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Friday, February 10, 2017

Can a Muslim woman marry a Non-Muslim Man?

This article brings serious discussion about marriage of single Muslim women in America in general and women in their forties and fifties in particular. There are not enough Muslim men out there, and interfaith marriage is one of the few viable options, and most women rule out the idea of marrying someone from their home country as it does not work out culturally.   Today, nearly 40% of Muslim women marry outside of their faith and most of them without conversion.

Researching the matrimonial sites, out of 1000 Muslim women, only 30% of them over the age of 50 have listed Islam as their religion, the rest have called them spiritual but not religious, and add that religion is no bar to them.

A majority of Muslims quietly go along with it, some have a lot of questions and some are ready to quote verses from Quran and make declarations that they are out of the pale of Islam.   By the way, this is not a Muslim problem exclusively; it is a problem of all faiths, again it is not the faith, but the whims of the guardians of faith.

This piece is not for Muslims who are robotic and cannot think beyond parroting Halal and Haram, i.e., Black or White, but life is full of colors.

This piece is for those Muslims who understand the essence of Islam which is to create cohesive societies. It is for those who understand God’s signs. He has created the earth and the heavens, planets and the systems and programmed them to function cohesively. Let’s start with our own bodies to understand this phenomenon. We are composed of billions of unique cells but most certainly we can see that our bodies have several different organs, and all of them have to work together for us to live a normal life.  We are one planet, one earth and one system of creation and through one cause.  That is one God.

If your answer is an emphatic no to marrying a non-Muslim, then please don’t read this article. It is not for you.

But, if you are struggling with the idea of pursuing a relationship with a man, who is not a Muslim, but you like him and want to spend your life with him and are tempted to be the Khadija, and then it is worth reading the entire 6000 words piece with most possible questions and answers and references.  Finding the truth is your own responsibility, and in Islam, no one is responsible for your actions but you and on one bears the burden of others. It is your decision and you have to live with it, so think through it.

The answer to the question has always been an emphatic NO. Guarding the flock is a human trait and no tradition wants to lose a member of their tradition to the other, whether you are a Hindu, Christian, Sikh or a Jew, Republican, Democrat, Libertarian or new, indeed, any tradition for that matter. Muslims are no exception either and there is no need to beat up on Islam for a deficiency in comprehension.

This paper explores on possible causes for the Yes or No response, and what happens if that cause is not there anymore. The main source of Islamic knowledge is Quran and Hadiths that are authentic and reflect the personality of the prophet; a mercy to mankind.

Quran does not expressly forbid Muslim women marrying non-Muslim men and neither prophet has expressly forbidden it. Read the verses again particularly the oft quoted verses 60:10 and 2:221. There is an advisement to marry with whom you are compatible, and whom you can live in harmony with. It is a relational guidance that a believing bondsman is better than a non-believing man and vice-versa for men. The comparison is for one to understand that the social status is not important, but harmony is.

Marriage is all about harmony – God wants his creation to live in harmony. You don’t want to live with someone with conflicts throughout the day.  If you find a spouse who can live with you in harmony despite religion, race or region, than that ‘advisement’ or the conditions is not applicable anymore.  After all, God is the one who puts love between two souls and it the couple who has to live their lives.

In verse 60:10 disbelievers were those individuals who prevented the believers to practice their faith; there was an element of hostility between them. But today, most people of faith are believers in God in one fashion or the other. But those who do not believe in God will have difficulty to live with those who do believe, and it is not advisable to marry them. It is about compatibility and harmony and not religion or other case.

The questions are endless, but the answer is a powerful one and that is accountability.  In the traditional societies parents rightfully feel responsible to guard the happiness of their offspring, where as parents in North America are learning to believe that their kids are independent and know what they want in their lives, and will find their own happiness.  Ultimately they have to live their own lives and you cannot babysit them forever.  American Muslim parents trust their kids to do the right thing and let them run their own lives. Please note that this comparison is made with Muslims living elsewhere in the world.

There is one segment of single Muslim women that is reaching an enormous percent of all the single women.  These women are in their late 40’s and 50’s, and are divorced and certainly not looking for a provider, nor do they entertain having children.  They are simply looking to have a friend and a companion in their marriages and live their own lives. God wants nothing more for his creation than harmony and happiness.

No woman should be denied her right to life, liberty and happiness. No one can push an American Muslim woman to marry anyone other than whom she wants. By marrying someone she can be happy with, her faith remains strong, if not she would a Muslim in name.

Some of us may not want to acknowledge it, but the 2nd and 3rd generation American Muslims will have their own Islam that differs from others in other lands. However the American practice of Islam would be closer to the one Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) practiced; a religion committed to building cohesive societies and caring for fellow humans and environment, in essence Islam tells you to mind your own business as you do on the Day of Judgment.

Indeed, we all have the same Islam and there is no doubt about it. However, our cultures are different, the culture of Nahadatul Ulema,  Doebandis, Naqshbandis, Sufis, Sunnis, Shias, Ahmadiyya, Ismailis, WD Deen Muhammad, Bohri’s, Nation of Islam, Alawites, Wahhabis and others vary in practices from region to region. Even our rules are divided into six different schools of thought. The Islam practiced by Baghdadi is not the same as the one practiced by any American Muslim.  All of them are Muslims in their own right and none of us have the right or permission from God to belittle or denigrate the other.

If God would have said no to a Muslim woman marrying a non-Muslim man, it would have been said in the Quran, there is not even an inference. God does not make mistakes; instead he empowers us to figure out our own equilibrium.

This essay is merely an expression of what many American Muslims are thinking but are afraid to express. I am pleased to present some thoughts to reflect on; ultimately the decision to marry rests in the hearts and minds of the individuals marrying. It is their life and it is God who puts love in their hearts for each other.

God bless the Interfaith and Interracial Couples! Despite their religious, racial or cultural differences, they are setting the new standards of civility by showing the world how to live in harmony. Isn’t that is what God wants? We have to cherish and honor the couples who embrace genuine humanity by accepting each other’s uniquenesse
s.
When people are showing extreme intolerance towards each other, the interfaith and interracial couples are showing the way to live in harmony and are contributing to the idea of one nation. They are indeed exemplary patriotic Americans.

If we can learn to respect the otherness of other and accept the God-given uniqueness of each one of the seven billion of us, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge.

The sole intent of this essay is to understand the struggle of “Single American Muslim women” and keeping them within the fold by expanding the fold to be reflective of God’s boundlessness and extending Prophet Muhammad’s mercy to the entire universe.

Full Paper is 6000-plus words and is located at: www.InterfaithMarriages.org – http://interfaithmarriages.org/can-a-muslim-woman-marry-a-non-muslim-man/

Dr. Mike Mohamed Ghouse is committed to building a cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. Email him at MikeGhouse@aol.com.


Friday, February 3, 2017

Welcome to Interfaith Marriages

Marriage is indeed an expression of a commitment to the relationship between two individuals.  The men and women who take the bold step to become one regardless of their origins, faiths, races and ethnicities must be applauded. They are setting an example of how to live in harmony.
Interfaith-symbolsWhat is it that God really wants? He wants nothing more than harmony in his creation. Because he created everything in balance he expects us to preserve it or restore it when it is off.
The following (one) paragraph is applicable to Muslims, and Muslim women in particular.
Can a Muslim woman marry a non-Muslim man?
It is a 1400 year old question and I have prepared an extensive well referenced response to it. When we separate culture from religion we see the point.  I am passing it through a few Muslim Scholars – not to agree but to critique and develop it further. God loves harmony and says that he has created couples and has filled their hearts with love for each other.
Look at the universe, everything is programmed precisely! The moon revolves around the earth and the earth goes around the sun decisively. The seasons are programmed and the plants and animals have a determined cycle of birth and death. Within the human body, different organs work cohesively for a normal functioning (with of course built in anomalies) of the body. However, he did not program us how to relate with each other and live with each other. He gave us complete freedom to chart our own course of harmony with the other.  God is happiest when two people can rise above their differences and live in harmony.
Interfaith marriages are becoming the new norm of the society. In a few years one out of two marriages would be of interfaith. Yes, this is across the board, whether you are a Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Christian, Sikh, Baha’i or the other. According to the Pew survey, 40% of people of faiths will be marrying a person of another faith, it is higher among Jews, its 50%.
I am blessed to have officiated ceremonies for Jewish-Christian, Hindu-Christian, Bahai-Jewish, Hindu-Jewish, Atheist-Jain, and several other combinations. Being a Muslim, I am pleased to have officiated weddings for Muslims in a variety of combinations; Muslim-Christian,  Muslim-Jewish, Muslim-Hindu, Muslim-Mormon, Muslim-Sikh, Muslim-Jain, Muslim-Buddhist and Muslim and an Atheist.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

  • Initial conversation with wedding Officiant.
  • The Bride and Groom express their desire to get married out of free will.
  • A conversation about the differences and how they would handle.
  • The Bride/ Groom can share a part of their social, religious or cultural tradition
  • The Bride and Groom can create their own new tradition or enhance the existing one
  • A draft outline of the ceremony will be prepared by the Officiant.
  • The bride and groom will review and modify the outlines to suit their wants and needs.
  • Officiant will perform the wedding ceremony per agreed outline.
  • Wedding will start on time and close on time.

THE CEREMONY

The Ceremony will be based on the process worked out between the couple and the officiant.
  1. Interfaith greetings to include people of different faith traditions
  2. Appreciating the bold steps the bride and groom have taken to respect the otherness of other
  3. Acceptance of each other as his/her spouse
  4. Exchange of Rings
  5. Pronouncement as husband and wife
  6. Signing the marriage registration papers
  7. A short customized Sermon to fit the tradition(s) chosen by the Bridge and Groom
  8. Prayer ( again from one or two traditions)
  9. Other rituals
    1. Sand ceremony
    2. Hand Holding
    3. Vows
    4. Personalized one
    5. Others
The marriage is between two individuals and the family’s support and cheers are important.  I will be happy to talk with parents or guardians, if they are reluctant.
DISAPPOINTMENTS
It is disappointing to the potential brides and grooms that their clergy or a parent invariably insists on the other person to convert to their faith tradition, some do, and some fake it and some are not comfortable with the idea at all.
When a couple is deeply committed to marry, they go ahead and get married any way but sorely miss out on the ceremony. Over the years, I have seen too many couples miss out on the joy of that additional sense of completeness that comes with a religious ceremony. Marriage is between two individuals, and their families and friends ought to be supporters and cheerleaders to celebrate and complete their joy.
As a Pluralist, I have chosen to officiate the weddings of such couples to reflect the essence of Bride and Groom’s religious and cultural traditions. I laud such couples who embrace genuine humanity by respecting the otherness of other, and accepting each other’s uniqueness. If the couple prefers to give that little extra joy to the religiosity of their parents, relatives and friends, the sermon would include reflections and essence of the faiths of the couple.
I am blessed to have performed some uniquely beautiful combination of weddings; Jewish Bride and a Christian groom; Muslim bride and Jain groom, Hindu Bride and Muslim groom, Christians Bride and Atheist groom….. it was such a joy to see their families cheer at the end.
God is nothing but the cause that created everything we see, feel, smell, think, see and enjoy. People of religion call him by various names and those who do not subscribe to the idea of God don’t have to call anything.
——
Mike Ghouse is a member of the American Marriage Ministries, a non-profit established in Washington State in 2009.
“We provide all people the ability to celebrate marriage and other religious functions according to their beliefs. We believe that this is an innate human right and is also protected by the 1st Amendment. Our values come from the understanding that all people, whether religious or not, have deep personal values and should be treated with respect, acceptance, and understanding.”
Marriage is a celebration that brings people together, and we want to extend that ethos further by being a church comprised of a wide cross-section of people that have found common ground in the service of bringing people together.
To begin, the legal dimension to officiating a wedding simply involves completing a piece of paper, the marriage license. The marriage license is the legal document of marriage. It is filed for by the couple from their local government prior to the wedding.
The role of the minister is to conduct the wedding, have the couple present their marriage license, make sure that the information is correct, and complete the license. The couple then returns the completed license back to its office of issuance.
Personally, Mike is committed to building a Cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. He is a professional speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism, interfaith, politics and civic affairs.

The Creator* has created everything in balance and harmony,  and every element of the universe is interconnected and interdependent. Chief Seattle, a Native American said this perfectly, “All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does it to himself.”
What does God want? He wants to see that his creation remains intact and functions smoothly. He has programmed the moon to go around the earth in unbelievable precision, and the earth has been going around the Sun for millions of years. The change of seasons, the power of light, and the need for darkness is all programmed and works together.
Even the human (or animal) body functions cohesively, each organ plays its part for the normal functioning of the body. However what is not programmed is our attitudes and behavior.  Each one of us is unique with our own thumb print, eye print, taste buds and DNA, and that uniqueness creates conflict in three areas; one’s space, sustenance and nurturence.
God loves us, like a mother loves her children, teacher loves her students, and as a chef loves his patrons,  he gives us the guidance (religion or common sense) to restore that equilibrium, that is all he wants and nothing more.
Marriage
God loves harmony between humans and his creation, and marriage enhances that harmony. Some day we may find out what attracts a man to a woman or vice-versa, like a magnet two individuals come together to be one with each other.  Religion, region or race become secondary when two people fall in love with each other. This is what God loves, two people becoming a source of harmony and happiness to each other.
Mike is a frequent guest on Sean Hannity show on Fox TV, and a commentator on national radio networks, he contributes weekly to the Texas Faith Column at Dallas Morning News and regularly at Huffington post, and several periodicals across the world. The blog www.TheGhousediary.com is updated daily. Two books are poised to be released this year on Pluralism in America, and Americans Together building a cohesive America. Details at www.MikeGhouse.net

Monday, April 11, 2016

Pope Francis Just Made It a Little Easier for Catholics to Marry Jews

Pope Francis is a mercy to mankind, he is the kindest human being that there is. He is my mentor and have written about him extensively.

Mike Ghouse
www.InterfaithMarriages.org 

# # #


Pope Francis Just Made It a Little Easier for Catholics to Marry Jews  

Courtesy: Haaretz 

New Church document urges viewing intermarriage as an opportunity for cross-faith dialogue rather than for converting non-Catholic spouses.



MILAN – Though the pope stopped short Friday of granting Catholics his official permission to marry Jews and members of other faiths, he did significantly soften the Church’s stance on marriage between Catholics and members of other faiths. Interfaith marriage is on the rise anyway, Pope Francis acknowledged in his eagerly awaited apostolic exhortation on marriage and family. And besides, the Vatican no longer endorses actively trying to convert members of other religions to Catholicism – why not look at interfaith marriage as an opportunity to encourage dialogue between members of different religions?

Francis’ “Amoris Laetitia” (Latin for “The Joy of Love”) has gotten a lot of attention for its generally more lenient approach to divorce and gay marriage, but perhaps more significant to non-Catholics is the pope’s decrees on interfaith marriage – an issue with which the Jewish world is currently grappling as well.

In the 256-page Church document, Francis deals separately with the issues of marriage between Catholics and non-Catholic Christians, which the Vatican defines as “mixed marriages,” and those between Catholics and members of other religions. The latter are more problematic and pose more significant challenges, especially with regard to “the Christian identity of the family and the religious upbringing of the children,” he says. However, marriages to non-Christians are also “a privileged place for interreligious dialogue,” the pope declared – in other words, they are a chance for the Catholic church to strike up dialogue with different religions.

“The idea of seeing mixed marriages as an opportunity is not something new in the Catholic Church,” explains Piero Stefani, a progressive Catholic scholar at the Facoltà Teologica del Nord Italia, a Church-owned institute in Milan. In the Church’s early days during the Roman Empire, it urged new Christian converts who were already married to use their relationships to convert their spouses: “In the New Testament [Corinthians 7:12-15] Paul said that Christians who were married to non-Christians should stay in the marriage in order to ‘sanctify’ [i.e. help convert] their non-Christian spouse,” Stefani says.

“Nowadays the climate is very different: The Church is no longer endorsing a policy of missionary conversion, especially toward Jews. So interfaith marriages are seen as an ‘opportunity’ to start a positive dialogue [about faith] with the non-Catholic spouse, rather than an occasion to convert him or her,” he says.

Francis has repeatedly stated that Catholics should not try to convert Jews.
read  

Since marriages to non-Christian partners are becoming more common, the Pope decreed that Catholic clergy should educate itself on the issues surrounding interfaith marriage so that it can better deal with marriages between Catholics and non-Catholics when such occasion does arise.
The Catholic Church has historically taken a much tougher view on interfaith marriages, with Benedict XIV in the 1700s calling them “detestable marriages which Holy Mother Church has continually condemned and interdicted.”

In 1966, after the Second Vatican Council, however, the Church issued a document reiterating the ban on interfaith marriages and the “dangers inherent in the marriage of a Catholic with a non-Catholic Christian and even more so in the marriage with a non-Christian.” But this time the Church added a new rule that allowed priests to perform them under special circumstances, for instance when the Catholic education of children could be guaranteed.

Under Francis’ Friday decree, intermarriage is still considered a peculiar situation that requires a special permit to be performed. But now, Francis has said, it should no longer be viewed solely as a “danger” but also a possibility.

“Francis isn’t saying anything new in terms of doctrine. What’s changing is the tone of voice, which might change the way the doctrine is perceived,” notes Stefani, the Catholic scholar.

In discussing marriages between Christians of different denominations, Francis has also urges a more moderate approach, though again he does not entirely buck Vatican tradition, stating that they “require particular attention” but are to be valued “for the contribution that they can make to the ecumenical movement” – that is, dialogue between different Christian groups. Therefore he has urged “cordial cooperation between the Catholic and the non-Catholic ministers.”

This declaration from the Vatican comes at a time when the Jewish world is also grappling with rising rates of intermarriage. In America, for example, 35 percent of Jewish Americans who married in the past five years have a non-Jewish spouse, according to a Pew Research Center survey. During the same period, interfaith marriages accounted for 39 percent of all marriages in the United States. Anecdotal evidence suggests that intermarriage rates are higher among European Jews.

Orthodox Judaism bans intermarriage, and some voices in the Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist movements also maintain that it poses a threat to the future of Diaspora Jewry, though there are those who would disagree. In January, the U.S. Reconstructionist Rabbinical College lifted its ban on ordaining intermarried rabbis, citing such ban was perceived as “reinforcing a tribalism that feels personally alienating and morally troubling in the 21st century.” Seven rabbis have quit the Reconstructionist movement because of the new policy, describing it as “detrimental to the Jewish people in America.”

Anna Momigliano
Haaretz Contributor

Thursday, April 7, 2016

From an interfaith marriage, two daughters choose different religious paths

It was a joy to read this article. "Respecting the otherness of others" is not an easy thing, and I thank God for blessing  me with that ability, now pluralism runs in my veins.  Susan's experience must be lauded, and she is appreciated for sharing this.  She and her ex are an example of living and exhibiting good civil conduct.   A lot of us in interfaith relationships can relate with her experience.  Let not your (husband and wife) dispute affect your children, they did not ask for it, and encourage them with whatever path they choose, as long as it leads them to a good caring human being.  Please encourage them wholeheartedly, let them have a sense of fulfillment in life.

Mike Ghouse
www.InterfaithMarriages.org
www.TheGhouseDiary.com
# # # 


Susan Sommercamp

Courtesy: The Washington Post  


When my ex-husband and I married 22 years ago, our plan was to raise our children with aspects of both his Christianity and my Judaism. We wanted to share our faiths and heritages with our children, who we thought could be "both."

Unfortunately, things don't always go as planned. In more ways than one.

When our girls were 4 and 8, we divorced. And that was the beginning of the unraveling of our plan.

Prior to our split, our "two-religion household" arrangement had worked well. Our girls' world had included menorahs, Christmas trees, Santa's lap, Easter eggs, Passover and Purim. We were a blended faith family. Despite protests from my dad that the girls needed a single identity and anything else would confuse them, my husband and I told our girls they were "both" religions - Jewish and Christian.

In truth my heart was rooted in my own Jewish identity, and I remember it being difficult for me not to be able to blanket the girls solely in my religion. For the Jewish portion of their upbringing, I took the girls to "Tot Shabbat" - kids' Sabbath services - and Sunday school at our local synagogue.

For my ex-husband's part, while he felt strongly Presbyterian, he wasn't particularly interested in the organized religion part - Jewish, Christian or otherwise. He said his childhood memories of attending church weren't so great.

I admit to being frustrated that he wasn't involved institutionally in his own religion yet still rejected the idea of our daughters being raised fully Jewish. Since our communication was lacking, I can't say for sure but I think our religious differences didn't sit easily with him either.

Looking back now I can see how our initial plan for our girls had at least one fatal flaw - their parents weren't totally sold on it. And we weren't able to communicate well about it.

Shortly after we divorced, my ex-husband began going to church. On weekends, the girls would go with him to services. This was bigger than Santa and definitely new territory for me. My initial response was surprise and some disappointment. He had always been critical of the institutional part of his faith. Even though I was perplexed, eventually I became amenable to it. Our girls were spending their time with him in a positive environment. Regardless of affiliation, only good can come from attending any kind of spiritual gathering, I felt. Part of the new normal of our post-divorce lives became church with Dad, synagogue with Mom.

As the years went on, our two homes fell into a routine of separately celebrating "our" respective holidays. Every Christmas Eve and Christmas day, the girls would be with him. For the eight nights of Hanukkah, they would be with me. Our girls' identities remained that of being both Jewish and Christian, neither girl had a preference to either religion. These traditions were all they knew and they enjoyed experiencing so many different holidays and gatherings to share with extended family. My ex and I supported one another in this pattern. Our girls adored one another and were close. It was working.

But at the time my older daughter entered middle school, around 2008, there was a shift. Our original plan became complicated and went off-track, in a direction I had never anticipated.

My older daughter had joined the youth group at her Dad's church and made some terrific friends. Subsequently, her involvement at the church increased, as did her Christian identity. Her peers both at school and church were Christian, and she gravitated to that space and proclaimed she, too, was Christian. She decided to stop attending synagogue events and Hebrew school on Sunday.

Seeing a Christian Bible in my home and hearing that she was attending Christian events was out of my element, but I made the choice to be supportive. It definitely took a concerted effort for me to be so receptive, beyond what I'd expected when I'd first married, but I never considered another option.

Around the same time that my older daughter was going full-bore into her church youth group, my younger daughter decided to stop attending church on Sundays with her dad. She was starting to get a lot out of our synagogue experiences. She enjoyed the weekly Hebrew school classes as well as the social aspect she gained from it. She was excited to have learned to read Hebrew and, one day when she was in fourth grade, she announced she wanted a bat mitzvah. The training, commitment and time investment for a bat mitzvah are intense, as I knew full well from my own experience. She was undaunted and threw herself completely into her Hebrew and Torah studies. She did beautifully on her big day and my older daughter and ex-husband participated as well.

It was becoming clear: our daughters had chosen - completely on their own - different religions.

One thing I never expected was for religious differences to cause contention between my own daughters. Of course, over history and time, religion has caused conflict, even World Wars. But between my own children? It was disheartening as a Mom.

Although neither girl attempted to persuade the other of her own respective religious beliefs nor did they denounce the other religion's actual teachings, at times things got uncomfortable. It wasn't the word of their faith about which they felt competitive, it was their need to feel protective of their identity related to their own faith. Knowing the other girl felt loyal to her own religion, it was apparent each girl felt threatened by the lack of support from the other.

The things that became problematic were little, but to me they were big. Once, in what I consider to be a defining moment of their relationship changing, I observed the first verbal confrontation over religion. It involved my older daughter putting her sister's religious choice down. Another time, a friend of my younger daughter's was visiting and made a disparaging remark about a Christian Bible being in the house. My older daughter heard the comment and, understandably, became very upset. One Hanukkah we were lighting the candles and I noticed my older daughter was intentionally not singing along with us during the prayer.

But by far, the biggest negative impact I saw initially from their contrasting faiths is that it prevented them from being as close to one another as they had been previously. A dividing curtain had now been dropped between them. Some rivalry comes with any sibling territory, but their two very different worlds regarding their faiths added more fuel. The lack of sharing a big part of their life with their sibling negated much of the bonding that usually comes with common interests and values within a family. I feel they would have been drawn closer together if they had enjoyed a mutual religious and social life. They both felt passion for their respective affiliations which, unfortunately, did not overlap.

During spring break her junior year of high school, in 2013, my older daughter ventured to Mexico with her church on a mission trip. The group attended church services with their Christian counterparts and interacted with many young children, encouraged church attendance, taught stories from the Bible, and helped with Christian-themed crafts. They prayed together and bonded over their mutual faith. I was thrilled for her to be a part of something so meaningful to who she was and she came home feeling she had contributed in a fantastic way.

Two years later, my younger daughter, at 15, flew to Costa Rica with a Jewish organization for a different kind of trip. Unlike my older daughter's trip to Mexico, this trip was not intended to explicitly spread the word of the religion. My ex-husband, who has a love of travel, enthusiastically helped our daughter prepare for the trip.

But the trips failed to pique the other sister's interest. The lack of excitement from one another for her sister hurt me more than I could have imagined. Their relationship had become more like roommates than sisters.

I took pause. My own mixed-religion marriage failed, in part, due to tension regarding our different religions. I shuddered at that common thread in my daughters' relationship.

Given our own past, I wasn't sure how my ex-husband and I would navigate this faith-related challenge involving our daughters. Over the following few years, however, we opted to co-parent, rather than have a contentious, tribal power struggle. We continued to support both girls in their religious journeys.

I'm happy to say things have improved between my daughters. Even though we never expected our girls to select different faiths, it seems to be evolving well.

In the past year or so, their once-adamant identity stances both seem to have softened. Although they still both identify solely as Christian (older) or Jewish (younger), they don't feel the need to profess it so loudly to each other. Both girls again celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas. When my extended family celebrates Passover, both girls will willingly participate. And the same is the case for Easter with their Dad's family.

And, much to my delight, they have circled back to being closer. I attribute it to time, maturity, and their physical distance - my older daughter is away at college - which I think makes them appreciate the other more. When religion or related observances are mentioned, there is no longer an uneasiness attached to it.

The girls are now busy in their high school and college lives, and as is common at their ages, their participation in religious events has waned. I cannot predict what their futures hold. What I do know is that I learned a lot about myself and my marriage by watching the girls' mixed-religion relationship - including the tension between my desire for openness and the primal pull of my own Jewish identity. I think even with the gray areas and inconsistencies, we are all more tolerant and understanding because of our messy interfaith family.

How we handle disagreements in our marriages makes all the difference

The ultimate goal in the marriage is happiness and peace for both, and if they have to fight, assert and compromise to get there, it is a part of it and must be appreciated.

Mike Ghouse
TheGhouseDiary.com
www.InterfaithMarriages.org 


# # # 

Courtesy : Newton Citizen

By Hal Brady

Whenever I do pre-marital counseling, I usually include the following: role expectations and whether or not they are realistic; a good theology of marriage; what the psychologists and sociologists say about marriage; the importance of communication; the necessity of commitment; and how to deal with conflict or disagreement.

Unless one of the marriage partners is a non-thinking robot, every marriage has disagreements. The only question is how we handle it.

Hear me now. Whether it’s in marriage, business, sports, politics, family life, religion, international affairs or personal relationships, every life situation has disagreements. Again, the important thing is how we deal with it. So, how do we deal with disagreements?

First, we can seek to understand the other person’s point of view. There can be no reconciliation if we do not seek to understand the other person’s point of view. And this understanding will always begin with listening.

A mother and her small daughter were looking at dolls in a department store one day. “What does it do?” the child would ask about each doll. The mother would answer, “it walks” or “it talks” or “it sleeps” or “it cries.”

The dolls were rather expensive, so the mother tried to direct her little girl’s attention toward an ordinary doll that was more reasonably priced. “But does it do anything?” the child asked. “Oh, yes,” the mother replied. ” It does one of the best things of all — it listens.” The little girl eagerly reached for that doll. And so do we.

In being open to another person’s point of view, it has been said that there are three necessary qualities that don’t come easily: honesty, objectivity and humility. We can seek to understand the other person’s point of view.

Second , we can disagree without being disagreeable. As a professor friend put it in a major address at the 17th World Methodist Conference held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, “Build a bridge and get over it.” You know, it’s amazing how many people have trouble getting over some perceived past injustice. They would rather keep themselves and others miserable than build a bridge and get over it.

It’s at this point that Samuel Johnson gives us one of the most liberating sentences he ever wrote: “Kindness is in our power, fondness is not. Kindness or charity is not felt, but willed. Kindness or charity is not passion or affection or friendship, but an attitude of unshakable and unwavered good will to others, whether we like them or not.”

Third, we can look carefully for a way of compromise. Some people look at compromise as a weak and cowardly thing. They mistakenly think that it has something to do with a lack of backbone.


Now, to be sure, there is a time to hold the line. We should never compromise sacred truth, principles or convictions. But simply to be unbending is another thing altogether.

In a recent issue of “The Christian Science Monitor Weekly,” Sarah Binder, professor of political science at George Washington University, was writing about restoring trust in Congress. She wrote, “What really turns off people about Congress is watching the sausage being made and all the reporting of bickering. People wonder why members of Congress can’t talk like reasonable people.”

I think Sarah Binder is talking about the need of members of Congress to find ways of compromise for the good of the nation and world. At any rate, compromise is a good way to deal with disagreement.

Fourth, we can trust that God can use everything, even our disagreements, for His purposes. In the narthex of the Cathedral of Belmont Abby near Charlotte, N.C., there is a baptismal font mounted on a big rock. The inscription reads: “From this stone, on which persons were sold into slavery, they now are baptized into freedom.” Only God can do that. God can transform any dead-end situation into a powerful force for good.

The Rev. Hal Brady is an ordained United Methodist minister and executive director of Hal Brady Ministries, based in Atlanta. You can watch him preach every week on the Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasting TV channel Thursdays at 8 p.m. For more information, visit www.halbradyministries.com or email hal@halbradyministries.com.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Interfaith communications between couples

We can look at, and understand our problems by seeing others.
Let it be humorous to bring about the change with smiles, rather than tensions.


Mike Ghouse
Interfaith marriage officiant.

 




 



Dr. Mike Ghouse is a community consultant, social scientist, thinker, writer, news maker, Interfaith Wedding officiant, and a speaker on Pluralism, Interfaith, Islam, politics, terrorism, human rights, India, Israel-Palestine, motivation, and foreign policy. He is committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. Visit him (63 links) at www.MikeGhouse.net and www.TheGhousediary.com for his exclusive writings.

13 Questions to Ask Before Getting Married

The more you learn about what you are getting into, the better informed you will be and can handle most of the conflicts, indeed, you can predict them and save some tensions.

Mike Ghouse



Courtesy New York Times


13 Questions to Ask
Before Getting Married
 Eleanor Stanford, March 24, 2016

When it comes to marriage, what you don’t know really can hurt you.
Whether because of shyness, lack of interest or a desire to preserve romantic mystery, many couples do not ask each other the difficult questions that can help build the foundation for a stable marriage, according to relationship experts.

In addition to wanting someone with whom they can raise children and build a secure life, those considering marriage now expect their spouses to be both best friend and confidant. These romantic-comedy expectations, in part thanks to Hollywood, can be difficult to live up to.

Sure, there are plenty of questions couples can ask of each other early in the relationship to help ensure a good fit, but let’s face it: most don’t.

“If you don’t deal with an issue before marriage, you deal with it while you’re married,” said Robert Scuka, the executive director of the National Institute of Relationship Enhancement. It can be hard to keep secrets decade after decade, and reticence before the wedding can lead to disappointments down the line.

The following questions, intimate and sometimes awkward, are designed to spark honest discussions and possibly give couples a chance to spill secrets before it’s too late.
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    1.Did your family throw plates, calmly discuss issues or silently shut down when disagreements arose?
    A relationship’s success is based on how differences are dealt with, said Peter Pearson, a founder of the Couples Institute. As we are all shaped by our family’s dynamic, he said, this question will give you insight into whether your partner will come to mimic the conflict resolution patterns of his or her parents or avoid them. 
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    2.Will we have children, and if we do, will you change diapers?
    With the question of children, it is important to not just say what you think your partner wants to hear, according to Debbie Martinez, a divorce and relationship coach. Before marrying, couples should honestly discuss if they want children. How many do they want? At what point do they want to have them? And how do they imagine their roles as parents? Talking about birth-control methods before planning a pregnancy is also important, saidMarty Klein, a sex and marriage therapist.
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    3.Will our experiences with our exes help or hinder us?
    Bradford Wilcox, the director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, pointed to research his organization has sponsoredthat indicated that having had many serious relationships can pose a risk for divorce and lower marital quality. (This can be because of a person having more experience with serious breakups and potentially comparing a current partner unfavorably with past ones.) Raising these issues early on can help, Dr. Wilcox said. Dr. Klein said people are hesitant to explicitly talk about their past” and can feel retroactively jealous or judgmental. “The only real way to have those conversations in an intimate and productive way and loving way is to agree to accept that the other person had a life before the couple,” he said.
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    4.How important is religion? How will we celebrate religious holidays, if at all?
    If two people come from different religious backgrounds, is each going to pursue his or her own religious affiliation? Dr. Scuka has worked with couples on encouraging honest discussion around this issue as the executive director of the National Institute of Relationship Enhancement. What is more, spouses are especially likely to experience conflict over religious traditions when children are added to the mix, according to Dr. Wilcox. If the couple decide to have children, they must ask how thechildren’s religious education will be handled. It is better to have a plan, he said.
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    5.Is my debt your debt? Would you be willing to bail me out?
    It’s important to know how your partner feels about financial self-sufficiency and whether he or she expects you to keep your resources separate, said Frederick Hertz, a divorce lawyer. Disclosing debts is very important. Equally, if there is a serious discrepancy between your incomeand your partner’s, Dr. Scuka recommended creating a basic budget according to proportional incomes. Many couples fail to discuss sharing finances, though it is crucial, he said.
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    6.What’s the most you would be willing to spend on a car, a couch, shoes?
    Couples should make sure they are on the same page in terms of financial caution or recklessness. Buying a car is a great indicator, according to Mr. Hertz. Couples can also frame this question around what they spend reckless amounts of money on, he said.
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    7.Can you deal with my doing things without you?
    Going into marriage, many people hope to keep their autonomy in certain areas of their life at the same time they are building a partnership with their spouse, according to Seth Eisenberg, the president of Pairs (Practical Application of Intimate Relationship Skills). This means they may be unwilling to share hobbies or friends, and this can lead to tension and feelings of rejection if it isn’t discussed. Couples may also have different expectations as to what “privacy” means, added Dr. Klein, and that should be discussed, too. Dr. Wilcox suggested asking your partner when he or shemost needs to be alone.
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    8.Do we like each other’s parents?
    As long as you and your partner present a united front, having a bad relationship with your in-laws can be manageable, Dr. Scuka said. But if a spouse is not willing to address the issue with his or her parents, it can bode very poorly for the long-term health of the relationship, he said. At the same time, Dr. Pearson said, considering the strengths and weaknesses of your parents can illuminate future patterns of attachment or distancing in your own relationship.
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    9.How important is sex to you?
    Couples today expect to remain sexually excited by their spouse, anexpectation that did not exist in the past, according to Mr. Eisenberg. A healthy relationship will include discussion of what partners enjoy about sex as well as how often they expect to have it, Dr. Klein said. If people are looking to experience different things through sex — pleasure versus feeling young, for example — some negotiation may be required to ensure both partners remain satisfied.
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    10.How far should we take flirting with other people? Is watching pornography O.K.?
    Dr. Klein said couples should discuss their attitudes about pornography,flirting and expectations for sexual exclusivity. A couple’s agreement on behavior in this area can, and most likely will, change down the line, he said, but it is good to set the tone early on so both partners are comfortable discussing it. Ideally, sexual exclusivity should be talked about in the same way as other day-to-day concerns, so that problems can be dealt withbefore a partner becomes angry, he said. Dr. Pearson suggested asking your partner outright for his or her views on pornography. Couples are often too scared to ask about this early in the relationship, but he has frequently seen it become a point of tension down the line, he said.
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    11.Do you know all the ways I say “I love you”?
    Gary Chapman’s 1992 book, “The 5 Love Languages,” introduced this means of categorizing expressions of love to strengthen a marriage. Ms. Martinez hands her premarriage clients a list of the five love languages: affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch. She asks them to mark their primary and secondary languages and what they think is their partners, and discuss them. Mr. Eisenberg said that a couple needs to work out how to nurture the relationship, in a way specific to them. 
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    12.What do you admire about me, and what are your pet peeves?
    Can you imagine the challenges ever outweighing the admiration? If so, what would you do? Anne Klaeysen, a leader of the New York Society for Ethical Culture, said that couples rarely consider that second question. Ideally, marriage is a life commitment, she said, and it’s not enough to just “click together,” as many couples describe their relationship. A marriage must go deeper than that original “click.”
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    13.How do you see us 10 years from now?
    Keeping the answer to this question in mind can help a couple deal with current conflict as they work toward their ultimate relationship goals, according to Mr. Eisenberg.
    Dr. Wilcox said this discussion could also be an opportunity to raise the question of whether each partner will consider divorce if the relationship deteriorates, or whether they expect marriage to be for life, come what may.