• Background of the Study

In this contemporary time, the issue of choice of life partner (s), mixed marriage or intermarriage has become an issue of strong debate among Nigeria Christians. Generally, Christians’ attitude towards mix marriage is not encouraging. Some Christians forbid intermarriage drawing from 2 Corinthians 6:14 which Say: “Do not be mismatched with unbelievers. For what partnership have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” Some other Christians believe that anyone has the freedom to choose his or her partner for life, and that love has no boundaries. This attitude is found most often among those Christians who may be identified as progressive or liberal Christians. This is supported by 1 Corinthians 7:12-14 with the central sentence: “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband”.

          In explicit terms, some Christian denominations do not allow their members to marry from other denominations. In other words, within Christianity in Nigeria, Christians discriminate among themselves in choosing marriage partners. For Madu (2001) the reasons why some churches do not allow their members to marry people from other churches are to protect the faith and doctrines of their respective Christian ladies most of whom remain unmarried only because they are waiting to marry people who are of the same faith with them.

          Indeed, efforts are being made to abolish this inhuman practice of caste system in the name of religious faith and belief. The church is in the front line to make sure that people marry whomever they want to. Unfortunately, the church is still stigmatizing member’s choice of marriage and more so, when it comes to choosing partners outside their denomination. Many Churches also maintained that during courtship, partners should abstain from sexual union/ intercourse since marriage centers on holy sacrament. Indeed, among denominations that are unassailably bent on endogamy are Catholics, Deeper Life, Assemblies, Jehovah Witnesses, Cherubim and Seraphim while others are liberal exogamists (Lasswell, 1990). They try their best to let followers know that to tag another human being created by God sub-human is an abomination before God and a sin. However, as much as the churches canvass for the end of this system, their parishioners speak from both sides of their lips, for while they condemn this caste system in the day time, they hide to discriminate against the people at night. How then could this system be abolished when there are lots of hypocrisy and betrayal on the matter from some people who call themselves Christians?

          In the Nigerian society, individuals choose their partners from among diverse denominations, clan, tribe or villages or within ones race and social class. An adherent to these limitations is necessary since intending couples must obtain the approval of their parents and/or from their denomination. However, education, socialization and cultural diffusion have worked to reduce the emphasis which parents placed on some of these impediments to marriage. Usually, it is a matter of who makes the choice, since marriage is most cherished when couples make the decision. Once a man finds a partner of his choice, he accommodates whatever the partner does as she is his choice, but if a choice is made by another person or the parents he will really place the blame for every problem for making the choice of the marriage on others so involved.

          Actually, the idea of parents choosing partners for their children is an old tradition, as old as humanity. The assumption of this duty by parents is often motivated by their belief that their children are young and inexperienced to make the right choice. Unfortunately, while they go ahead with this, they often realize that unconsciously, they are building a time bomb within the family. Time has gone when parents influence their children’s choice in marriage since marriage is centered on “Love”. Thus, parents should know that marriage must not be centered on or be influenced by religious denominations. Thus, they should allow their intending sons and daughters to choose whom and who to marry.        

          Interestingly, some true Christians who are both young men and women, who really believe that all human beings are created equal before God have married each other, sometimes against the wishes of their parents just to please God. But the fact remains that these bold and courageous young people are grossly in the minority, as majority of the baptized members lack the confidence to begin the dismantling of this discriminatory practice through mix marriages. Therefore, discrimination in choosing marriage partners among Christians in the modern time cannot be denied. In other words, the issue of mixed marriage is still a problem among Christian churches, no matter how some people try to play it down. Any system which could derail the plan of two lovers to marry themselves, on account of religious belief or social stratification is definitely anti-human.

          Love is the principal actor in every marriage. It is the thread with which the partners are sewn together. The epistle of Paul, explains a lot about the word “Love”. This study is an attempt to examine the extent to which religious denominations has affected the choice of life partner in Owerri municipality of Imo State.

  •  Statement of the Problem

          Today, many societies are such that encourage freedom in her constitutional enactments. For example, freedom of choice, freedom of worship, and freedom of association exist in the Nigerian constitution. In view of this, every individual feels that he/she is free to exercise this freedom. Unfortunately, cultural and religious differences make this practice unworkable. Nigeria has about over 250 ethnic groups. Each ethnic group has a different culture and religious practice. Traditional Igbo couples used to be cautious on ethnic differences when preparing to get married. Unfortunately, contemporary Nigerian families do not pay much attention to this phenomenon. Among the Igbo people, mixed marriages and social stigma have been problematic in many relationships. This has a dramatic effect on Christian marriage, and has contributed to the dissolution of most marriages among the Igbo Christian families.