Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Religious Misunderstandings Lead To A Host Of Problems In This Relationship

Dear Tazi:

I will be graduating college in a few months, and my boyfriend of six months suggests that we get married.  I love him very much, and think I would like to marry him.  There is just one problem: He is Muslim and I am Catholic.  I did not think our difference in religion would be difficult to overcome.  I am a strict Catholic - no sex, no drugs, no rock and roll - and he is a strict Muslim.  While discussing marriage, I have discovered just how strict.

"Mohammad" would like me to convert to Islam before we marry, and expects me to follow all of the laws of Islam, including wearing a hijab [Islamic face veil], staying at home instead of working, and being obedient to his word.  I was quite taken aback by these requests and asked Mohammad how he would feel if I asked the same of him.  He replied that such a request is both culturally and religiously out of the question that "your Bible states that women should obey their husbands; your culture requires you to take your husband's last name, making you his subservient".  Tazi, I never thought about things this way!

I am now very confused about everything I have always believed!  Yes, the Bible says to obey my husband; but that is Old Testament stuff, written back when women were considered property.  Is there a more modern translation?  And as for changing my last name, that is tradition!  It does not mean I am subservient to my husband, does it?

I am 22 years old, and am no longer sure of my place in the world.  I love my boyfriend, but am no longer sure of how much.  I don't want to abandon my religion, but looking at what the Bible says, I feel like it does not respect me as a woman.  Do you have any answers for me, Tazi?

Devoted, But No Longer Hopelessly

Dear Devoted But No Longer Hopelessly:

It is not a good idea to take anything religious or cultural at face value.  That is how you end up feeling confused and dispirited as you are now.  Mohammed is correct that the Bible tells women to "submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord" (Ephesians 5:22), but it also says - a few verses later - "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it" (Ephesians 5:25).  

What does this all mean?  Back when these verses were written, women were property of their husbands, and punishments for being disobedient were quite primitive.  The Biblical demand of wifely obedience was promoting a woman's best interests.  The sticking point is the second verse, ordering husbands to love their wives - to the point of ultimate respect, even to the point where they would give their lives for them.  This verse suggests that a husband should always put his wife's care above his own, and put her best interests above his own desires.  (For example, if the wife is not feeling well the husband is Biblically commanded not to demand sex with her).  Could you "obey" a man who would treat you in this manner?  Can Mohammad be this type of man?  Rather than question your religious beliefs, question your boyfriend.

As for the cultural practice of taking your husband's last name upon marriage, this did originate as a sign of ownership - but then so did the engagement/wedding ring, the printing of a bride's photo in the paper (announcing that she is off the market) and other traditions Americans consider sacred.  The continued practice of these cherished traditions does not mean that the original meaning still applies.

I, personally, find the Spanish tradition of a bride keeping her maiden name and adding "de + her husband's name" quite charming - the literal meaning being she is now of her husband's family, while still retaining her identity.  Here in America, women will follow this tradition by hyphenating their last name with their maiden name, and many families make allowances for differences in religion.  I have family members who are of mixed beliefs, and the traditions of both religions are honored (if not practiced) in their homes.  All of these points are things you can discuss with Mohammed as you try to figure out if you still have a future together.

For further counsel, I suggest you talk over your issues with a clergy member - a priest or a religious brother/sister - or a layperson who works as a spiritual adviser.  Most college campuses have some form of campus ministry, and its members are trained to work with young people.


Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

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