Discussing Faith Over Seafood by Sarah Moon

Mixed Up Faith

 

When I started this series, I hoped that Sarah would contribute, because I know that she is involved in a number of interfaith relationships, including the one that she has with her fiancé. Any time our faith moves in a completely new direction, we can encounter these differences and I’m thankful that she is talking about how she and Abe are navigating the process of coming into marriage with two different faith traditions. If you’d like to contribute, check out the details here.

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When I first met my fiancé, Abraham, I was a fundamentalist who had recently realized (with trepidation) that I believed in evolution, had just become a feminist, and was considering leaving the Baptist church that I grew up in.

When my fiancé, Abraham, first met me, he was a Southern Baptist Missions drop-out who had recently left the church and was considering atheism.

I remember our second date clearly—Abe had taken me to a seafood restaurant that he really couldn’t afford because he wanted to impress me. In between mouthfuls of flounder and scallops, we discussed religion.

I listened, nervously, as he explained why he had stopped pursuing a career as a Southern Baptist missionary.: “They wanted me to teach ‘once-saved-always-saved,’ and I just don’t see salvation as a one-time event.”

And he listened (with I’m sure just as much nervousness), as I explained that I thought maybe a Creator God could use evolution to form the heavens and the earth.

We disagreed on these points that seem almost laughably insignificant, looking back. But to a couple of people not-quite-yet grown out of the bible-clearly-says mindsets we’d both been raised in, those insignificant points seemed like a big deal.

I’d had similar problems with my last boyfriend. He was a fundamentalist member of the Church of Christ, where instruments during worship are considered a sin. I was a church pianist. He thought real salvation came from faith AND baptism, and I thought real salvation came from faith alone and that baptism was a symbol.

To two fundamentalists, these silly things could mean the difference between heaven and hell. He didn’t think I was a Real Christian because I didn’t see Baptism as having washed away my sin. I didn’t think he was a Real Christian because he didn’t put his trust in “faith alone.”

Though we had a mostly fun, healthy relationship, we both also had an agenda: we each wanted to convert the other person. To change each other to fit our own desires.

I sat across the table from Abe, and I remembered my last relationship. I remembered how dehumanizing it felt to learn that my ex had had conversations with his friends and family about “converting” me. I remembered that I’d had similar conversations with my friends and family, and felt like a hypocrite.

I didn’t want to make those same mistakes with Abe. I didn’t want to convert him. I wanted to get to know him. To respect him. To see him as a person, not a project.

I didn’t say anything to Abe, that day, but I made a conscious decision that day that I was not going to put my hope for this relationship in shared doctrines and theologies.

I promised myself I would recognize that Abe is not me. Abe was not hand-crafted by God to suit my needs. Abe is not a dog that I can train with biscuits, or a Subway sandwich that I get to pick which veggies go on.

And Abe has always had the same respect for me.

Today, I am a Unitarian Universalist with a newly developed obsession for Christian liberation and feminist theology, who thinks that maybe God is wisdom…or love…or something. Abe is still considering atheism, but often tells me, “I wish I could believe in God.”

We both go to a little Methodist church in Toledo where they have a chicken coop, and the pastor sometimes references Doctor Who, and we feel—as clichéd as it may sound—like family. We hold hands during worship, even though I quietly sing “She” and “Her” in place of the masculine pronouns for God, and Abe whispers in my ear whenever he notices a typo in the lyrics up on the screen.

We talk about faith all the time. Sometimes we argue about it. Sometimes we bond over it.

Our individual faiths are a part of our relationship, but I’m glad we never built our relationship on having the same faith.

As I look back over how much we’ve both changed since that second date, I realize doing so would have been like building a house over a fault line, because we are both people.

And people are messy.

People learn, and grow, and change. People have experiences that change them. People change their minds. People lose hope sometimes. People sometimes find hope in places where we never expected it.

But seeing one another as people has freed us to love.

And the greatest of these is love.

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sarah and abeSarah Moon is an about-to-graduate Women’s and Gender Studies student at Oakland University, an intern at Alternatives for Girls in Detroit, and a master burger flipper. She enjoys studying feminist theory and theology, playing nerdy board games with her fiancé Abraham, and blogging at SarahOverTheMoon.com.

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  • Sylvia

    I’m a 54 yr old conservative Jesus Follower. I know I’m not as conservative as most conservatives think I should be but probably not as liberal as most liberals think I should be either! Some things are just not worth fighting or arguing over. I just want to be like Jesus and show love and respect to others even if they don’t believe exactly as I do about anything!

  • http://lostreef.blogspot.com/ Virgil T. Morant

    This is a timely and difficult essay for me to read. Some of the difficulty is a matter of being reminded of one’s own bad experiences and feeling the trauma invigorated, and some of it may even be a note of envy. That is, here we have an essay that tells of two human beings willing–better than willing, positively wanting–to get to know each other in love rather than uncharitably rejecting each other. The latter, un-Christian rejection and opprobrium, is something I am better acquainted with, sad to say.

    Nice reference to I Corinthians at the end. I think doctrine and “theology” are more important than this post seems to allow, but the issue I have encountered consistently is that those for whom doctrine becomes the source of division and suffering are very often those who don’t understand the doctrines they cling to all that well anyway: holding fast and yet without understanding and without love to a belief becomes a doctrine unto itself, the sort of thing that precludes fellowship (to say nothing even of communion) where in reality it would be possible. Possible, that is, if only one were willing to listen and speak candidly, as, it seems, you and your fiancé are doing. Thank you for the post.

  • http://tellmewhytheworldisweird.blogspot.com/ perfectnumber628

    “Abe was not hand-crafted by God to suit my needs.” Really interesting that you say this, because I ALWAYS hear Christians saying that apparently God has created exactly 1 PERFECT mate for each person, etc etc- and I totally don’t believe that anymore (because it turns out it makes no sense).

    • Monika Jankun-Kelly

      I wonder how many divorces had that faulty belief about The One Perfect Soulmate, and the subsequent disappointment, as a contributing factor?

      I am so grateful my husband loves me with my messy humanity and imperfections. I’m certain there are many women who could have loved him as well as I, made him as happy, but he chose me. We have a history together now, one we chose to build, together, and that means so much. Seems preferable to me to build something together than have it handed to you on a plate.

  • Tim2063

    I thought this was a great guest post, thank you for sharing it. It is ironic that religion and faith can be the hardest things to talk about inside a relationship. I have wondered if I could be happy in a U.U. church and also wonder how much of my negative reaction to the idea is a left over remnant of my evangelical former faith. Headed over to check out your blog now.

  • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage

    I love your remark about relationships: “Abe is not a dog that I can train with biscuits, or a Subway sandwich that I get to pick which veggies go on.”

  • Tom Jensen

    I like your blog! and linked to your blog on our christian network and facebook group, hope it’s okay, and maybe you wil do the same.
    keep up the good work.

    http://www.christianonnet.com

  • http://danileekelley.wordpress.com/ Dani Kelley

    Just now getting to read this, and I want to stand and cheer. Mutual respect will always trump turning people into projects or personal props. Love it, love you.

  • http://felicemifa.wordpress.com/ Margaret_at_FeliceMiFa

    This is a wonderful story, beautifully written. Thanks Sarah!

  • Monika Jankun-Kelly

    Beautiful piece about love and respect. Thank you, Sarah, for sharing this.

  • http://www.wideopenground.com/ Lana

    I relate to this story so much. About making people projects.