Single Christians muddling through the dating scene probably have a checklist (mental if not actual) of the qualities they’re looking for in a partner. Whatever those preferences, church culture usually mandates singles to prioritize one characteristic above all others: The person’s faith. A non-Christian, they say, is a non-option. We beg to differ.
Dating is difficult enough, for straight Christians for sure, but more so for LGBTQ Christians. The more filters we select on a dating search, the fewer people meet our criteria. And while you only need one match, the closer the dating pool gets to zero, the more challenging the search will be. Take location, for example. Constantino wrote earlier in the week about LGBTQ Christians casting wider nets in their search for romance, and how dating almost invariably requires one or both partners to move. This is problematic for those who don’t have the means or flexibility to uproot their lives.
So how much weight should faith carry? For those who have grown up in conservative church cultures, the idea of dating outside of one’s faith is provocative if not blasphemous. It is, in many circles, the only quality that truly matters. Many Christians will point to 2 Corinthians 6:14: “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” That passage may or may not be referencing marriage specifically, but it is certainly talking about the various relationships we might pursue—about how we “yoke” ourselves to people in our lives. Like two oxen tied together, we cannot make progress if we are not pulling in the same direction.
The false premise here is that a Christian and a non-Christian will necessarily be going in opposite directions. We have many Christian friends whose spouses and partners are incredibly supportive of their faith and work to edify it, even if they don’t share it. Take, for example, a friend of ours whose Jewish boyfriend (now fiancé) came to last year’s Gay Christian Network conference to learn more about our friend’s faith and about how to support and encourage him. Consider, also, another friend of ours whose non-Christian husband occasionally attends services at our church and is no stranger to our small group socials. He knows faith and church life have always been meaningful to our friend, and he sees the value of engaging with her in those aspects of life. We see these friends’ marriages as yoked oxen who are going in the same direction, even if they don’t share the same faith.On the flip side, we have Christian friends who have married other Christians and have seen no spiritual edification from it. A partner disengaged and uninterested in faith is of no use, even if he or she professes to be a Christian. What matters more than creeds is shared values and a shared mission. If a non-Christian partner commits to supporting their spouse and making space for their faith traditions, the cart they pull will be steadier than that of a couple where a nominally Christian partner lags and drags their feet.
We must, however, make a caveat. For both of us, it was crucial to have someone who shared our faith. As strong as David’s faith was, he knew he tended toward complacency, and that a non-Christian partner would make it easy for him to disengage from church. For Constantino, he felt a calling toward ministry of some kind, and saw his marriage playing an instrumental role in it. For those reasons, neither of us was open to marrying a non-Christian. But what’s important is that we knew ourselves and knew what we needed in order to grow our faith. We aren’t so dogmatic as to proclaim that everyone else’s needs are the same.
While most Christians will likely find that partnership works best with someone who shares their faith, it’s shortsighted and legalistic to mandate such partnerships. Rather than laying down immutable laws, let’s invite Spirit into every relationship—romantic and otherwise—and discern those to whom we should yolk ourselves.
Photo illustration by David Khalaf.