Originally published by Newsweek.com on 1/4/07.
Jan. 4, 2007 - It was only a little while after our first lunch as a married couple that my new husband got a test of faith. It came from my grandmother, who said that she didnít know how anyone intelligent could be a creationist. Not that I could blame her. Before I met my husband, Rob, I would have laughed and agreed with her. This time, though, I glanced at my new husband, inwardly sighed, and wondered how heíd respond. With grace, as it turned out. ďIím a creationist,Ē he calmly said. Grandma quickly changed the topic.
When I first met Rob four years ago, I had no idea that he was a creationist. He had told me that his parents were fundamentalist Christians, but was silent about his own beliefs. At the time, I was between churches. I had left the Roman Catholic Church of my youth when I was 16 and would spend the next eight years searching for a new religious home before finally settling upon liberal Quakerism. It was only months into our relationship that he broke the news to me, while I was wondering aloud how different shapes of noses evolved. ďI donít believe in evolution,Ē he said. ďIím a creationist.Ē
Before Rob, I hadnít known any creationists. I assumed that they were people who believed in the Bible more than in scientific data, probably out of stupidity. Whenever I imagined what a creationist might look like, he or she was always standing up on a podium, passing judgment on all evolutionists, condemning them as nonbelievers and scorning them with hateful words. I wasnít sure where these people lived, but I figured it was probably down South somewhere, or in the Midwest. Surely Iíd never have to interact with any of them.
But falling in love with Rob changed everything. Though he was a creationist, he didnít condemn me for not being one. On the contrary, he accepted my beliefs as legitimate and never tried to convert me. Still, it was hard for me to accept that my image of creationists could have been wrong. Instead, I made an exception for Rob, reasoning that he was different. But then, after a year of dating, the time came to finally meet his family.
I was terrified. Rob had been hesitant to let me meet his family, mainly over fear that I wouldnít approve of them or that they wouldnít approve of me. I wasnít going to a fundamentalist Christian college; I was a liberal Democrat; and, perhaps worst of all, I was an evolutionist who didnít believe the Bible was the literal word of God. My perception of what a Christian should be was different from theirs; while I called myself a Christian, I could not take the Bible literally, which, to Robís family, was a requirement for a Christian.
The first family dinner I attended was held at the home of Rob's aunt and uncle. From the moment I walked in, I felt uncomfortable. Could these people ever accept me for who I was? Robís father did his best to engage me in conversation. When the dinner ended, Rob and I stayed to play a couple rounds of dominos. I ended up having fun, and even had moments where I forgot that they all believed that the entire universe was created in only seven days.
After that, things got both easier and more complicated. Iíd received a unanimous thumbs-up from his family, but topics that were avoided at my first dinner werenít out of bounds for subsequent ones. I uncomfortably listened through conversations about Robís aunt and motherís quest to find a good gynecologist who didnít perform abortions. His relatives talked about the churches they were attending, but they never asked Rob or me which one we were going to. Which was convenient, actually, since Rob and I were not attending any church at the time.
Shortly after my graduation from St. Johnís College in Annapolis, Rob and I were married in a private ceremony at the local courthouse, with two friends as witnesses. I found that I was completely accepted into Robís family. As time passed, I learned that there was more to them than being creationists. The more time I spent with his family, the more comfortable I became around them. I came to realize how kind and loving they were and the image in my mind of the hateful, unintelligent creationist slowly began to fade.
It has now been more than two years since Rob and I were married. Since then, Iíve become a convinced Quaker who attends meetings nearly every Sunday. Rob, on the other hand, spends his Sundays sleeping in, preferring to worship in private when he chooses. Every Sunday evening, we have dinner with his family. Though Iíll never be a creationist, they accept me for who I am. I now realize that I was the one passing judgment on the creationists instead of them passing judgment on me.