Category Archives: theology
I have so many dear friends who have either divorced or who have gone through intense struggle in their relationship because of differences in one of the most important categories in life – Religious Preferences. These friends of mine are having a tough time because they tried to fool themselves during the very beginning of the relationship.
“She’s a Mormon and I’m a Catholic. We can both go to both churches.”
“She’s an atheist and I’m a Baptist. I think I can win him over in time…”
“I’m a Christian and she doesn’t go to church. But she is a very spiritual person. We’ll get along just fine.”
Unless you prepare The List beforehand, you will be susceptible to a loud heart and a quieted brain. It will be much easier for you to make excuses. It will be easy for you to justify the pursuit of this woman who seems like a great catch but with religious differences. You must have a list of negotiables and non-negotiables before you jump back into the dating scene, AND you must not compromise.
FREQUENCY OF RELIGIOUS ACTIVITY
When you are getting to know a gal and are considering moving forward in a more serious relationship, consider the Religious Preference issue THE MOST IMPORTANT compatibility category. For you, you may land in once of these:
*I honestly have no religious preference
*I have a background in ______________ church or religious affiliation, but I no longer have ties to that group.
*I sometimes attend _______________ church or religious organization. Just depends on what else is going on.
*I attend religious services at _______________ on a regular basis and I like it, but it’s not the most important thing to me.
*I am extremely active in the life of ______________ church or religious organization. This is the most important thing to me, or at least I want it to be.
The woman you are considering pursuing will fall in one of these religious descriptors, as well. I urge you to move forward ONLY IF she has the same descriptor as you. Otherwise, it will be like puling teeth. You will butt heads. AND, I assure you, most likely your relationship will be characterized by the lower of the two descriptors within a short amount of time. If you have a differing level of priority for religion, ABORT THE MISSION RIGHT NOW. Both of you will be happier for it in five, ten years. Don’t be fooled by her amazing looks or her charming personality. Your religious preferences will make or break your relationship.
Not only does the level of priority you put on your religious activity matter, the actual religion you are affiliated with matters. I assure you, there are deep, essential, foundational differences between all of these major camps of religious thought – Christianity, Catholicism, Mormonism, Islam, Hindu, Buddhist, Baha’i, Wiccan, Universalist, new-age, etc. etc. etc. If you take the tenets of your religion and compared them side-by-side to those of the woman you want to pursue, I assure you there are going to be unavoidable differences, i.e. how one must live, what does the afterlife consist of and how do I get there, the origins of evil, what religious activities should I partake in, whom should I worship and how should I worship?, etc etc… Catholics and Hindus are not spiritually compatible. Mormons and Christians are definitely not compatible spiritually. Again, if the woman you want to go after is in a different camp of religious thought, I implore you, ABORT THE MISSION! Hang out with women of like mind, and have them make up your pool of possibilities. Otherwise, you’ll be drowning in further heartache.
A NOTE TO CHRISTIANS
Now, a note to Christians of different denominations. Some denominations are more compatible than others. Lutherans and say, Pentecostals, not so much. But perhaps Baptists and Presbyterians are more. Here’s my point – before you pursue the really cool Christian chick that has caught your attention, do a side-by-side comparison of your statement of beliefs and hers. Doctrine is important. Probably the most important question you should start with is, “What do you both believe about the Bible?” If one of you believes the Bible is the infallible Word of God and depicts historical men and women in history and is literal, and the other believes that the Bible is simply hyperbole or analogy and is just an inspirational book for living, I would have to say, ABORT THE MISSION. This is an impasse and you should not try to force a relationship to work that has this fundamental of a difference.
Another important question, then, is how much of an authority does the Bible hold in your life? Do you find yourself easily obeying whatever it is you read in the Bible, or do you prefer to adhere to what you personally agree with and disregard what seems out of date or just too hard to do? You both need to have the same general response to Scripture to be compatible.
This might be coming across as too narrow-minded. This might fly in the face of the culture of tolerance that has been emerging in our country. But I assure you, just a few weeks or months into a marriage with a difference of Religious Preference or Practice, you will begin to feel the tension. You will begin to notice in yourself either frustration or a growing sense of compromise. The divorce rate is higher for second marriages. I have a hunch that your differences spiritually could have the potential to escalate the odds for a second (or third, etc) divorce. You can’t afford that level of heartache.
If you do find someone, though, that is thoroughly compatible with you on a spiritual/religious level, there is almost no greater joy. My second marriage is centered on our core, religious beliefs in the life and work of Jesus Christ. Yes, marriage is hard, but we have a firm foundation that won’t erode. In our very imperfect way, we are navigating life and marriage and parenthood through faith, one step at a time.
There is no cookie-cutter formula for a guy to get through the difficulty and pain of divorce. I’m not pretending to say that “if you follow these three easy steps, you’ll have no problems getting past your divorce.” No, instead, I’m sharing from experience what was exceptionally helpful for me.
On the heels of my divorce a handful of years ago, someone told me to not put myself into any kind of serious dating relationship for at least one full year. Instead, I was told to take that time to figure out what a single ME likes and dislikes, enjoys and despises. Instead of grasping at something I felt I desperately needed (another relationship), I was free to investigate for the first time in my adult life who I had become. Not only that, I was able to avoid making some relationship decisions I know I would have regretted because I was a needy, broken man without a clue. So, I found out a few things about myself.
Just a few of my personal discoveries:
**Although I knew that I had enjoyed playing the trombone in school and a little bit in college, I never realized that I absolutely LOVED listening to big band swing. I also discovered for the first time that I got a big kick out of 60s rock (yes, I became a fan of Credence Clearwater Revival. Don’t judge me…).
**Regarding food, I quickly ascertained that I like key lime pie, and I don’t normally care for popcorn or cake.
**I learned that I enjoyed trying different beers and I occasionally enjoy smoking a Sherlock-Holmes style pipe.
**Regarding my viewing experiences, I discovered that I was not so much of a movie guy as I am a historical, nature, and crime documentary person.
**About books, I had the freedom to determine that I am thoroughly swept up in reading biographies and Charles Dickens and Old Testament prophets.
**When it comes to transportation, I found that I am a Jeep-a-holic and have been bitten by the motorcycle bug.
**Spiritually speaking, I finally was able to articulate my own set of theological fingerprints. Who knew that I was a cautious continuationist with shards and shreds of Calvinism embedded in my beliefs?
**Concerning mental health, I had no idea that I had been dealing with severe clinical depression since I was a little kid. What a major difference it made to find treatment!
**Interpersonally speaking, I discovered that I greatly value deep communication, I learned that usefulness of expressing anger, and I determined many of my defense mechanisms.
If you are on the fresh end of a painful divorce, I urge you to take my ONE-YEAR CHALLENGE. Despite the urge, don’t date for a year. Read lots, talk lots, and introspect lots. Experiment with food, music, hobbies, and other tastes. Surround yourself with a small crew of trusted people. If you can’t find a crew, settle for one person you mildly trust. If that’s a stretch, then at the very least, keep a journal of what you discover. You will pleasantly surprise yourself during those twelve months!
If you are willing to take this ONE-YEAR CHALLENGE, let me know. I’d love to keep tabs on how your progress moves forward. Let me know your thoughts!