Streams

Mixed Faith Families

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Religious Symbols, religion (Paul G/flickr)

Naomi Schaefer Riley, author of 'Til Faith Do Us Part: How Interfaith Marriage is Transforming America (Oxford University Press, 2013) talks about her own interfaith family and her research on the rise in mixed faith families in America--and takes your calls about your interfaith partnership.

Guests:

Naomi Schaefer Riley

Comments [26]

One of the most difficult situations is where a person of enlightened thinking marries aperson of faith. The thinking person feels he or she can't communicate or share the most important part of their life with the other person.

Feb. 10 2014 10:53 AM
raised catholic now athiest

"Nowadays," how many children raised in a specific faith, continue in that faith and how many reject the faith of their parents?

Feb. 10 2014 10:42 AM

This is even more boring then it was the first time around.

Feb. 10 2014 10:40 AM
Will

I grew up in an ethnically mixed household and environment in the Bronx. I was born here as well. My mother is Dominican from the island. My father is African-American from the south. I have an older brother who was born in the Dominican Republic and his dad was Dominican. My neighborhood was very Irish and Italian at one time. It then became predominantly African-American and Puerto Rican.

For the few Dominicans here at the time (1970s), I wasn't Dominican enough. For the African-Americans, I wasn't African-American enough. Of course, the Irish and the Italians never saw me as one of them, even though I have a thick quintessential New York accent and hung out with them all the time.

As you might imagine, I had all types of identity issues growing up, until I had an epiphany.

1) Who you are is where your head is at. It’s about where you are comfortable. Culture is defined by patterns of interaction and by commonly shared values and meaning. What you look like doesn't matter. The idea that an Asian-American with Chinese lineage, raised here, will feel at home in Beijing is highly unlikely.

2) Culture is a valid construct. Race is not. Therefore to suggest someone is half black or half white, and then say half Japanese or half Brazilian makes no sense.

3) I do not allow people to define me. Ask me what I am and I will tell you.

4) A name can be used to communicate who you are. My last name is hyphenated and carries a Spanish surname.

5) There are all kinds of Latinos, including those like me who speaks Spanish, dances Merengue, listens to Pink Floyd, and can't stand Bachata.

6) When people do ask me what I am, I tell them the following. I am a New Yorker, Latino, Dominican-American, in that order.

Feb. 10 2014 10:26 AM
Julie

Growing up "both" changes your brain.

Here's an essay I wrote about my adventures in bothmind: http://perfectwhole.wordpress.com/2012/07/01/adventures-in-bothmind/

Feb. 10 2014 10:06 AM
Ed from Larchmont

One of the most difficult situations is where a person of faith marries an atheist or agnostic. The person of faith feels he or she can't communicate or share the most important part of their life with the other person.

Feb. 10 2014 09:13 AM
DTorres from Manhattan

Some mixed race families are visually more appealing than others.

Jan. 08 2014 04:06 PM
Elizabeth from Manhattan

Stephen from Prospect Park: Brian was merely quoting a phrase that is often used in some Jewish circles.

And as extreme as it may sound, I am inclined to feel that way myself. Fortunate to have grown up in NYC where Judaism sometimes seems like the majority religion, or certainly accepted and infused into the mainstream culture, I never really experienced just how small a population we are. But once I see the numbers and travel, I feel how very important it is to retain and grow our religion among those who were raised as such, as well as welcoming members by choice.

And as I'm sure you're already aware, I believe Hitler was himself 1/4 Jewish.

Dec. 19 2013 11:41 AM
Elizabeth from Manhattan

I think w/religion, as w/politics, it's more a matter of degree than "Brand," if you will.
It may be a little easier w/religion than politics b/c we tend to give one another more space as it's "a personal matter," whereas w/politics, it's kind of a guiding philosophy on how to live (if moderately to extremely passionate). Again, a matter of degrees.

My husband and I are both Jewish but it's almost like a mixed marriage. He was bar mitzvahed, tutored by an Orthodox rabbi to accommodate his Pop Warner football schedule, but has no interest in going to Temple.
I grew up w/a Christmas tree (Mom was German), went to religious school 1x/week but never learned Hebrew and pretty much only go to synagogue consistently at the High Holidays and for my parents' yarzeits [anniversary of death].

We have had plenty of debates on the nature of religion and its implementation in our respective lives. Like James Carville and Mary Matalin, I think sometimes it's easier if you share the same level of passion even if on opposite or different "teams" b/c at least you then respect one another's level of commitment.

Dec. 19 2013 11:32 AM
Cathty from Hoboken, NJ

My mother was raised as a Catholic and my father as Greek Orthodox. They were both agnostic at the time of their marriage but my mother agreed to marry in the Greek Orthodox Church to please my father's parents. She said that she didn't care at the time but seemed to resent it bitterly during the following decades. After their marriage, my parents said they were seeking a religion in which to raise their children. At the time of my birth, they were still agnostic and refused to have me baptised in either the Greek Orthodox or Catholic Church to the dismay of both families. Soon after that, they were converted to born again Christianity by a former Orthodox priest who had also converted. They joined a Baptist Church and I was raised in that faith, going to church many times a week. I grew up to resent and doubt that religion and after much agonizing in my late teen years, have been ardently atheist for the past 3 decades.

Dec. 19 2013 11:11 AM
PS from NJ

My family is fully Indian - Gujrati to be exact, my boyfriend's family is the same. You would think we have everything in common as any fully American couple here in the states. As both sets of our parents are immigrants, we are both "First Generation Americans". My boyfriend's family is Hindu - which he does not actively practice, and my family is Jain,and I do practice. The two religions are very different.
Aside from this, my boyfriend eats everything under the sun and I do not. I find that my religion allows me to be open to other lifestyles, I cook him meat, however I do not eat it. So far we're able to respect each others lifestyles. I'm hoping this continues as long as we communicate and be on the same page as to what we want in our lives together.

Dec. 19 2013 11:08 AM
Eleanor Harrison Bregman from Upper West Side, NYC

I am a Christian (UCC, although I grew up Episcopalian) minister married to a Jewish man and raising Jewish children. We chose to have our children converted as babies by orthodox rabbis and they go to Jewish Day school. I work as a chaplain at the Jewish Home in the Bronx mainly with the Protestant residents. I also run a program at our synagogue, Romemu, on the Upper West Side called "A Stranger No More" for interfaith families. Two nights ago we had a session on the complexity of navigating this time of year for families whose members in some way identify or come from different religious traditions. I very much agree with Naomi's last comment that navigating interfaith family life is a lifetime journey, and every time I think perhaps we have worked through some challenge of our interfaith life, there is another one, unexpected, that comes along - because, as she said, of a death in the family, or a birth, or a holiday that one of us wants to observe a little differently this year, etc...It is challenging. But the upside for us is that we have learned how to communicate with each other well on emotional topics - and how to listen to the feelings "underneath" the conversation rather than simply reacting to the other - to hear the grief involved a conversation about how to celebrate Christmas when my mother is no longer here to organize it all, for example. This has held us in good stead in other areas of our life, like parenting, buying an apartment, and dividing up household chores! Each month at our sessions at Romemu I am reminded of how important it is to have a safe place with other folks to explore the challenges, blessings, frustrations and joys of interfaith family life. It has made all the difference to me to know I am not alone in this!

Dec. 19 2013 11:05 AM

RELIGION: Just say no!

Dec. 19 2013 10:53 AM
Miscellaneous from NYC

I am Jewish and my husband is Sikh. I practice my faith and he practices his, though less so. We keep a kosher home (he cooks me kosher Indian food :-) ), I attend my shul and he attends the gurudwara when he feels the need; gurudwaras are open 24/7 so one can go any time.

We do not have children together; his children from his first marriage are Sikh and I expect them to remain so, but one of them married a Christian. I don't know exactly how they plan to raise their children.

The reason we get along and can make this marriage work is R E S P E C T. I don't try to convert him, nor he me. I encourage him to participate more fully in his Sikh faith because that is his family's heritage. And he has attended services with me occasionally.

Dec. 19 2013 10:50 AM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretenious Hudson Heights

Paige from Manhattan,

In that family birth order is destiny.

Dec. 19 2013 10:50 AM

How 'bout the concept of not regressing to what your parents did/do and tossing out ALL the pie-in-the-sky magical thinking altogether!!!

Dec. 19 2013 10:49 AM
Paige from Manhattan

I had a room mate in college who's parents were a Christian Scientist and the other was Catholic. They had eight kids and four were raised Catholic and four were raised CS. So the oldest was Catholic and then the next one was CS and so on.

Dec. 19 2013 10:48 AM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretenious Hudson Heights

What is the second symbol from the right?

Extraterrestrial?

Dec. 19 2013 10:48 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Jews are a tribe, and a person born to a Jewish mother is part of the tribe regardless of the identity of the father. Which means, a Jew can immigrate to Israel and quickly become a citizen whereas a non-Jew does not have the same right. A person born to a Jewish father but a non-Jewish mother is not a Jew regardless of how they are raised. Being "raised Jewish" does not make you a Jew because Jews are a tribe, not a universal religious denomination. Becoming a Jew means becoming the member of a tribe and is not easy.

Dec. 19 2013 10:47 AM
Kerry from Fort Greene, Brooklyn

I am surprised not to hear about this mixing may cause a crisis if faith for couples or children.

Dec. 19 2013 10:46 AM
Stephen from Prospect Park

Disagree with comment: "doing hitler's work..." because Nazi racism was blood based, big innovation in anti-semitism. Previously, such as during Inquisition, conversion was enough to save one's life. Under Hitler, even if you did not identify, if you were 1/16th jewish, you would potentially end up in a camp. poor research, Brian.

Dec. 19 2013 10:46 AM
James from Brooklyn

My wife is Roman Catholic and I am an atheist (more ANTI-theist) and my wife's mother was much LESS upset about her daughter marrying me than she was about her son (my brother-in-law) marrying his wife who is Eastern Orthodox... more evidence of the absurdity of religion as far as I am concerned.

Dec. 19 2013 10:45 AM
John A

Anyone out there raising their children double? Attending both services in other words.

Dec. 19 2013 10:40 AM
HW from NJ

At our son's BarMitzvah, our Rabbi noted that my husband, born in Germany post WWII to a family who survived the Holocaust, spoke fluent Yiddish, and raised Orthodox on the East Coast of USA and I from a liberal, Reform Jewish Midwestern family was truly a MIXED MARRIAGE. I've always found that funny and true though we have managed to meld our differences over a long marriage. Mostly, my husband has moved left to my side / view of things though I appreciate and have learned from his upbringing too.

Dec. 19 2013 10:37 AM
Mike from Cold Spring NY

I was born a Jew in Brooklyn. My wife is originally from Mississippi and converted to Judeism when she married her first husband. While I identify culturally with being a Jew, the food, the comedy, etc, my wife is more interested in the religion and is always pushing me to go to temple and observe holidays. Being Jewish is important to me but not as religion. My wife was not brought up in the culture so the religion is important to her.

Dec. 19 2013 10:36 AM
HW from NJ

At our son's BarMitzvah, our Rabbi noted that my husband, born in Germany post WWI to a family who survived the Holocaust, spoke fluent Yiddish, and raised Orthodox on the East Coast of USA and I from a liberal, Reform Jewish Midwestern family was truly a MIXED MARRIAGE. I've always found that funny and true though we have managed to meld our differences over a long marriage. Mostly, my husband has moved left to my side / view of things though I appreciate and have learned from his upbringing too.

Dec. 19 2013 10:20 AM

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