Unless you are looking for a few weeks of summer lovin’, relationships eventually get to the point where the issue of God/religion/burning in hell will most likely arise. That is, if religion is important to anyone involved. And if your religions are different? Well, that is cause for some serious talkin’. As much as you want to avoid the topic and live in that dream-world where it doesn’t matter, different beliefs can create some serious problems. So what’s a girl to do when your guy thinks differently about the Big Questions in life, the amount of wives a man should take and just what happens when you don’t pray every day?
Look for common ground.
In today’s modern world, even religious leaders are beginning to emphasize the common ties of religion rather than the differences. It’s important for you to learn to do the same, if you really want to make it work with a guy. If one of you is Protestant and the other Catholic, you’re already halfway there toward reconciliation, really; the fundamental points of doctrine are the same. If you’re interested in religious discussion, make an effort to point out where you agree. For example, Jesus is a prophet and a holy figure in Islam as well as Christianity. Sufis and Buddhists agree that meditation techniques are important for reaching higher spiritual states. Jews and Muslims agree about dietary restrictions and the importance of respecting God through very similar laws. There’s common ground for everyone!
Anyone who is a proud member of a religion clearly holds that religion’s tenets and practices dearly. If you like to drink but your boyfriend doesn’t on principle, it’s unwise to try forcing him. Religious traditions go back centuries and not everyone wants to quickly abandon family traditions or practices just to be more likeable or easier to date. A meaningful Serious Relationship is built on mutual respect. That also works in the other direction, though — if your boyfriend/girlfriend has expectations of you based on his/her religion, you have no obligation to fulfill them! So, for example, respect his choice not to eat pork, but don’t give up bacon just because he doesn’t like it. If he can’t respect your choice, it’s unfair.
A great deal of the conflicts among religions in the wider sphere are caused by misunderstandings. That’s true on the individual level too! Before you become alarmed that your guy is a different faith than yours, ask questions about what he believes in. He may be able to dispel common misconceptions or urban legends about his religion. You may have a lot more in common than you thought.
Make your choice.
When it comes down to it, if you’re really invested in the Serious Relationship, then it’s important to think seriously about whether you’re willing to be involved in an interfaith relationship. Is it truly important to you to be with someone of the same faith? Or are you flexible on that score? By being honest about what you want, you may be able to learn a great deal about your boy or girlfriend, and gain insight into a world you thought you’d never understand. That alone is worth trying for, if you’re willing to be open-minded about it.
[Photo courtesy of nationalcenter.org]