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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Texas Faith: Are Interfaith Marriages Good for Couples?

Texas Faith: Are Interfaith Marriages Good for Couples?

Interfaith couples must be admired by one and all. When couples are having difficulty in getting along, they are setting a new standard: respecting the otherness of someone else and accepting the God-given uniqueness of each other. They may have grown up in different religious traditions, but yet, religion is not a barrier. The poet philosopher of the East, Dr. Allama Iqbal, says, Religion does not teach one to have ill-will.

Texas Faith :Are Interfaith Marriages Good for Couples?
Dallas Morning News | Published on June 18, 2013

Naomi Schaefer Riley has a new book out with the title Til Faith Do Us Part: How Interfaith Marriage is Transforming America. You can read about that book at this link and then this link.
Interestingly, Riley, a former Wall Street Journal editor who has written extensively about religion and culture, notes that 45 percent of all U.S. marriages in the last decade were between people of different faiths. Naturally, we may look at that as a sign of greater acceptance and tolerance, which a broadsociety needs to remain dynamic and growing.
But Riley also reports that marrying across religious lines may be very difficult for the couples involved. Their deeply-held differences may eventually become a problem, especially when it comes to raising children.
There are a number of ways we could go with this question, including why dating couples may spend more time worrying about political differences than religious distinctions. Feel free to chime in on that aspect, if you like. But the main point I would like you to consider is this:
Interfaith marriages may help the broader society, but are they good for the couples?

MIKE GHOUSE, President, Foundation for Pluralism, and Speaker on interfaith matters, diversity and pluralism

Marriage is between two individuals who are willing to commit to each other’s well-being. They dedicate their lives to each other till death does them apart. The couple marries as a fulfillment of their desire for each other, and there is rarely a consideration to help the broader society.
However, interfaith, inter-racial and inter-ethnic marriages have paved the way for others in the larger societies who were once denied the right to pursue their happiness. Stories abound, where the lovers were prevented, harassed or killed by the parents, society or the clergy. We must appreciate their sacrifice, even though that was not their intention.
I must add a couplet from Urdu and Hindi Language, written by the Master Indian poet Mirza Ghalib:
Ishq par zor naheeN, hai ye woh aatish ‘GHalib’
ki lagaaye na lage aur bujhaaye na bane
Love is such a flame Ghalib (pen name),
you cannot lit or extinguish it, it just happens.
Like all couples, the interfaith couple also endures similar strains in their relationship, (8.4 and 7.9 marital satisfaction on Riley Scale) but it may take the avatar of faith if they are at each other’s throat. It is always easy to blame the religion for our failings. However, interfaith and other inter-relationships tend to be stronger.
Political differences provide humor to some couples. My father and mother voted differently but never had a fight over it except the occasional cold wars. I am a Republican and my wife is a Democrat, and we make attempts to convince each other, but back off as quickly as we initiate it, when she quotes me the Quran, “That you cannot compel your spouse to believe what she does not want to believe.”
Interfaith couples must be admired by one and all. When couples are having difficulty in getting along, they are setting a new standard: respecting the otherness of someone else and accepting the God-given uniqueness of each other. They may have grown up in different religious traditions, but yet, religion is not a barrier. The poet philosopher of the East, Dr. Allama Iqbal, says, Religion does not teach one to have ill-will.
I am a marriage officiant and have performed a range of interfaith marriages as a part of my pluralism work.
To see all the other responses, at Dallas Morning News at:http://religionblog.dallasnews.com/2013/06/texas-faith-are-interfaith-marriages-good-for-couples.html/

Added: Interfaith marriages marriages performed include; Jewish-Christian; Hindu-Christian; Muslim-Jain; Hindu-Muslim, Atheist Hindu and  Jewish-Muslim and other combination for more details, please visit:http://www.interfaithmarriages.blogspot.com/
.....Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism, politics, peace, Islam, Israel, India, interfaith, and cohesion at work place. He is committed to building a Cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day at www.TheGhousediary.com. He believes in Standing up for others and has done that throughout his life as an activist. Mike has a presence on national and local TV, Radio and Print Media. He 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; fortnightly at Huffington post; and several other periodicals across the world. His personal site www.MikeGhouse.net indexes his work through many links.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Marrying Out of the Faith

Please check out my sermons on any one of the weddings listed on this blog

Courtesy of New York Times:


Back in 1963, my brother Ron was going out with (that was the phrase then) an Irish Catholic girl named Ann who was attending the University of Rhode Island. One day, she was sitting in class and suddenly through the window she saw my father, who, it turned out, had tracked her down by finding out from the university administration what classes she was taking and at what times. He took her to dinner and then proceeded to tell her that it would ruin his son’s life if he were to marry a non-Jewish girl. He then asked if she would be willing to have no contact with Ron for a year; in return, he offered to pay all her expenses during that time. She refused.

Meanwhile I had been asked if I could get Ron into the University of California at Berkeley, where I was then teaching. (My father, as I recall, was for this plan, and may even have initiated it.) I went to the head of the admissions office and said, “My brother has to get out of Rhode Island. Can you admit him here?”

“Sure,” he said, and it was done. (Those were the days; if I tried that in 2013, I would be run out of town.)

If the idea was to separate the two young people, it didn’t work. Shortly after Ron got to California, he sent Ann a plane ticket. When she arrived, they got married and have remained married to this day. She got a job at the university, took a class in Judaism and, much to my brother’s surprise, converted, although it took her a while to find a rabbi willing to give her the required course of instruction. Just the other day she remarked, “It was a hard club to get into.”

In 1963 I didn’t know any interfaith couples, but things have changed, as Naomi Schaefer Riley reports in her new book, “’Til Faith Do Us Part: How Interfaith Marriage Is Transforming America.”

According to Riley’s research — in 2010 she commissioned a large interfaith marriage survey — the interfaith marriage rate in the United States is 42 percent. The book is chock-full of fascinating statistics (“Jews are the most likely and Mormons are the least likely to marry members of other faiths”), but at its heart is a cautionary thesis: the growing number of interfaith couples don’t know what they’re getting into. “Interfaith couples tend to marry without thinking through the practical implications of their religious differences. They assume that because they are decent and tolerant people … they will not encounter difficulties being married to someone of another faith.”

They do, however, worry about marrying someone whose political views differ from theirs. Riley’s data show that “inter political party marriages are far less common than interfaith marriages.” Why, she asks, “do Americans seem so much more reluctant to marry outside of their political affiliation than their faith?”, and she answers that they may be “unaware or unwilling to acknowledge that religion can be a serious dividing in a marriage.” Because debating political differences is part of the culture in a way that debating religious differences is not, two people entering into a relationship are likely to be more concerned with the former than the latter.

That, Riley suggests, is a mistake. Early on, a difference in faith may seem unimportant and an occasion for practicing tolerance, while a difference over same-sex marriage or global warming or gun control may seem intractable and full of future hazard. (I can’t marry someone who believes that!) “But faith,” Riley insists, “is a tricky thing and it sneaks up on people,” especially at significant moments when the pull of old loyalties supposedly outgrown reasserts itself. “The death of a loved one, the birth of a child, the loss of a job, a move to a new city — all of these things can give people a sense of religious longing, a desire to return to the faith of their childhood.”

This can be true even of those whose childhood faith was weak and perfunctory. A Christian may think of herself or himself as not being religious at all, yet “find it hard to imagine family life without a Christmas tree.” A wife or a husband, also not particularly religious, may feel that having a Christmas tree goes too far. In an interfaith marriage, Riley observes, holidays can “become like bargaining chips.” (I’ll do this if you’ll do that, and if the children get to choose.) Even when one of the partners has converted and religious tensions have supposedly been eliminated, the fact of conversion can be the source of its own tension, as when one spouse, in the course of an argument, “plays the conversion card” and says “but I left my faith for you,” or, in other words, “You owe me big-time and for a long time.”

Once you begin to think about it, it’s obvious how many potential pitfalls await interfaith couples, but it is often not obvious to them, Riley says, for at least four reasons.

First, the liberal rhetoric of individualism and personal choice is casually affirmed without sufficient attention to the ways in which one’s choices and much else are influenced by tradition and community. Many interfaith couples have “chosen the romanticism and the individualistic ethos of America over the demands of the communities that they have come from” only to find, later on, that those demands still exert a force.

Second, young people today “consider religion to be a pursuit of the individual” and therefore downplay differences in ritual and doctrine; they minimize the requirements of faith by conceiving of faith as something without a specific content that might become the source of friction.

Third, the assertion, found everywhere in American cultural life, that differences are to be celebrated and embraced — our “obsession with tolerance at all costs” — obscures the extent to which those differences touch on something deep and immovable. “Ironically, interfaith marriage may awaken people to the fact that … that the particulars of practice and belief do matter, and that not all interfaith conflicts can be solved with the placement of a menorah next to a manger.”

And fourth, faith has become “racialized”; that is, we have come to think that “like skin color [it] is a trait that need not divide us.” But, Riley demurs, believing that faith “is a superficial characteristic the way race [and] ethnicity are” doesn’t make it so. In fact, “religious identity … can and should be considered” as more substantive than racial identity; and like any other substance it remains in place even when the commonplaces of multicultural doctrine tell us that it shouldn’t really matter.

My rehearsal of Riley’s points may suggest that her book is a brief against interfaith marriage. Far from it. She is herself a partner in an interfaith marriage (and in an inter-racial one, too), and she and her spouse have made it work. She just wants prospective interfaith couples to know that it is work, that love doesn’t conquer all, that “a rocky road may lie ahead of them” and that they “need to think in practical terms about their faith differences — how it will affect the way they spend their time, their money, and the way they want to raise their kids.” Her message is that if you don’t make the mistake of thinking it will be a bed of roses, you’ll have a better chance of its not being a bed of thorns.

The Church and the State of Matrimony

I am please to share articles related to interfaith wedding. Please read my partial sermon in any one of the weddings listed on this blog - Mike Ghouse

Courtesy : New York Times

’Til Faith Do Us Part,’ by Naomi Schaefer Riley

Americans have always been a religiously diverse people, even as the definition of what counts as diversity has changed. In 1774, members of the Continental Congress protested the idea of bringing in a chaplain to lead prayers: “We were so divided in religious sentiment,” one of them explained, “that we could not join in the same act of worship.” Overwhelmingly Protestant, they nonetheless recognized the significant differences of theology and practice that divided Anglicans from Presbyterians, Baptists from Quakers.
Pablo Amargo


How Interfaith Marriage Is Transforming America
By Naomi Schaefer Riley
234 pp. Oxford University Press. $24.95.
On this pluralistic foundation, immigrants and native-born innovators freely built. Transoceanic travel brought explosive growth to America’s Roman Catholic, Orthodox Christian and Jewish minorities from the mid-19th to the early 20th centuries. More recently, liberalized immigration laws have swelled the ranks of religious adherents who trace their theological roots to South and Southeast Asia, with Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and Sikhs often sharing our college and corporate campuses.
In “ ’Til Faith Do Us Part,” Naomi Schaefer Riley continues the exploration of these trends, but she chooses a particular territory: beyond the challenge of interfaith proximity lies that of interfaith intimacy. The people we casually meet in class or the next cubicle may become our marriage partners, despite real religious differences. Such unions are on the increase, and Riley reminds us how touchy a subject interfaith marriage can be, among religious authorities as well as parents. Both groups fret about potential disappointments short- and long-term, including unforeseen disagreements between partners and, among the next generation, a waning of religious and ethnic identity — a kind of extinction.
Riley, a former editor at The Wall Street Journal, is neither a cheerleader nor a scold. Her book functions more as a flashing yellow light at an intersection: slow down, be alert — pay attention to what serious differences may mean to a close relationship. She brings a careful, nuanced and thoughtful approach to an often contentious subject. And she adds considerable value by including results of a poll she commissioned to survey 2,450 Americans on the subject of interfaith marriage. Thus we learn that same-faith couples report somewhat higher rates of “marital satisfaction” (8.4 on a scale of 10) than do their interfaith counterparts (7.9). But the responses by specific groups vary. For example, mainline Protestants seem happy in their interfaith unions, at 8.2 on Riley’s scale. So, too, do Roman Catholics, at 8.1. Evangelical Protestants (those who describe themselves as “born-again”) are further down the scale at 7.7. Still, given the various challenges marriage itself can pose, none of these numbers are bad.
Riley’s initial interest in the subject is personal. A Jew who married a lapsed Jehovah’s Witness, she reassured her future husband — on their first date — that her family would like him as long as he agreed their children should be raised as Jews. Years on, it’s a happy marriage. (Her sister, by the way, is married to an Orthodox rabbi.) But this is no memoir. Riley rigorously sticks to her role as inquiring journalist, crossing the nation to interview people in interfaith marriages, as well as clergymen and -women who think a great deal about these unions. She covers a broad waterfront, even including mention of niche products that cater to interfaith couples (for example, holiday cards with elves spinning dreidels).

Unsurprisingly, the couples she interviews prove most interesting for the stories they tell. Amy, an evangelical Christian married to Farid, a Muslim, have a relaxed, gently humorous way of relating to each other. David, a Jew married to a Catholic, finds his wife emphatic that their family be observant, transposing her childhood experience in church onto her new family’s Jewish practice. As her husband says, that has “forced me to be much more active and engaged and involved” as a Jew. But such success stories have their unhappy counterparts; Riley’s chapter on divorce makes for painful reading. One woman, a lapsed Christian who married a Jew and rediscovered a powerful faith after her father died, bluntly tells Riley that she would “recommend against” marrying someone of a different faith. “Marriage is hard enough to not add the added dimension of such a fundamental disagreement,” she said. “Both faiths warn against marrying outside the faith for good reasons.”
Deeply interwoven with Riley’s narrative is an inevitable question: How do the children of these unions turn out? Will they have a religious identity or practice in a nation where pollsters tell us the population at large values religion?
This is actually an old question. The rifle barrels of the Revolution had barely cooled when a French immigrant, J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur, published “Letters From an American Farmer,” a book-length description of the emerging nation. He frankly marveled at the tolerance that allowed Catholics, Lutherans and Protestant sectaries to coexist peacefully. But he also worried about the consequences for religion: “It may happen that the daughter of the Catholic will marry the son of the seceder, and settle by themselves at a distance from their parents. What religious education will they give their children? A very imperfect one.”
But maybe not. The durability of religious affiliations in America seems to defy the dire predictions. Religionists have fretted about spiritual decline since the second generation of the Puritans. Had Crèvecoeur been right, his co-national Alexis de Tocqueville wouldn’t have discovered a population steeped in religious faith and practice. Tocqueville arrived in 1831, ahead of the great waves of immigration, yet at a time when prophets enlivened the spiritual scene. He visited a colony of Shakers near Albany, followers of Mother Ann Lee. But he missed the biggest religious story of the time: the revelations of Joseph Smith that led to the founding of what would become the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Riley notes that Mormons — while distinctly friendly to the non-Mormon spouses of mixed-faith couples — are the least likely among major religious groups to form interfaith marriages. She attributes this in part to the high demands the church makes on young men and women to serve as missionaries in their late teens, a deeply formative religious experience.
But back to that question about the progeny of interfaith couples. Are Riley’s findings intriguing? Yes, certainly. But they do not seem to fit a clear model. Take the case of Eileen, a Roman Catholic who had three children with her Jewish husband. Now adults, “one identifies as Catholic, one as Jewish, and one she describes as a ‘philosophy major.’ ”

And then there’s Judy, a Jew who also married a Roman Catholic — in this instance in 1964, with disapproval from both families. Their union lasted until her husband’s death. Their grown children include two who are religiously unaffiliated and a third who is a Roman Catholic priest. The cousins include Orthodox Jews. Perhaps a plot for a sitcom can be found here. But the issue goes well beyond entertainment. Is interfaith marriage good for America? To the extent that it dispels ignorance, punches holes in stereotypes and deflates bias, I would say it surely can be.
Gustav Niebuhr, who teaches at Syracuse University, is the author of “Beyond Tolerance: Searching for Interfaith Understanding in America.”