My friend (and boss) Dale McGowan has a new book coming out in a couple months called In Faith and In Doubt: How Religious Believers and Nonbelievers Can Create Strong Marriages and Loving Families. Kimberly Winston interviews him about it.
If interfaith marriages are supposedly doomed, Dale McGowan’s should have been toe-tagged from the start.
He’s a committed atheist; his wife comes from a line of Southern Baptist preachers. Yet 23 years and three kids later, they are still happily married.
What’s their secret? McGowan, 51, has just written “In Faith and In Doubt: How Religious Believers and Nonbelievers Can Create Strong Marriages and Loving Families,” to help other couples considering what he calls a “religious/nonreligious mixed marriage” succeed.
“The key is to talk about your values,” McGowan said from his home in Atlanta. “A lot of time we mix up the words ‘values’ and ‘beliefs.’ Beliefs are what you think is true about the universe. Is there a God? Where do we go when we die? But values are what you believe are important and good. When you get couples talking about values they find out they share a tremendous amount, even if they don’t share beliefs.”
That’s what McGowan and his wife, Becca, did. While she believed in one God, she did not believe salvation could be had only through belief in Jesus. And he agreed that he could go to church with her — and did, for many years, with their children.“This isn’t about the way I see the world — it’s about whether I can be in a loving, enduring relationship with someone who sees it differently,” McGowan writes in the book. “And when the question is framed in that way, the ‘big’ theological questions are actually smaller and less important than the social values questions. On those, this atheist and his Evangelical wife had a solid match.”
I am the product of a mixed marriage as well. My father and stepmother have been married for 37 years. He is an atheist, she is Pentecostal. They share neither beliefs nor values, really, but they’ve made it work. But for me, I think values is the key. Yes, I could be married to a Christian as long as they shared my belief in equality and justice and liberty.