Interfaith Marriages

November 08, 2003

From Philocrites: Interfaith marriages.

Here's the first Philocrites discussion topic for Unitarian Universalists, suggested by John B. (Thanks, John!) Is your spouse or partner Roman Catholic? What works and what doesn't work in your interfaith marriage? What resources have helped? What resources would you love to find? And what about the kids: How are you raising or how do you plan to raise your children? Click the "Comments" link below and share your stories and insights.

If you have another sort of interfaith marriage, feel free to join the conversation but we'll probably come back to this topic for UU-Protestant, UU-Jewish, and other sorts of interfaith marriages later.

I answered there, I am reposting here.

I am in an interfaith marriage that, so far, has worked well. The keys for us have been that, despite coming from very different religious traditions we have fairly similar religious world-views and that, we are both able to talk about our religion. J was raised Reform Jewish, prefers the worship practices of Conservative Jews, but lives a theology and level of kashrut that is closer to Reform. I was raised Roman Catholic, drifted away from the dogmatism, and seriously contemplated conversion to Reform Jewish before settling down in the "Courtyard of the temple." On those tests of religious constellations, I come down as Reform Jewish or liberal Christian; for my work I read 19th century evangelical Christians.

The odd thing is that two of J's cousins married a pair of Catholic brothers, and all three households have their own solution to the intermarriage. J and I agreed to raise the kids Jewish; we are handling the Christmas problem by having no Christmas tree in the house until the youngest is 7 - at that point they should be old enough to understand the differences. Christmas is a holiday that happens at Grandpa's house.

Our marriage ceremony was interesting. Both Rabbis in the town we lived in at the time would have been glad to supervise a conversion but would not, as a matter of principle, conduct an interfaith marriage. A Catholic marriage was out of the question; neither of us could have made those promises. We looked into having a Virginia lay officiant marry us; we looked into having our of our friends licensed as a lay officiant; we ended up going to the local U-U church and working with them. The minister was on sabbatical that month, so our marriage was performed by a very nice U-U divinity student. We designed the ceremony, and the celebrant was the legal figure as we stood up before God, family and friends: Protestant ceremony structure, all readings from the Hebrew Bible, vows tweaked for equality.

What works and does not work? You really have to pre-plan. It does not matter how you handle the interfaith question. What matters is that both partners have an honest discussion, in detail, about how they intend to approach it. You can not put the hard questions aside for "later" - you have to figure them out before you tie the knot.

Our intermarriage has made congregation-shopping difficult. Some reform temples trumpeted their interfaith accommodations so loudly that we wondered if they had a Jewish quorum. Others gave us the cold shoulder once they heard about the interfaith marriage. Where we currently live we found a Conservative temple that accepted us, but J worries that I do not have ritual space available to me. If we are still here when our son becomes Bar Mitsvah, I will not be allowed to come up and bless him, and that bothers J a lot.

But, odds are we will have moved by then. That is one decision we will defer. Or rather, we know that while J prefers the worship practice at most Conservative temples, before eldest son starts Hebrew school we will have to go congregation shopping again and will most likely change to a Reform temple.

This is longer than I thought it would be.
Ted K.

Posted by Red Ted at November 8, 2003 11:25 AM | TrackBack