IT HAPPENED TO ME: I Dated a Fundamentalist Christian

I wanted be with him, even if it was hard for me to not roll my eyes when he said that he would pray for me, or that he hoped that one day I would attend church with him.
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Brooke Tomlinson
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I wanted be with him, even if it was hard for me to not roll my eyes when he said that he would pray for me, or that he hoped that one day I would attend church with him.

Dating is rough, but everyone knows that. A few months ago, I decided to see what Tinder was all about. After a few swipes, I ended up chatting with a brawny man (we’ll name him ‘Stan’) who seemed to be a total delight. Pleasantries were exchanged, contact numbers given, and a meet/greet scheduled.

We meet at a gorgeous bar/coffee shop of his choosing, and talked for hours about how hot it is, how we both sweat too much for our own good, the Saga comic books series, and our hobbies. 

A little light afternoon reading in the park.

A little light afternoon reading in the park.

It was Monday, so we chatted about our weekends; his was filled with Sunday school, helping set up his church, and other church-related activities. What had I done that weekend? I volunteered at a wellness clinic, partied with my ladies, and spent some quality time on my couch participating in a Netflix marathon.

He told me more about himself, his culinary background, and the work that he does with his neighborhood’s garden. Pretty standard first date material. The shop was closing up, so we parted ways, and with much enthusiasm, set a date to see each other again. 

Looking back, it should have been a red flag that this Tinder date that did not involve any PG-13 action. Instead I walked home thinking, “This is amazing. I made a joke about our fundamental differences, and he gave me a huge hug!” It seemed that our disparity would not stop him from wanting to see me a second time.

Over the following weeks, Stan and I saw an awful lot of each other. The process of getting to know someone, especially during the first few days of “pitching woo” are almost always filled with frenzied longing, followed by hours of make outs and over-sharing. Stan and I would sit on his roof deck, drink beers, and talk about how I grew up “In the Fold,” participating in the Walk for Life as part of a church trip, attending two summer vacation Bible camps each summer, questioning what I was taught to believe, and eventually leaving organized religion all together. At face value, we had a lot to talk about. The dates would often end with him saying that he was looking forward to seeing me again, and that he hoped to talk further about my volunteer work. This became our “thing.”

Because Stan was open to listening to me, I found myself drawn to him. He was incredibly handsome, kind, goofy, and a wonderful cook. Talking to him came naturally. Public displays of affection that I normally reserve for long-term partners were not an issue; I wanted be with him all of the time, even if it was hard for me to not roll my eyes when he said that he would pray for me, or that he hoped that one day I would attend church with him.

Our first fight happened when I told him that I wanted to take our relationship to “the next level.” My timing was not great, since I sprung this on him after an evening involving a giant brisket sandwich and heavy canoodling. I was trying to set the mood! He told me that he wasn’t ready and that we “were already at an inappropriate level of intimacy.” I reminded him that we did meet on Tinder, followed by a giggle. He was not amused.

I had a medical procedure later that week, and Stan took it upon himself to learn about what was going on with me. The process was innocuous but it kick-started a major conversation: I was having my IUD removed and a new one inserted. Stan came over, made me pancakes (lemon meringue with blueberry compote, if you must know), and told me that he didn’t fully understand what the device did. He expressed concern that his feelings with regard to “life beginning at conception” clashed with mine. I chuckled, since at first I thought he was joking. 

I’m a clinic escort, and all-around reproductive rights/advocacy kinda gal. It’s important to educate people about contraception, especially if they are confused. His demeanor did not change following my chortle. 

Stan was concerned that my birth control was terminating "our" fetus, from the intercourse that we were definitely not having. I had no idea how to react to this, other than quelling the urge to jump down his throat. I took a moment to gather my thoughts.

We talked about birth control, and that was the end of the dialogue. He did not sleep over that night and told me a few days later that he would be going away for a week.

When he came back, he told me that he was not comfortable with how our relationship was moving so quickly and that I needed to stop trying to rush him into the bedroom. “Hey, maybe he's right,” I thought. I slowed my roll, since there is nothing wrong with hearing that someone isn't ready for sex and respecting that.

As the relationship progressed, we talked more and more about intimacy, our expectations, and the issues that he felt “we” would face. He was concerned that I would not want to have children (this conversation took place around Week Four), and that I would not understand if he decided to grow more devout in his faith. It hurt to hear these things. I found myself growing resentful that he viewed me as a godless heathen who needed to be quarantined from this huge aspect of his life.

I told him that I can be good, without God. It hurt my feelings when he would tell me that he wouldn’t seriously consider dating me since I do not identify with any particular faith. I made sure to remind him of the things I saw when I was much younger, especially at pro-life rallies, which made me question the beliefs held by my family and my church. Stan was different than those people, and I emphasized that over and over to him.

Stan was a good person. At the end of the day, people are not defined by one aspect of their lives, but rather the big picture: I have met people who are wonderful ambassadors for their faith. I wanted to hear what this person had to say! He was unlike the protestors outside of the clinics, at which I volunteer. He heard my story, and wanted to talk about how he found the protestors’ behavior to be problematic: "They're lazy; if they really cared about the patients, they would be volunteering their time talking about sexual education and reflecting on how God doesn't judge. It's about free will."

Whenever Stan would say things along those lines, my heart would melt. His faith and anger toward the clinic protestors quickly became a topic of regular conversation. “Equality between the sexes does nothing but enhance our society” was my favorite sound bite from him. This message of equality was appreciated, and I was hopeful that I was dating an ally. 

However, despite Stan’s beautiful rhetoric, it became apparent that our relationship was not at all egalitarian. As quickly as the relationship had started, it changed. Something was different with him, and I knew it.

After six weeks, he ended up dumping me outside of my best friend’s house during a BBQ. He wasn't ready for a relationship, which should have been obvious to me from the get-go, and I don't think that he and I would have been good long-term partners.

Being with Stan taught me a lot about myself. He and I spent hours talking about our calls-to-action; his being his faith, and mine being my advocacy. Even though I do not have a faith, I am still living my life with purpose. 

Understanding the world around me and acting as a shield, a voice, or even a hand to hold in the face of aggressive protestors is part of who I am. My call-to-action was to wake up, engage others, and listen. Thanks, Stan, for the affirmation.