unequally yoked or a marriage made in heaven
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?”
2 Corinthians 6:14-15, King James Version
In reading about fundamentalism I have been better able to understand my own experiences in Christianity. But it can be upsetting when I see fundamentalist assumptions I didn’t really think about before or which did not affect me much. Fundamentalists assert their principles are universally Christian and their doctrines comprehensive, but that does not mean they really are. Like the Christian concern of being “unequally yoked” in marriage to an unbeliever.
Google the phrase “unequally yoked” and you will find web site after web site discussing the mortal danger a Christian faces if they marry an unbeliever, and web site after web site offering support for Christians who find themselves for whatever reason in this undesirable condition. Now while the verse quoted above does not speak specifically to marriage, I would agree it supports the principal that Christians are supposed to be uniquely separated and different from those around them, with obvious implications for marriage. But are there other ways of looking at this verse?
First, I will say that the verse contains a healthy dose of common sense, completely apart from any issue of biblical authority. Who would tell another person to be unequally matched in marriage? Sure, we celebrate diversity between married partners, but most marriages are built on sharing things in common.
Are shared religious beliefs alone enough for two people to be considered “equally yoked?” Consider two Christians from radically different cultures or socio-economic backgrounds. Maybe shared religious belief will provide adequate compatibility in marriage, but maybe not. What about their approaches to raising children, to politics, to women working outside the home, to caring for the poor, to watching TV, to which way the toilet paper roll goes? Perhaps being equally yoked entails more than just a faith commitment. Maybe there is more complexity and nuance to marital relationships.
Or what if beliefs change over time even if both partners remain Christian? As a recent commenter here noted: “. . . my husband and I are so far apart in our beliefs (even though we are both believers) that we might as well be atheist/Christian. His God is not the God I worship for sure. I am very progressive. He is . . . ahhhh . . . he is not.” I do not know their situation, but I would think it is likely they did not enter marriage that far apart. Or if they did, things have changed in some way since they were married.
I think the Christian emphasis on being unequally yoked in marriage exacerbates situations which are already difficult to navigate. All marriages are hard at times, and a measure of biblical condemnation does not help. Fundamentalists assert there is only one way to interpret the bible – their literalistic way, with their own sets of rules and a black and white view of the world. If one accepts the fundamentalist false dichotomy they are left either embracing that entire vision of Christianity or rejecting it all, without much middle ground. And perhaps one is then left with embracing everything about their spouse or rejecting them entirely, emotionally and intellectually if not physically.
I have rejected conservative Evangelicalism, and in doing so have rejected its fundamentalist underpinnings. I reject fundamentalist thinking regardless of what direction it comes from, conservative or liberal, theist or atheist. And I reject any assertion that my marriage is going to fail because we are unequally yoked. In fact, I think my wife and I are quite equally yoked and compatible, and I am not going to have fundamentalists define my marriage otherwise.
“…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever, is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.” (Philippians 4:8).