I’m not dating anyone right now. But I can guarantee you one thing: if I were, about 50% or more of the people in my life, upon me saying I was dating someone, would ask two questions:
- What’s his name?
- Does he love Jesus?/Is he following the Lord?/ Is he a christian?
Growing up in the church, it was clear to me that a potential partner (i.e. anyone I’d date, because why, for the love of pete, would you date anyone that you weren’t “probably going to marry”? —I have thoughts on that for another day) needed to go to church and be a Christian. Which, by the way, is the real question lurking behind the guise of the trite question “does he love Jesus” for at least 50% of those 50+% that ask.
Being a christian (read: church culture participation) was the most important thing. So much so that the people who know a guy or gal marginally enough to ask whether the person they’re dating loves Jesus often stop asking about the person after that question is answered.
My parents have been delicate in this with me, which I appreciate, but I didn’t know exactly what I thought about it until a couple years ago when I started to date someone who didn’t know how he felt about God and was not involved in the church. “American Christian/agnostic” was probably a good description of where he was at.
While we’re weren’t in a relationship, just going on dates getting to know one another, I found myself one afternoon in a car with my mom when she brought it up. I could tell she’d been thinking about it a while. It wasn’t her first or second question about him. But it still came to that question, or rather that concern (which, for the record, I think is fine. Parents, I hope you hope for what you believe to be best for your children. Christ, christian culture, church, whatever included.)
“I am a little concerned about the whole belief in God thing, Jo,” she said sensitively. I knew she brought it up because she cared.
My response, though it did not feel defensive, felt heavy, and my words surprised me and educated me on how I felt as they left my lips.
“He treats me well. He’s kind to me. He respects me as a human being. I’m sorry mom, but those are things that are more important to me right now than him believing in God. I’ve been hurt and disrespected by men who believe in God before. I’d rather date a kind, respectful man who doesn’t know what he believes, or knows that he doesn’t believe in God, than the opposite.”
I still stand by that. Because when it comes down to it, loving Jesus is a matter of the heart, and it changes you. I have known, and known of, far too many “christian men” who act in ways toward others I would never desire. I will choose a man with a loving, kind heart like Jesus’ heart (whether he thinks Jesus is a falsity or not) first and foremost, every time.
Ideally, I think life is often easier when couple’s belief systems line up. Ideally, I’d like that for my own life in the long run. Heck, ideally, I’d like to figure out what my belief system is for myself at some point. But when it comes down to it, when I’m dating someone, I will have far more questions that are more important to me than what his name is, and does he “love Jesus.”
Here are some good questions that should be answered about the man/woman you date or those you care deeply for are dating:
- What is his name?
- What do you like about him?
- Does he have a history of violent crime? (Yes, it’s still a crime if he wasn’t caught.)
- Does he batter women? (Yes, you count in that. Yes, every other woman counts in that.)
- Does he deal drugs? (This can endanger you. Have you seen breaking bad?)
- Has he ever made you feel less valuable? (Chances are you are not “crazy” even if he says you are.)
- Does he participate in illegal dog fights? (Please tell me you’re not dating Michael Vick.)
- How does he treat the waiter when you’re at a restaurant? (Waiters are people too.)
- How does he treat poorer people? (Poorer people are people too.)
- Does he care about the earth? (We all should, but at least make sure you’re compatible.)
- Does he cheat on you constantly? (No, I’m not going to define “cheat” for you.)
- Does he cheat on you occasionally? (No, I’m not going to define “occasionally” for you.)
- Will you have to compromise your dreams, ambitions, or personality traits to be with him? (that’s right, sh*t just got real.)
- Is he part of the CIA and thus might have to lie a lot and probably get your house shot up at least once? (I know you loved the show Alias, but I’ve heard rumors that real life might be different than TV.)
- Is his main form of income acting in pornos? (Again, if you’re OK with this, fine, if not, it maaayyy be a red flag.)
- Is he racist, homophobic, or otherwise scared or hateful toward any people group? (No jokes here. 100% Legitimate question.)
- Does he ask you to have sex with others in exchange for money? (Unless you realize he is your pimp and you are ok with this. If that is not the case, this is not love, honey.)
- Does he require you to perform degrading acts in the bedroom that you do not consent to? (You have a woman-born right to get the hell out of that relationship.)
- Does he stone you for not wearing your burka? (Probably not a great guy.)
- Does he drown kittens for fun? (I mean, as long as he loves Jesus this one is probably ok.)
- Does he love to burn things to the ground and ask you to wait at home? (This is called arson and could leave you lonely while he is in prison.)
- Does he ask you to drive getaway cars when he robs banks? (This is participation in a felony — Orange probably isn’t really the new black. Just food for thought.)
But hey, pretty much all of these are fine if he goes to church. You know that, right? You didn’t? Oh, good, now you guys are set.
*Note. This is satire. If you didn’t catch that. Just wanted to be sure.
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Jo O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.
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