June 04, 2020
Our God isn’t So Different, After All

It simply doesn’t make sense to me that relationships should be wrong because one party is of a different religion to the other.

by Gabrielle Kembuan
Issues // Relationship
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“The furthest long distance relationship is one between the church and the mosque,” my friend said wryly. She was a Muslim and her boyfriend was a Christian. I nodded in sympathy.

I then found myself in the same situation.

I didn’t know my boyfriend was Muslim at first. He has a secular name, had revealed little about himself, and when I asked about his religion to my friend after developing a crush, he enthusiastically said, “Oh! He’s a Christian!”

“How do you know?” I asked her, skeptical. I wanted to avoid the same debacles underwent by my friends. I knew three pairs of interfaith relationships within my circle already, none had a happy ending as of yet.

“Well, I was with him in the ER on Friday, right. Everyone else was going for Friday prayers and he didn’t, just sat there slurping his shaken avocado.”

“Really? It was a Friday?”

“Yup, I really remember. Because he offered me some.”

“Uhh, okay,” I said. More than a year later he still denies ever missing a Friday prayer. “That wasn’t a Friday!” he insists.

I’ve never loved anyone as much as I love him. I can’t imagine spending the rest of my life with someone else. If he didn’t go to worship on Fridays and I on Sundays, I’d probably already be booking venues and wedding dress appointments right now.

Instead, I’m writing a piece on interfaith relationship while waiting to wake him up for sahur.

We’ve gone past the initial shitstorm of comments, gossips and protests, all seemingly because he and I had different religions. These ranged from incredulity to a stern warning from his senior that he was “getting carried away by his feelings”- that from my appearance and dress, I was clearly not a respectable and desirable woman to marry, and dating me was a grave mistake.

I’ve been put on trial by my own family who questioning the seriousness of our relationship. I’ve unfollowed Christian social media accounts when the admins suddenly decided it’s time to preach about how interfaith dating is not the “way of God”.

I’m a decidedly liberal person, and I hate when my faith and opinions are forcibly enclosed by boundaries. I’m a Protestant who grew up in Catholic schools and went to Catholic churches due to the convenience of schedule. Most of my friends are Muslim. Although I assiduously avoided my friends’ experience of going through interfaith relationships at first, it wasn’t because I thought it was wrong,  but merely due to practicality and because I felt the social and family barriers would be too tough to overcome. Ultimately, I decided it was worth a try.

It simply doesn’t make sense to me that relationships should be wrong because one party is of a different religion to the other. I don’t think it reflects on anything about the person’s conscience, faith, or religious practice. Faith is faith and love is love and both are similarly inspired by God. Since God himself must inspire this all-encompassing, selfless love I now feel for my partner, how can people say my love is against God?

It also simply doesn’t make sense to me that the institution of state should interfere to invalidate or prevent marriages where the two parties have different religions. Nothing in the constitution or the law states that two partners should have the same religion in order for marriage to be considered valid- not that it even is the juridisction of state government.

It also makes minimal sense to me that people should argue against interfaith marriages as a bad decision, or a mistake. It’s easy to comment on a “mistake” from afar; but most people who outright judged had no experience with the dilemmas of interfaith relationships themselves. Humans don’t run on data learning; we run on love, feelings and passion.

More than a year into our relationships, we’ve learned to balance the delicate barriers of our different religions. I remind him of weekly prayers, accompanied him for sahur and iftar. He dropped me off for church services. In all intents and purposes, our relationship has made us both a better person, because we’re simply very compatible with each other.

Also read: How Interfaith Relationship Exposes Me to Intolerance Around Me

In a way, interfaith relationships forces your love to stand tall and be stronger- precisely because it is a leap of faith, a walk in the dark. It is sometimes difficult to surrender and completely love the other person because of the prospect of the relationship breaking, and the prospect of impossible hurt. It forces you to examine whether you truly want to go all that length just for a future with this person, but once you decide you do, you’re pretty much unbreakable.

There are moments of tension when we inevitably had “discussions” about our respective religions. This is thanks to the nature of religion itself, and probably the very root of all religious divide – that proper Faith often precludes all other religions from also being “right”. But we’ve learned to build a bridge over this divide and I don’t think I need my partner to have the same faith as me for him to be the perfect partner, the perfect husband or the perfect father to our future children.

Even if in the future one of us is convinced by the other’s religion and decides to convert, it shouldn’t be because of our relationship; and it definitely shouldn’t be a condition to fulfill before it progresses into the next step, and especially not if it’s arbitrarily imposed by humans and societies.

I think of my partner and wonder whether my Christian exes were a “better fit” than him. I wonder if his being Christian could make him even more perfect. I decided, no. We were opposites in many things, yet they all complemented each other; and then we are similar when it comes to the most important values and goals in life. He serves as my steady ground, the water to my fire, the guardian to my playful child, oftentimes, we reverse course and do the opposite. Loving him is far from a mistake- it is the rightest choice I’ve ever made. He respects women, he understands my dreams and aspirations, he’s honest and friendly and gentle.

And most importantly, he is kind.

Our God isn’t so different, after all.

Gabrielle Kembuan is a physician, aspiring writer, and passionate amateur in a multitude of things. She’s currently baking and reading as she figures out what to do next in the crossroads of career and life.