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The Religion Factor in Marriage

While the average person may not relate to those wedding prices, there is something many have in common with the newlyweds. Their marriage is an interfaith marriage. The bride is Methodist while the groom practices Judaism.

The Pew Forum Religious Landscape Survey of 2008 “finds that 27% of married people are in religiously mixed marriages”. And this wasn’t including people of different Protestant denominations, which would bring it up to 37 percent. The survey also discovered that young couples are more likely than older couples to enter into an interfaith marriage.

Does it matter whether a couple shares the same religious beliefs?

Happier marriages?

On Aug. 11 the National Marriage Project of the University of Virginia issued a press release summarizing the findings of their recent study titled: The Couple That Prays Together: Race and Ethnicity, Religion, and Relationship Quality Among Working-Age Adults.

In summary, “The first major study to compare religion and relationship quality across America’s major racial and ethnic groups finds that for all groups, shared religious activity—attending church together and especially praying together—is linked to higher levels of relationship quality.” And conversely, “Couples holding discordant religious beliefs and those with only one partner who attends religious services regularly tend to be less happy in their relationships.”

The authors of the study note that religious beliefs can have a powerful impact on issues like raising children, spousal responsibilities and household organization. All of these have the potential to cause marital conflict. Often one spouse ends up compromising his or her beliefs to maintain peace in the house.
This leads to some issues.

Your religious beliefs

How important are your religious beliefs—to you? Would you be willing to compromise them for that “special someone”? Interfaith relationships raise especially important questions for young adults.

King Solomon of ancient Israel was known as the wisest man who ever lived, but in the area of romance his wisdom failed him. The Bible tells the story of Solomon marrying women who did not share his religious beliefs—despite the instruction not to do so (1 Kings 11:1-4). The sad result was that when he embraced the pagan worship he learned from his 700 wives, King Solomon corrupted his worship of the true God whom he had known from his youth.

This might seem like an extreme example—who’s going to marry 700 wives? But the lesson from the National Marriage Project study is that anyone entering into a serious relationship with someone of different religious convictions puts his or her own personal faith at risk.

And the study’s authors noted an additional consideration. It wasn’t enough to have the same religious beliefs. Depth of religious conviction was also important.

True Christianity is a lifelong commitment. Most Christians will make a second lifetime commitment of marriage. For both those commitments to be truly successful, they need to be in harmony.

» Paul Hadley and his wife Karen live in Columbus, Ohio. Reprint with permission from Vertical Thought Magazine, published by United Church of God.

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