I left Christianity years ago, and since then I have learned the teachings of Islam without submitting to the faith. This puts me at odds with most of the women I meet because I can say with 99% certainty that the majority of Black women in America are either Christian or Muslim. Whether these women are practicing or “non-practicing” members of their faith, it’s still fairly important that the man of their choosing have some sort of relationship with their God. After all, in 2 Corinthians 6:14,(King James Version), the Apostle Paul wrote: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?”
The phrase “unequally yoked” is a metaphor. Back in the day, a yoke was a wooden bar used to join to oxen together. The oxen were “unequally yoked” if one ox was weaker or shorter than the other ox. The disadvantage of the bigger ox being yoked to the smaller, weaker ox was that both could not perform the same task before them equally; one would struggle to keep up, while the other would be dragging its partner along.
And because I am a kafir, or a disbeliever, when it comes to Islam as a religion, I am automatically off-limits to Muslim women. The Koran commands all Muslims:
“And do not marry the (non-believer) until they believe, and certainly a believing maid is better than an idolatress woman, even though she should please you; and do not give (believing women) in marriage to idolaters until they believe, and certainly a believing servant is better than an idolater, even though he should please you; these invite to the fire, and Allah invites to the garden and to forgiveness by His will, and makes clear His communications to men, that they may be mindful. (S. 2:221 Shakir)
Because I am an adherent of traditional African Spirituality this usually leaves me “unequally yoked” with my partner. If you have recently become conscious, maybe you have found yourself in the same position: having “debates” about whether Christ existed, arguing against (or for) what the Koran says, and having tug-of-wars over Church/Mosque/Cathedral/Synagogue attendance. And how about the look on your partners face when you mention the pros of polygamy (Those conversations are always fun!)
If you havent experienced this yet and you are on the path, you will soon. You meet someone, you fall in love, and the person “fits” you in every way…except when it comes to spirituality.
So what do you do? Do you give up your faith, and convert to theirs? Do you accept your differences and try to “make it work”? Do you break up, even though you love the person? I don’t wat to pretend to tell you how to run your relationships, but lets look at these three in detail.
This might be the hardest option of the three. Would you convert to your partners belief system? Should you?
Our beliefs are the most deeply held part of our existence, and converting to someone elses faith means fundamentally changing who we are for that person. Ego comes into play, guilt, feelings of “being wrong”, and paranoia about whether or not the decision was the right one. And then there is the fact that you and you alone must stand before the Universal Sovereign in the end.
Not to mention the loss of traditions that you have had since you were a child. Having a Muslim girlfriend means no Christmas trees, no going to mass together, and no Kwanzaa candles. Hanukkah is out, too.
With that being said, if you are both mature adults, having conversations about the differences and similarities in one another’s faith may lead to you becoming a true believer of their views. Their faith may begin to make sense to you, and if you can say with all certainty that their way is the “truth”, converting may be a natural evolutionary step. But if you are considering converting as an act of submission to please your partner, you are on dangerous ground.
I know plenty of Hebrew Israelite women who’ve been gotten by some “good game”, and find themselves tied up with a tyrant and three other sister-wives. Likewise, I know of an individual who submitted to his girlfriend’s religion of Catholicism, only to find himself in over his head.
The grass aint always greener on the other side of the fence.
Make It Work
Here in the United States, 37 percent of married adults in the United States have spouses from a different religion (nevermind the divorce rate of first marriages is around 50 percent). Clearly, somebody is making it work.
Chances are, if both you and your partner arent practicing, hard-core adherents of your faith, you both may be more comfortable having discussions about the similarities and differences between your faiths. Conversations that are based on love and empathy (not proving one another right or wrong) can go a long way towards making things work.
Since this month here at United Black America is being dedicated to Black relationships, more articles are on the way on the subject of “making it work”. Subscribe below so you don’t miss out, but in the mean time, suffice to say that dialogue is the key to making an interfaith relationship work. But if your personal and spiritual differences are too disparate, sometimes its best to break it up.
Break It Up
Breaking up a relationship can be painful, but I can think of some things more painful: suffering unhappily ever after, feelings of frustration as you try to communicate your beliefs and opinions to a partner who refuses to listen, and the inner turmoil that comes from keeping ones faith separate from one’s love.
Breaking up is hard to do, but ending a healthy relationship is easier (and more courageous) than putting up with an unequal yoke. I was with a beautiful Haitian sista for a few months who practiced vodou. While there are elements of traditional African spirituality in vodou (voodoo), much of it was just too much for me. She and I had a great time together, but I had to break it off. There are 500 million Black women on the planet, and while I don’t have time to date them all, I also don’t have time to spend with someone with whom there is little chance for future compatibility.
Relationships are work – we all get that. But being able to assess whether the work is worth the reward is a sign of a mature man or woman.
So would you compromise your faith for your love? Have you ever found yourself in that position? What are some strategies you used to make it work (or horror stories from bad breakups)? Start a discussion in the comments section below!