This is not quite a regular occurrence but I love stealing Graham’s mail and responding to the questions from an atheist perspective. Graham’s answers are always so predictable and useless, frankly. Platitudes and preaching to the choir, each and every time. They’re never a stretch into real, sincere, and thoughtful answers. He just parrots whatever biblical lessons he likely got from his own upbringing and education and never really anything new or overly insightful.
So, today’s question.
DEAR BILLY GRAHAM: My fiancé and I are of different faiths. Will that make any difference once we’re married? We’ve talked about it, but we don’t think it’ll actually cause us any problems. — K.S.
Graham makes some interesting assumptions in his response, which I’ll get to in a moment. I’ll just answer the question.
It won’t matter unless they decide it matters and it sounds like this pair has already decided it won’t. Nothing’s in the letter about what kind of faith pairing we’re dealing with here, if it’s a Jewish/Christian, or Catholic/non-Catholic but still Christian, or generic Christian mixed with Muslim, Jedi, Hindu or Pastafarian.
So long as the pair of them agree to keep their faiths their own without ever pressuring the other to convert, they’ll probably be okay. And if the way they live with their faiths leaves room for alternative belief systems, then they’re already better off than a lot of people.
Time will tell when kids come, but I know there are families that deal with multi-faith issues all the time and still figure out a way to include each belief system without (much) confusion or judgments over who’s got the better faith to raise a kid in. Bottom line, if they really want to make it work, they’ll do it.
So, onto Graham’s advice.
DEAR K.S.: Let me ask you a question: Do your faiths mean very much to either of you, or are they only something you inherited from your parents? If either of you left the religious tradition in which you were raised, would it bother you very much?
The point is this: If your faith means little to you, then you’re probably right; it probably won’t cause a serious problem in your marriage (at least on the surface). Perhaps one of you will give up your religion and adopt your spouse’s faith; perhaps you’ll both drop out.
Maybe it’s just me, but it sounds like what he’s saying is if they really had True Faith, it would require that both of them fight to the death to convert the other and if they’re not willing to do battle, then they’re equally weak in God’s eyes. Here’s why I come to this conclusion:
The most important thing you can do to have a strong marriage is to put Jesus Christ at the center of your lives and your marriage.
Actually, I think a strong marriage will require love between the two of them and sex as often as either of them can stand it. A strong marriage will require communication, trust, dependability, companionship. Jesus doesn’t need to be in the picture at all.
God gave marriage to us, and he alone can give us the wisdom and love we need to keep it strong, even if our path turns hard.
I think people ought to look at how much wisdom and strength they have to call their own, and how much they can rely on the same from their partners. There’s strength in numbers, after all. Plus, the best way to get help is to speak up and ask for it. Kneeling by a bed to pray every five minutes won’t fix a marriage, but work might.
This is why I urge you to turn to Jesus Christ today, and by faith invite him to come into your lives. Then ask God to help you find a church where you can grow in your faith.
And I’m saying they don’t need to do that if they have other ways to make their relationship work. There’s a zany assumption that belief in Christ will fix everything and keep everything together. It’s a delusion that can fill a person with false hopes and unachievable dreams. It can set a person up for a lifetime of abuse and martyrdom. It can make a family strong but it might also make them insane and insular. They really will be much better off as a couple if they agree to keep the doors open, not closed. Open to alternatives, to other ways of life, to other ways to think about things.
Don’t be satisfied with a second-hand faith, but put Christ first in your relationship.
What they really need to do is put each other first, and keep faith secondary. Beliefs about an afterlife or angels or miracles or whatever should never matter more than the person one loves. Put the effort into maintaining the relationship in spite of obstacles, and, better yet, by denying the idea that differing faiths should be an obstacle at all.