The Christ-Centered Marriage

May 3, 2008 at 11:23 am 46 comments

As I cruised the atheosphere this morning, I came across Possummomma’s 400th post (congratulations, Pmomma!). It includes a segment in which she discusses the effects of her acceptance of atheism on her marriage:

I know your husband is an agnostic-Catholic. How is that working in your home? Was he unhappy about your change in beliefs? If my girl friend came home and said she’d stopped believing in God, I don’t know if I would be happy with it.

Pdaddy took it well. We’d both voiced criticisms and doubts…I was just the first of the two of us to put time into researching those doubts. And, it didn’t change the basis for our relationship. I know some theist couples base their relationship on serving god or putting God first, but we were never like that. And, our children and friendship (between p-daddy and I) has always been the foundation of our marriage so atheism wasn’t a deal breaker.

That passage took me back nearly 30 years, to the time when the deacon and I were engaged and envisioning a lifetime together as faithful servants of God. In our conversations, we always affirmed that God/Jesus had to be our first love. He would be the hub of our marriage. It sounded ideal to two conservative evangelical Christians attending a Christian college. Even after we had married and were serving side-by-side as pastors and teachers, this was the ideal that we taught to many couples in our flocks.

The thing is, Jesus never actually participated in our marriage. Oh, sure, we prayed before making major decisions and we prayed for fellow believers who were experiencing difficult circumstances; we prayed before meals and in church; but we certainly didn’t pray before doing the routine things that married couples do every day: buying groceries, getting the car fixed, making love….

I think, for the deacon and me, our religious faith was primarily individual on one level, and social on another. We shared church-going and other religious experiences side-by-side, but we never felt Jesus sitting between us. Besides, it’s supposed to be a personal relationship with Jesus, right? Jesus and me, happy as can be. Which brings me to another point: I never really understood how I was supposed to relate to Jesus as my lover and confidante, yet make the commitments required to sustain a viable, thriving marriage with my husband (maybe polyamory isn’t my thing). And, to be honest, I never gave it much thought. The deacon is flesh and blood, here and now; he’s the one who stayed by my side through a miscarriage, the death of my father, the births of two children…. Jesus certainly wasn’t holding me in his arms or changing diapers. I never felt Jesus’ presence in my marriage and, to be honest, I never missed it. The deacon was all I ever needed.

Even though the deacon and I were sincere Christian believers, the reality is that our relationship has always been a lot more like Pmomma and Pdaddy’s. The deacon and I are friends, lovers, parents, children of our parents, and siblings among other things. Until a few months ago, Christianity was a feature in our lives, but it was not the center of our relationship (even though we probably would have told you it was). I honestly can’t tell you what it means to have a Christ-centered marriage, because I haven’t got a clue what one looks like. I suspect, however, that if either the deacon or I had taken the Christ-centered ideal more seriously than we did, my renunciation of Christianity would have been a major impediment to our continuance as a married couple. It wasn’t. To the contrary; my coming out ignited a new stage of openness and acceptance in our relationship. For the first time in our adult lives, neither of us fears that we won’t be able to live up to each other’s lofty religious ideals (if that was Jesus’ contribution, it hindered rather than enriched the relationship). Instead, since we now relate to each other entirely on an earthly plain, we are much more prepared to accept and work with each other’s imperfections and to appreciate and nurture our strengths. Our marriage is, and always has been (it’s only now that I can recognize it) founded on human connection rather than divine intervention.

Jesus will just have to find himself another bride – this one’s taken.

– the chaplain

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Analogy of a Marriage Prayer: Why do it Anyway?

46 Comments Add your own

  • 1. HeIsSailing  |  May 3, 2008 at 12:12 pm

    TheChaplain:
    “For the first time in our adult lives, neither of us fears that we won’t be able to live up to each other’s lofty religious ideals …Instead, since we now relate to each other entirely on an earthly plain, we are much more prepared to accept and work with each other’s imperfections and to appreciate and nurture our strengths.”

    Wow, beautifully stated – and something that I also have noticed in my relationship with my wife. As a Christian, she and I wanted to live as best a Christ-centered life as we possibly could. Yet we were each from completely different Christian backgrounds, cultures and traditions. I was raised in a Pentacostal Jesus Freak hippie commune in northern New Mexico and bred on a steady diet of Calvary Chapel, apologetics and endtimes theology. She was raised a conservative catholic in Philippines, and slowly became more liberal when she came to the United States.

    Chaplain, you reminded me of some of the meaningless things that used to stress each of us out in our religious differences – each trying to subtly change each other and in some ways upstage each other. She felt convicted because I had read the Bible and she had no interest in cracking it open. Our Bible studies focused on things that I thought might convict her of what I thought were the errors of Catholicism. She took me to mass and taught me about the customs, traditions and reverence for Mary and the Saints. I went on a rant when my wife expressed interest in watching the DaVinci Code movie. *gag* I am just ashamed to think back on how I acted that day.

    It was a terrible stress on our young marraige. We wanted to see each other’s point of view, but we each wanted to hold on to our beliefs. Chaplain, your quote above perfectly captures that time between the two of us.

    These days, she is still Catholic but her concept of God is so vague that she would be considered a heretic if she voiced her beliefs. And of course, I left the faith all-together. And with it all that crap that seemed so important just 1 1/2 years ago seems so .. so trivial, so pointless, such an obstruction to the truly wonderful marraige that we now share. I no longer have to be a ‘spiritual leader’ as the husband. We now see the strengths and faults of each other as part of our human nature, and we accept it and love each other and move on.

    No fuss. No muss.

    My wife is at work right now. When she gets back, I will show her your article. Thanks alot, Chaplain.

  • 2. exevangel  |  May 3, 2008 at 4:19 pm

    Very interesting. I know with my ex-husband we were young and idealistic and striving for this idea of the “Christ-centered marriage” as well. In the early days it meant educating each other about our backgrounds (my evangelical vs his Calvinist) and amazingly, sometime post-marriage ceremony, we realized we both really hated a lot of it. We would try to find a church we didn’t hate but often on Sunday mornings couldn’t be bothered. And at the end of the day, we did not even come close to “what God has brought together let no man put asunder.” Last I heard he still identifies as vaguely Christian, myself less-so, and I’ve still never understood what it was we were supposed to be doing during that time. It was a breath of fresh air to hear that someone else might have been equally confused. And that the basis for good romantic relationships is continuing to be reinforced to me as a set of earthly compatibilities that are far more important than the doctrine differences between infant and adult baptism.

  • 3. karen  |  May 3, 2008 at 4:45 pm

    I think, for the deacon and me, our religious faith was primarily individual on one level, and social on another. We shared church-going and other religious experiences side-by-side, but we never felt Jesus sitting between us.

    Wow – thanks for your honesty!

    I always felt this way underneath as a Christian, but I never really acknowledged it because (like so much else) it made me feel guilty.

    Having a Christian marriage, for me, meant that we spent the better part of every Sunday in church, bible studies or prayer meetings (dragging our poor, protesting kids with us) and that both of us had a ton of commitments to the church outside of our family time.

    I don’t remember that we did a lot of praying together, other than at meals or during a crisis. Even resolving arguments came down to hashing things out, getting past the anger and communicating calmly. No god needed to be involved.

  • 4. lostgirlfound  |  May 3, 2008 at 7:25 pm

    Karen … it’s interesting, because although my husband has “always” been a pastor, often times I’ve been the one encouraging prayer together, asking him what he’s doing in his “devotions,” calling him on some attitudes, etc. Since I’ve walked away from “religion” (I still believe in God — but my convictions have changed drastically), he’s actually become more conservative. It’s weird … like he has to hang on and really have his religion now that I’m not “pushing” it. We lead the same life …

    “Having a Christian marriage, for me, meant that we spent the better part of every Sunday in church, bible studies or prayer meetings (dragging our poor, protesting kids with us) and that both of us had a ton of commitments to the church outside of our family time.”

    I still “do” the church thing, but for him. And my commitments have been drastically cut, and I let the kids decide what they want — and don’t want — to do. Funny thing is, the further away we get from the “organization,” the more my understanding of the spiritual grows. Sure, there are a lot of nice people there in that place. But there are a lot of nice people everywhere …

    Anyway, this experience has caused us to really reevaluate our relationship. I’m glad to say we’re still growing in love. It’s not easy (on either side), but so far, so good.

    Thanks, guys, for the good article and the encouraging responses.

  • 5. possummomma  |  May 3, 2008 at 9:33 pm

    Reading this made me tear-up. It’s inspirational. :)

    I really hadn’t thought about the question until Dave asked. And, as soon as he said it, it hit me that some marriages could very well be undone by one partner’s embrace of a different philosophy. I was immediately grateful that our marriag wasn’t, and isn’t, based on something as vague as god or jesus.

  • 6. Peg  |  May 3, 2008 at 10:02 pm

    the further away we get from the “organization,” the more my understanding of the spiritual grows

    Precisely.

    I suspect the reason many people question whether they ever had a ‘relationship’ with Jesus is because the ‘organization’ never taught them how to. The Organization is far too often about perpetuating itself rather than teaching people how to relate to God. Does that make sense at all?

  • 7. Non Sicuro  |  May 4, 2008 at 9:36 am

    Thank you for this post and the follow-up comments. As a fresh de-convert with a wife who has ramped up her religion in response, the whole question of how to carry on “unequally yoked” has been in my mind. Reading this was helpful.

  • 8. empowerherparties  |  May 4, 2008 at 1:03 pm

    Wow, Chaplain, sounds more like you had a religion centered or church centered marriage not a Christ centered marriage. I completely understand how this could happen! I had a church centered life growing up and I walked away because I knew that there had to be more. I knew something was wrong.
    Finally, in my personal search I found honest open hearts seeking the Kingdom of God can not be taught, it must be sought and caught.
    I wish you and the Deacon the Best!

  • 9. The Apostate  |  May 4, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    empowerherparties,
    Could you elaborate, in light of the scriptural references to the church being the body of Christ, what the difference is between a “Church centered marriage” and a “Christ centered marriage.”

    I suppose one could chalk it up to the reverting to gnostic Christianity, but I would like to hear whether you consider yourself a Bible-based Christian or simple a self-revelatory spiritualist.

  • 10. the chaplain  |  May 4, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    To all of the commenters who understand what I was trying to say, thanks for your encouraging replies. I also extend best wishes to Non Sicuro as he continues down what may be a bumpy path. There are several contributors and commmenters here who understand better than I the challenges that lie ahead for you. I know that they will do whatever they can to assist you. Feel free to post your questions when you need to vent, seek advice, etc. This is a very supportive community.

    To Peg and empowerherparties, I say this:

    Peg, there is validity to the idea that religious denominations and organizations expend lots of energy on self-perpetuation. Nevertheless, my experience has been that most evangelical churches sincerely seek to help the people in the pews develop personal relationships with Jesus. They put a lot of emphasis on spiritual disciplines like prayer, Bible study, personal daily devotions and the like. They, along with their fundamentalist cohorts, most certainly do emphasize religion as spiritual relationship rather than religion as ritual or religion as institution. I realize that you were responding to lostgirlfound rather than me, but I wanted to add my bit. BTW, lostgirlfound has been on a fascinating spiritual journey. If you haven’t done so yet, you should read her posts.

    empowerherparties, I will try to say this politely: your comment indicates that you (like many other Christians who jump into this site and drop comments) leaped to some strong – and wildly erroneous – conclusions about my spiritual background. The denomination in which I was reared, and in which I served as an ordained minister, is part of the “holiness” movement of the evangelical church. Holiness, as developed by John Wesley, is a personal, relational pursuit of fellowship with God that has little or nothing to do with organizations, institutions, rituals or liturgies. As I noted in my response to Peg, the overwhelming emphasis in the holiness movement is to disciple believers in nurturing personal relationships with Jesus. I am also a graduate of a holiness college, where this emphasis was reinforced rigorously. I realize that you probably won’t believe me, but I can assure you that I understand full well the distinctions between blindly practicing rituals and pursuing a relationship with God through prayer, Bible study, corporate worship and community service.

    Now…having said all that, I will state unequivocally that the things I’ve been learning throughout my spiritual journey have led me to conclude that such notions as “church-centered,” “religion-centered,” “relationship” and the like are meaningless. To be succinct, I’ve concluded, after much prayer, thought and study, that YHWH (as described in the Bible) does not exist, that Jesus was not his divine, virgin-born son and that the Bible is not YHWH’s divinely inspired, inerrant word. Consequently, it was impossible for me to have a relationship with Jesus/God, or whoever. Even though my attempts to sustain that non-existent relationship were futile, my eventual loss of faith was extraordinarily difficult and painful. Is there some sort of deity? Possibly. But my belief that the personal god of the Bible is a fantasy has a more solid foundation than the beliefs that YHWH exists and loves me unconditionally, and that Jesus is the one true way to salvation.

  • 11. karen  |  May 4, 2008 at 3:31 pm

    Karen … it’s interesting, because although my husband has “always” been a pastor, often times I’ve been the one encouraging prayer together, asking him what he’s doing in his “devotions,” calling him on some attitudes, etc. Since I’ve walked away from “religion” (I still believe in God — but my convictions have changed drastically), he’s actually become more conservative. It’s weird … like he has to hang on and really have his religion now that I’m not “pushing” it. We lead the same life …

    Hi lostgirl! Interesting comments. My experiences are similar. I was usually the one pushing for more spiritual content in our marriage and after I left belief behind he seemed to become more religious.

    However, five or six years down the line I’ve noticed that my husband is now becoming less religious himself. He’s started attending church about half-time, if that. He works a second job and so doesn’t have time for bible study or other weeknight church events.

    I don’t think he is going to deconvert, but he’s becoming less fundamentalist and less religious. Your husband may start backing off after an initial reactionary push into conservative practice as well, I don’t know.

  • 12. LeoPardus  |  May 5, 2008 at 11:06 am

    Glad things worked out well for you chaplain. My wife is still a believer and not very open to discussion for now. But she is having her doubts and struggles. I recognize just where she is because I was there not quite 2 years ago.

    The concept of a “Christ-centered marriage” strikes me as another absurdity, and impossibility, on the order of a “personal relationship with Jesus”. You just cannot center around, or relate to, an entity that is never there in any detectable way.

  • 13. Brad  |  May 5, 2008 at 11:20 am

    I like this post… very cool.

    I think many in the church have misunderstood the “Jesus is the first priority” thing for a long time. If you have to put Jesus first tot he exclusion of your spouse, then you aren’t really putting Jesus first (not saying you were doing that at all, but this is the ultimate conclusion of what many people mean by “Christ-centered marriage.”).

    For example, making love to my spouse IS putting Jesus first. I know that sounds weird, but marriage is a gift, and so is sex, so to enjoy that gift glorifies God.

    I think we make it way too hard on ourselves sometimes… Thanks for this post Chaplain, I hope the healing continues for you.

    Peg said: “I suspect the reason many people question whether they ever had a ‘relationship’ with Jesus is because the ‘organization’ never taught them how to. The Organization is far too often about perpetuating itself rather than teaching people how to relate to God. Does that make sense at all?”

    WOW. That was profound. Tragic, but profound… I don’t even know what to say, except that it sure explains a lot. The subtlety is that the perpetuation is packaged AS relationship. And when that does not yield the fruits of relationship, we wonder “WTF?”

    I wonder how much bearing that has on marriage? Are many marriages (especially in today’s culture) more focused on perpetuation (not divorcing) instead of relationship (healthy marriage)? Because my parents are divorced, I know I err on the side of perpetuation….

    Sorry if that was a tangent, I just really loved where it was going….

  • 14. societyvs  |  May 5, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    Great post Chaplain…I love stories…they speak very loud and clear and I think we can all relate one way or another…thanks for that!

    I have been married for 4 years and I married a girl that was not part of the religious stream at all (well she’s slightly greek orthodox) – ask her a bible story and she wouldn’t know where to find it (if she reads this – she can kill me later – lol)

    I think it is good to be married to someone without all the Christian baggage (or doctrinal baggage for clarification). I got along well with her and still do. I don’t attend a church – but she’s open to the idea if we ever want to. We go out drinking with friends when we so choose to do so. We read more books about theology and music bands than we do in the NT. I find we are very free from religious narrowness and we enjoy our faith and one another. I just hate being bottled up ya know.

    We do include faith in our marriage – but it’s faith that means something also – we are what we do. If we wrong someone – we make it right with them (full responsibility for our actions)…we don’t run to God first. But we acknowledge the fact we have been given teachings about ‘loving our neighbor’ or even mercy (and they mean to ‘act’ upon them – not recite them all the time). But that’s the kind of faith that works for us – something we live – and not just something to banter about…and it’s working awesomely!

    I guess what I am saying is in my household is religious freedom – and if she rejected faith altogether – that would be her choice…I married her – not her faith decisions! That un-equally yoked jive is a rule of thumb in my opinion (and some of it is very true) – but it’s only a rule of thumb and no need to go further into it. I love my wife for who she is – and she very rarely talks about faith – but I like that (cause I do some of that) – she lives a good life!

  • 15. Ted Goas  |  May 5, 2008 at 11:03 pm

    societyvs – love have you referred to Christianity as ‘baggage.’ Can be so true.

    I think I can relate a little, too. When I originally met me now-fiance, relgiion came up in our bar-room conversation. We were both strong agnostics at the time and were ‘super-relieved’ the other one wasn’t religious. We’ve come a long way since then and now feel strong enough about the subject to operate a blog about skepticism (skepticalmonkey.com), in which the topic of religion naturally falls.

    My fiance and I are getting married in about a year. We are choosing to be wed by a Certified Celebrant. While we don’t want to shove it in the face of our religious guests, we don’t really want to mention God, Jesus, the Bible, etc. We’ll see how it turns out, but we’ve had an extremely stable relationship for several years already…

  • 16. Lorena  |  May 7, 2008 at 1:59 pm

    Thank you, Chaplain, for your wonderful essay. Being in an unequally yoked marriage, I appreciate every word you said.

    At the beginning, about 3 years ago, I didn’t think we would make it. But fortunately for us, I was the fanatic. My husband has always used religion for social and moral purposes only. So he’s always gone to church on Sundays and for the rest of the week, you wouldn’t know he’s a church goer, save for his impeccable moral behaviour.

    Like you said, Christ wasn’t the center of our marriage–my wonderful cooking was ;)

    And now I have to thank “God” for that. Because given that I am no longer judging or demanding that he be a more committed Christian, our marriage is much better.

    No that there isn’t room for improvement, since I would love to have him for me on Sundays.

    Thanks again, Chaplain.

  • 17. laura  |  May 7, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    Right now my church is teaching on a Christ centered marriage and we’ve talked a lot about how selfish and broken we tend to be personally, but to put the focus back on Christ has made all the difference in the world in my own marriage. here are some comments from some of the things others in my community have said. I think it does a good job of showing the difference of a funtional marriage vs. a formative ( which is what i am striving towards). I’m glad you’re doing alright in your own marriage, but I don’t think my marriage would survive if we didn’t have Christ at the center. It’s about being the compliment to your spouse that God designed you to be.

    In the fall of man, marriage was robbed of its purity: duty replaces delight and function undermines formation. Thus, our fallen tendency is to treat marriage as functional … It serves a purpose, and our job is just to keep the thing going. A redemptive view of marriage, on the other hand, is to treat marriage as formative … its design is to shape and produce divine character and joy in us. The two views are contrasted below. Which areas would you identify as strengths and weaknesses in your marriage?

    Functional Marriage
    Focuses on improvement
    (making it better according to our ideals)

    Formative Marriage
    Focuses on redemption
    (pursuing God’s ideal for marriage)

    Functional Marriage
    The goal is to manage the status quo

    Formative Marriage
    Aims to create and lead change

    Functional Marriage
    Conflict is a distraction or an obstacle to what I would rather be doing. The “solution” is getting back on track.

    Formative Marriage
    Conflict is an opportunity to grow closer to God and each other. Redemption is facing sin and embracing grace and truth.

    Functional Marriage
    Roles and responsibilities are reduced to performance factors: Is my spouse doing what he/she is supposed to do?

    Formative Marriage
    Roles and responsibilities are elevated to finding fulfillment in God’s design: How can I help my spouse become what God intends him/her to be?

    Functional Marriage
    Typically concerned with finding fault.

    Formative Marriage
    Typically concerned with restoration.

    Other areas to consider a functional vs. formative view: money, sex, parenting, routines, conversation

  • 18. LeoPardus  |  May 7, 2008 at 6:26 pm

    Laura:

    I don’t think my marriage would survive if we didn’t have Christ at the center.

    Right now you have your marriage centered around your ideas of what Christ would want. You interpret those ideas from you own upbringing, teaching, and Bible study. There’s not any reality behind it. It’s all just your ideas. …… Mind you those ideas, or ideals, may be good for your marriage.

    In the fall of man, marriage was robbed of its purity

    Uhm… before the fall there wasn’t any marriage at all. There were only supposed to be two humans.

    Functional Marriage
    Focuses on improvement
    (making it better according to our ideals)
    Formative Marriage
    Focuses on redemption
    (pursuing God’s ideal for marriage)

    See what I said before. It’s all your ideals.

    Your functional/formative dichotomy is actually not bad. But you can take the “God stuff” out of it and find plenty of non-Christian couples working to make really good marriages and to become better people, and growing in their love for one another.

  • 19. Lorena  |  May 7, 2008 at 10:21 pm

    You know what’s more beautiful, Laura? When we don’t need papa God in the middle to help our marriages.

    I find it better when we, humans, take personal responsibility and make our relationships work out of sheer respect for each other.

    I think it is absolutely wonderful when my husband and I make little sacrifices for each other just because we love one another, without the ideal of a God imposing rules on us.

    I just can’t figure why I would need a two-tier system: from me to God and from God to my husband. The mental gymnastics of that would be brutal, enough to, perhaps, send me to a mental institution, or to use medication.

    No wonder so many women in churches are on medication.

  • 20. The Apostate  |  May 7, 2008 at 10:26 pm

    Leopardus,

    But you can take the “God stuff” out of it and find plenty of non-Christian couples working to make really good marriages and to become better people, and growing in their love for one another.

    *Shocked* You mean a non-believer can have a good marriage!?!

  • 21. HeIsSailing  |  May 8, 2008 at 5:21 am

    All this reminds me of a friend of mine at work. She has a boyfriend and both are funday friends of mine – yes, ex-church mates. The other day I saw a motivational sticker on her desk. It said something like, “I must live such a Godly life that my boyfriend sees Jesus before he sees me”.

  • 22. HeIsSailing  |  May 8, 2008 at 5:22 am

    what is it with the funny spirographs by everyone’s name?

  • 23. LeoPardus  |  May 8, 2008 at 9:47 am

    “I must live such a Godly life that my boyfriend sees Jesus before he sees me”.

    And how does she feel about her boyfriend making out with Jesus?

  • 24. Zoe  |  May 8, 2008 at 10:14 am

    For HIS,

    http://wordpress.com/blog/2008/05/04/default-avatars/

  • 25. karen  |  May 8, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    but I don’t think my marriage would survive if we didn’t have Christ at the center.

    It’s sad to me when I see this kind of sentiment expressed by a Christian. We hear it all the time, in all kinds of situations, and it comes directly from Scripture. It’s enforced helplessness that results from having an ego that has been so completely stripped of self-confidence and optimism about their own good intentions and abilities!

    A week ago, my husband had to have an MRI. He doesn’t like enclosed spaces, but got through the experience by praying and listening to music. He said he couldn’t have gotten through it without prayer.

    Just today I had to have a medical procedure done that isn’t painful but also isn’t particularly pleasant. Yet I got through it just fine by relaxing and doing some yoga breathing – basically this is a technique that helps you focus on something (your breath) other than what’s going on externally.

    No prayer required and no supernatural intervention needed. And really, what is prayer (minus the supposed supernatural element) if not a distraction, focusing and relaxation technique?

  • 26. LeoPardus  |  May 8, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    Prayer is meditation. What the sam-hill else did anyone think it was? Talking to the air?

    Study even just a little about meditative techniques and it becomes quickly obvious what prayer is. Heck even Buddhists (who are almost all atheists) pray.

  • 27. The Apostate  |  May 9, 2008 at 10:27 am

    Leopardus,
    Saying prayer is meditation works for some philosophies, but not all. If prayer was meditation, why would we have a word for it? Meditation, broadly speaking, is thoroughly internal with little regard for the external forces of the supernatural. Meditation, in the religious sense, if anything attempts to harness the goodness of that “other.” Prayer, on the other hand, is always external. It is cultic, a way to manipulate the gods for the benefit of the individual or social group “wishing” for a manifestation of some sort. Even “prayers” of “pure thanksgiving” finds its roots in the groveling to the gods for more of what one has already received (simply look at the Lord’s prayer).

  • 28. LeoPardus  |  May 9, 2008 at 11:41 am

    TA:

    Yes. There are differences really. As you point out, meditation doesn’t try to go external. Prayer can and does work internally but also usually looks externally.
    I was just looking at them in terms of practice. For both, you try to create a state of quiet within yourself, and both are done by citing mantras. (Anyone who things prayer isn’t a chanted mantra should pay attention to the carbon-copy quality of prayers.)
    Of course from another perspective prayer isn’t really external. There’s nothing out there no matter what you pray.

  • 29. laura  |  May 9, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    LeoPardus,

    you said, “But you can take the “God stuff” out of it and find plenty of non-Christian couples working to make really good marriages and to become better people, and growing in their love for one another.”

    Yeah, my marriage worked before I had Christ in it, but it was missing something. And maybe other people’s marriage works with just mutual respect, but that wasn’t happening in mine. Because of Christ, we have found it better to live for each other instead of just with each other. Christ is making my own marriage better, and I’ve seen a lot of other marriages grow because of Christ as well. However, I’m not trying to debate your way of life, I am simply offering a different perspective, that Christ can be center of you life. I know most people on this forum are non-christian or former christians, but I feel that I am being judged right away for offering a perspective that is different than others on here. I don’t want to be judged any more than I want to judge you. thank you for listening.

  • 30. Zoe  |  May 9, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    Laura,

    It may come across as judging you but you might understand as well that your perspective is one most of us lived by before when we were Christians. So, when you share like that, it’s something we already know or knew. We’ve been there, done that. It’s not that Christ wasn’t a part of our marriages at one time. He was. It’s just now, for most of us, the concept of your Christ is not a part of our marriages and we’ve done just fine. Your perspective isn’t different…it’s the same one most of us had before. It’s nothing knew. What is knew to a lot of us, is a successful marriage without the concept of a diety like Christ.

  • 31. Zoe  |  May 9, 2008 at 3:24 pm

    Laura,

    It may come across as judging you but you might understand as well that your perspective is one most of us lived by before when we were Christians. So, when you share like that, it’s something we already know or knew. We’ve been there, done that. It’s not that Christ wasn’t a part of our marriages at one time. He was. It’s just now, for most of us, the concept of your Christ is not a part of our marriages and we’ve done just fine. Your perspective isn’t different…it’s the same one most of us had before. It’s nothing new. What is new to a lot of us, is a successful marriage without the concept of a diety like Christ.

  • 32. Zoe  |  May 9, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    Oops.

  • 33. Lorena  |  May 9, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    Yeah, my marriage worked before I had Christ in it, but it was missing something. And maybe other people’s marriage works with just mutual respect, but that wasn’t happening in mine.

    With all due respect, Laura, I really can’t understand what having a 3rd person in a marriage can add to a relationship between two people.

    When I was a fundamentalist Christian trying to make Jesus the center of my marriage, MY MARRIAGE WAS MISSING SOMETHING.

    It was missing my whole commitment to it, because Jesus had half of it.

    I truly don’t know that else my marriage could have, other than awesome love making, a great friendship, mutual trust, respect for each other, and lots of fun.

    If all that isn’t enough, then perhaps something is deeply wrong with the marriage or the people in it.

  • 34. LeoPardus  |  May 9, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    Laura:

    Christ is making my own marriage better

    Nope. He’s long dead. You may be making your marriage better by choosing to work at it properly, but there’s no “big, invisible guy” out there doing the work. But if you want to credit an imaginary friend go ahead. You could also credit the elves and fairies.

    and I’ve seen a lot of other marriages grow because of Christ as well.

    And I’ve seen a lot of marriages fall apart because of “Christ”, or the Christian faith, or the church, or religion…….. I’ve seen fights and church splits over who/what Christ is or what Christ wants. So that must mean Christ is bad for marriages and churches. (You like my logic? If not, why not? It’s exactly the same as yours.)

    I am simply offering a different perspective, that Christ can be center of you life….I know most people on this forum are non-christian or former christians,

    Actually, if you read the top of the page on this forum, you’d know that we are all “skeptical, de-converting, or former Christians”. So what you’re saying is not at all new or different. It’s the same tired, old pablum we were all fed for years. It’s based on self delusion. Namely the delusion that you have an invisible friend.

    Look, you think you’ve got some sort of “Personal relationship” going on here with some deity. Look in the archives and read “A Personal Relationship with Jesus?” There’s no personal relationship going on. Just wishful thinking.

    I feel that I am being judged right away for offering a perspective that is different than others on here.

    If you are going to come on to a site that says up front that it is an atheist/agnostic site and there try to offer Christian pablum, you’re going to have to develop a bit of a thick skin. You’re views are going to be judged and challenged, and you’re going to have to stand up and take it and then defend it, abandon it, or leave. Nobody is really trying to be vicious toward you, but we have all heard all this junk before, and realized that it’s all self delusion.

  • 35. Mirjam  |  May 9, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    My marriage broke apart because we were quarreling about religion all the time, me being a fundy Christian, him being a Muslim…I really tried to make it work, I prayed a lot but it ended up in divorce. If we hadn’t been filled with that horrendous fear of hell, both, of course, believing that the other person goes there after death if they don’t change their beliefs, if we hadn’t always tried to convince the other person of our faith, then, who knows, our marriage might have succeeded. But Jesus never told me to be less zealous about trying to make my ex convert, he never told me to be reasonable, to be less fanatical… Only when I finally left my marriage, I learned that I’d be an adulterer for the rest of my life if ever I’d get remarried. Where was Jesus when my marriage needed some help from above? Well, the strict ideals about marriage & divorce combined with the lack of tangible help for bad marriages you get from the Bible triggered my deconversion process…

  • 36. laura  |  May 9, 2008 at 5:56 pm

    this site talks a lot about fundamental christians and that is not me and I feel like I was being thrown in that catagory. Not all “christians” think alike, as I’m sure everyone here is aware of. I am saddened that your hearts have hardened to Christ and I will pray for you (gasp!), yes pray, whether you believe it does any good or not, I do, and I don’t think it can hurt your marriage if I pray for you. I stumbled on this site by mistake and I know that you do not want me to throw Christ in your face so I will probably not write again. but I do thank you for the opurtunity to share my views and wish you all the best.

  • 37. Zoe  |  May 9, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    Laura, we can’t harden our hearts for someone who does not exist.

    Certainly you can pray. We all understand that as well. Been there, done that. Just because we have left Christianity does not mean we are uncaring, unkind people. Just because we have left Christianity does not mean our marriages all of a sudden fall apart.

    Throwing Christ in our face, as you put it, is nothing new either. I happens all the time and I dare say, a lot of us here would have done exactly what you have done here, when we were Christians. I certainly understand what you are saying and doing. And yes, all Christians are not alike.

  • 38. Lorena  |  May 9, 2008 at 8:57 pm

    this site talks a lot about fundamental christians and that is not me and I feel like I was being thrown in that catagory.

    Yes, you are the fundamentalist type, Laura. Anybody who speaks about having Christ at the centre of their marriage IS a fundamentalist.

    Non-fundamentalist Christians use religion as a social club. Most don’t let the Bible, Jesus, or the church bother their marriages. The non-fundamentalists fall in the category of hypocrites, and you aren’t a hypocrite. You seem very sincere in and devoted to what you believe.

  • 39. writerdd  |  May 11, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    Anybody who speaks about having Christ at the centre of their marriage IS a fundamentalist.

    I don’t think that’s fair. I think a lot of evangelical, Pentecostal and other born-again Christians who are not technically fundamentalists would also say something like this.

    I for one have not “hardened my heart” against Christ. (I really hate Christian jargon.) But I no longer believe that Christ is a living, supernatural being. He’s a mythological figure, perhaps based on a real human who lived around 2000 years ago.

    I never would have chosen to leave my faith behind, but I outgrew it. And looking back, I find that the whole born-again experience stunted my growth and kept me in a very immature state. It was totally unhealthy. I think that’s true for many other born-again Christians although most can’t see it because they are sitting through self-brainwashing sessions every Sunday to keep them from exploring their doubts and growing through the process.

    I have a great marriage and God has no part in it whatsoever. Sharing my love for my husband with God would not strengthen my marriage in any way.

  • 40. Lorena  |  May 12, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    I don’t think that’s fair.
    Perhaps you are right.

    I am not “God,” and I am not claiming final authority in what I say. They’re just my opinions–but I am sticking with them.

    I have never met a Pentecostal that wasn’t a fundamentalist, have you?

    What is a fundamentalist anyway? In my book, a fundamentalist is one who believes that the Bible is the divinely inspired, inerrant word of God, with eternal authority.

    A person who has Christ at the centre of their marriage is a fundamentalist, because it is a Bible-based doctrine.

    That’s my opinion and my sticking with it.

  • 41. karen  |  May 12, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    What is a fundamentalist anyway? In my book, a fundamentalist is one who believes that the Bible is the divinely inspired, inerrant word of God, with eternal authority.

    There are a lot of definitions, probably the most accurate being the person who holds to the fundamentals published in a booklet around the turn of the last century, when fundamentalism was born as a reaction to the higher criticism of the bible that began and flourished in the 19th century.

    For my money, the best way to define a fundamentalist is as one who holds to an inerrant, literal reading of the bible. Many evangelicals fall into this category, certainly all/many Pentecostals do also.

    More liberal Christians acknowledge that the bible is a product of people, perhaps inspired by god, but not inerrant and not to be taken literally (as in Genesis, Revelation, etc).

    So the view of the bible is a pretty good dividing line, I think.

  • 42. The Apostate  |  May 12, 2008 at 11:39 pm

    karen,

    So the view of the bible is a pretty good dividing line, I think.

    I see where you were going with this, but I am not too sure if I agree. I only say this because we are speaking about terms and concepts that are not only vague, but are terms that evolve over a very short period of time and vary from place to place (“evangelical,” “fundamentalist,” “pentecostal”).

    The main reason I disagree with using the view of the Bible as a dividing line is that “authority,” “inerrant” and “inspired” are all themselves vague terms that every individual takes to mean wildly different things than others that classify themselves under the same Christian label. Not only this, two fundamentalist Christians might agree that the Bible is the “inerrant” word of God, yet neither even attempts to follow it as such (whatever that would mean). Additionally, I would place a bet that 80% of people in any of the three categories stated could not name the majority of the books in the New Testament.

  • 43. Anne  |  May 11, 2011 at 8:15 am

    Having a Christ-Centred Marriage doesn’t mean you have to live up to your spouses religious ideals … we are fallen beings and the key is forgiveness… we must forgive one another as Christ has forgiven us. How does one do this without Christ being the centre? I have gone from being a believer to a non-believer and back again… what I have discovered along the way is that life just doesn’t work without Him at the centre. It is like trying to stop your hunger without food. You have missed the point of what being a true Christian really means.

  • 44. Ubi Dubium  |  May 11, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    We are not fallen beings. That’s rubbish. We humans pulled ourselves up by our own bootstraps to where we are now. Not that there isn’t a lot of room for improvement.

    The key is personal responsibility. We are responsible for our own actions, and it is up to us to make amends for any wrong we have done to another human. No amount of apologizing to an invisible man in the sky can replace actually apologizing to a person you have injured.

  • 45. Nhung  |  February 8, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    Cindy, I’m so sorry for your loss. May the Lord hold you tenderly in his arms of grace and carry you tgurohh this time of grieving. God bless you!Danie

  • 46. cag  |  February 9, 2013 at 12:15 am

    Nhung #45, this is not a personals column. Keep your infantile, ridiculous, weird, nonsensical, worthless, stupid delusion to yourself. Your superstitious beliefs are totally without merit and are not appreciated by sane individuals.

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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

de-conversion wager

Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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