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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Thoughts On Christian Marriage Teachings, Part 2

So with my story in mind from Part 1, let’s talk about the teachings that claim that without the Christian god, marriage cannot work.

It doesn’t take a genius to see the problems with that belief. But it does take objectivity and willingness to look outside the confines of your world and paradigm. The fact is that marriages, all relationships really, work just fine (or don’t) across all religious and ethnic and historic boundaries. Atheists, Catholics, Protestants of every flavor, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, New Age folks, Pagans, Wiccans, Mormons, Jews, and every combination of these have had great, life-long, healthy marriages throughout history (they’ve also all fucked up a lot of relationships). So what is the constant there? Because it obviously isn’t the Christian God.

Christians think that if their marriage goes wrong, it’s because they aren’t doing Christianity well enough. But even the casual observer can see that that has nothing to do with it. That people without any god at all can manage to do relationships well. God, anyone’s version of it, is not what holds relationships together. Those that say they are only together because of God make me pause and wonder what will happen when their idea of god changes, or if one spouse’s journey leads away from Christianity.  

If belief in Jesus causes you to treat one another better and therefor have a more fulfilling relationship, then that’s great! I’m not knocking that at all. But there’s some concerns with that line of thought. To say that belief in your god is *the only thing* that can hold together a marriage is not only false, it’s dismissing of every good marriage outside your paradigm. And it’s concerning to watch people go through highs and lows and to constantly blame the way they treat their spouse on whether they are doing religion correctly or not. Human beings have managed to be respectful, loving, and empathetic, be they Christian or not, and if one cannot be compelled to treat another person in those ways without allegiance to one’s god, then I have to ask why, because non-Christians manage it every single day. 

I see my husband as deserving of my respect and empathy, not because a deity declared him so, but because he’s a human being and valued. He values me purely because he loves me and I am worth it as another human being, not because he has to “see Jesus in me” in order to see my worth or because he can’t love me without first loving God. 

So while I do think that faith can enhance one’s life and relationship, I can also see where it has been used as a crutch and a get-out-of-jail free card that people use to blame their problems on. But when you’ve been used to blaming your actions on God, lack of Him, flesh nature, Satan, Eve, and everything else *but* your own self, it’s tough to start admitting personal responsibility. No, my flesh nature is not responsible for me yelling at my husband. *I* did that, I chose that action, *I* am responsible to make it right. No, my lack of empathy toward my wife is not because I didn’t pray enough this week, but because *I* chose to act in that way and *I* alone am responsible to fix it. God isn’t going to fix it for me. That’s on me. And it’s on you.

Thankfully, I know now by both reason and experience that I can do good without anyone’s version of god. I can have a great marriage with myself and my spouse at the center of it and without a god in the equation. That many people, the world over, throughout history, have managed to do much good and have fulfilling relationships with others with and without God (anyone’s version of him/her). The traits that make us human, that cause us to have healthy relationships with other humans, are not exclusive to Christianity. We all have access to them, we all have the opportunity for amazing relationships, god or no god.

Part 3 

9 comments:

  1. On a related note, this is why, in my professional experience (as an attorney that practices family law), religious divorces are the absolute worst, and the more religious, the worse. (In fact, the minute a god is brought up in the office, you just know it is going to be bad...)
    By making everything a matter of religion, one does lose the ability to take personal responsibility. And, likewise, a failure to get along is magnified. The ex isn't just annoying and we aren't getting along: he or she is EVIL, and thus we have to alienate the children, and on it goes.

    (I am not making this up: one woman came into my office to ask me to try to force her 17 year old daughter to move to another state with her so she could marry someone she met online. Why couldn't she have her wish to stay with her father and finish school with her friends? Because he would be an *unspeakably* bad example to her. Why? Well, he was *selfish*. He wanted to ride his motorcycle on Sunday afternoons rather than go to the evening church service. Gah!

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    1. That's absolutely true. I'm not a divorce attorney, just the child of a non-religious father and a mother who converted from non-religious to conservative southern Baptist. She believed he was Satan incarnate, LITERALLY. Any old devil wouldn't do, he had to be the biggest, baddest, most powerful devil out there, and he was using his minions to brainwash us girls into wearing eyeliner and listening to The Rock Music. It had absolutely nothing to do with us becoming teenagers and starting to wear makeup. That would've made sense.

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  2. I find this interesting. You say that you can have a great marriage with you and your spouse at the center of it and without a god in the equation. I believe that can be true for now but what do you do when the hard times come. The hard times like many face. Sickness, cancer, death. Do you honestly just pull yourself up by your boot straps and not look to God? These things will eventually happen. Not trying to sound morbid but it's just a reality of life. What is the moral compass? Is it just you and your strength?

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    1. Well, yes. It's about us, our strength, our futures, our love for each other and our kids, and our love for life. You talk like we haven't been through hard times but you don't know us. We've lost *two* homes, one to fire (along with all our belongings) and one to foreclosure. We've had death, poverty, suffering, children born with special needs, bankruptcy, betrayal, chronic illness, so much loss, and grief...just like other humans. I get that some people find comfort in thinking that there is a God that makes it all better or gives it some purpose, but that has NEVER given me comfort. Ever. Even when I wanted it to, when I tried to say "God has a plan", it never worked for me. And now I understand why. But people from all walks of life find comfort in difficult times in so many different ways. The Christian God is only one way of many and it's not a way I choose or feel I need. Matter of fact, the idea of god and human suffering makes me a little angry, no matter how people try to spin it. Either he doesn't care or he cares and does nothing. That's not a god I wish to follow nor one that gives me comfort.

      So, yes. You honestly pull yourself up by your bootstraps and you keep on living. Life has the meaning you give it.

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  3. I've read enough of your posts to know you've been through some hard things. We all have really, with or without God in our lives. I do appreciate you answering the question. There really isn't much more to say because I can honestly see that you just don't believe he exists anymore. Not that it makes you less of a person. No it doesn't. We all have our lives to live and our families to care for. Yep, put human suffering in and it's hard to understand why God would allow it. I still do believe in him though and stand by the fact that He is real and yes..loving. He does care about you still. Well, I'm done. Take care!!

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  4. I am a Christian, and I agree with you that marriages from all backgrounds and beliefs can be good, happy and fulfilling. Christians certainly cannot claim to have the best marriages. I'm not sure what type of Christian home you grew up or what type of churches you attended, but I don't think it's fair to lump all Christians into the same category. You are speaking only from your experience. Perhaps your parents did not model to you a loving relationship, I don't know, but I believe the Bible teaches mutual love, respect and submission to one another. It is a sacrificial love on both sides. I don't just do whatever I want and whatever makes me happy without regards for my husband and he doesn't do that to me either. We want to make each other happy. My husband is my best friend and we are committed to each other for life. I don't think the Bible teaches that a wife's spiritual welfare is dependent on her husband. Nor do I think it is right to blame our faults and sins on anyone or anything other than ourselves. Perhaps the people you grew up with taught you these things, but the Bible doesn't teach this. God is clear in His word that each person is responsible for their own actions. My husband can encourage me and I him, but we can't control one another. I do think that God calls husbands and men in general to be spiritual leaders in the home and church, but I don't agree with your perception of what this looks like. Furthermore, living in a Christian marriage (and being a Christian in general) is not about "doing Christianity" or "doing religion". That's just legalism and living by a bunch of rules. Christianity is all about living in grace. That's what a relationship with Jesus is. Recognizing and accepting His grace. It's realizing our sinfulness and accepting his love and forgiveness. I'm sorry you have had such a poor representation of Christians in your life. Maybe you don't believe in God or the Bible, but you say human beings have worth and value. How can we have value if we came from nothing and will die and return to nothing? We have value because we were created by a loving God. And He loves you and me.

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    1. "...I don't know..."

      You're right, you don't. But I'm happy that you have had a good experience and a wonderful marriage.

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  5. My point is simply that not all Christians believe/teach what you are claiming they do about marriage. You said, "Christians think...", as if it is a universal truth about all Christians. I'm not trying to make any assumptions about your life. - anonymous from above

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    1. I understood your point. And saw that you missed mine.

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