BY: KEZIA ROYER-BURKETT
I grew up going to church every Sunday with my family; it was just what we did. I always thought I would marry someone from the same faith as me but as time goes on it’s starting to look very bleak. I have experienced more negative situations dating guys I have met at church than anywhere else. My parents always asked when I start dating a guy “Is he Christian?” I used to feel guilty saying no when I began to venture outside of dating guys at church. But now I care less about religion but more about how the guy lives his life, I like to see if his said beliefs match his actions. Anyone can go to church on Sunday, it doesn’t mean they are a good person.
At the age of fourteen, my parents decided to attend a new church, and the head pastor of the church was a woman. As a young girl growing up in the church, I had never seen a woman as the head of the church, and I was in awe of what appeared to be extraordinary progressive leadership.
At the age of sixteen, I volunteered at the church’s summer camp as a camp leader. That summer I met this guy that helped with the accounting at the church and we instantly connected. He took me on my first real date ever. As a girl growing up, I always dreamed of meeting the man of my dreams at a young age, and we would grow up together like the movie Love and Basketball. We would meet in my first year of high school, grade nine and date all throughout my high school years, go to prom together like I saw on tv and possibly go to the same post-secondary school. The guy and I officially became boyfriend and girlfriend a couple of weeks after meeting as my parents surprisingly agreed to the relationship. He was such a nice guy, he volunteered at church and attended bible study. He genuinely loved the Lord and motivated me to strengthen my relationship with God.
People at church started to learn about our relationship and it even got back to the head pastor which was a bit shocking because it was a 5,000 member church. The guy that I had fallen hopelessly in love with, was being mentored to become a pastor so the pastors at the church kept a close eye on his activities etc. The age gap of us dating really rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, he was five years older than me but over eighteen and I was sixteen, so before our relationship could really start it faced a lot of opposition. We decided to keep our relationship private, we didn’t sit together at church, and I didn’t share the details of my relationship with people. My first real relationship was a secret, but I was ok with it because I figured it wouldn’t be like this forever. I was almost eighteen and then we could make our relationship public.
To make a long story short the guy I was dating was forced to break up with me as per the pastor’s instructions because they said we were not spiritually compatible. I was now seventeen and heartbroken, who was I going to go to prom with? How could someone else decide who should and shouldn’t date? The guy was encouraged to date and marry another girl from the church, someone they had asked to mentor me. So basically my boyfriend married my mentor, and I was left single and confused.
My ex’s marriage lasted about five years maximum, he was unhappy. He didn’t want to be married to that woman, he did it for the church, and ended up stuck in a position. He was asked to leave the church because of the divorce and remarried and is living happily with his new growing family.
I share all of this to ask, is it the church’s position to determine who people date and marry? Should anyone, even religious leaders have more influence over your life than your conscience? The irony of this story is that the pastor is divorced herself and giving ultimatum style advice to members of her church and landing them in failing marriages.
Have you ever experienced dating drama at church? Or any other religious institution? If so, please share your stories with me and I will share them through the column.