unequally yoked or a marriage made in heaven

January 16, 2010 at 3:05 am 36 comments

“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).

Advertisements

Entry filed under: fundamentalism, marriage. Tags: , , .

budgies and elephants “yoked marriages” page

36 Comments Add your own

  • 1. atimetosew  |  January 16, 2010 at 10:02 am

    Nice post, love. I really agree. We ARE compatible…and it’s an honor for me to spend this lifetime with you. Thank you for encouraging me to explore and think.

  • 2. Sabio Lantz  |  January 16, 2010 at 11:34 am

    Two further fundamentalist assumptions:

    (1) One Author: Many Christians feel that the Bible has one message and that is possible because the same Holy Spirit guided the writers. This is part of their infallibility clause.

    (2) The Bible is Systematic Theology: far from it. It does not have one writer and no Holy Spirit guiding to consistency. And certainly no effort for a systematic, all-inclusive guide to life.

    Why say this? Well, lots of atheists argue with Christians by kind of buying into the inerrant model — and many liberal Christians (thank Buddha), do not buy it.

    It is because of this, that REND can rightly criticize the “Unequally Yoked” verse and yet so comfortably quote Philippians 4:8. Just as we quote our favorite Shakespeare or Nietzsche or Mahabharata !

    Excellent post — but made superb by SEW’s comment. Keep them coming !

  • 3. atimetosew  |  January 16, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    In our home, the only “right” way to hang a roll of bathroom tissue is “the waterfall method” (see letter B in the diagram). This is something I’m always fundamentalist about!

  • 4. Sabio Lantz  |  January 16, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    OK, SEW, alas, is it also toilet seats down? How harsh are your doctrines? ;-)

  • 5. Laughing Boy  |  January 17, 2010 at 1:12 am

    I reject any assertion that my marriage is going to fail because we are unequally yoked.

    Is the primary concern underlying the prohibition of 2 Cor. 6 the failure (dissolution) of the union?

    You assert, it seems to me, that either a) there is an erroneous fundamentalist interpretation of the passage—leaving open the possibility of a correct (non-fundamentalist) interpretation, or b) interpreting Scripture at all, with the intent of obeying it, is something only a fundamentalist would do. Which is it?

  • 6. the chaplain  |  January 17, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    my wife and I are quite equally yoked and compatible

    Marriages worth preserving have a lot of ties other than religion binding them together. Being married to someone with a worldview radically different than one’s own is challenging, I’m sure, but it probably offers opportunities for both partners to grow and enrich their respective views. From what I’ve seen, this is something that’s happening for you and ATTS.

  • 7. atimetorend  |  January 17, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    @laughing boy:
    “Is the primary concern underlying the prohibition of 2 Cor. 6 the failure (dissolution) of the union?”
    Primary concern of my or the author of Corinthians? My concern regardless of the author’s intent is that people will interpret the verse that way.

    I would say there are alternate and perhaps better uses of the passage, not necessarily that the fundamentalists interpret it incorrectly. I would not say only a fundmentalist would read the passage with the intent of obeying it. Rather, I would say a fundamentalist would say that others must interpret the verse the same way they do, that only they hold the best understanding of the passage, the use of the passage, or what or how God has communicated.

  • 8. atimetorend  |  January 17, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    @the chaplain:
    Being married to someone with a worldview radically different…probably offers opportunities for both partners to grow and enrich their respective views.
    Yes! Although I don’t know how radically different the worldviews in our marriage really are, not sure to what degree I can speak to that. But it really should, as you say, offer opportunity to enrich each other. We are certainly learning that.

  • 9. Sabio Lantz  |  January 17, 2010 at 6:22 pm

    I would guess that the reason neither of you have radically different worldviews is that the average person is not a theologian. And even theologians don’t buy into their sect’s theology full go.
    Everyone just keeps a warm fuzzy view that keeps them comfortable, safe and connected. Rarely do people read carefully — they are not really there for that. Thank goodness. Can you imagine how terrible the world would be if they really bought into all that stuff? Smile

  • 10. Laughing Boy  |  January 17, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    Primary concern of [me] or the author of Corinthians?

    The author, Paul.

    …a fundamentalist would say that others must interpret the verse the same way they do…

    Others must? Or what? What happens if others don’t?

    Do you have an interpretation?

    Do you think Paul was being purposefully ambiguous in this passage or was he attempting to instruct the Corinthian church, in which case it would have behooved him to be clear?

  • 11. atimetorend  |  January 17, 2010 at 10:18 pm

    @sabio: “I would guess that the reason neither of you have radically different worldviews is that the average person is not a theologian. And even theologians don’t buy into their sect’s theology full go.”

    Do you mean that a theologian would really believe (and understand) all the details of their doctrine, while a person “in the pew” would give general agreement to the worldview without really believing all the nuts and bolts of the doctrines? If so, not sure I agree with that, because theologians can have more flexible beliefs than a lay person or vice versa. Or did you mean something else? Though it certainly can be a case that the theologian is the fanatic about a rigid “truth.”

  • 12. atimetorend  |  January 17, 2010 at 10:20 pm

    @laughing boy: I’m not sure how to answer your questions. What are you getting at?

  • 13. Sabio Lantz  |  January 18, 2010 at 5:56 am

    @ ATTR — Interesting. Many theologians may be very flexible. In fact I remember reading complaints about preachers not passing on to the congregations the controversies in their faith even though they are aware of them.
    Well, either way, I guess my main point is that none of us holds consistently the views we purport to follow. And maybe that is a good thing.

  • 14. Janus Grayden  |  January 18, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    This reminds me of a sermon I heard growing up. There was a demonstration given with a volunteer on a chair and another person on the ground.

    The person on the chair was asked to pull the other person up onto the chair with them. Obviously, it went as could be expected, with the person still remaining on the floor. Then, the person on the ground was asked to pull the person on the chair down. With little effort, the person on the chair was pulled off balance and readjusted their footing to the floor.

    Of course, this idea, that if a person doesn’t share your religious beliefs, they are constantly on the moral or ethical lower ground, is self-fulfilling. No relationship can survive if one partner is constantly looking down at the other subconsciously. The additional element of scaring people into thinking that being with an unbeliever will compromise your own ethics is an additional land mine thrown into the works.

    No two people are going to agree on everything and that’s okay. If you are unwilling to admit that someone else can be right about their views and you are too afraid that your own views are so weak that they can’t stand up to being challenged by a differing opinion, then it’s not someone else’s fault.

    It’s always bothered me that there are a significant amount of people who are taught to believe this way. Even though it’s typically taught on religious lines, they’re still being instructed that such a mindset is not only okay, but mandatory.

  • 15. Laughing Boy  |  January 18, 2010 at 5:45 pm

    Do you think 2 Cor. 6:14 has a specific meaning?

  • 16. sew  |  January 18, 2010 at 5:51 pm

    @sabio: don’t get me going on the toilet seat issue! living with four little boys is disgusting in that regard. thankfully, rend is very clean and polite. otherwise…well, i don’t know how detailed you want me to get. i’ll just say that i wish i could charge them for every bad aim. i could do a whole blog post on this. :)

    @ rend re: laughing boy: i think he’s just asking what your interpretation is. also, to take into account paul’s (the alleged author’s) original intent in writing. something we are taught – CONTEXT! paul doesn’t say he’s speaking specifically about marriage and there are other ways to be yoked BUT what deeper, more meaningful way to be yoked than in marriage? perhaps laughing boy is asking, what other ways, more important than marriage, are there to be yoked? so, rend, i ask, for laughing boy’s sake and for my own….what is your interpretation? my own opinion, for what it’s worth, is that the author’s intent was to provide direction for a church needing it. was he speaking to marriage? i don’t know, but that’s something i’m sure it’s been studied. i’ve read one source on this and nothing was said about marriage in particular. would a fundamentalist say this is a law on which salvation hinges? perhaps, but i don’t think so. is it a good principle to live by? i would say, absolutely yes! i wouldn’t recommend an “unequally yoked” marriage to anyone. am i a fundamentalist for saying that and counseling others according to this principle? see how i can ramble?

  • 17. Laughing Boy  |  January 18, 2010 at 7:38 pm

    If you can answer your wife’s questions you will have answered mine. Thanks, SEW for the assist.

  • 18. atimetorend  |  January 18, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    My interpretation from the original post:
    “…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.”
    …and:
    “…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.”

    The author (maybe Paul) is not only offering this sound advice on relationships though. He is saying to believers they should not associate in binding ways with unbelievers, because unbelievers are unrighteous, full of darkness, lawlessness, and satanic. Can the verse be useful? Yes, but it can also be dangerous if it is taken literally or as strictly authoritative.

  • 19. Sabio Lantz  |  January 18, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    2 Cor 6:14 in the Catholic St. Joseph Edition of the Holy Bible comes in the section entitled “Avoid Marriage with Unbelievers“. The foot notes concerning that verse it says: ” ‘bear the yoke’ : the reference is to marriage, though the principle has application to all relations of Christians and pagans.”

    But I for one, don’t really care what Paul said. I don’t care if this is the version the entire Catholic Church buys into, nor that they have held this for centuries. Paul was only a man. No god spoke through him.

    I don’t buy into a need to interpret the fine details of the Book of Mormon, The Koran, The Bhagavadgita nor any other pieces of paper that people feel are revelations from their gods which can not be questioned the same way we question everything else. Maybe I am curious in an academic way.

    But I am certainly curious about the way people use the words of others to manipulate the others — How they use words to spread hate or fear.

    But I agree, yoking to someone who believes you are bound to hell, or who will eventually turn you in for torture, THAT is very unwise. But if people hold two different faiths and those faiths don’t entail thinking of the other person as damned or deserving of torture but fully respects them, then that yoking can be wonderful and enriching.

    Unequal yoking depends on the exclusivity of the faith of those who are yoking.

    So, sure, maybe an exclusivist Christian should just stay away from us pagans. But I have a better idea, why not stop your blind, destructive attitude, whoever you may be and broaden your world and make it a better place to live.

    That is Sabio’s answer to LB (whose questioning, seemed very interrogative) and who I also only understood after Sew spoke clearly. I am curious how Rend, renders this too. :-)

  • 20. Sabio Lantz  |  January 18, 2010 at 11:00 pm

    Ooops, ATTR and I posted simultaneously.

    Can the verse be useful? Yes, but it can also be dangerous if it is taken literally or as strictly authoritative.
    — Rend

    I agree, but that goes for the Mahabharata, the Koran, Nietzsche, Kant, Confucius, The Tao De Ching, The Book of Mormon and saying of Richard Dawkins. The Bible is susceptible to the same questioning with no free ride. It was written by men.

  • 21. atimetorend  |  January 19, 2010 at 9:43 am

    “Paul was only a man. No god spoke through him.”
    Well it is your opinion that no god spoke through him. Is that a fundamentalist statement?

    “Unequal yoking depends on the exclusivity of the faith of those who are yoking.”
    Good point, and that is where the problem with fundamentalism lies, because it outlines certain “fundamentals” which cannot be questioned. If a verse in the bible says unbelievers are satanic, then case closed, they are. Which makes sincere dialog and relationship difficult or impossible between people with differing beliefs. Unless questions can be asked about the verses themselves, like who wrote them, in what way are they or are they not inspired, what do they mean.

  • 22. Lorena  |  January 19, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    You and Chappie have inspired me. I may write my unequally yoked post. But I will say right now that in church I was taught that marrying a non-Christian meant the man was surely going to be unfaithful, a drunk, a gambler, and addicted to porn. It never crossed my mind when I was a Christian that non-believing men could be decent.

  • 23. atimetorend  |  January 19, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    That sounds like it will be an interesting post Lorena, I’ll look forward to reading it.

  • 24. cindijh  |  January 20, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    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 said that!! And no, we did not enter marriage that far apart. We met on a Christian theology message board… at Tentmaker. Tentmaker is a Christian Universalist website. I guess that since UR is so radical (and heretical) in the eyes of many Christians, I kind of thought he was very progressive. He is not. He is pretty much a fundamentalist who happens to not believe in an eternal hell. He was my mentor…having been a Christian for years and me, well for just a short while when we met. I was agnostic…leaning very far toward atheism for most of my life.

    I am the one who did most of the changing.. growing more and more progressive and inclusive in my beliefs. I can listen and learn from most everyone….but he is very set in his beliefs…confrontationally so….and our discussions about spiritual things usually take a nosedive about one or two minutes after we start to talk.

    This is our second marriage. We’ve been married 7 1/2 years and are both in our early fifties. I have three teenagers. It is hard not being able to share the most important aspect of your life with your husband (and I am sure he feels the same way)

    Cindi……

  • 25. Sabio Lantz  |  January 21, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    Here is a testimony of an ex-Christian who married a Buddhist and his memories of warning not to yolk poorly.

  • 26. atimetorend  |  January 21, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    Sabio, that is a beautiful post, thanks for the link.

  • 27. Tristan Vick  |  January 21, 2010 at 11:30 pm

    We’re all human, after all.

    Thanks for commenting on my blog.

  • 28. Laughing Boy  |  January 23, 2010 at 1:11 am

    …that is where the problem with fundamentalism lies, because it outlines certain “fundamentals” which cannot be questioned.

    What if both people are fundamentalists? Is it still a problem?

    I’m having trouble with the idea that having firm convictions is a bad thing. Even more, that only fundamentalists have firm convictions of the sort that divide people into “us and them” categories.

    If a verse in the bible says unbelievers are satanic, then case closed, they are. Which makes sincere dialog and relationship difficult or impossible between people with differing beliefs.

    I agree, but doesn’t this serve to confirm the admonition in 2. Cor. 6? Here, specifically, Paul (or whoever the author might have been) is not laying out the guidelines for engaging in sincere dialog, but advising the Corinthian believers about with whom they should or should not pursue binding relationships.

    Unless questions can be asked about the verses themselves, like who wrote them, in what way are they or are they not inspired, what do they mean.

    Whatever their meaning may be, it is not found in the questions but in the answers, right? But do you turn into a fundamentalist once you reach a conclusion?

    Can the verse be useful? Yes, but it can also be dangerous if it is taken literally or as strictly authoritative.

    I can see the problems that could arise in a marriage if one person sees it as strictly authoritative and another person doesn’t, but it seems to me the problem is in the disagreement. Why should the fault necessarily lie with the person holding interpretation A, rather than the person holding interpretation B?

    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.

    But if the couple were “equally yoked”, i.e., held the same position on relationally-significant biblical principles, it would help in these situations rather than hurt, it seems to me. Only when the two people are pulling in different directions does the yoke start to chafe.

    Whether Paul spoke for God or not, I think 2. Cor 6:14 is sage advice.

  • 29. Sabio Lantz  |  January 23, 2010 at 5:33 am

    Agreeing with Laughing Boy:

    I’ve seen couple with great marriage tension because one was vegetarian and the other not. And certainly I’ve see tension between Republican and Democrat spouses (here in USA). But the former was usually only at dinner time, the later around elections and if they watched news. For un-equally yoked religious couples, it is worse on the day of worship ! Wow, a pattern.

    Disagreeing with Laughing Boy:

    There is lots to be unequally yoked about: favored sports team, preferred style of sex, diet, politics, way to raise kids, value of money and ,oh yeah, religion. It is a hard choice but believing that a god has an opinion about one of these many factors is the weird part.

  • 30. atimetorend  |  January 23, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    @LB: I think I agree with most of what you wrote. How about this: there are ways to work to find common ground when there are different beliefs in a relationship. Some people will say it is impossible to find common ground for reasons x, y, and z. They may be right, or they may not be. But starting with the assumption that common ground cannot be found makes it difficult or impossible to work towards understanding and a fruitful relationship.

  • 31. atimetorend  |  January 23, 2010 at 11:39 pm

    Reconsidering…

    I think this whole thing about the verse being common sense is a rabbit trail from what I’m getting at. Yes it is common sense, perhaps it was what the author intended, and whether the author intended it as common sense or not there is wisdom in it.

    I am all for people having firm convictions and holding them firmly. However I am firmly against people being unwilling to examine them, or telling others that they should not do so. That is exactly what fundamentalism does, highly valuing the division it creates between people, and fearing the potential result of compromise between them. The people who are prolifically and stridently using this verse are using it because they consider certain elements of their beliefs to be fundamental and vocally state these beliefs should not be reconsidered or examined. They do not want people to find common ground and grow in their beliefs, they want people to remain fixed in their beliefs, and perhaps to do as they are told.

  • 32. Laughing Boy  |  January 24, 2010 at 1:30 am

    So what you’re getting at is not the what the verse itself might mean, but how fundamentalists use it? Is 2 Cor. 6 just an example of the domineering nature of fundamentalist interpretation and application?

  • 33. atimetorend  |  January 25, 2010 at 12:09 am

    Yes, something like that I think. I am not so concerned here with what the original author intended by the verse (an interesting but separate issue), but more how it can be used today. I hold out this verse though because of the particular implications for my marriage and others who are affected by one partner shifting from the initial fundamentalist perspective.

  • 34. Ian  |  January 25, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    I’ve heard a Christian explain their churches teaching on this by differentiating two cases:

    1. When two unequal people contemplate being ‘yoked’.
    2. When two already ‘yoked’ people become unequal.

    The Christian talking to me was of the opinion that, with regard to marriage, the verse had authoritative force over the first scenario only. In the second scenario more specific guidance is provided that divorce is not allowed, so that ‘overrides’ this more general guidance.

    Based on the hermeneutic principle that the more specific command overrides the more general.

    Again, that is based on use in church, not on authorial intent.

  • 35. James Dillon Broxson  |  June 17, 2012 at 3:04 am

    & not to mention how many Fundamentalists ignore the entire book of the prophet Hosea…who was “equally” yoked with Gomer…a prostitute…who was constantly unfaithful…and he love her…and God commanded this “equal” yoking (im being facetious) between a pious Jew Prophet..and a radically sinful Jew…this for Fundamentalists in my view is the most ignored book when it comes to “the possibility” that “God is God” and not a checklist. He is neither a cosmic vending machine in the sky through whom we may name and claim in a pseudo law of attraction (baptised law of attraction to bit) way our perfect spouse. I am specifically praying this comment will offend someone..for someones dogmatic assertions needs offense to heal their mind dulled by dogmatism. My mind experiences the scripture “Comfort the afflicted; afflict the comforted.”

    P.S. And of course I see the negative experience Hosea has in such a marriage but my point is GOD SPECIFICALLY COMMANDS THE “UNEQUALLY YOKED” MARRIAGE. Also, what about those couple of pagans in Jesus blood line?…they are in there…and they appear in the geaneology of Christ in Matthew. Peace!

  • 36. atimetorend  |  June 26, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    Thanks for stopping by James, good points. When people say “biblical marriage” they don’t generally mean what is portrayed in the bible as biblical marriage.

    Like this video explains:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 20 other followers

Recent Posts

current and recent reads

read:
not much

reading:
Russell Shorto: Descartes' Bones: A Skeletal History of the Conflict between Faith and Reason

to read:
???

I support Kiva.org

Kiva - loans that change lives

Categories

wordpress visitor

%d bloggers like this: