Letter to a Pastor Butting Into a Woman’s Engagement to a Nonbeliever

Dear Pastor Sean Nolan,

I was surprised by your desire to offer advice to a young woman, Kelly, who never asked for it. She is engaged and happy, and your first instinct was to tell her to break it off because she’s marrying someone who doesn’t believe in God.

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My greatest concern is that your fianceé does not know or love Christ. Because I love you and care about your future, I feel compelled to speak now rather than to hold my peace, knowing full well how you might receive my “peace.”

I don’t think you know how you’re coming off at all.

If you did, you’d know this is the look on my face right now.

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I expect that, if you’re honest, you may have your own reservations about the upcoming ceremony. I hope you will heed those reservations and reconsider. As I have watched people walk down this road, I have noticed several common ways people justify marrying a nonbeliever. I want to address them in hope that you might experience grace to trust God and his word regarding marriage.

I suspect that, if you’re honest, you would admit you know jack about what’s going on in Kelly’s head right now. I know she’s a woman, and it makes you very uncomfortable when any women have the audacity to make their own decisions without consulting you first, but unless Kelly comes to you sobbing about the decision she’s about to make, you’re a complete asshole for trying to ruin the happiest day of her life based on your own uninformed misguided suspicions about what’s really going on.

And I have noticed several common ways pastors justify sticking their noses where they don’t belong. I want to address them in hope that you might stop offering this unwanted advice.

You know my story. My wife began dating me as an unbeliever. But as much as I love her and our marriage, it was wrong for her to do so.

While God was merciful to bring me to himself despite my wife’s disobedience, we are the exception and not the rule — certainly not the model.

I agree with you. If this is what you’re like, your wife made a big mistake.

But it’s far less concerning that she was willing to date an unbeliever than it is that you’re trashing her in a public article in an effort to make yourself look wiser.

While I do think your fiancé is a great guy by earthly standards, it’s his standing before God that matters most for marriage. You mentioned how important it was to you that he respected your boundaries, particularly after your last boyfriend pushed the boundaries, even while claiming to be Christian.

I agree that he certainly seems to outshine your last suitor, but

This is the sort of Christian thinking that keeps women in awful relationships. The moment you even suggest (“seems,” “but,” etc.) that an ex-boyfriend who didn’t ask for consent is possibly better than Kelly’s fiancé because he claims to accepts Christ is when you’re putting religion over common sense and decency.

Are you absolutely sure you won’t regret committing yourself until death to someone who might never help you see or love Jesus more? If he does not share your captivation with Christ, you and he will always stand on unlevel and unsteady ground as you carry out your vows in marriage.

If someone can make it to death with their life partner… I’d call that a pretty good deal. And why would someone who thinks differently from you be on a different level? Since I assume you think unbelievers are beneath you, how much lower are we? Are Muslims and Jews and Hindus slightly higher than us? What about Christians who dare to challenge your beliefs? If you could release a ranking of everyone inferior to you, that would help us all with future relationships.

Despite his warmth toward you, any attempt to have God on his own terms is an attempt to reject the true God over your life and heart. If he has no interest in the things of Christ now, what makes you think things will change after the wedding?

What makes you think someone who isn’t interested in Jesus can’t have a successful marriage?

I know it can be hard to see other couples getting married, holding hands, and having kids while you remain single. Don’t let this serve as a reason to try and seize marriage at the first opportunity.

No one’s getting married just to check off a box. Maybe — and stay with me here — Kelly loves this guy.

I wish you could see a glimpse of a future in which you remained faithful to your vows to a man who remained faithless toward your Savior. Worse than attending church alone your entire life, while your husband remained at home, is the haunting thought that the man you gave yourself to might spend eternity separated from you and God. Worse yet is the thought that he might lead you or your children down the same path… It really is possible to be more isolated and alone within a marriage than without.

Worse than a father who takes care of his children and teaches them to think for themselves and to challenge pastors who talk down to them? Religious parents who indoctrinate children with their own mythology and teach them than any deviation from their parents’ beliefs is a direct path to eternal torture.

I know that backing out of your engagement at this point may cost you, financially and otherwise. I know it might feel embarrassing. But it would be far better in the long run to lose some money and gain a few months of heartache than to commit the rest of your life to a marriage God does not want for you.

Or maybe she should go through with the wedding because she’s happy instead of canceling it because a pastor is getting weepy. God doesn’t dictate their marriage. They do. And if they’re in love, God can get the hell out of the way.

There is legitimate cause for concern if two people with very different opinions on a very important topic decide to get married. That is, if they haven’t discussed the issues in advance. They should know before marriage how many children they want and how they plan to raise them. They should know if they’re able to discuss their political differences without their blood pressure shooting up. They should know each other’s sexual desires before the wedding night. (Sex, Pastor Sean, is this thing many people have for fun even before they get hitched. Shocking, I know.)

If someone’s not bothered by their partner’s religious beliefs or lack thereof, get out of the way. And if you can’t stop whining about it, don’t go to the wedding.

Maybe if they’re lucky, she’ll follow his lead and leave whatever church considers you someone worth listening to.

(Image via Shutterstock)

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