and, reluctantly, stops seeing Jasmine.
I’m going to argue that Jamal should have taken steps to prevent this tragedy. That is, that one should not view a difference in faith as an automatic deal breaker.
Let’s assume for a second that the god Jamal believes in exists and does not want him to seriously date or marry a non-Christian. Jamal cites 2 Corinthians 6:14 as evidence for the latter claim:
“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?”
Remember, we’re assuming that Jamal and Jasmine are great together and could come to love one another. If Jamal knows this, it seems that Jamal should view god’s restriction as unjustified, just as Romeo viewed as unjustified the restriction that prevented him from dating Juliet publicly. He should rebel against this god as Romeo did his family.
If a tragedy does result from this situation (say god temporarily paralyses Jamal every time he attempts to go out with Jasmine), the blame should fall solely on god (as it does on the Montagues and Capulets). In other words, Jamal shouldn’t be complicit in the tragedy. He shouldn’t view Jasmine’s atheism as a deal breaker.
Let’s now consider another situation, one in which Jasmine drops Jamal when she finds out that he is a Christian.
Of course, Jasmine wouldn’t end things with Jamal because she believed it to be god’s will, but she could have other reasons. Say she just has an extreme hatred of religion and can’t stand to be with somewhat who believes in god(s). In fact, say Jasmine finds herself unable to fully respect religious people and always feels the need to correct their beliefs. She’s really feeling Jamal, but doesn’t believe that she could ever come to love him knowing that he is a Christian, and cuts things off.
Jasmine too should take steps to prevent this tragedy from taking place. Jasmine should recognize that people end up believing in god for all types of reasons: because the belief makes them feel good, because it allows them to cope with some tragedy in their personal lives, because they grew up religious and were never placed in a situation in which they were required to question their beliefs, because they fear death, etc.
While she may not respect Jamal’s beliefs, she could come to understand why he holds them and, in turn, come to terms with that part of his life. As long as Jamal isn’t a religious nut (not bombing abortion clinics and refusing to listen to hip-hop “because it’s the devil’s music”), Jasmine should not let his belief in god (in itself) be a deal breaker.
If a tragedy results from this situation (say Jasmine’s atheist friends sabotage the relationship), Jasmine should not be complicit in it.
(Of course, there’s always the issue of children. Jamal will want to raise his kids in the church, while Jasmine will likely be appalled by the idea. But, I’ll address this issue in another post. Really, I think it can be easily resolved.)
Clearly, we only have so much time in this world. Regardless of what you believe about death, you know that death will be the end of this type of existence. Folks aren’t dating in heaven.
While you’re here, don’t be complicit in a tragedy. Don’t let a difference in faith be an automatic deal breaker.
Posted by Brandon Hogan at 10:55 AM