Love in the pews: would you convert for your soul mate?

Everyone hopes to meet their soul mate, assuming you believe in soul mates. That one person with whom every day will be a new adventure of self-discovery and joyous awakening.

Sometimes just meeting that person isn’t enough. Then come the obstacles, whether they be financial or familial. Or some other seeming roadblock to love.

Photo by Aunty Owwee

This is the time when both members of the relationship decide what is and isn’t important to them. We call them “deal breakers” and everybody has them.

For some, faith is a deal breaker. I once had a couple dates with someone who repeatedly referred to her Christian faith in a way that told me she had something on her mind.

As it turned out, we were not on the same faith wavelength and we went our separate ways.

Of course, sometimes love trumps all, doesn’t it? Of course it does. Otherwise, Hollywood would be out of business.

Why am I thinking about this? A couple reasons.

I recently read this story of Rohin Mullah of Myanmar.

Born a Buddhist, he fell in love with a girl on the other side of the religious divide – a member of the Rohingya minority group shunned by Myanmar society at large. He has since been ostracized by his former neighbors, lost his home and lives in a camp for displaced people in western Rakhine state, which is reeling from an upsurge of Buddhist-Muslim violence since June.

The interesting part of the story is this: the couple has been married for ten years and seemingly lead a tough life. Mullah has not seen his family since he converted and his wife has never met her in-laws.

Intermarriage is quite rare in Myanmar, according to the story. Despite estimates of around 800,000 Rohingya living in the state, there are “not more than 100” mixed-marriage couples, an official said.

Still, Mullah and his wife express no regrets.

I don’t think Americans are that extreme with religion, but it can split families and cause hurt feelings.

I have friends who have been dating for some time and he is converting to Catholicism for her. They plan to marry once the conversion is complete.

I find it interesting, since this is not like going from Lutheran to Presbyterian. Or from Episcopalian to Methodist.

The Catholics run a pretty tight ship. But my friend is happily climbing on board and learning how to swab the decks, so to speak.

So what is the downside? It’s all about Jesus and the Good Book, right? Just a matter of interpretation.

I suppose you could say that a convert for love probably isn’t as committed as others of the faith. Not sure about that. If you’re in love enough to switch religions, that relationship is likely to motivate you in your new faith.

A 2009 Pew Research Center poll showed that converts were more committed to their religion than believers since birth. Of course, the poll isn’t broken down into those who converted for love, but it’s relevant data, I think.

Would you switch faiths for your current partner? Or for singles, would you switch faiths for the chance at true love?

About John Hilton

I grew up in Susquehanna County, Pa. and graduated Syracuse University with a dual degree in journalism/political science in 1998. After working for nearly three years for a weekly paper in upstate New York, I came to southcentral Pennsylvania. I spent 13 years as a reporter and editor for The Sentinel in Carlisle and joined the York Daily Record as religion reporter in September 2011.
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