This week, CNN’s belief blog posted a story about interfaith marriages. Though the article focused on the blending of cultural traditions in the wedding itself, I was saddened (though not necessarily surprised) to read of the growing numbers of marriages occurring between people of different faiths.
Today, more and more intercultural and interfaith couples are getting married. Finding meaningful ways to bring two (or more) very different cultures and religions together in one ceremony can be difficult.
Now, before you dismiss me or label me as a religious fanatic, please understand that I’m not unique in that perspective. In truth, no religion advocates for interfaith marriages. It’s a universal value in all major world faiths.
Evangelical Christians are expected to marry evangelical Christians. If you cannot agree on the person and work of Jesus, it doesn’t matter if you like the same music.
Catholics are expected to get married in the Catholic Church, and should your future spouse not hold to the Catholic faith, they are expected to convert and be baptized.
People of the Jewish faith are expected to marry within their faith. And again, if the future spouse is not already of the people, they are expected to be before the wedding.
Islam, Christianity, and Judaism – all three of the major world faiths – are in complete agreement that their adherents marry within their faith tradition. When your religious faith acts as the lens through which you see the world, it’s absurd to consider marrying someone else with a different perspective, value set, and moral teaching.
Every religion is exclusive.
To marry someone of another faith is to declare the impotency and unimportance of your own. You simply cannot adhere faithfully to your religious faith – Christian, Jewish, Islamic, or any other – and marry someone who holds to another faith without their conversion. By marrying someone of another faith, you declare that future spouse to be more important than your God.
For the Christian, marrying someone of another faith is not an option. Paul’s words to the church in Corinth bear repeating:
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. -2 Corinthians 6:14
While this can apply well beyond marriage, it certainly applies to it. To enter into union (of any sort – marriage, business, corporate) without a common set of foundational beliefs is foolish. It will crumble as a result of a faulty foundation. Two marriage covenant partners who adhere to two different faiths have two different foundations. It simply cannot last.
I write this with sadness. I write this with the experience of seeing friends and family members wrestle through divorces as a result of marrying someone with a different faith foundation, and it breaks my heart to know the pain and struggles that they have faced as a result of their decisions. I write this knowing that many disagree with me both from within my Christian faith and from outside of it. And yet I must.
One of the most crucial decisions that a single person can make in regards to their future marriage, is how much are they willing to narrow down the option pool.
Just last year, I counseled a college student who explained that she was studying nursing with an intent on serving in a foreign mission field – specifically in Africa. My comment to her was a bit surprising.
That’s great! Jut think about how many wrong-guys you’ve filtered out by knowing your calling! Not only do you not ever have to date a non-Christian, but you don’t ever have to date anyone not called to missions. In fact, you don’t ever have to date anyone not called to Africa!
The truth for all of us is that our God should always be bigger and more important than our spouse. That may seem strange to hear (or read), but the alternative is deadly. The alternative is to make your spouse more important than your god – which effectively makes your spouse your god. And that’s a burden they simply cannot bear.