For as many years as there are scriptures, Black women have lined the altars of churches to send up one specific prayer: ‘Lord, please send me a husband.’ Because most sisters are born-and-bred Christians, our search for love has been restricted to the handful of available brothers in our local sanctuaries. There’s but so many men to go around when male to female ratios are higher in the produce aisle at the market than they are at Sunday morning service. So as our knees weary from repeatedly bending for the same request and our spirits balk at the bridesmaid dresses accumulating in our closets, some sisters are taking their pre-matrimonial faith walk outside of the church—right into the mosque, temple and synagogue. Interfaith relationships are presenting new dating options for ladies tired of trying to call first dibs on their congregation’s newest male members.
In fact, more and more Christian women are rewriting The Great African-American Love Story by building meaningful partnerships with men from other religions. Not that the love they’ve found in their new beaus in any way compromises their longstanding love for Jesus. But the idea that “the Lord would disapprove of a relationship with a genuinely good man who was going to take care of me emotionally, physically and mentally seemed contrary to everything I’ve learned in church,” says Crystal Scott, whose fiance is a practicing Muslim. “Shawn and I met in my most boring class at Norfolk State. He was intelligent, funny and easy on the eyes,” she laughs. Flirting turned into hanging out and hanging out into exclusive dating, and pretty soon the couple started talking marriage. “He had just about everything I wanted in a husband—except he wasn’t Christian.” Although her dreams of corralling her own family into church every Sunday morning were dashed, Crystal says she realized Shawn’s faith has made him the man he is. She had to respect that.
If a single sister meets a man who possesses the qualities she’s been praying for in a mate, should she turn that brother away because he doesn’t subscribe to the same religion that she does?
Her mother, however, was not so open-minded. Like many church folks, Mama Scott pulled out the big guns to oppose an interfaith union: 2 Corinthians 6:14, the Biblical scripture that’s been the slogan for Christian theorists who suggest that believers should refrain from hooking up with non-believers. But if a single sister meets a man who possesses the qualities she’s been praying for in a mate, should she turn that brother away because he doesn’t subscribe to the same religion that she does? Not at all, says Rev. Kellie V. Hayes, executive pastor and director of women’s ministries at Hunter Memorial AME Church in Suitland, Md. “You can miss out on a great relationship because somebody doesn’t believe like you do. There are other things that are important like do we both want to have children? Do we both believe in how we’re going to raise those children? Are we on the same page in terms of money? Do we want to be homeowners?”
Mutual understanding, she adds, is essential to making the relationship successful. “The only way an interfaith couple would have more problems than a same-faith couple is if one is secretly hoping to change the other or if a religion or faith belief goes strictly against what the other person believes is right. You can’t marry a dude who believes in having more than one wife and you don’t.”
Like dating outside of the race, an interfaith partnership can be a minefield of challenges, especially if the two parties involved let religious overzealousness, insensitivity and the ever-present opinions of others mar what could otherwise be a good love thang. Knowing what you’re getting into before you jump the broom—even before you say ‘yes’ to a date—can alleviate a world of hurtful problems down the pike.
Relationship Expert and Washington, DC Radio Host Audrey Chapman offers these relevant pearls of wisdom: “Usually you have a problem with something because you don’t understand it, so the more you familiarize yourself with a religion, the more you can decide whether you want to have any kind of response to it or not. Most of the time,” she says, “people decide to support each other’s differences. That’s what relationships are all about.” Chapman stresses that couples should also develop good communication, listening and problem-solving skills if they want to overcome snafus that manifest in a two-faith household.
Because the dating pool for Black women who dare to seek straight, single, healthy, employed, drug-free, drama-less brothers isn’t getting any bigger, both Hayes and Chapman agree that sisters might need to branch out a little to find a man who’s going to love and appreciate us like we deserve to be loved and appreciated. So whether he’s capped with a yarmulke, sporting a kufi or toting a Bible, like the old Atlantic Starr song says, when love calls, you better answer.