As mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I decided to embark on another three part series this month and talk about the influence of the Black Church for creating and sustaining Black Love. Two weeks ago I spoke specifically about the relevance of the Black Church with GenXers and Millennials and the need for the church institution to partner with Black millennials about the ways/methods that the black church can thrive as they are the future and the world is becoming their domain to continue the legacy of our ancestors.
This week I want to share my own personal history in dating and how religion came into play in my previous relationships.
I would describe my own religious background as protestant as I grew up in a holiness movement church (the founder of my church organization, Charles Price Jones was a Baptist minister who helped to found the Church of God in Christ and then moved on to be the founder of the Church of Christ Holiness USA) I grew up going to church just like so many of my fellow GenXers but I also was raised by parents who took the initiative to expose my sister and I to secular things such as movies, plays, music events, sporting events, and vacations to historical landmarks. I am grateful because the world I grew up in and live in today is nothing like the world my grandparents lived in because church was the only place to go other than home, school, or work.
Many of the men I dated also grew up in church and although I have dated African American men exclusively, the men I have dated represented different denominations: Catholic, Church of Christ (Acapella Worship), Apostolic Pentecostal, Baptist, and Church of God in Christ. It would seem that there would not be major differences in the religious faiths that I just mentioned since all are Christian Churches.. but… there are differences. I will share two of my experiences:
One of my ex boyfriends grew up in the Church of Christ (Acapella Worship) which means that they believe that because there is no scriptural support in New Testament scriptures authorizing the use of instruments in worship service so the church practiced a cappella music in worship services. I grew up in a church in which we sang hymns with musical instruments. When I joined him at church on Sundays, I had to get used to singing acapella and he also joined me at my church on some Sundays and enjoyed our hymns. When we first started dating, he told me that he had no interest in dating any woman from his church affiliation because he felt most of them were scandalous in their behavior outside of church. So…I thought things would be ok and perhaps once we married we could expose our children to both of our faiths and once the children became adults they could decide which faith they wanted to remain with or perhaps choose another faith. Well…a shift occurred in my relationship with this boyfriend and he started going to church by himself and excluded me. I started feeling like our relationship was collapsing and finally he shared that he really wanted to marry a woman who shared his religious faith. So we broke up and he ended up marrying a woman he met at his job who converted to his religious faith. There were other issues between us other than religion but certainly this was an issue we had.
Another guy I dated was a member of a church that was Apostolic Pentecostal which means that his denomination was non Trinitarian and that salvation is by grace through faith, and that “true” faith leads to repentance, full-submersion water baptism (in the name of Jesus Christ), and baptism in the Holy Spirit, with the evidence of speaking in other tongues. My church denomination was Trinitarian and while we did baptism in the water we did not believe that speaking in tongues was needed for salvation. When I began dating him he was so excited about his church and told me that I had to join him and of course I did as I was interested in learning more about him. Well, as I learned more about his religion I had to start to question my beliefs, and I began really getting interested in the bible and how to interpret things. It always fascinated me in general as to how different religious denominations started and many were based upon differing interpretations of the bible. He and I ended our relationship for different reasons than religion, but we certainly chatted about the differences between his faith and mine which overall was a healthy discussion and a reminder that for me, as I was still considering having children, I had to think about these questions before saying “I do” to anyone:
How important was it to attend the same church as my spouse?
Could I convert to another religious faith?
Whose pastor would officiate our wedding?
Would I have to get married at a church?
Could I marry a minister?
How important is it for me to be in sync with a man spiritually?
These are questions that have always loomed in my mind as I have dated men and along my journey I have kept these questions in my heart and mind because they play a role in my ultimate happiness and stability with a man and having a family. Marriage is hard enough with so many competing influences and religion is definitely not a subject that is minor based upon my life experiences.
So before I say “I do” to anyone, I must have answers to my questions that make me comfortable. This is why courtship and dating are so important to me and getting to know someone.
Too often, people assume that they can influence or change someone. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard people say, ‘well he changed after we got married.” Or “I will change his mind about “xyz”, after we get married.” As we all know, this includes religion and spiritual connection.
I wish all of my fellow Keepers the very best in the journey to ‘I do” and I hope that you find the spiritual connection you want…there is no one size fits all solution…it’s about what works for you and the one you were intended to be with.
Just Keeping it 100,
Part Three: Where Do We Go From Here?
Picture Courtesy of Spirituality and Health Causation Project Portal