Kimberly Beam Holmes 0:06
So what do you do if you are married to someone who has very different spiritual beliefs and values than you do? That is what we are going to be talking about in today’s episode of Relationship Radio. We’re gonna get into the two different things: What if you married someone who, at the time of marriage, you knew you both had different religious backgrounds? Or what if you married someone, and you had the same religious beliefs, and then over time, they changed. Either yours changed or your spouse has changed. We’re gonna get into it. There’s a lot to talk about here. I’m joined by Dr. Joe Beam.
Dr. Joe Beam 0:42
Thank you for having me, Kimberly, on such a controversial topic.
Kimberly Beam Holmes 0:46
Hey, that’s what we loved to talk about, right? Maybe not always publicly, but we definitely talk about controversial things.
Dr. Joe Beam 0:51
We’re not afraid of them.
Kimberly Beam Holmes 0:52
No, we’re not.
Dr. Joe Beam 0:52
You see, I wrote a book a few years ago called Becoming One, and in the book Becoming One, I actually put a pretty common illustration, particularly among Christians, where you draw a triangle. If you’re here, and your spouse is here, and God is up there, the closer you get to God, the closer you are to each other. If I were writing a book today, I’d use a different illustration. Because if you both perceive God in the same way, then the closer you get to God, the closer you get to each other, but what if you perceive God differently? And so one of you sees God this way, and one of you sees God this way, the closer you get to God, the further apart you can get from each other because you understand God very differently. And so let’s say if you have a Christian, for example, married to an atheist, or a Muslim married to a Jew (in other words, people were that the religions really don’t mesh that well together), although there can be a lot of mesh, but don’t necessarily mesh that well together to begin with. So my perception of where I should be headed, and your perception of where you should be headed are two very different places. And by pursuing those paths, we can actually grow apart. So the question becomes, do you let that happen? Or is there anything you can do about it?
Kimberly Beam Holmes 2:10
That’s the question, you’re gonna tell us the answer.
Dr. Joe Beam 2:16
Okay, when we talk about beliefs and values, when we talked about spiritual attraction, we talk about beliefs and values. Beliefs are those things that you hold to be true. Values are how you believe that you should live. As a matter of fact, typically how you believe everybody should live. So, if I believe that, for example, I’ll take one of our current controversies in America, if I believe that life begins at conception, my value system would probably not include abortion. If I believe that life begins at birth, then my my actual value system could include abortion. So it’s the beliefs typically where people wind up being different. Like, what do you believe about this or that of the other? Now, if you’re contemplating marriage and haven’t married yet, one recommendation we would have is discuss your beliefs. Find out where you are similar. Find out where you are dissimilar. Then discuss the values that you have developed based on those beliefs. Again, finding where you’re similar, and where you’re dissimilar. Now, if you’re not yet married to each other, and the similarities are enough that you can live in harmony with each other, good. If your beliefs and values are so dissimilar, that you think that you cannot live in harmony with each other, if you’re not yet married, you might want to rethink this relationship. Because belief in values actually becomes part of identity. Right? It’s part of who we are.
Kimberly Beam Holmes 3:36
I would say it’s the core of who we are. Many of our listeners have heard us talk about PIES. If we were to think about PIES as layers, then physical is the outer layer. Intellectual gets just a little bit deeper to our how we think. Our emotional is more of how we feel, which is another further layer deeper. And then spiritual is right at that core, it is our beliefs and values, the things that that we’re passionate about, that can make us angry, that that drive us. It just is who we are.
Dr. Joe Beam 4:08
And so if you know ahead of time that they’re different, we would suggest that you don’t just brush that aside and think “we’ll fix that later.” So let’s just take then for example, we have a Muslim, married to a Jew. The Muslim would want to go to the mosque on their holy day, and the Jew would want to go to the synagogue on their holy day. And they may be thinking well, but we still love each other. So that makes a good relationship, and we don’t need to worry about that. Well, probably not until such time as children come into the picture. And then it’s a matter of how do we raise the children? Do we raise them going to the synagogue? Do we raise them going to the mosque? Do we raise them where they go to each? I don’t even know if that’s possible based on their belief systems, but children is usually where it typically starts coming to a head. Like, what is going to happen with our kids? And so the first recommendation I would make then is if you are already in the marriage, and you have very different beliefs and value systems, find as many similarities as you can, and focus on those. So for example, a friend of mine who is an atheist is married to a woman who is very active person. When it comes to discussing whether God exists or not, it doesn’t go very well. But because of the fact that they love each other, they have very common beliefs and values in most other areas of life, and the fact that she takes her children to church, and he’s okay with that. It doesn’t bother him that she takes the kids to church. As they get older and become teenagers, which they are beginning to be now, then sometimes they’ll say, “Dad, why don’t you believe that there is a god?” And dad will very calmly explained his beliefs to them. So they have worked out a compromise where it works out okay for them. Although they hit a snag when one of the kids got old enough and wanted to be baptized, the wife and the kid wanted my friend to come to the baptism. And it was like, but does that somehow deny what I believe to be true? It was a snag there for a while. But the bottom line is, if they’re very different, find out as much as you can that you have similar and concentrate on those things. It may mean that you want to go into different places of worship or no place of worship at all. But try to focus on what you have that you agree on. Do that as much as you can, if it is possible. Now the bigger problem typically comes, Kimberly, if one of them changes their belief about your system after they’re married.
Kimberly Beam Holmes 6:44
So the question that keeps coming to my mind here is, it’s important that neither of them tries to control the other because both of them need that freedom of religion and being able to worship wherever there are. Now there are certain religions where this wouldn’t even be a conversation because they would not marry outside of that religion. Right? But for the people where this is the situation, they’re probably less conservative in the religion if they if they initially marry someone who’s a completely different religion, not just talking about Baptist versus a Methodist. So putting that there, it’s important that neither controls the other, but what about when one of them wants to convert the other like it because their religion has become so important to them? Now it’s like hell or high water I need this person to believe what I believe because I am worried about their future life like the afterlife.
Dr. Joe Beam 7:56
Well, let’s think about that from the terms of, since I’m a Christian, let me talk about that in terms of the Christian faith. For example, in 1 Corinthians 7, it talks about it for believers married to an unbeliever and give some principles there. But also, Peter would tell us, if you read through the Epistles in the New Testament, Peter would tell us that you can win someone without the word. Basically what he said, he was addressing wives and he said if your husband is not a believer, and I’m paraphrasing now, but doesn’t want to talk about it then the best thing you can do is you live it. So I think that would be the key that I’m going to live consistently with my beliefs and values as consistently as any human can. Because none of us is going to do it perfectly. I mean, we just don’t. But as consistently as you can. And so if you if you can’t come to an agreement by discussion, often you can finally find a way to get along with each other. Conversion even can occur based on how you actually live. I remember many years ago, when I was in Birmingham, Alabama, there was a woman who was had rented a room from this couple because times were beginning to get tough back then. She was an atheist, and they were very dedicated Christians. Now, when I met her, she was also a Christian. I said, Well, what led you to become a Christian? She said, watching this big financial recession we went through. Basically, it was back in the days when President Carter was was president of America, and prime rate went up to like 20%, something like that. I mean, it was a pretty tough time financially. And he lost his job this guy did. And she watched how this couple dealt with the financial difficulties, the stresses, all those kinds of things. And she said, what led me to want to become what they are is based on how I saw them live and how genuine it was. So, if I feel a strong need to convert my spouse to my religion, I would recommend them live your religion as as best you possibly can. Don’t try to force it on the other person. If they discuss it, wonderful. Discuss it – but not in terms of condemnation – but in terms of “let me help you understand what I believe.” Again, because I’m a Christian, I can illustrate better with Christianity. One of my friends who is a Nazarene pastor said, sometimes people will say, I don’t believe in Jesus and he just won’t tell me about the Jesus you don’t believe in. He said, most every time when they finish, he says, I don’t believe in that Jesus either. Let me tell you about the Jesus I follow. So it’s a matter of listening, understanding those kinds of things. But sometimes that change during a marriage is not that a person changes to another religion that similar, like Methodists and Baptists, but actually changes to a to a religion. That is contradictory, right? And that becomes a really difficult thing to do then.
Kimberly Beam Holmes 10:53
Yeah. Right. Again, because I’ve seen it more often where two Christians, like devoted Christian people, marry each other and then over time one of them becomes an atheist. That is heartbreaking and heart wrenching because with that change in beliefs and values comes a change in behaviors and actions. So that’s where the one who’s still abiding to their original beliefs and values is saying, this isn’t what I signed up for. This isn’t the life that we said I do to back then. But now I’m committed. And you know, because of my beliefs as well, I don’t want to divorce. But how am I supposed to deal with these behaviors that I don’t approve of?
Dr. Joe Beam 11:43
I’m not sure how other religions handle that. The religion that I’m part of, Christianity, there’s a passage in 1 Corinthians 7 says, but if the unbeliever departs, then the believer is not bound. My understanding of that passage, and maybe you understand it differently, but my understanding of that passage is that if you’re abandoned by the other person because he or she will no longer live in that in a fashion where that you can actually get along with each other. In other words, either you change over to say, atheist beliefs, or I’m going to leave you, 1 Corinthians 7 would seem to say, tell them that as much pain as that’s going to cause you that they can go.
Kimberly Beam Holmes 12:21
Let them depart.
Dr. Joe Beam 12:23
Because of the fact that, as you said earlier, it’s a core of who we are. And it’s very difficult to be one to become one with a person who is very different to us. Now, we run into it less often, at least I do. I run into the problem as often like with a Jew marrying a Catholic, or a Muslim marrying whatever, most often I see it when they are parts of different denominations of Christianity. Because we live in the South and the USA, and Christianity is pretty rampant around here. We are Christians, and I definitely am one. No matter what they say, on the internet about me. I definitely am one. But sometimes it’s like, oh my husband’s a Baptist and I’m a Methodist, or I’m a member of the Church of Christ. One lady actually said this to me, “We’re best friends until it comes to Sunday.” Then they have to go to different churches, but they were okay with that until their children came along. Now, that’s most often when we see it is people within the same religion that are part of different groups within that religion and feel that they can’t compromise. What recommendations would you make there?
Kimberly Beam Holmes 13:41
So I will start by saying you have more experience with this one than I do. The more I hear about some of the different denominations and how mean they can be with each other, the more I’m like this can’t be true. But it goes back to that same principle of if you are having that conversation about where you can compromise? Where can you agree? Where can you compromise? And what is it that each of you are truly looking for? Like, what is the core issue in the Methodist versus the Baptist or whatever. Whatever it is. What are the core issues that that you’re disagreeing about? But what are the ones you can’t agree more on?
Dr. Joe Beam 14:26
That’s why, again, I haven’t read this research in a few years now, so I probably need to go look it up again. But what we’re finding is that when that kind of disagreement happens, like like within a religion such as Christendom, you have different belief systems, because you’re a Methodist, you remember the Church of Christ or whatever it might be. Then they found from research, the couples that did best with that were the couples who would choose a third church. But one that embodied the principles that both of them wanted that both of them had as as crucial. For example, a Baptist would say immersion a Methodist would say sprinkling would be okay. And so it’s like, okay, how do we find a church? Where that we can find some kind of complementary reaction here? And so is that always easy to do? The answer is no. But they found that the couples who could find that and so I think that’s part of what helped grow community churches.
Kimberly Beam Holmes 15:23
Yeah, I think so too. I’m just thinking about our church as well where they have these levels of issues, right? So there’s some that are, they would call salvation issues like these are core to the Christian belief. We are unwavering on them, but then there’s the levels under that which are like a secondary and tertiary level where it’s like, these are the things that even if we disagree on them, it doesn’t touch our core. So we can live within community with each other and be in small groups with each other, and disagree on women’s roles in church, or whatever it might be. You know, because it’s not a salvation issue.
Dr. Joe Beam 16:02
There’s a church here in Nashville that has grown rapidly that has had so many members of the churches of Christ become part of that church that they now serve communion every Sunday because Churches of Christ take communion every Sunday, but they do it just before the service starts so that people that that’s not part of what they feel they should do every Sunday don’t have to participate. But it’s there for those people that say, no this is really part of what I believe, and I need to do this. Find the best commonality you can. Ultimately it boils down to this: If you have children, what do you want them to be? You see in the prayer, Jesus made, this is part of my religion, of course, but he prayed about his followers, he said that they may be one that the world will believe that God sent me. And so what you don’t want to do is lead your children to give up on Christianity, if that’s your religion. What do we want our children to understand? What do we want them to believe and to value? If you can find enough commonality there, I would say that’s where you’re settling in, don’t do anything that you believe violates what you call salvation issues, based on whether you’re Muslim, whatever else, but as a Christian, I’m happy to tell people about my faith and to lead people to understand Jesus, at the same time understanding is always their decision, not mine. Think about the children. Give respect to your spouse.
Kimberly Beam Holmes 17:47
Well, I think that about solves all the answers of the world’s problems.
Dr. Joe Beam 17:51
It’s not an exactly “do this” answer. It’s more of a suggestion. But it really comes down to respecting the other person and trying to accept them even when they don’t see things the same way you do. We’re talking about that, not for salvation, but for relationships, for a husband and wife, for example, parents and children.
Kimberly Beam Holmes 18:14
But the key of it is it really is all about the relationships. Because no matter how much you may want the other person to agree with you or your religion, or whatever motives that you have behind that, if if they feel controlled by it, it’s only going to push them further away.
Dr. Joe Beam 18:32
Kimberly Beam Holmes 18:33
So loving them is major, whether they ever come to believe it or not. There was a person I was interviewing on It Starts With Attraction podcast awhile ago, and he was a he was a relationship counselor for 40 years. He said there was a client he had one time and she prayed for her husband for 40 years. And when he was 80 years old, he finally came to Jesus. She said it was worth every day of 40 years.
Dr. Joe Beam 19:06
My older brother became a Christian when he was 54 years old. When they were about to immerse him, at least ask if you have anything to say, and he said, “This is happening because my mother never quit praying.”
Kimberly Beam Holmes 19:19
So that’s a bonus for you, is the bonus for you. Well, we hope this has given you some hope on how to deal with some difficult issues when you have different beliefs and values in your marriage, especially around religion. If you liked this episode, please give it a five star review. We would appreciate that so so much. And if there’s other areas of your marriage that we can help you with, then we would love to and we know how you can go to marriagehelper.com and find out more about our workshops and courses that we offer for whatever situation you may be facing in your marriage. Until next week. Thank you Dr. Joe.
Dr. Joe Beam 19:56
Thank you for having me.