Sakamichi no Apollon: What Do You Think It Takes to Make an Interfaith Relationship Work?

One the of most interesting aspects of Sakamichi no Apollon is the inclusion of Christianity in the plot.  In episode two, it’s inferred that Kaoru is surprised (and maybe even a little weirded out) to find that Sentarō and Ritsuko are Christians.  Yet, it doesn’t hinder Kaoru from continuing to pursue a romantic relationships with Ritsuko.

Although that relationship may not come to fruition, the question which remains with me is about how the difference in belief would impact that relationship, if at all.

I had a conversation with Alexander of Ashita no Anime (aside: check out his reasons for disliking the show) in which we discussed the wall a Christian may put up when considering whom to date.  Conservative Christians often choose not to date individuals outside of their faith.  I can attest to this.  Right or wrong, I decided not to further pursue a relationship with a young lady during my college years primarily because of the difference in our religious beliefs.

Alexander further commented that conflict involving faith would be inevitable even in a relationship between Christians – how much more so, I wonder, between a Christian and someone of a different faith?

So, I’ll leave these questions to you readers to discuss:

Have you dated someone with a strong faith in a religion other than yours?  Did it cause difficulties?  If so, how did you resolve them?

Would you ever date someone of a different faith?  What concerns would you have, if any?

Would you consider marrying such a person?


29 thoughts on “Sakamichi no Apollon: What Do You Think It Takes to Make an Interfaith Relationship Work?

  1. It’s hard for me to imagine getting emotionally close someone whose views of how the universe works differ so greatly from my own. But then, I’m the kind of person who is willing to try just about anything if I think there’s something to be gained from it. Being that I don’t have much experience dating outside of Christian girls I’ve asked out refusing to give me the time of day unless I went to church with them I’d be open to the possibility of attempting any relationship with a woman who would give me a chance. Unfortunately, if she was a Christian I think a black could would always be hanging over us because even if she loves me, she would still believe that I’m going to be tortured forever after I die. Which is a) unpleasant to say the least and b) something that I think can’t happen, which brings me back to the start of my thoughts in this comment.

    1. I think your thoughts bring up an important point. One’s religion (or belief system) can be minimally important to an individual, extremely important, or somewhere in the middle. If two people have very strong views about such beliefs, so much so that these beliefs rival or surpass their love for one another, and the views are at odds, it would be hard for them to have a successful, long term relationship.

  2. My parents have been happily married for 30 years. But when they were first married, my mom was a practicing Jew and my dad was Catholic. They got married in a civil ceremony that didn’t incorporate religion, and raised me with elements of both religions. Neither of them is as devout as before, but I realize their relationship worked because they share the same values. To them, each religion meant family and caring about other people. Since these are the tenets of a LOT of religions, I have a lot of hope for interfaith relationships working out.

    1. Thanks for the comments, Lauren. I remember as a child reading a USA Weekend cover article about Cokie Roberts’ marriage – she’s Christian and her husband is Jewish – and I believe they reached the same sort of conclusion in their loving marriage.

  3. I have never dated anyone with a different religious faith. This is not to say that I was actively pursuing people who were only Christians. I don’t think I would have a problem dating a Jewish individual as Jesus was Jewish, he never denounced his faith. I do believe interfaith relationships can work with patience, love, and understanding. I think the way they wouldn’t work if one is trying to force the other to convert. Now asking me if I would date/marry an atheist is a different story.

    1. Religion has become, I think, THE hot-button topic in the U.S., even more so than religion. Because of that, I think you’re absolutely right – it takes a whole lot of “patience, love, and understanding” to develop such relationships and encourage them to grow and blossom.

      If you don’t mind, can I ask why you wouldn’t date or marry an atheist?

  4. While I’ve never been in a relationship…. either with someone of my faith or not… I have seen interfaith relationships work, when both people had similar values and morals. The range in interfaith relationships is amazign – one of my friends is Pagan, married to an Aetheist. Another is Aetheist married to a Christian.

    I would definitely be willing to give an interfaith relationship a shot- my only fear would be, because I know so many Christians (and very conservtive ones at that), who are only trying to convert the person they’re with… Well, that would make me unhappy. I’m a live-and-let-live person. That would definitely be something I was skittish about. I like doing community activities, and would have no problem doing church stuff with them, but they’d have to be willing to reciprocate.

    But if I found someone who wasn’t going to do that to me and was willing to be as open with their fath and accepting of mine, then I’d be willing to date and even marry them.

    1. Thanks for sharing.

      For whatever reason, your comments remind me of some relationships that become interfaith after a marriage has already happened, when one person converts. That becomes a difficult situation. Even though some Christians, for instance, might continually evangelize their partner just because that’s what they feel they need to do, others will feel a real sense of pain in thinking that their partner will not be in Heaven with them. This becomes an unexpected complication in a marriage when, like I mentioned, a change of faith occurs somewhere after it’s begun.

      1. mmm, I hadn’t considered that. I had been thinking about those who date people they feel they can convert. I know there’s a term for this, but usually it’s a teen thing, where they need to bring someone to God through dating (and possibly marrying) them. Usually, when I hear people talk about it, there’s almost nothing about *love* involved… it’s all about the pride of making a convert.

        1. That’s pretty disgusting. 😛

          We use to call a situation where a strong Christian dated a non-Christian “missionary dating,” which is I think the phrase you’re looking for. But whenever my church friends or leaders would discuss it, we used it incorrectly. We basically mentioned it in the context of two people dating out of attraction/love/etc. and the Christian in the relationship trying to evangelize to the other person because they genuinely cared about that individual.

  5. Faith is a huge determining factor of many things in a persons life, so it would at least be very challenging for a relationship to work with people of two different faiths, and for Christians, we’re commanded to only marry other Christians in 2 Corinthians 6:14

    “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?”

    Trying to live a Christian life is hard. You need support and encouragement and if the person you are closest to can’t or won’t support you in that then you are going to struggle. Also, Christians are supposed to live their lives for God following his way and their marriage is a part of that. It needs to reflect Christ as well.

    1. While I know that that verse seems to fit very well with marriage, I think it’s taken out of context in this department. No, I don’t know what it means, but none of the verses around it seem to indicate that it’s talking about marriage. Just had to point that out ^^;;

      1. You’re right, Lynna – the verse doesn’t specifically apply to marriage. It’s about relationships in general. Christians need to avoid yoking, or pairing, with those who don’t believe. One doesn’t have to think to hard to see the problem with such a pairing, which often encourages the Christian in the relationship to drift from God.

        Marriage, of course, is the strongest relationship one person can have with another. At the very least, it’s a good idea to consider these verses when thinking about entering a relationships (and certainly marriage), going to prayer, further verses, and maybe even some pastoral counseling (<— I did this in my aforementioned relationship). But I don't think it's a stretch to go to the most radical application, which is to avoid marriage to a nonbeliever entirely.

    2. Hansha, thank you for adding a biblical basis to the conversation. The “yoke” verse is a very important one for Christians to consider when developing relationships of any kind.

    1. I think it’s quite natural to want to have a relationship with someone that shares your faith – you start out with (probably) similar values and a similar culture.

  6. I’m a conservative Protestant but I’d attend the preferred church of my hypothetical future wife as long as she was conservative as I was. Even if it was Catholic. Although I wouldn’t participate in heavy drinking or bingo or kneeling at the pews or whatever they do.

    I wouldn’t bother marrying Jewish, Atheist, super liberal Christian like Episcopalian, etc. I have an understanding that Jewish mothers are traditionally more the head of the household in Jewish familiest. That wouldn’t really fly with me. And atheists are annoying and unmarriageable. What’s the point of marrying someone and trying to form a traditional relationship like marriage with someone who doesn’t believe in and is even sometimes hostile to traditions? And the concern of Episcopalian speaks for itself!

    1. So I take it that your reasons for not marrying people with those specific beliefs have more to do with habits/personality types than with your religious beliefs?

      1. Yes, since I believe that faith is representative or reflective of personality. Especially among Protestant religions which is basically “Choose Your Flavor” since there are so many varieties.

  7. I just wanted to start off saying that I’m not trying to start a war on here, these are just my opinions 🙂 You don’t have to necessarily agee with me but please be respectful. I’ll do the same.

    I was brought up in a pretty religious family. Well, at least my mom was anyways lol. I was brought up under the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod teachings and honestly, I got fed up with it. This was after k-8th parochial school. My mom also made things very difficult for me. She was very aggressive when it came to religion and anyone who believed something different than her was a sinner. I tried asking questions, you know, logical ones. For ex: Why does it matter what they (other religion) believes in? All she could tell me was “it was wrong and that’s not what we believe in”. I didn’t want to live my life completely close minded to other religions. I started to educate myself and even brought home a Quran. It was from a school field trip that we did(it was a history class and took a field trip to other churches/mosques etc to see how religion impacted cultures). I just found it fascinating. My mom thought i brought something evil into the house lol. Eventually my mom ended up throwing it away because it “bothered” her. This all happened when i was in high school still, senior year i think. About 3 months ago my mom actually got a Quran because she said she had to write a paper about it. She flat out told me “It’s because i’m curious, i wanna know why they believe in what they do”. I called her a hypocrite. I ended up dating a few guys here and there but it wasn’t till 2007 when i met the man i wanted to marry. We got married in 2010 and have been together since. He’s athiest and I, at the time, still had some lutheran influences. We’ve never had a single problem regarding religion in our marriage. We discussed it frequently but it was more like a friendly discussion rather than a debate to prove who was wrong or right. I dont think anybody has anything to fear from an athiest unless you’re getting one that pushes it onto you. My faith was weak to begin with but it’s because of how i got brought up. My husband never once told me that my relgion was stupid. He just said he didn’t understand it but that was my choice and he’d respect it. He even said that when we have kids he’d love to bring them to church because he thinks it will help them understand morals/ethics (aka 10 commandments). He was also brought up catholic. I think in the whole 5 years we’ve been together we can pretty much count on one hand how many disagreements we’ve had. We’ve never yelled or screamed at each other, nor have we left something unsolved. I really think that being in a relationship with someone of another faith, or of no faith, offers something different. It gives you another perspective on life and what you see is completely different than what you’re used to. I defintely agree with you, Twwk, about how being with someone of the same relgion (especially if they both have strong views and no one wants to budge) since that can be just as difficult. I hope what i’ve said makes sense and that i didn’t offend anyone. I’ve honestly just had alot of issues in the way that my mom brought me up in the religion realm of things. I think what’s made it all better for me was finding someone who had a different opinion and just talking to them about it. I just feel so much better about it all. Thanks for reading 🙂

    1. Brittany, thanks so much for sharing. I really appreciate you giving us such personal details in helping explain how you feel.

      I really think you brought up a number of really important things to consider. First, conflict in a relationship when it comes to religion usually erupts when one or both sides feel strongly that he/she/they are correct. For instance, your husband seems to be very open and you as well; if a conservative Christian who was very strong in her faith or an atheist who was very anti-religion married, the relationship would certainly struggle.

      I also think your views on your mom are a pretty important lesson to Christians. A lot of us accept what we’re told without necessarily fully understanding why we believe; this is why when we’re asked about a different faith, we might become defensive or not have an answer. Sometimes, the reason is ignorance or laziness – and sometimes its fear that if we delve too deeply, we might start to lose the faith we hold so dear. But if we believe that God is real, there shouldn’t be anything to fear in exploring other religions and asking those hard questions; I think that Christians can be, in an ironic way, both open and closed – willing to discuss and explore, while still believe that our faith is true.

      Thanks again for the comments!

      1. Great post TWWK!
        I especially appreciate the 2nd half and especially so this part: “Sometimes, the reason is ignorance or laziness – and sometimes its fear that if we delve too deeply, we might start to lose the faith we hold so dear. But if we believe that God is real, there shouldn’t be anything to fear in exploring other religions and asking those hard questions; ”

        I admit I’ve got a bit of story, which is far too long to share here, but that part, as well as the paragraph in it’s whole, hits the nail on the head for me. Thanks!

        1. Well thank you – I’m glad my comments were meaningful to you! If you ever care to share your story, please feel free to use this forum or to send me an email. 🙂

  8. Hmm, an interesting question.
    Now what I am about to say is not to be taken as a stab at anybody, but a respectful opinion. If I should offend you, then apologies in advance.

    The bible has a few verses in regards to relationships with people who aren’t Christians. As a person mentioned above, 2 Corinthians 6:14, as well as the verses immediately following it, touch the subject. A quick quote, of said verses:

    “14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial[b]? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. ”

    These verses do not specifically refer to marriage, rather they talk about relationships in general. At the same time though, marriage is one of the strongest relationships you will ever have in life, so these verses, in my humble opinion, do apply. From what I see, the verses definitely warn about becoming to close non-Christians, as it can become a stumbling stone in your walk of faith. I could also point at 1 Corinthians 15:33 which states ” Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.'”

    As others have mentioned however, such interfaith relationships do work when the focus isn’t so much about the religion, but about common ground ideals such as family and caring for others. However, I would like to point out something: For Christians, marriage is not just love, family or commitment. Yes those are aspects to it, but the most important aspect is that Christ is the center of marriage. As Christian, Christ is the center of our life, and we put nothing above that, not even marriage.

    When two people marry, they become one flesh, one entity. As believers in Christ, our bodies become the Temple of Christ. So the same, the body of marriage becomes the temple of Christ. When two people are united in Christ, their goal is to grow in Christlikeness throughout the life of the marriage. If a Christian marries a non-Christian, how can they become a temple of Christ and pursue Christ? This to me suggests that inter-faith marriage simply does not line up with the Bible.

    To end this post, let me make this clear:

    I am not trying to marginalize, demonize or invalidate those who feel interfaith marriage works.I am not you. I don’t know all the feelings or thoughts you might have and I most certainly can’t judge how you stand before God. That is his job.

    However, I simply seek to point out a few things about interfaith marriage that don’t seem to completely line up with Scripture. Regardless of how you feel about this topic though, I simply pray that God’s will be done in your life and that his grace may continue to work in you.

    1. Excellent points! Thanks for sharing. I would also add that the model of marriage reflects at least a couple of other relationships: 1) that between Christ and the church and 2) the oneness/separateness and perfect union of the Trinity. The idea then of a believer marrying a non-believer just doesn’t seem to jive in regards to these models.

      That said, like you touched on, the depth of one’s relationship with God is important. The Bible demands us to lay down our lives for Christ – if we aren’t pursuing that kind of life, this question probably doesn’t matter all that much.

  9. I’m an Episcopalian (of the political left and the theological Anglo-Catholic High via media) and would under ideal circumstances prefer somebody of similar inclinations or, what might sound strange, a Buddhist; I’d be comfortable with a Buddhist because the nature of my academic study and personal history has given me a familiarity with and affection for a religion. I’m sufficiently Rahnerian soteriologically to not feel inclined to engage in missionary dating. I doubt things would go well if I dated or married an actively or vocally irreligious person but within the scope of religion my preferences are less strong than one might think, simply because I just don’t happen to meet that many people who share the whole set of my beliefs.

    In the past I’ve been romantically attached to a very liberal nondenominational Protestant, an Episcopalian considerably more conservative than myself (I take serious issue with the idea that conservative Episcopalians don’t exist, even though I’m not one myself), and an incredibly angst-ridden agnostic who was raised Southern Baptist. None of these relationships went well and I’ve since drifted into celibacy (as opposed to chastity, which was the case all along) but none of them failed because of religious tensions. My really close relationships are currently to my extended family, which is a hodgepodge of Catholics and people who converted away from Catholicism to various mainline Protestant denominations over the years, and to my best friend, who’s a Mahayana Buddhist of the Tendai school. I’ve experienced enough Grace in my relationships with these people that I don’t really think about our differences in intellectual assent to various doctrinal formulae anymore, even though I know that it’s probably more relevant in the long run than I’d like (though I still think less so than some Pharisaical types might think it would be).

    Sorry for the relative lateness of my comment!

    1. Perpetua, thanks for sharing! I don’t have anything worthwhile to add, but I do want to say that I really found your account of your relationship history (romantic and otherwise) very interesting. Thanks for the insights!

  10. I am not really opposed to interfaith marriages in and of itself, but I’ve seen through my parents the issues those relationships can have: my dad is a conservative Pentecostal, but my mom was raised in a lax Catholic home and her personal beliefs are probably along the lines of one of the real liberal denominations like the United Church of Christ. Their differing religious and political views have caused a lot of tension in my family.

    1. Yes, I’ve met many in similar circumstances. I tend to find that the more conservatively religious of the two partners has the roughest time in most cases, as the less conservative tends to allow more leeway for different beliefs and actions. It’s difficult to deal with, especially when both partners believe they are right about an important issue!

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