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Remark on a *third* Christian chain mail

April 10, 2010

It’s almost been a year since I last wrote one of these (and longer than a full year since the first.) Did my mother stop sending those generic Christian chain letters?

Unfortunately, no. I just never got around to reading most of them. Until recently.

This latest email deals with the ever relevant inter-faith marriage phenomenon…what does it suggest?

When Your Mate Doesn’t Share Your Faith

‘…if a woman has a husband who is not a believer…’ 1 Corinthians 7:13

Living with an unbelieving mate is both a challenge and an opportunity. It’s a challenge because believers and unbelievers see life differently. And it’s an opportunity because God can use you to close the gap and win them to Christ. But for that to take place you must make two commitments.

First, commit yourself to the goal of their salvation; second, commit yourself to your own growth through loving them and living with them.

Once you’ve committed, you’re ready for this practical and helpful counsel. Remember the unbeliever’s spiritual limitations. ‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!’ (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV). Only when they’re ‘in Christ’ can they be a ‘new creation’. Only then will ‘the old’ go! The old will dominate until they receive the new. ‘That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit’ (John 3:6 NKJV).

Remember, the unbeliever suffers from spiritual birth defects they can’t overcome until the new birth corrects them. ‘…the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so… those… in the flesh cannot please God’ (Romans 8:7-8 NAS).

If they don’t love God’s Word, prayer and church like you do, it’s because they’re controlled by the flesh and are ‘not even able’ to. So have realistic expectations. Remember what you were like BC (Before Christ)? Be patient, loving and kind while God does His work in them.

Oh, there are some fun parts to this one for sure.

I for one LOVE how the first commitment is to the goal of their salvation. I guess that’s an excellent anniversary gift..?

…And the distant second is the believer’s own growth through living with and loving the unbeliever.

I can just see it now…living married to a wretched unbeliever is such a trial! But you can prevail and grow through it, and if you play your cards right, you can win a new fan for Jesus!

…but don’t worry, everyone. It isn’t the unbeliever’s fault. He simply has spiritual birth defects, and needs to be spiritually reborn. This raises another question…when someone becomes a “new creation” and the old creation is gone, what exactly happened to it. Was it spiritually aborted? Does that mean pro-lifers are really for abortion after all?

Or…if you decide to keep the spiritually defected baby…does that count as a pre-existing condition that bars the individual from insurance? Does Obamacare cover that or not?

Ultimately, the interesting part about this message is that I can recognize now that it is more consistent with Calvinist/non-free-will philosophy than with LDS philosophy for sure. Quoting Romans 8 really gives it away (e.g., can we choose? No, the flesh is utterly unable to chose. We must be groped by an angel first. As God hardens hearts, he must also soften them. Or not.)

I just wonder how many couples drive wedges in their relationship from trying to follow advice like this.

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11 Comments
  1. I’m pretty disrespectful about other people’s beliefs sometimes, but at least I know it’s just me being an asshole. And I can stop it when I feel like it’s going to harm a relationship.

    This is a way to make disrespect seem perfectly justified. And there wouldn’t be any way to get the spouse to knock it off — it’s not the spouse’s opinion; it’s God’s.

    Bad people can employ religious devices to make themselves feel okay about doing rotten things. But, hey, nothing new.

    • yeah, the worst thing is that people may not understand that this kind of stuff WILL harm a relationship…so if the relationship does sour, they will probably attribute it because of the sinfulness of the other person.

  2. You’re baiting me, Andrew.

    It seems like a well-intentioned e-mail. It’s just naïve. I see the advice contained therein as being too vague and generic to actually help someone in an interfaith marriage situation.

    I get that it comes across as condescending to discuss the “unbeliever’s” spiritual limitations, but there’s some truth to the idea that an unbelieving spouse just isn’t going to have the same priorities you do. It’s a pretty delicate balancing act to think that you have the truth (or a greater portion of the truth) than someone else and never appear condescending over that. That doesn’t mean I agree with the way the e-mail goes about it, but I don’t see it as the worst faux pas either.

    Personally, the greatest thing I’ve learned about being in an interfaith marriage is that I have to love my husband as he is. It’s okay to dream of and occasionally try for his conversion, but I didn’t covenant to love an evangelical Christian-in-embryo. I covenanted to love him in all of his Mormon-ness. So I do.

    (WARNING: The story below qualifies as risqué and may qualify as TMI, depending on how you interpret it.)

    Along the lines of “how to convert an unbelieving spouse,” Mark Driscoll gave a sermon once wherein he talked about a Christian woman who had an unbelieving husband. This Christian woman was apparently something of a prude about oral sex. Driscoll showed her where oral sex is found in the Song of Solomon and assured her that it’s a healthy practice for married partners and counseled her to offer her husband oral sex and let him know that it was in the Bible. The husband started coming to church with her because of it.

    Oh, Mark. If only it were that easy.

    (For the story on Mark Driscoll & oral sex, see here.)

  3. Thanks for the comment, Jack. I had you in mind for a little while when I was reading this email.

    I agree with you about different spiritual priorities. I just think that the characterization of the reason for these differing spiritual priorities (they have spiritual birth defects) is in outright poor taste. But I understand that that also must be part of the great balancing act…

    LOL at the story on oral sex. If the people from Pres. Uchtdorf’s town had derogatory names for “Canned food Mormons,” I wonder what the German is for “Oral sex Christian”?

  4. I don’t generally like advice that encourages you to shift the focus of your own spiritual problems to someone else. I’ve always been a big fan of the phrase “mind your own business” in many areas of religious life.

  5. You definitely should make your own Christian chain emails. I’d forward them.

    I could see it now.

    APRIL 11, 2010

    ~When your mate doesn’t share your faith~

    MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS.

  6. I’m not laughing. I’m so damn sick of this, and Christians need to wake up and stop spreading chain letters! http://ChristiansBreakingChainFwds.ning.com

    • Smashed…

      Chain: When Your Mate Doesn’t Share Your Faith

      Miss Capri: Not applicable to me, but I’ll smash this chain anyway.

      Chain: ‘…if a woman has a husband who is not a believer…’ 1 Corinthians 7:13

      Miss Capri: Yeah, uh, stop demeaning scriptures by putting them in chain forwards!

      Chain: Living with an unbelieving mate is both a challenge and an opportunity.

      Miss Capri: No, duh! For both partners!

      Chain: It’s a challenge because believers and unbelievers see life differently.

      Miss Capri: Gah, shut it! Who needs chain letters pointing out the totally obvious yet again? And while I’m a believer in Jesus, I am also an unbeliever in Mohammad, Bhuda, Isis, you’re getting this, right?

      Chain: And it’s an opportunity because God can use you to close the gap and win them to Christ.

      Miss Capri: Oh, so now you’re telling me to marry some non-Christian for the sole purpose of trying to bring them to Christ? Look, whoever you are, if and when a non-Christian turns to Christianity, it’ll happen without any misguided and possibly loveless effort on my part or theirs!

      Chain: But for that to take place you must make two commitments.

      Miss Capri: No, really? I thought it was all about non-commitment! Sheesh, shut up already!

      Chain: First, commit yourself to the goal of their salvation; second, commit yourself to your own growth through loving them and living with them.

      Miss Capri: Um, dude, chick, whatever…I don’t need to marry a non-Christian to be committed to my own salvation. I also realize that nothing I do can change anyone else’s mind and make them turn to Christ. And if I was to marry, as far as they are concerned, I would have to commit to loving them first, and they would do the same for me. And, I wouldn’t marry a non-Christian in the first place. There are people who marry but they don’t share the same belief system. Sorry, but I’m just not cut out for that, the guy would have to have some things in common with me, and shared beliefs being a big part of that – and no, ‘m not just referring to religion. I wouldn’t force him to convert to Christianity if he wasn’t. By the same token, I sure as heck wouldn’t want to marry some atheist or wiccan or some such person, only to find out they just married me in order to try converting me to their religion.

      Chain: Once you’ve committed, you’re ready for this practical and helpful counsel.

      Miss Capri: Love comes first, got it? Without it, don’t even consider marriage! Just marrying someone in the hopes you will change them isn’t practical at all, it’s really stupid and arrogant, and a sin if it’s without love.

      Chain: Remember the unbeliever’s spiritual limitations.

      Miss Capri: Remember that everybody is spiritually limited, including you, me, and every Christian and non-Christian.

      Chain: ‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!’ (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV).

      Miss Capri: AGH! Nowhere in that does it tell you to marry somebody you don’t love. Besides, that scripture is taken way out of context. It’s talking about anyone who converts, whether they are married or not.

      Chain: “Only when they’re ‘in Christ’ can they be a ‘new creation’. Only then will ‘the old’ go! The old will dominate until they receive the new. ‘That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit’ (John 3:6 NKJV).

      Miss Capri: Once again, it doesn’t say anywhere that you should marry someone you don’t love or who doesn’t love you, just to try converting them to Christ. Nowhere in any of these scriptures being exploited for use in this chain letter, does it say we should marry under alterior motives and false pretences. People marry out of love. evangelists try bringing people to Christ.

      And, nowhere in any scripture does it say “If you believe in God, spread all chain letters that mention the word Christ!”

      Chain: Remember, the unbeliever suffers from spiritual birth defects they can’t overcome until the new birth corrects them.

      Miss Capri: Remember that chain letters are utterly defective for doling out anything, from religious instruction to medical advice. If the unbeliever is birth-defective as this chain claims, they wouldn’t be able to believe in anything at all let alone manage to turn to Christianity. everybody starts out “spiritually birth-defective” when it comes down to it because everyone is capable of belief, some people just take longer to decide what their belief is, and whoever started this odious chain needs to examine their own spiritual condition before trying to use chain lectures so arrogantly to push Christians around. In fact, you wouldn’t start chain letters in the first place if you were spiritually sound. So there, how’d you like that?

      Chain: ‘…the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so… those… in the flesh cannot please God’ (Romans 8:7-8 NAS).

      Miss Capri: Hel-lo!? Stop hijacking scriptures for this Christian-exploitive schlock! The flesh is also here for a reason and if one flesh doesn’t really love another flesh but that person marries them anyway, for the only purpose of bringing them to Christ, the marriage is a sham!

      Chain: If they don’t love God’s Word, prayer and church like you do, it’s because they’re controlled by the flesh and are ‘not even able’ to. So have realistic expectations.

      Miss Capri: Duh, ou know, some people would rather study on their own than go sit in a church. Some people also go to church without their hearts really being there at all. And once again, I don’t see how marrying someone you don’t have really important basic beliefs in common is such a great thing, but that’s just me. Anyway, this chain is crap!

      Chain: Remember what you were like BC (Before Christ)?

      Miss Capri: No, you assuming twit! I’ve been a Christian all my life, and always will be! So don’t even try that spin on me…

      Chain: Be patient, loving and kind while God does His work in them.

      Miss Capri: DUH! Like I need a chain letter telling me that – oh, shut up!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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