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6 Things To Consider Before Getting Into An Interfaith Relationship

With 4 out of 10 marriages being interfaith ones, this is a topic that needs to be explored.

Love & Relationships

Being that I am a marriage life coach, I often get asked if I subscribe to interfaith marriages. Well, being that I am also a Bible follower (not an evangelical by any stretch, but I do strive for discipleship—John 8:31-32), I have to take into account that the Bible has interfaith couples. One that immediately comes to mind is Boaz and Ruth. He was Hebrew, she was a Moabite—there you have it; an interfaith relationship. (By the way, if you read the story, you might change your tune about "I'm waiting on my Boaz." If you want to be pursued, you're not waiting on a Boaz kind of man. Ruth—and Naomi—did a significant amount of the work in that love story. Check the records.) So were Moses and Zipporah and King Xerses and Esther. I think you get the gist. So no, I can't say, right off the rip, that interfaith relationships or marriages are "bad" or wrong.

Apparently, I'm not the only one to think that either. While in the United States, around 69 percent of married people say that their spouse shares their faith, there is a remaining 31 percent whose spouse does not; that number continues to climb too. As I did some additional digging around, I also discovered that while about one-third of all evangelical marriages end in divorce, that number jumps up to 50 percent if the union is an interfaith one. Also, if an evangelical marries someone who isn't religious at all, that divorce rate jumps to 62 percent. So clearly, although a lot of people are dating and marrying someone who doesn't share their faith, there are some risks that come with making the decision to do so.

That's why, if you're currently seeing someone who has a different faith than you or you're single and considering getting into an interfaith relationship, while it's not something that you should automatically write off, there are some things that you should think long and hard about before moving forward.

Is Your Goal Dating or Courtship?

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If you're someone who "dates to marry", then this first point doesn't really apply to you. But since I know that there are a ton of people who can totally relate to articles like "Single Minded: So, What If You Like Dating But DON'T Desire Marriage?", that's why I thought this was a good starting point. While a lot of religious people, of any faith, feel that there is no need to date if you're not looking for something long-term, I know that some individuals do it for other reasons than to find a serious partner. Some people date in order to meet new people and gain fresh perspectives. Some people date simply because they enjoy the company of others. Some people date in order to figure out what they ultimately do want for their future. This is why it's so important to know why you do the things that you do. Are you dating simply to create some memories and have a good time in the moment? Or are you hoping that dating will turn into courtship (because no, dating and courtship aren't one in the same)?

I personally know of some couples who ended up breaking up because they did not ask themselves this question before getting into an interfaith relationship. Six months to a year in, they ended up coming to the decision that their different faith perspectives were too much to try and make their relationship go the distance. Feelings were deeply hurt because of it. This happens more than a lil' bit, so definitely ask yourself if you would go into an interfaith dynamic for casual reasons or, if it is long-term, if you are prepared to make some serious compromises in order to keep the connection intact (see "Interfaith Marriages Can Require Big Compromises").

Are Your Core Values and Principles Going to Be Compromised in Any Way?

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Speaking of compromise, since I know that there are a lot of Christian women who support our site, and since I'm also aware of the fact that there are literally dozens and dozens of different denominations within the Christian "umbrella" (several sources say that there are around 200; you can cite that info here and here), it's worth mentioning that you can date a Christian but if they aren't apart of the same denomination as you, there can still be conflict. I've dated a Muslim before and honestly, when it came down to our core values and principles, we got along pretty well. Oh, but when I dated someone who was a Christian but wasn't the same denomination as I was—back when I was a part of one—pardon the pun but all hell broke loose. While we're here, please don't believe that non-denominational or interdenominational don't have strong denominational influences. I attended a "non-denominational church" for years but the influence was clearly what the first lady was—COGIC.

My point is this—when it comes to our core values and principles, if you're looking for the kind of relationship that is going to be long-term, you need to be with someone who complements both of those. How do you prioritize your career? How important is family to you? What are your views on sex? Where do you stand when it comes to political and social justice issues? What qualities do you value most in a relationship? What place do you give to boundaries and self-care? And yes, how important is religion to you? Don't assume that if you're Baptist who is dating someone who is Church of Christ or even is also Baptist that the relationship will automatically be smooth sailing. At the same time, don't assume that someone who is Buddhist or Bahá'í won't align with you in some unexpected ways.

The key is to know where you stand and then not to compromise on those things if you feel like you will be sacrificing the core of who you are in order to do so. At the end of the day, one of the articles that I read stated something that I agree with—"80% of those who are in an interfaith marriage believe that having similar values is more important than having a similar faith." Values over faith. Definitely not something that needs to be underestimated.

Will You Both Respect Each Other’s Beliefs?

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I won't lie. Some of my most heated discussions involve the topic of religion. Hmph. Don't even get me started on Kanye. See, I'm already triggered. It's cool to have people in my world who are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Bahai, Catholic, agnostic, atheist—I've even had some interesting conversations with Satanists before (heads up—Satanists don't subscribe to worshipping Satan but self; a lot of people don't know that). The reason is they can provide insights and perspectives that 1) I've probably never considered before and 2) can help to either strengthen my own faith or compel me to do more studying and researching. Y'all, you can't end up coming to this conclusion if you don't respect the religious views of others—first.

If you're not hearing someone else out, you're being disrespectful. If you think you've got so much "truth" that you are condescending and patronizing (I am floored by how many people of one faith try and actually tell someone of another faith what that person's faith is all about instead of listening to them), you're being disrespectful. On the dating tip, if what you're actually doing is "missionary dating"—meaning, you claim it's dating but really what you're doing is trying to convert someone—you're being disrespectful. If all you seem to be able to do is see the good in your faith and the "bad" in someone else's, you're being disrespectful. If you're trying to invoke—or provoke—fear into someone in order for them to see things your way, you are being disrespectful. If you are flippant and dismissive about how someone else views God or a higher power, yep—you are being disrespectful.

I'll tell you what—if there is an irony that comes out of interfaith relationships, it's the fact that it has the ability to reveal to people if they are as "godly" and "loving" as they think that they are. Because if you are dating someone of a different faith and you are rude, offensive and intolerant—what kind of religion are you in? You might want to seek another one. Real talk.

If the Desire Is Marriage and Kids, How Will You Raise Them?

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When it comes to this particular point, the person who immediately comes to my mind is Bill Maher. No matter what you think about him, if you're considering or are already in an interfaith relationship, I encourage you to watch (or re-watch) his documentary from back in the day entitled Religulous. Not only does it touch on some points that are definitely worth pondering, it also provides a great example for why I brought up this part of the article up. Bill? He had one parent who was Catholic and one who was Jewish. Geeze. I'm not sure if it gets more extreme than that, just on the Christ points alone. That's why I can see how he struggles with issues of faith, religion and spirituality; why he's always looking for contradictions. Just look at how his upbringing had its own set of 'em.

There are some people close to me who have two young children. The mother is a Christian and the father isn't; he doesn't really affiliate with any faith. That has caused some real challenges when it comes to how they see church-going, holiday observances and even how the home should function when it comes to gender roles, spirituality and a host of other things. When it was just the couple, while they were both a little irritated by a few differences in perspectives, it wasn't that big of a deal. Now that they are raising little humans, though, they are in counseling more than they've ever been.

Moral to the story. If you are already in an interfaith relationship and you are contemplating marriage, have some serious conversations about if you both desire to have children and, if so, how they should be raised. Don't be out here in la-la-land thinking that you'll just cross that bridge when you get to it. If you wait until then, you might end up with a child who is super confused (and perhaps also mad disinterested) when it comes to the issue of faith. Not because of faith itself but because of all of the contradictions they witnessed while growing up…in your household.

Do You Get That You Can Be “Unequally Yoked” Beyond One’s Faith?

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The kind of Christians I know who think that an article like this is totally ridiculous, they tend to feel that way due to a Scripture in the Bible that says, "Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?" (2 Corinthians 6:14—NKJV) It's in the Scriptures, no question.

To that, I just want to present something for you to consider. Is an "unbeliever" only someone who doesn't share your religious perspective? Could it quite possibly also speak to someone who doesn't complement your life, in general? Could it be someone who actually doesn't believe…in you?

Sharing the same religious or spiritual beliefs with someone is important; there is no debating that. But Christians actually divorce more than any other faith in the world. And that kind of actually proves the point that I'm trying to make here. Don't be out here thinking that if you share the same faith with someone that you are automatically in sync with them. In order to walk together in a true partnership, make sure you are on the same page about if you believe in one another too.

Can You Truly Agree to Disagree?

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Ask any married couple who has any real time under their belt and they're going to tell you that if you want to have peace in your household, there are going to be some things that you will simply need to "agree to disagree" on. And boy, no greater words could be spoken than when it applies to an interfaith relationship. Take the holidays, for example. I once interviewed a wife on the topic of interfaith unions. Because she was Jewish and her husband was Christian, Christmas used to be a nightmare in her house because she thought that celebrating the birth of what her faith sees as a prophet vs. what her husband sees as the Savior of mankind couldn't be more blasphemous. She said that she finally got OK with some of the things that her husband wanted to do, simply because of the peace and joy that his attitude brought into their home that time of the year. "Christmas irks me, but it's only for a day. I can deal with all of the hoopla for 24 hours."

If you want to make your own interfaith marriage work and last, this is the kind of attitude that you need to be prepared to have about a lot of things. Again, even if you are both in the same faith but are a part of different denominations. I am a Sabbath observer. Tons of the people I've dated go to church on Sunday. We both are Bible believers, but that one thing alone can still cause conflict. See what I mean?

As I bring this to a close, this final point is a great reminder that, in the midst of your pondering, keep in mind that if you are controlling, intolerant or impatient, an interfaith relationship is absolutely not for you. Because in order to make that type of relationship work and last, you need to be the opposite of each of those traits. You need to have faith that two different faiths have enough mutual love and respect to work through the differences. If you don't honestly believe that, it's a big world out here. Opt for someone who shares your faith—so that hopefully joy, peace and harmony will be at you and yours' foundation. After all, that should be the ultimate goal. Whether two people share the same faith—or not.

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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