Sunday, January 23, 2011

I can't think of a title to this one

How do I begin this article? I have so much to express, yet so much I don’t know if I want to put out there for public viewing.

At least this fabulous internet can make me anonymous. I have that.

In 2005, I, a male from the United States, with a mixed Hispanic and generic European ancestry, married a woman from the Philippines who was visiting the United States on a work visa. You may call her RoseMary.

I am not unique. I have met many men who were smitten by women of that tropical island archipelago. There is a small community of Filipinos here in El Paso that we are pretty close to. It includes a fair number of Anglo men who have married into the Filipino clan, of which I am one. When I visited Philippines, I saw large numbers of white men, young and old, being led around by their Filipino wives, especially in the business districts of Makati City. Oh, I need to be careful here, because I also know some black men who have also been smitten by these Filipino women, but most of the ones I saw and know are white. Some of them had children, and they had the beautiful features of their mixed races.

There are two funny things that I found in common with nearly every one of these mixed couples. The mixed couples always consist of the non-Filipino man marrying a Filipino woman. It never seems to be a Filipino man who is smitten with a white woman. Of course I am sure there are exceptions, but I have never witnessed one.

The other thing is their religion, and that is where I can count myself as the exception. Every man who I have met that has married a Filipino woman has converted to the religious faith of the Filipino woman – Roman Catholicism. I know that about 1/3 of Filipinos are Muslims, and there are also Protestants of various denominations, but the vast bulk of the women who come to the United States are devoutly, unreservedly, unwaveringly, Roman Catholic. And the men who are smitten by them convert to their Faith in order to marry into the Catholic Church, and to have children who they can swear to raise into the Catholic Church during the Baptismal rite.

I never did. I never converted from my Baptist Faith into Catholicism. Of course, I had to alter my views towards Roman Catholics. I had to come to grips with the fact that they did not revere the Bible as I did, and that they prayed to Mary, the Saints, and followed the lead of a religious hierarchical system that I found borderline-insane, but I had to at least adjust my Faith enough to convince myself that she was also a Christian who just did things a little differently.

I met her while she was attending my Baptist Church. One of her friends from work was the wife of the church pastor, and out of curiosity, she attended. The pastor was a loving and good man, who was interested in raising and developing lasting families and relationships. Although he was Bible-believing, he rarely preached on the doctrines of Christianity, i.e. sin, salvation, heaven and hell. By that time in my life, I was burned enough by that stuff that I needed a break.

When we were dating, we alternated churches. At some point, when it became obvious to me that I would eventually ask her to marry me, I became more serious in my religious devotion. I was taught, and I believed, that to be a good husband, I needed to be a good Christian, so I began to take my religious beliefs more seriously. I attended Catholic Mass with her, and at first I really did not understand the completely alien environment, but she told me that all the ceremony and ritual was just an outward sign of adoration and worship. I did my best to hide all the anti-Catholic John MacArthur sermons I had heard somewhere in the back of my mind, and just witness and absorb myself into the ceremony. The scripture readings and homilies were always short, and it was obvious that most everyone attending was oblivious to them. I always asked RoseMary if she could remember the Scripture reading after Mass. She never could. I always did.

In return, she attended various Baptist churches with me. Instead of ritual, ceremony and worship, she got some guy standing behind a lectern and gave, what amounted to, a 30-45 minute lecture on fine points of the Bible. Looking back on those days, I am shocked at her patience with the whole matter. At the time, I thought I was exposing her to ‘sound doctrine’.

They were two completely different religious environments. She never converted. Neither did I. To her credit, she never asked, nor expected me to convert. Unlike the many men who have converted to Roman Catholicism to marry a Filipino woman, I never did. She never converted either, and considers herself Catholic to this day. After a lot of difficult discussion and decisions, and despite the protests of her Catholic Family, we wed in the Baptist Church where we met – a choice neither of us regrets.

In hindsight, I believe I took my religious beliefs much more seriously than she ever did. To me, Christianity was a struggle of Faith. A life-decision. A commitment. To Rosemary, Christianity, specifically Catholicism, is an effortless matter of identity. She is Catholic in the same way she is Filipino.

How can a man convert, just to marry a woman? I swear, I just don’t get it. Unless these men also do not take religious faith as seriously as I did, and view it as Rosemary does – that is, as an identity marker - then it just completely mystifies me. How can a man become catechized, baptized, recite creeds and statements of faith, and swear to raise his future children, upon their baptism, to believe the same things – and do these things, not as a true matter of belief, but as a matter of convenience to marry? Is religious conversion that trivial to some people? I took creedal statements too seriously – I never wanted to recite things that I did not believe were true. To these men, is changing convictions about transcendent and unseen forces that govern the whole nature of reality like changing brands of laundry detergent?

I know plenty of these men. Maybe I should just ask one.

You know, I wanted to discuss something specific when I started typing this article. Instead it turned into a bit of a ramble, and I never got to the point I wanted to make. I guess I am still deciding if I want to make that point public. It is a bit of a painful and personal matter.

Maybe, instead of that, and if you will allow me Dear Reader, I can just ramble a bit, and scatter bits and pieces of this grave matter throughout? Sure. Maybe that is what I will do.

Until then, Dear Reader.

photo: Ritual dancing during first day of Simbang Gabi. St Augustine Parish Church, Cavite, Philippines.


D'Ma said...

Ramble away, my friend. We'll keep reading.

Like a Child said...

"How can a man become catechized, baptized, recite creeds and statements of faith, and swear to raise his future children, upon their baptism, to believe the same things – and do these things, not as a true matter of belief, but as a matter of convenience to marry?"

The question I always have is, how can an crowdful of church goers partake in communion and recite the creeds. Surely I'm not the only one doubting. Isn't it telling that so many of us bloggers have to feel the need to write under a pseudonym!

Anonymous said...

Don't we all make some compromises to marry? At least, in a good marriage both parties are changing a little to fit the other better.

I like to go to bed early, but since marriage I now go to bed later.

Some things are not such a big deal to others.

It is hard for people like you and I to see how religion and views about god/eternity etc can be on the same level as wearing a different type of clothing or using a certain type of vehicle, but for some people I think that is all it is.

I don't think all of them are denying themselves and compromising too much of themselves. I think some of them don't really care.

And when I lived in India I was told that Indian women could marry Western men, but Western women could not marry (rural) Indian men. The men did not want an egalitarian relationship. A wife was an economic advantage who provided food, sex and anything else on demand. Not appealing for women who have been raised in most of Western society.

A Mexican man told me that the gringas made good lovers, but lousy wives since they couldn't cook as well nor did they care to.

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Hendy said...

Interesting post. I agree. Having been Catholic, I always made my internal "guesses" about the state of affairs when the annual troop of RCIA candidates started appearing around Lent. There would always be guys there and guess who their sponsors were for the process? Women with engagement rings on.

I don't think the answer is that complicated or astounding. Most people don't care the slightest bit about religion. It's just ritual that they do because their family and friends do. They go through all sorts of contortions and pledges so they can marry in a specific brand of church because it's the brand of their family and it would be anathema to get married elsewhere.

They just mumble the words to get into the club so they can enjoy the use of the club house. They have no intention of raising their kids to do anything more than come to the club house and repeat the silliness. Excellent observations.

filipina said...

Interesting and intriguing post of yours! I can say that both of you has it's own principles in life that you would never let go. As for your story I totally agree that lots of foreign men are into filipino women because they find filipino women hospitable and would really took good care of their husbands. That's how the catholic church taught filipinos.
Anyways, the decision is all yours and just follow your heart because your heart has a mind of it's own.