Interfaith Marriage and all that jazz…

Have you ever told your parents about someone that was tugging at your heart? How many people have had a conversation that goes like this;

You: Mom, I met this person and I think they might be the one.

Mom: That’s great honey! I want you to be happy. Now what church do they go to?

I was always wondered why this was always the first question my mother asked and I get it now, but the implications are deeper than I originally thought.

I think the chief reason why my Mom and other parents ask this question is for two reasons:

1) To gauge the person’s character since church attendance is often used as a character check
2) To see if the person practices the same faith as their child

And I think that parents should be respected for having their child’s best interests at heart. But I wonder how smooth the conversation would go if you responded to your parent’s (let’s assume they are Christian) question of where your love interest went to church by saying, “Well, actually, they go to a mosque.” How do you think your parents would respond? I know it is easy to think of your parents as the most respectful and open-minded people in the world but let’s keep it really real, shall we?

I think many parents would be taken aback and follow up by asking, “So are they Muslim?” And then I could imagine a series of questions dancing around the feasibility of two people dating that share different faiths.

Now is this wrong? I wouldn’t say so but I think something can be said for what I call “spiritual superiority.” What I mean by this phrase is the notion that spiritually centered parents often have a strong preference for three things: 1) seeing their children practice the same faith they raised them with, throughout adulthood, 2) watching their children grow up to marry someone who practices the same faith as them, and 3) witness their grandchildren be raised with the same faith as them.

Now on face value, I would say nothing is wrong with this paradigm and maybe in another post, we can talk about people who ended up practicing a new faith different from their parents. But for our purposes, we are going to look at interfaith relationships/marriage.

And rather than go into two pages worth of a post, I would rather provide the context and see where you want to take this post in the comments section. So the following are some of the questions that I would like you to chew on.

1) Would you ever date someone from a different faith? Why or why not?

2) Do you have different faith restrictions for someone you would date casually or someone you would seriously consider marrying? Why or why not?

3) Does your faith have specific restrictions on what faith your future husband/wife must practice? (And if you do know, it would be helpful if you can bolster your answer with textual support as opposed to what you were always told.)

4) Is it important that your future kids practice the same faith as you? Would you be open to them practicing a different faith from yours?

5) How would your parents react to your being in a serious relationship with someone of a different faith? And how much would their reaction influence your decision to continue your relationship?

6) Is it important that your kids be raised in household where both parents practice the same faith? If not, what is the upside of having interfaith households on a child’s spiritual development?

This should prove to be a very lively discussion,

Stay up fam,

Categories:
Relationships
Spirituality

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12 responses to “Interfaith Marriage and all that jazz…”

  1. Nikki P. says :

    Back in the day I would never have dated outside my faith. Now, I’m realizing that’s difficult to do. I also think I’m more open-minded now. I know I could date outside my faith. As long as that person is able to be respectful of my faith. I could date a Buddhist or lawd have mercy a Baptist 😉 as long as they didn’t tell me my faith is stupid and insult my practices. I would be just as respectful of theirs. I might be a little salty the person isn’t the exact faith as me but I could get over it. I think I’m more concerned about having a partner who doesn’t believe spirituality is important at all. Now, that is a deal breaker. Some of my family would clearly have issues with me dating someone of a different faith but others wouldn’t give any care.

    If it got that serious, I might ask that the children are exposed to both worlds equally and objectively. So, they can make their own decisions as young adults.

    Demeaning and degrading practices in certain faiths that can’t be tolerated are a whole other discussion all together. I have an added respect for folks who don’t subscribe to everything their ministers, elders, or pastors tell them to do or think and stand up against things that aren’t quite right within their faith or religion.

  2. Whitney W. says :

    As someone who views my faith as a relationship and not as a practiced religion i deem it necessary for my partner to not have the same spiritual basis as i do but to practice his faith and utilize it in his life the same way i do, if not on a larger level. It is for mine and his best interest as someone who has committed her life to the Lord. In doing so my life is no longer mine,and HE directs me to the one I should be with-no other influence-including “what I like,” or “what i am attracted to.” That means that if I am going to walk with Jesus, my partner has to as well. If not, then we will be guided by two separate entities, two separate faiths-two separate gods. Our ideals would be the same: love people and commit no ill will but a relationship with Christ goes beyond that. I cannot be with someone who does not acknowldege the Lord who is central to my existence while he serves another, because JESUS is the central figure in my life. In denying Jesus, my partner is denying me.

  3. "The Consigliere" says :

    B,
    You comin with the hot fire lately. In the Bible, there is a verse that warns about being “unequally yoked” with unbelievers. Now what I might say is unpopular, but I think it is extremely difficult and almost impossible to date a person of a different faith. Heck, it is hard enough to be a Protestant and date a Catholic. Why? Because the temptation to compromise your beliefs is too great. Especially when it comes to the kids. All that ends up happening is a lot of conflict and confusion, when in a household, you need to be on one accord.

    I have dated women of other faiths and it was difficult to really get on the level, because it was like we were playing from two different playbooks. For example, when I have a problem, I pray or read the Word. And often times you want someone to pray with you. But if your significant other cannot connect with you on that level, that will create distance and discord because you do not approach problems the same.

    I could go on, but let me just leave it at this right here.

  4. Nikki P. says :

    Actually Steve I do think what you said is very popular among faith based communities? I think it has more to do with understanding and respect than compromise. No one is asking anyone to compromise or assimilate even though many faiths have laid out the ground work that you are either with me or against me.

    I know people who don’t know how to spell church or read but pray everyday. I know lots of people who pray who aren’t the same faith as I am. I recently read a blog by a buddhist about why it is so hard for him to date women of a different faith. It is not about his reservations, it is about his partner’s. His fiance cancelled their engagement because of the equally yoked passage in the bible and her family’s dissent.

    He lays out some stuff honestly I never thought about before.

  5. Nikki P. says :

    Is is really our faith or views holding the love back? I believe in God and also agree with him on a lot of issues as well.

    Illustrated in Part 1, I lost my fiancé due to our religious differences, and I was very hurt, because I sincerely tried to love her, regardless of our sectarian affiliations, I felt persecuted and judged by her and the religious messages like “evenly yoked”.

    At first, I felt wrong that the past five girlfriends I’ve had were non-Black women: Western New York (by way of Buffalo), Russian-American, French (Parisian), Italian (Napoli by way of Casserta) and Italian again (by way of Brindisi). Honestly, they have continued to be incredible and awesome women who, who have good friends with me to this very day. Seriously, I’ll always love them; nonetheless, I miss women of color (Blacks, Latina, Asian, and even some north-European women). I’ve dated them throughout my life (about 98%), but settling down or committing to them was always a problem. I’ve often been told, “You’re a perfect guy, but you’re Buddhist.”

    Why do so many Christians have a problem with Buddhists when they (Blacks in particular) generally don’t know anything about us? Many think that the Buddha is some fat gold guy with a big belly, when that is a pre-Buddhist Chinese god of happiness and good fortune who eventually became a Buddha. Moreover, many of our people have not been exposed or sought after any Buddhist literature, or can identify a non-pop culture Buddhist. In an interview with Tony Brown on Tony Brown Journal (Tony Brown’s Journal is the longest running national public affairs TV series on PBS – please watch it!), Keith Boykin, the author of Beyond the Down Low: Sex, Lies, and Denial in Black America (2006) suggests that most African-Americans are politically liberal and yet socially conservative.

    So before any of the women of my people unleashed a tirade of “oh he’s just using an excuse of why he can’t get with a sista! He is like all these brothers out here dating White women.”

    Have you considered that being a Black Buddhist means:

    I do not forbade homosexuality. I believe in gay marriage. I support a woman’s right to choose. I believe that Islam brought about the return of civilization to Europe, and that the crusades and the burning of women as witches were the bloodiest demonstration of mass religious fanaticism next to the African slave trade. I support the history that Christianity during the enslavement of Blacks, led to the immediate spiritual emancipation of that era, and so there’s nothing wrong with Jesus as a personal savior.

    I also support the manifestation of liberation theology (my favorite form of Christianity) combines Christian theology with a sense of freedom through a socio-cultural justice message like “ubuntu”. I believe that we are all Africans: Black, Latinos, Asians, Latins, East Europeans, North Europeans, Middle Easterners, Islanders, and Anglo-Saxons. Is that just about everyone? I believe that Africans and African religions are just as sacred as other world religions and shouldn’t be labeled as pagan.

    I believe in biological evolutionary evidence though I’m not a Darwinist. I believe that one can not claim the presence of African people unless there are archaeological and culturally-anthropological evidence that supports this claim and thus I’m a fan of carbon testing and genetic traceable sciences (that proves that we are all from Africa) I believe that “One Nation under God” should be optional for the pledge of allegiance, and that prayer in schools should be monitored and intuitional supported as long as there the same s provided to all religions represented by the student population. I believe that all religious articles of faith (i.e. ten commandments) should not exist in public schools. I believe that any form of slavery is not civilized no matter what religious scripture, the god you worship says, or when foolish scientific reports try to justify otherwise. I believe in stem cell research, but under careful scrutiny and oversight by the government, the United Nations, and NGOs. I agree with the Jewish and Islamic faith that what we place in our mouths (i.e. pork) as well as Christian faith in what comes out of our mouths can lead to better health practices. I understand the depth and meaning of reincarnation and that death is a transition from one state to another.

    Everything else is up to debate, but I recognize that these views would make even the most liberal monotheists cringe. Many believe that if you have two people with strongly opposing views that at some point it will cause frustration in a serious relationship. It’s hard to move forward together when both people are moving in two separate directions. I agree to some extent, but is it about “views” or “religions” that makes them different? Let’s see what Kosmin, Mayer, and Keysar in their Religious Identification Survey (2001) published by City University of New York Graduate Center reveal that next to Episcopalians who rank number 1 at 42%, and Buddhists rank number 2 at 39%, live in religiously mixed families above all religions practiced to a large number in the United States. How is this connected to Blacks?

    75.7% of blacks are Protestant; 6.5 percent are Catholic; 0.2 percent are Jewish; 7 percent are “Other”; 10.6 percent do not identify with a religious group.

    For Latinos:

    71% of the U.S. Catholic population growth since 1960 is due to Hispanics; 39 percent of U.S. Catholics are Hispanic; 72.6 percent of U.S. Latinos are Catholic; 20.6 percent of U.S. Catholic parishes have a majority Latino population; 6.3 percent of U.S. priests are Hispanic; 25 of 281 active U.S. bishops are Hispanic.

    So primarily we have:

    75.7% Black Protestants
    72.6% Latino Catholics

    Amongst Black protestants, surprisingly, Protestants are number 3 ranked at 33% likely to live in a religiously mixed household. Now, Protestants include many different religions that may inter-religiously differ by a small variance but nonetheless counted as being separate. Baptists, for example, are 18% percent likely to live in a religiously mixed household, along with Evangelical/Born Again Christians who also are also 18% less likely to have a religiously mixed household.

    Latino Catholics are 23% likely to live in a religiously mixed household.

    With Buddhists and Catholics there seem to be a greater difference than the rift between Buddhists and Protestants. Actually both religious bodies are likely to live in a religiously mixed household. So if religion isn’t the problem then what is? Views!

    Blacks and Whites are statically parallel when it comes to attending church services, how often prayer is made, and believing in life and death. Then both groups become enormously different alongside other issues:

    Blacks are 82% likely to be a Protestant by preference over the 58.8% of Whites.

    Blacks are 65.2% likely to have fundamentalist views over the 26.9% of Whites.

    Blacks are 25.3% likely not supportive of measures of Banning Bible/Prayer in Public Schools as opposed to 41.4% of Whites.

    Blacks are 55.1% likely to believe that the Bible is the Word of God as opposed to 29.9% of Whites.

    Blacks are 33.5% likely to believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God as opposed to 52.6% of Whites.

    With these statistics laid out, it’s no wonder why I have a difficulty dating many women of color due to vastly different religious and worldview differences, and statistically easier to find Asian women as religiously and worldview compatible – that’s messed up.

  6. "The Consigliere" says :

    Nikki,

    At the risk of sounding trite, I had to put that passage out there. I do not doubt that there is not respect, however, when situations, tensions and life occurs, that is when the rubber meets the road. If you married to a muslim, and they want their child to have a muslim name, and you dont, then what? That is when the rubber meets the road.

    Relationships are all about compromise, but that compromise is an outgrowth of respect and understanding. Marriage is more than just two people coming together, it really is about the families. And they can create a lot of strife without even trying.

    The difficulty comes when you find out what your partner is willing or unwilling to negotiate. And every person of faith has that line that they will not cross. Then what do you do?

    I agree with you that I do not agree with the pedantic or dogmatic adherence people have when it comes to their spirituality, because it opens the door to hypocrisy. I do not knock people’s personal pursuit of spirituality. Anyone can pray, but who you praying to makes all of the difference. And as you said some belief systems do not mix well with others, by design (e.g. Christianity and Islam). It will make a difference as far as our world view and how we approach problems and what we allow to go on in our households. Especially in relationships, you cannot be going in two different directions and some things cannot be reconciled. Thats just the reality of the situation. It has been this way since Moses, it is this way today, and it will continue to be this way.

  7. Nikki P. says :

    Steve, I am challenging the idea that someone of a different faith is going in a different direction. Why can’t a christian be okay with their child having a Muslim name or vice versa? Many of my muslim students have children with non- muslim names and many of my students who are not muslims still have muslim names because they have muslim family members or loved ones.

    What do you do?

    I think you try to be open-minded.
    I think you open discussion not yelling of people from different faiths. I think you really educated yourself about other religions/faiths.(Which I don’t think MANY people do) Find out where do you really differ? I’m not convinced it all about the faith. I think we have personal views we call faith. For example, slave masters used faith and religion as reason for slavery for years which was really an excuse for their racism and patriarchic rule. I think people should be clear about the two.

    My religion/faith allows me to eat pork but I don’t because the swine and I don’t agree physically. Many of my Muslims students were anti-choice. Seems more and more like Islam and Christians coming together to me. Christian pray and Muslims pray a whole lot. You get my drift. I’m pin pointing a few things because differences are always easy to point out like the negative news stories. We need more love, similarities and good stories. They exist and are worthy of working toward.

    On kids:
    I just think while u can influence your children’s faith utimately as adults they will make their own choices and yes with you as a guide. Why not show them the alternatives, see their response and be able to have a civilized conversation with them even if they don’t choose your faith because some folks do change faiths or have different faiths than their parents. Family and relationships should not break up over things like this. Think they are misguided, pray for em’.

    So you know this will continue to be dominate because you can predict the future? Alright psychic minister.

  8. "The Consigliere" says :

    Haha. Good points Nikki. I like your optimism. But looking at the current religious intolerance we are currently experiencing, it is nothing different than what has occurred in every civilization throughout history. You look at the past to make projections into the future. Why? Because of human nature.

    I am all for religious tolerance and the like. I serve who I serve and you serve who you serve. I don’t force that on anybody. However, relationships already take an inordinate amount of work, and that is just some extra. If the individuals are built for the fight, then it will work. But that is rare, because the path of least resistance is mad popular. So overcoming a hurdle as huge as beliefs is major and exacerbates differences. For instance, I don’t believe in celebrating Halloween with my children, my family never has. But women I have dated told me that was dumb. It is a little thing, but it is these nagging differences that become big when the going gets rough. It is an aggravating factor. But I hope one day things will change, but knowing how emotionally wired people are to their beliefs and how they build their identity around it, I don’t see any Olive branches being handed out any time soon. But I really appreciate your points and think you have some valid points.

  9. Ellen says :

    Question 1: Yes, I would, I have, and I am currently (sort of). Why? Because love doesn’t come in boxes.

    Question 2: No, I dont have different restrictions. Why? Because I date to find someone I want to spend my life with. Having different qualifications for different types of dating defeats my purpose of dating.

    Question 3: Yes, it does. I do not have time to research and post my results but I am Catholic and the Catholic church says I should marry Catholic.

    Question 4: No, it is not extremely important to me. It would be important to my family, especially my parents.

    Question 5: My parents are not especially fond of this idea. They are not pleased that my current partner (and future husband) is not Catholic. However, they know not to press the issue too much. We have come to an unspoken mutual agreement that his faith does not matter and I will not “abandon” the faith to which they raised me to believe.

    Question 6: No, it is not important to me. It is something that I could see my family having a problem with. Personally, I see a multi-faith household as an opportunity to teach understanding and tolerance-something this world sees and experiences too little of.

    -Ellen

  10. Meela says :

    Ok, it seems that there has been a lot of intense discussion related to this topic, and hopefully I can shed light on some interesting things to think about when it comes to the topic of “interfaith marriage”. This has been something that I have thought a lot about, specifically because I am aware of the unfortunate stigmatism that surrounds this topic, but also because in my particular religion there are specific guidelines and descriptions that are involved to help when choosing a life-long mate. For those who are opposed or apprehensive about interfaith marriage I have found their argument for such a case is based upon a few things 1) It is specifically forbidden in their religion that they not marry someone of a different religion (and notice that I did not say faith because I believe that someone can have a different religion and extremely similar if not identical areas of faith, but I will use the word interfaith for the sake of the post), 2) they or someone else they know has interpreted that their religion suggests that this is inappropriate for them to do 3) It will be difficult and confusing for the future children and family structure 4) Your faith will somehow be threatened, compromised, or challenged because you are married to someone of a different religion.

    1)In response to the first reason, if your religion specifically forbids you to marry someone of a different religion, we shouldn’t be even having this discussion because that is pretty cut and dry and this doesn’t leave much room for debate. Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs and feelings, I believe the spirit of the original post was not only to state what you believe but to provide some rational for it and maybe think outside of the context of “this is how I believe it should be, so that’s just how it is”. Clearly if you believe that by marrying someone of a different faith completely goes against everything your religion teaches, then obviously you might not want to do that. However, now we get into the discussion of your interpretation of how to practice your religion, and of course you assume that your interpretation of the practice of your religion is correct, and by doing so you have assumed that your current interpretation of interfaith marriage is correct…lets just meditate on that for a minute…

    2)Okay, so say that things are not so rigidly defined for you and the reason why you oppose interfaith marriage is because you simply believe in the goodness of this and it will supposedly be easier to marry someone of the same religion. This is understandable, I’m not saying that being in an interfaith marriage is not going to be easy, but I find it extremely discouraging that one would not have the desire to fight for, struggle, and stay by someone whom they love and deeply care about. If only we made all of life decisions based upon what is the most convenient, we would have a smooth free sailing life wouldn’t we? Furthermore, because someone is of the same religion this by no means guarantees marital bliss. For so long I feel like everyone has just assumed that interfaith marriage just will not work, simply on the notion that it will not work. Clearly all this creates is the same attitude toward the topic, and continues to perpetuate this belief.

    3)Unfortunately most people do not possess psychic capabilities so having a pre-determined faith for your future children is granting knowledge and power that is completely beyond your control. I know a number of situations where children have grown up in a same religion household and are either non-practicing or following a different faith. The truth is you can not control what happens, what you can do is raise your children in a positive environment that exposes them to a variety of things that life has to offer. We take so much pride in children being “multi-talented”, whether that be through experiencing different sports, instruments, and hobbies, its ok for a child to have this type of diverse experience, but when a child is able to experience different spiritual beliefs, practices, and teachings for some reason this is going to confuse the child. At some point in time regardless of all of the hard work that was done to ensure that the children would have a particular religion, that child is going to have to make a decision and quite honestly the outcome of that decision is unknown. What is even scarier about this is that we are talking about deciding if you should embark on a relationship or marry someone based upon the potential beliefs of an unborn child at some unknown time in the future. I understand that if you want to have a family you should plan ahead, but I feel this is a little extreme. Anyway, religion should be a choice, and if anything, it seems like happiness would come from your child choosing the same religion you possess because of their complete free will as opposed to them choosing the religion because it is the religion their parents practiced.

    4)This might come out the wrong way, but I’m just going to put it out there…if you are concerned about your faith being challenged or compromised in anyway by your partner, instead of placing the issue on the other person, you might want to re-evaluate where you stand on things. I have always believed that the true test of faith is not something which comes easy, and is not when everyone agrees with you all the time. If you are able to be firm in your faith DESPITE other people, places, or things, then there is nothing that can shake you from that faith. I have always thought this is why people sometimes have difficulty learning and studying about faiths different than their own, for fear that they would have weakened faith or convert. Clearly this is not an issue involving the other person or the other religion, but more so an insecurity about a potential change in your own spiritual views. If you believe wholeheartedly in something, praying with someone of a different faith, reading a different religious scripture, and learning about different religions should ultimately not change, alter, or negatively affect that in anyway.
    – This is all for now…the post is getting long, but hopefully this is something to seriously think about.

  11. Jeremy B. says :

    I myself choose not to date, nor have intimate relations, with someone of a different faith than I. I am a devout Christian, who doesn’t think that I’m better than the next guy, but certainly better off. And I think that when you have a solid foundation in your faith (regardless of what it is), it makes your life so much simpler, especially concerning the complexities of marriage and relationships. In scripture, Jesus laid out his plans for marriage vehemently in saying, “Don’t be unequally yoked with unbelievers…what fellowship is there between light and darkness…a believer and an unbeliever?”.
    Furthermore, if you do practice a certain faith, ask yourself what is it exactly that steers you to away from your religion to be with someone of another faith? Because frankly, isn’t your faith, or your God, significantly more important than your own personal desires for love? Some would say no. Then why is it that you allow your faith to only dictate certain areas of your life, excluding something as imperative as marriage? Shouldn’t the foundation of your intimacy, spouse or significant other, children, and the well being of your future rest in the crux of your faith? I think so. Therefore, in order to deviate from confusion, dilution of faith in God, moral issues in the home, and separation from your spouse on a spiritual level, interfaith relationships should be avoided.

  12. Brittany says :

    Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God.
    As God has said, “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”
    “Therefore come out from them and be separate,” says the lord, “Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.”
    “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters,” says The Lord Almighty
    Since we have these promises, dear friends let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.
    2 Corinthians 6: 14- 18

    Therefore if we are supposed to be away from non-Christians, why would we marry one? See… it is against Gods will. So NO we can not as Christians marry someone of a different religion?
    If you dont follow it, you are going against christianity. Going against Jesus, and your religion. [if you are a christian]

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