When I Fell In Love Outside Of Adventism

Growing up as a Seventh-day Adventist, my parents wanted two things from me: to become a doctor and to marry an Adventist doctor. Personally, I thought it would be easy to marry someone of the same faith since I’ve attended Adventist schools all my life. As it turned out, my parents didn’t get any of their wishes since I’m an English and Communications major and I’m dating an ex-Catholic Pre-Med student. In a way, I guess they got half their wish.

For most people with a religion or belief, it’s a little taboo to date/marry someone outside of that belief. What if they try to convert you? Why are you dating them when you’re completely different from each other? These are just some of the questions I’ve gotten when asked about my relationship. As I’ve come to know the person I love, I’ve realized three things I believe to be true in all inter-religious relationships:

1. Your partner’s parents and your parents will either care that you’re dating someone of a different religion – or they won’t. I remember when I told my mother I was seeing someone. One of the first things she asked me was whether he was Seventh-day Adventist or not. When she found out he wasn’t, she was immediately skeptical of him and disliked that I was spending so much time with him. Not until after she met him did she start warming up to him. My partner’s parents, on the other hand, didn’t care at all.

2. People will assume that you’ve changed for your partner. What some people don’t understand is that there is a huge difference between changing because of someone and changing for someone. There is this unspoken rule that tells us that changing for a romantic partner is a big no-no. And if there’s a slight shift in the foundation of your beliefs, it is an instant red flag for your relationship.

I think what my parents were most worried about was whether or not my partner would convert me to his religion. Any change that happened at all in my beliefs resulted in an avalanche of questions. So the moment I decided that women have the right to make a choice on whether they wanted to keep their unborn baby or not, some of my family and friends from church blamed my relationship.

But, what they didn’t understand was that I wasn't changing for my partner because I wanted to make him like me more. I had changed because of him. The long walks and talks weren’t for nothing. It was in our conversations where we challenged and tested each other with questions that helped both of us grow our ideals. It was in our connection where we ironed out the wrinkles we had in the foundations of our beliefs.

3. While both people in the relations may have their differences, they’re both still human. I was going through a time in my life where I was questioning everything. I wasn’t sure if I was studying the right thing, doing the right thing, or making the right choices. I started questioning my relationship because of our differences in belief. It was during time in nature when the answer came to me. We were star-gazing at a nearby park, talking about life, and I asked him a question:

“What is something you’ll never stop doing?”

After a moment of thinking, he responded, “I’ll never stop believing in God.”

That’s when I knew that humans are more alike than different. What brought us together was not the details, but the big picture. My belief in Adventism was not all of me. It’s a part of me, just like my politics and my likes and dislikes.

I know people still doubt the quality of an inter-religious relationship. Many may say that being with someone outside of Adventism is like being unequally yoked. But, as I think about our partnership, I know that we pull together.

Ashli-Jane Benggon is a current English and Communications major at La Sierra University.

Image Credit: FreeImages.com / MARIE JEANNE Iliescu

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8006

Actually, there are many types of Adventists. I’m very grateful to be married to an “Adventist” for these reasons: 1) We understand each other’s backgrounds. Both children of Adventist missionaries. Both from multi-generation Adventist families. You cannot escape the influence Adventism and Adventist education has had on you, even if you are no longer an “Adventist”. 2) Together we’ve become very progressive (yes, “liberal”) Adventists. But, again, we understand each other. Many on this blog would declare that we’re aren’t Adventists at all. 3) We expect that when we no longer live where there is an Adventist church that is compatible with our type of liberal Adventism, we will no longer be active in the church. 3) We have many friends in common from our past (before marriage) because we both attended Adventist schools, although we did not meet until we were adults and had completed our education. 4) We both understand Adventist “culture”. There is an apt (I think) saying: “You can take the man/woman out of Adventism, but you can’t take Adventism out of the man/woman.”

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Hi. Great article. I don’t know how old you are , but if you’re younger then 25 , you still have time . Things change . They really do . The young lady’s hand I held in college is not the person that I married . So, take your time. First things first . Finish school, BA, and go and do your Masters if you can . Before you get married. Love is beautiful , but at times it can be blind . Stay in the hand of Jesus , and if this is the person for you , you will know it in your heart . Let a little time past , before you get too serious .Experience is never the best teacher . It’s a hard and cruel teacher, but you will learn it’s lessons .Listen to your parents . They will not stir you wrong. I will keep you both in prayer .

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I think that a couple of these comments are a bit out of line here because of the automatic assumption that if you don’t marry an Adventist, you’ll be miserable. That’s a bit of a myth. If you marry the person that’s wrong for you whether Adventist or not, then It’s true you’ll be miserable. One of my uncle’s married an SDA woman and they eventually got divorced. Several years later he found a wonderful Baptist woman that he married and was happy with for decades until the day she died. Being with her strengthened his faith in God. In my own expetience, I married a man who grew up Hindu and became Christian along the way. We have a very rich and deep relationship and my faith in God was made better by being with him. As SDAs we need to overcome our paranoia about people who aren’t “one of us”. Once I graduated from Adventist schools, since then over the years I’ve met so many wonderful people who love God who SDAs would traditionally consider “of the world”. We as a group need to put aside prejudice and get to know others outside our SDA community.

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I am speaking from personal experience and made the mistake of being unequally yoked. I know how much better my marriage and life experience could be if I had married an Adventist from a religious perspective.

If married to a SDA, there should be no arguments of why are you paying tithe, the children are not going to church, don’t invite those church folk over and the differences are endless.

It is clear bible instruction - “do not be unequally yoked”, I for one can fully understand why God has said that.

From my experience and the many that I have seen, please reconsider before it is to late. I am praying for you.

In this occasion, I agree with the parents.

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I have seen both sides of this issue. I have seen some successful marriages between differing religious perspectives, and some that were a failure. I’ve seen even very religiously compatible folk get divorced. You seem to be moving in a more liberal direction which will likely lessen your attachment to the church (see comment by Peter above). If at some point you become more committed there will be difficulties. Some partners can accept changes that occur during the a life time while others will, say, “I did not sign up for this, so why are you doing it??!!” Your partner seems a more accommodating sort, so might tolerate any move you might make. That is a good quality in an individual.

I cannot recommend a marriage between two who do not share the same religion, for then there is a deep part of life that is not shared. It can work, but there can develop a cloud of sadness for lack of understanding even if the differences are tolerated. It can work, and if the two are not so committed to their viewpoint, they can walk as one. But I would say, life is tough enough as it is, so why add another layer of problems on it?

But of course when you are in love, things look rosy and bright and wonderful, a delightful frame of mind God has made possible for us… Love is great. But that is why we have parents and counselors.

Best to you!

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I also disappointed my parents by not studying medicine, opting for law and business instead. In retrospect I think medicine would have been a better fit for my personality and talents than the legal field and I think I’d have been more at home in the operating room than in the boardrooms. However, my parents’ preferred career for me was not about what I was better suited for, but about the prestige of having a doctor in the family. (Back in my day, lawyers were considered agents of the devil.) But life is about making choices, and one cannot rewrite the past.

Oh - and I married a SdA girl. It’s been a rocky roller-coaster, but we’re still married, still in love, and our children had a stable, and mostly happy home.

And I hope they study medicine. :slight_smile:

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if you are a Christain be sure to marry a Christain. The issue is --Who alone is worthy of worship, not when or how.,

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“For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.” Matt 22:30

I asked a young SDA pastor’s fiancé…1 question… if she loved Jesus.
How she replied and the look on her face were clues to her relationship.

SDA’s come in various attitudes, personality & characters.
Love can be infatuation, lust, expression of loneliness, attention craving and immature altruism. Wisdom, perspective & awareness come with time.

Those who love Jesus more than their spouses and the world have the best chance at success in marriage.

Being good is better than being smart.

Its just a computation of future compatability question.
Do you want to solve the equation for how few of issues can come up in the future and bite you in the backside or just focus on immediate “feelings”?
You admit you went into the relationship questioning everything. That by definition confirms you were in a more vulnerable state. Rationalizing this vulnerability because of your feelings is not a logical construct. It is just what you need to believe in order to pursue the course you have chosen and feel OK with it.
Now it is a given that God can make lemonade out of our lemons…and your potential future husband could come to believe in the SDA message…but this is the smaller percentage possibility.
In the end its about you. Not about what you want but about who you are as a person. Are you the kind of person who questions everything, surrounds yourself with like questioners and marries a person whos life experiences and background are completely foreign…or are you the type of person who may question but not to the extent or duration that strangles your faith and familys values and becomes the conduit through which this man comes to knowledge of the bible including the issues SDA’s hold such as state of the dead, eternal hell fire etc etc.?

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I dated a girl who was non-Adventist when we started dating. Initially, both our families were against the marriage - mine due to religious differences and hers due to racial differences. Of course, because our families loved us, they ‘accepted’ our choice. Since she attended Adventist academy, college and graduate school, she did know the religion . . . and did get baptized, though i knew it was only because she knew that would make my family and me happy, rather than her true belief in the message.

Looking at my siblings who married Adventist spouses, I know that things would have been way easier for me, if I had married an Adventist. In many ways, I have no regrets because I do love her. There were many differences in opinion about how we raised children, schooling, etc. She would go to church with me and with the children, but did not really have a strong commitment to church attendance like I was raised. We both had strong ideas on how we wanted to raise our children - I am a health professional and she, a marketing professional. My oldest attended grade school through academy in an Adventist academy and non-SDA private university and professional school. My 2nd had a non-Adventist elementary and high school education and then an Adventist college. My youngest went through an Adventist grade school education and then high school at a Christian non-Adventist institution and state university. All three are members of the church.

Marriage, in and of itself, even between like-minded individuals does require a lot of adjustment and tons of love to make it work. Marrying someone with a different outlook on life just creates additional differences and problems to overcome. Are you ready for the extra issues/obstacles that you’d have to deal with?

As I tell my children . . . we are your parents and we will ALWAYS want what’s best for you. You’ll have individuals who are your friends today . . . may not be tomorrow. Spouses who are your spouses today . . . perhaps, may not be tomorrow. We will ALWAYS be your parents. And I believe that that is what your parents want for you too.

By the way, two of my children are dating outside the church. They are dating fine, outstanding individuals . . . yet my heart aches for them.

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I met my wife at SDA college. We’ll be married 30 years this year. It’s helpful to come from a similar tradition and have similar expectations and understandings about faith traditions. It’s also made it easier raising our children. Having said that, we (especially me) worship as SDA’s in a significantly different manner than our/her parents did. Some of our more conservative SDA friends would probably question if we were SDA at all. But over those years we have generally changed together, my wife and I which has been helpful.

If my daughters elect to date and marry outside of the SDA faith they will have my unconditional love and support. I’ll note that this will create challenges for them in the future, but I won’t berate them about it.

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I have been repeatedly either dismayed or angry when people quote Paul. The quote is “do not be unequally yoked.” 2 Corinthians 6:14-18. First and foremost, Paul was not referring to marriage at all. Thus those who quote Paul with regard to marriage are displaying gross misunderstanding of the text. I suspect, those who make this erroneous connection have never read the text carefully.

But it is even worse than just a failure to understand the straightforward reading. These misguided minds also fail to understand the meta message of Paul. You don’t need a mind capable of great abstraction and modeling to get Paul’s meta message. He almost states it out loud. The meta message is this. I will describe it by analogy first.

I grew up on a farm where my grandfather had farmed using horses. I spoke often with him about his experiences. One of the hard rules of putting together a team of horses is that when paired, the two horses must be very nearly equally in strength and spirit to pull. Both are essential. If you do not, the stronger horse will soon fail to pull completely. Either in spirit or physically. Usually the willingness of the stronger horse fails in spirit to pull.

What happens next is essential to understand the meta message of Paul. Both horses become almost useless for pulling. If you want to have a good team of horses, you pair equal horses. It is not a problem if horse pairs of unequal pulling capacity are in series such as on a wagon tree. But the horses that are side by side on each side of the tree must be equal.

Application to marriage: Do you both want children? How many? Are your interests similar? Are there many things you enjoy doing together? If one person has either a remarkable gift or serious problem in their lives, can the other fully accept and compensate in their life. For those who may not have discovered, people with remarkable gifts are almost always have serious problems in other areas. You don’t need to be Einstein to have a remarkable gift to have the serious problems that go with the gift. In short, are the life patterns and abilities well matched or compensated for? Some say matching education is important. I disagree.

Did I even mention religion? No! I am fully aware of SDA women who would be so completely mismatched to me that there would be constant battles. An excellent example is the way I understand the inspiration and the authority of the Bible. Some people with low mental ability even think I do not believe the Bible. I laugh! I believe the Bible more than they do. However, my understanding of inspiration and authority of the Bible is so different that to be frank, I don’t know any SDA women who could accept it. They may exist, I just don’t know them. My understanding of scripture is completely opposed to what I was taught in academy and college. By the way, Alden Thompson is a close friend of mine. I don’t discuss inspiration of the Bible with him! We do have mutual respect for each others views.

What follows, I was never taught about marriage. It was forged in the fires of experience that were so hot the steel was burning white. It is essential to understand how to make real in the fires of life four abstract principles. These four principles are fully validated. Don’t even think about arguing with me. These four are abstract, but fully revealed in concrete actions. If either of the marriage partners fails in any one of the four, the marriage will fail.

The four principles are:

  • Respect

  • Gratitude

  • Hope

  • Trust

It is these four where Paul’s words can be understood. Paul was not talking about marriage. However, if Paul had known these four principles and were addressing marriage, he would have said, each of you must possess these four. Each of you must pull equally to make the abstract concepts real in concrete acts in your marriage. You must pull equally in spirit and strength to make these a reality in your relationship.

I call these four the principles of love. In reality, these four are true in any useful relationship. Marriage? Definitely. Business? Without question. In the military? I laugh. I first encountered these four in the Army. They didn’t teach them in the way I do, but they did teach and enforce them.

Summary: When someone advises you to marry a person “of your faith” run. They have no comprehension of the reality of love and marriage. Instead, study and make real the four principles of love. When you do, then you will find the love that was created in heaven.

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Roger, what you say then would make all those commentaries not only wrong, but according to you, Display a gross misunderstanding of the text…

While Paul does not specifically mention marriage, he is, however, referring to it, among other things.

Of the 6 or so commentaries I’ve checked, only one does not mention marriage. The rest, however, all speak to marriage, as being one of the areas Paul is speaking to. Both Adventist and non-Adventist commentaries agree. Here’s just one example:

  1. Be not–Greek, "Become not."
    unequally yoked–“yoked with one alien in spirit.” The image is from the symbolical precept of the law ( Leviticus 19:19 ), “Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind”; or the precept ( Deuteronomy 22:10 ), “Thou shalt not plough with an ox and an ass together.” Compare Deuteronomy 7:3 ,forbidding marriages with the heathen; also 1 Corinthians 7:39 . The believer and unbeliever are utterly heterogeneous. Too close intercourse with unbelievers in other relations also is included ( 2 Corinthians 6:16 , 1 Corinthians 8:10 , 10:14 ). (Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible)
    http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/jamieson-fausset-brown/2-corinthians/2-corinthians-6.html

The ESV for example provides many cross references: (these are the ones which only have to do with marriage)

You shall not intermarry [yoke oneself] with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, (Duet. 7:3)

For if you turn back and cling [yoke oneself] to to the remnant of these nations remaining among you and make marriages with them, so that you associate with them and they with you, (Josh. 23:12)

For they have taken some of their daughters to be wives for themselves and for their sons, so that the holy race has mixed itself [yoked itself] with the peoples of the lands. And in this faithlessness the hand of the officials and chief men has been foremost. (Ezra 9:2)

And I confronted them and cursed them and beat some of them and pulled out their hair. And I made them take an oath in the name of God, saying, “You shall not give [so as to be yoked] your daughters to their sons, or take their daughters for your sons or for yourselves. (Neh. 13:25)

Again, I’m not saying Paul only refers to marriage, but it does play a part, if not a big part, as shown in the cf. supplied above. To say it has nothing to do with it goes against even those who interpreted the ESV, and respected commentaries.

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Hi may I ask a piece of advice? currently, I am in lo ve with an adventist guy and I am Catholic. We have mutual feelings for each other but he decided not to continue in our rrlationship because of we have different religion. It hurts me so much and it’s hard for me to accept that we can never be.