Wednesday, 26 January 2011
After reading the recent Revelife blog-post, "Engaged to an Unbeliever: I Didn't Know He Wasn't Christian," I found myself both saddened and thinking about the issue of inter-faith dating. Many of the comments disappointed me and I found others to be lacking in any kind of genuine empathy or understanding. To begin with let me explain my opinion on the issue at hand.Why I think dating a non-Christian is a bad idea
Just by way of clarification, I am a Christian and would almost definitely not date a non-Christian. The reason I wouldn’t -- and while I can’t speak for all Christians, why I think most devout Christians wouldn’t -- has nothing to do with a zealous desire for spiritual purity or separation or a desire to forsake all else for God but a basic longing to have someone they can share their entire life with. This longing is something most people have and that all people of great commitment definitely have.
I’ve been trying to think of a good analogy and it has evaded me. The culture and lifestyle of Christianity for those who are devout is more all encompassing than anything else I can think of. The best parallel that comes to mind is education. If a person was a professional academic, it is definitely possible that person could have a successful relationship with someone who had never taken a college class and didn’t read even a book a year or a single magazine or newspaper regularly. However, to pretend that such a gap in lifestyle would not be a serious issue would be to ignore the plainly obvious and to possibly be walking into a pitfall. Some studies indicate that divorce in inter-faith marriages could be as high as 75%.
Once again though, I emphasize, the issue is not religion per se but values and lifestyle. I couldn't see, for example, a relationship with someone whose life was committed to leftist causes or some other thing I don’t understand and have little empathy with creating a similar roadblock. That doesn’t mean it could never happen -- just that there is an additional difficulty.
In response to comments on the post
All that said, I am very disappointed by the number of Christians who have no problem telling a complete stranger without any exception that he or she should break off an engagement to a non-believer. I’ve known many wonderful Christians -- mostly women but also men -- who’s life partners did not share with them the calling of the cross. I would never have told these people that they needed to go and get a divorce or leave their significant other. What’s more, I in no way thought of them as less of a Christian because of these relationships. The fact is that, while we all hold ideas, sometimes in practice we fall short of them.
I also find it troubling how many people were so quick to judge the poster for living with a boyfriend. If someone had come to me and asked me for advice about moving in with a partner they were not married to, I would not recommend it. However, while I believe sex within marriage is the best idea, I do not see it as a tragedy that those in a committed relationship engage in intercourse. The problem with sex outside of marriage is a problem of behavioral context, not inherently a problem of behavior the way stealing, murder or lying is. In explanation: I am aware this view is not in line with most of Protestant Christianity, but I accept that and think there is a good doctrinal basis for it both in Judaism and ‘Orthodox’ Christianity.Loving your neighbor as yourself
I realize that the comments on the post were somewhat asked for. That said, I found it disturbing how many were willing to make judgments and come to quick conclusions -- and to some extent many of the comments made me sad. Christ said that loving one’s neighbor as yourself -- practicing empathy -- is second in importance only to loving God. It maybe antithetical to the internet culture to say this, but when you offer harsh judgment based on very little information towards people you do not know, you violate the commandment of Jesus by not trying to think about the situation from their perspective and by not having sympathy. To me this is a much greater sin than sexual impurity.
Does this in any way change your perspective about Christians dating and being in relationship with non-Christians? How should we respond lovingly to those who are already in the relationship, rather than judging them harshly for the actions he or she has already taken?