Ask Margot-We’re Fighting Over The Bible

Her new guy takes everything in the Good Book literally; she doesn't. Will their romance survive?

By Margot Carmichael Lester

ear Margot,
I'm having a small crisis and am hoping you can help me out. I got in a huge fight with the man I'm dating because he takes everything in the Bible literally, and I "fudge" on some things. Now, I'm not out there advocating infidelity or anything. But I do believe that some parts of scripture are open
It's not like you want to eat sushi and he wants a burrito.
to interpretation. This argument has me wondering if we should even keep dating, given this rather important difference of opinion. What do you think?
-Tired of Arguing in Austin

Dear Tired,
This is more than a difference of opinion, and frankly the gap may be too wide to bridge. It's not like you want to eat sushi and he wants a burrito. Too many of us think that because we practice the same faith, it doesn't matter if we practice it the same way. And maybe if the only divergence in your form of observance is going to different services or different churches, that would be OK. But when the difference is in how you believe, the issue becomes much stickier. Especially when you're talking about literal interpretations of the Good Book.

Almost every religion has a set of ancient and sacred texts. Every practitioner has to make decisions on a daily basis of how to live by these words. Some people are very strict in their observance; others less so. So while the words may be the same to both of you, the way you apply them to your lives may be different. The question isn't who's being literal and who's fudging. The question is, are your belief systems similar enough to sustain a healthy relationship?

All couples face this question, not just those with religious differences. Sharing beliefs about the big things in life is probably the first prerequisite for long-term happiness.

Regular readers of this column know that I'm a firm believer that one of the fundamental keys to a successful dating relationship is compatible core beliefs. I've been in enough bad relationships to know firsthand that one of the biggest reasons we don't keep seeing someone is often a divergence in our most basic views—our codes of conduct, if you will.

So I can't suggest that it's a good idea for you to keep seeing someone whose core beliefs are so dramatically different from yours. It's unlikely he will budge, and since you want to fudge, it seems like you'll be working at cross purposes forever. And there's enough conflict that occurs naturally when you're dating someone (the whole toilet seat up or down issue, whether to eat out or stay in, whose car you should take), that adding another layer that's this intense isn't advisable. Being with someone who's unaligned with you on such a fundamental issue is a
You deserve to be with someone who shares your perspective on the Good Book.
recipe for unhappiness, if not constant judgment and argument.

Plus, you don't say anything in your letter that leads me to believe you're crazy about the guy, so why stick around? You deserve to be with someone who shares your perspective on the Good Book.

So here's how to become unyoked. Tell him you respect his interpretation, but because you don't share it, you want to stop dating. That way, you're both free to start looking for someone who possesses a similar view of the Bible.

This will be hard for him to argue with. And if he does, don't engage him. Your decision is final and is being made with the utmost consideration of both his and your faith. End of story.

Then, to get you on your way to finding someone more compatible, ask yourself — and answer — these five questions:
  1. Is faith in God enough to sustain you, or do you need to know more about your date's way of applying faith to his life?
  2. When you say "fudge", do you mean disregard—or are you asking in an indirect way whether you should toe the line or not?
  3. Are you worrying about being judged for being "less Christian"? Why?
  4. How confident are you in your own consistency in applying faith to life?
  5. Has this issue come up before in your dating life?
Knowing where you stand in your own faith, and your feelings about another person's beliefs, will help you avoid choosing people who don't share your beliefs. And if this kind of conflict has happened before, it's time to take a harder look at why you keep picking people who are more fundamentally focused than you are. Maybe you desire a deeper faith? Perhaps you want to explore your own views more deeply? Whatever the reason, you need to get clear on what's motivating your decision-making.

Margot Carmichael Lester is a freelance writer based in North Carolina. Send your faith-based dating questions to
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