Love (God) ought to take precedence over religion
Chelsea Clinton, raised Methodist, and Marc Mezvinsky, Jewish, will wed this weekend.
Statistics show that 37 percent of Americans have a spouse of a different faith.
Statistics also show that couples in interfaith marriages are "three times more likely to be divorced or separated than those who were in same-religion marriages."
Is interfaith marriage good for American society? Is it good for religion? What is lost -and gained -when religious people intermarry?
Love, which is the very essence of G-d, ought to take precedence over religion, which is a very human product. That said, one shouldn't overlook the difficulties faced by those who enter marriages in which there are significant differences, whether that be Saints or Colts, American League or National League, Tastes Great or Less Filling, Ford or Chevy, Country or Pop, well....you get the picture.
Every marriage has enormous challenges to negotiate. No doubt, entering into wedded bliss with the added complication of figuring out what holidays, if any, to observe, which religious instruction to give the children, and what faith traditions and ethical guidelines to follow will add to the complications of agreeing on household finances, roles, potty training, and who will take the garbage out. A good marriage - kept alive through mutual love and understanding, open communication, and fair fighting - can overcome these hurdles. Adding one more difficulty just makes the mix all the more interesting! But divorce rates among "mixed" marriages indicate that not all are up for things being THAT interesting!
That said, I believe that inter-species marriages also have great advantages. I grew up on a farm and know the comparative vigor that hybrids have over non-hybrids. The best qualities of one strain (emphasis here, admittedly, on "strain!"), combined with the best qualities of another have led to some of the great advances in agriculture, the increase in yields, and even resistance to some of the diseases and insects plaguing other varieties. Yes, we prided ourselves on raising purebred Holsteins - but other farmers did just as well with "mixed breed" dairy cattle.
More to the point, I am the product of the cross-breeding of two religious traditions: Quaker and Methodist, and my own marriage has been graced by importing a Baptist to freshen up the Quaker gene pool! Now, some may argue that a Methodist/Jewish marriage is far more complicated that that of two Christian faiths - but they've not met headstrong Hoosier Quakers and the breed of sturdy American Baptists that are nourished in the soil of the "Burned Over District" of Upstate New York! There is something to be said for adding fresh perspective, challenging ingrown assumptions, and digging deep to find what is "essential" to faith. And it may not always be the assumed and all-too-often-unquestioned traditions with which one has been raised.
My own faith tradition, Quaker, was endogomous for its first 200 years. One could not "marry out," and the result was, literally, an inbred tradition. In fact, the problem of a limited gene pool became severe enough that the first mental hospital, The Retreat in York, England, was opened by Friends to serve, first, their own mentally challenged members - and then others in society. Some wonder at our mental capacity to this day! When Friends began to abandon marriage restrictions in the mid-1800s, it brought renewed vigor to the faith, and not merely through adding genetic diversity. Practices of other religious traditions were brought in slowly, helping to shake Friends out of a long period of "quietism" and leading to new and exciting ways of engaging the world.
The same could happen in marriage. Creative "blending" of religious traditions could strengthen and enliven the spiritual practices of both partners - and of the children.
It takes hard work; Quakerism's history is replete with failed "mixtures" of traditions - but it is also filled with stories of great breakthroughs in spirituality through the encounter with other ways of knowing G-d.
I have little sympathy with maintaining a religious tradition biologically. Where Quakerism depended on Quaker births (contrary to a religious tradition that abhors "paedo-baptism!"), it eventually went onto life-support, unable to make an argument for itself on its own merits. Religions that worry about "losing" members to mixed marriages need to get serious about promoting the virtues of their own "faith and practice" on their own merits!
I wish Chelsea and Marc all the best - and good for them! If love has brought them together, then, as The Captain and Tennille sang, "love will keep them together"! Perhaps I should "recuse" myself from commenting on their potential for wedded bliss, however. I happened to teach at the Philadelphia area Quaker school where the groom-to-be received his pre-college education - a Quaker school where the majority of students were Jewish! The mix seemed only to enhance the experience of all involved. If young Marc could survive - indeed, thrive - in a Quaker educational setting, I have no doubt he can handle a Methodist!
July 26, 2010; 2:22 PM ET
Save & Share:
Previous: Mixed marriage inevitable and desirable in a pluralistic society | Next: Islam needs more tolerance, not more mosques
Posted by: PSolus | July 28, 2010 10:11 AM
Report Offensive Comment
Posted by: PSolus | July 28, 2010 12:31 AM
Report Offensive Comment
The comments to this entry are closed.