Support the Café
Search our site

The challenges of inter-religious marriages

The challenges of inter-religious marriages

Journalist Naomi Schaefer Riley criss-crossed the country asking about what it is like for married couples of different faiths and describes what she found in a new book ’Til Faith Do Us Part.”

Gustav Niebuhr reviews the book in the New York Times:

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.”

Dislike (0)
Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmail

Café Comments?

Our comment policy requires that you use your real first and last names and provide an email address (your email will not be published). Comments that use non-PG rated language, include personal attacks, that are not provable as fact or that we deem in any way to be counter to our mission of fostering respectful dialogue will not be posted.

Facebooktwitterrss
Support the Café
Past Posts
2020_001

The Episcopal Café seeks to be an independent voice, reporting and reflecting on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition.  The Café is not a platform of advocacy, but it does aim to tell the story of the church from the perspective of Progressive Christianity.  Our collective sympathy, as the Café, lies with the project of widening the circle of inclusion within the church and empowering all the baptized for the role to which they have been called as followers of Christ.

The opinions expressed at the Café are those of individual contributors, and, unless otherwise noted, should not be interpreted as official statements of a parish, diocese or other organization. The art and articles that appear here remain the property of their creators.

All Content  © 2017 Episcopal Café