This week’s topic was the issue of being ‘unequally yoked’. The question came from a young woman who is Pagan but dating a devout christian and it doesn’t sound as though they have reached an understanding, in particular about how to make their conflicting religious beliefs work within their relationship. The question, which was posted in the description box below both videos, is this:
Hey Pagan Perspective, I’ve been watching your videos for a little while now and I’ve noticed a lot of things covering marriage. Well my question is kind of based on that… I’ve been dating my christian boyfriend for while (I am a pagan, I don’t really have a label yet since I vibe with a lot of subgroups under Paganism) and one question came up that really had me somewhat worried… I was brought up christian and left that faith for paganism. But anyways, I remember the concept of being “unevenly yoked” within a marriage. This concept has my boyfriend a little bit worried, since I am a practicing pagan and he is a devout christian, he is worried that our children and our relationship once bound together through marriage will be somewhat compromised by this uneven yoke. He is worried (this made kind of baffled/hurt me emotionally) that I would raise our children in the pagan faith, and I’m worried he’ll want to box our children under Christianity the way I was boxed in. Anyways, what would be some advice you could give me to help explain to my boyfriend that this “uneven yoke” shouldn’t be a reason to question our relationship? And what are your thoughts on the “uneven yoke”?
There are two responses thus far, but I’m sure there will be more later in the week.
Embedding was disabled for the second video, but here’s the link.
I’m sure the opinions on this subject are as diverse as the Pagan community itself. That said, I do have some thoughts…
My first marriage was to a christian man. At the time it made sense because I was christian myself. Without going into detail, it was a miserable experience. So was church. Pretty much the whole deal was a big mass of pain, anguish and problems for me, so my own perspective of this issue is admittedly colored by those experiences. Once I left christianity, my marriage and all of the grief that went with both and allowed myself to look elsewhere for spiritual healing and expression, I was infinitely happier.
Truly, I can not see how a Pagan/Abrahamic interfaith relationship can work, regardless of the sect(s) or Tradition(s) of the people involved. All three branches of the Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Judaism and Islam) teach that their belief is the only way to God and that everything else is influenced by Satan/Lucifer (most of them don’t know the difference between the two, so they use both names to identify the entity they know as the personification of ultimate evil). If a person truly believes that any religion outside of their own is evil and filled with darkness, how can s/he possibly allow themselves to enter into a relationship with a person who doesn’t share that belief? It would be condemnation by association. In law enforcement terms, it’s aiding and abetting. Not only do you condemn yourself by ‘yoking yourself unequally’ to a person who doesn’t share your religious perspective, you condemn the other person by ‘allowing’ him or her to continue in their sins. What does the ‘true believer’ do about this?
I’ve talked with so many Pagans over the years since I started on my own Path, and this is something that apparently happens all the time. Whether it’s clear what beliefs both people have when the relationship begins or one of them experiences a conversion during the relationship, it causes problems. Communication helps both understand what is important to them about their faith, but it can’t change the deeply held conviction that the non-christian person is doing something not only wrong, but utterly harmful. The belief is that the non-christian faith harms the person, the marriage and any children they may have.
In addition to the pressure christians feel within themselves to convert their ‘unsaved’ partner, they will have pressure from well-meaning family, friends and church groups to contend with, which makes a difficult situation even more painful.
Not that all interfaith relationships are doomed to failure. I married an Atheist (sounds like a 1950s B movie title) and we have very few issues. None of the problems or disagreements we have ever had involved religion. He is comfortable in his non-belief and I’m a dedicated Witch, so issues of faith have never really come up with us. My husband is actually very supportive of my faith. We argue about other things sometimes, but neither of us has ever tried to convert (or de-convert) the other.
That said, I know religious issues can often push a wedge between even truly devoted couples. Either it can be worked out or it can’t. Being aware of when it’s time to split vs. time to dig in and hang on is so important. Personally, I wouldn’t be comfortable with a partner who couldn’t allow himself to be comfortable with me unless I embraced his religion. If anything should happen to break up my marriage I’m not going to be looking for another partner anyway. I’m fine with being by myself if it comes to that. Some people aren’t and I get it, but for the life of me I can not understand why someone who lives and believes as a Pagan would get involved in a relationship with someone who will ultimately be on a mission to ‘save’ him/her.
Life is busy, complicated and sometimes exhausting work. Making a life with someone who later converts is one thing; not many of us are truly psychic and can foretell what lies ahead. Deal with that when and if it ever comes. But why get involved with a person with whom your beliefs are not compatible?