From a reader, who asked to remain anonymous:
Is it a good idea to date a young-earth creationist? I’m pretty sure I’m one of the few people in my church that isn’t a YEC. I know that I can’t be picky because a female theistic evolutionist who also likes baseball, snorkeling and footlong chili cheese dogs doesn’t just walk in to the sanctuary every Sunday. But on the other hand, I don’t want our views to be a grounds for arguing which would be unhealthy for a relationship.
This is a great question, one that highlights one of the most important aspects of the whole “evolutionary-creationists-being-part-of-the-church” thing, and yet, it’s often overlooked, even by those of us who write all the time about the whole “evolutionary-creationists-being-part-of-the-church” thing.
Now, let me say up front that I’m not a dating or marriage expert. Hang on, I should probably put that in bold: I AM NOT A DATING OR MARRIAGE EXPERT. There, that’s better. Anyway, I’m delighted to share my thoughts, my best advice based on my own experience, and whatever biblical knowledge and wisdom God has been pleased to give me, but when seeking guidance on something as weighty as dating and marriage, it’s always advisable to cast one’s net as widely as possible and beg the Lord for discernment.
That being said, what I think this really comes down to is less a matter of beliefs and more a matter of how a person handles his or her beliefs — what you might call their “posture.” I’ll use my wife and me as an example. She was raised in a fundamentalist Baptist church, in the great young-earth tradition. She was indoctrinated in the idea that evolution is not only factually incorrect, it’s “WRONG” in the theological and moral sense, as well.
When I decided, my senior year of college, that I was definitely not a young-earth creationist, or an old-earth creationist, or a progressive creationist, or a special creationist, or any other kind of anti-evolutionary creationist — and that I planned to be quite open and, shall we say, “assertive,” about these beliefs, my then-girlfriend and I had a few of the most painful conversations we’ve ever had. We don’t fight very often, and we didn’t really “fight” even then. Instead, we had a series of very serious, very scary talks about our relationship and our views of origins and whether or not we could actually make it all work.
I don’t recall that we ever discussed breaking things off, but I do remember thinking that it was the only time in our relationship that I thought such an outcome was not only possible, but likely. It didn’t exactly help matters that she had no shortage of friends at her conservative Christian school who were, in fact, begging her not to marry a man who was obviously a godless heathen (namely, my handsome self).
Obviously, we made it through that little rough patch, and we’ve since enjoyed almost four years of deliriously happy(ish) marital bliss. For the most part, my wife’s perspective on evolution can still be better described as cautiously testing the waters with one toe, rather than diving in head-first alongside me. Even so, we quarrel far more often about things like me leaving my socks in the living room than we do about Darwin’s theory on the origin of species.
So, how do we make it work? This brings me back to what I said at the beginning, and I think this is something that applies to any disagreement, whether it’s over our origins, baseball or footlong chili cheese dogs.
I can’t imagine you’ll ever find a partner who will agree with you on everything. So, the real question is: Is she (or he) the kind of person who can separate the chaff from the wheat? In other words, can she reasonably differentiate between the values, principles and beliefs that are absolutely “essential” to her, and those that are, well, not so much?
In our situation, my wife could, and it helped enormously that we had already laid a strong foundation. We had served in minstry together, we had prayed for each other and we had helped carry each other’s burdens in countless ways, long before the evolution question ever reared its head. She trusted me, and she had no doubt that my faith was the most important thing in my life, so she knew that all her “friends” who were telling her I “wasn’t a real Christian” were full of it.
Now, in your case, you must be able to keep various issues in perspective, too. But you also have to ask yourself, “Am I the type of person that will be OK being with someone who doesn’t agree with things that — essential or not — I know to be true?”
That was the way that I had to change in our relationship. Basically, I had to let go of the idea that everything that was obvious to me would be just as obvious to everyone else. And, if you’ll let me frank, I had to stop being such a dick about that kind of stuff, because I was making someone I love feel like she was stupid for not automatically agreeing with something that I thought was so perfectly clear.
Maybe some of those who think I’m too harsh on this site would say I haven’t yet gone far enough in that regard, but I really am a lot less abrasive than I used to be.
In closing, I would simply say that this can and does work. I personally know plenty of other people who have also built successful marriages despite harboring disagreements over evolution or any number of other issues. If you can forgive me for using the Ultimate Marriage Cliche™, I honestly believe that, when it comes right down to it, all that matters is love: real, self-sacrificial love, as described in 1 Corinthians 13.
Love is patient, love is kind. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things, and it never fails. And if you can’t commit to trying your very hardest to be that to another person, then I’d respectfully suggest that you really have no business marrying anyone, regardless of whether they believe the universe was made last Thursday or 14 billion years ago.