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.
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.
Sarah 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.