In this article Garrett Smith explores his changing attitude toward dating "outside" of the New Church. Like Meryl Cowley a couple weeks ago in Spirituality in Relationships, Garrett concludes that spanning differences of religious background with romantic interest offers some unique benefits as well as challenges. - Editor
So… who am I, and what does dating “outside” the church mean? First, a little background:
I grew up in about as New Church a family as they come. As a preacher’s kid, I had the privilege of living the gypsy-esque lifestyle that is normal for any preacher’s family—in our case moving from Mitchellville, MD to Westville, South Africa before finally ending up in Kempton, PA. Through these moves, the New Church was always strong focus in our day-to-day life and I remember that our family had worship most weeknights at home and went to church pretty much every Sunday. (Religiously you might even say.)
For schooling, all three of my older brothers ended up going to “normal”, public schools—although they might disagree with calling the uniformed, British, all-boys, public high school that they went to, “normal”. I on the other hand managed to skip public school all together. Through careful planning started as a 5-year-old, I managed to go from Washington New Church School to Kainon New Church School to Kempton New Church School to The Academy of the New Church finally ending up at Bryn Athyn College of the New Church for freshman and sophomore year of college. (You may notice a common suffix to all of these school titles.)
With religion classes standard in the curriculums of all of the above, I mention my schooling only as a preface to illustrate the pervasiveness of New Church teachings that I was exposed to by the end of sophomore year in college. The specific doctrine relevant to this particular story is that by this stage I was very familiar with was: you should not marry outside of the church. The very reasonable reason for this being that having the same religion is the most important criteria to be sure of when getting married. This being the case, it’s probably best to not even date outside of the church.