I am going to piss some of you off and that is just fine with me. If you are involved in an interfaith marriage I want you to know in advance that this may be the kind of op-ed piece that you find to be upsetting.
This is something that I have some issues with. It is not an easy topic to cover, it is not entirely comfortable to discuss and it has a lot of rough edges but is very important. In principle I believe that the most important marriages are those in which two people have a real and lasting love, something that does not necessarily require common faith.
However, just because it may not require common faith, it does not preclude the advantages and benefits of sharing one. But let’s not waste any time with that and jump right in.
My primary issue is with those households who try and raise families that observe Judaism and Christianity. While there may be some intersection of beliefs, the core are not compatible and you are never going to find Jews who believe that the messiah has already come. You cannot believe in Jesus as a deity and still Jewish. It is like being partially pregnant, impossible.
So when you have children and you place them in the position of having to choose what to believe you place upon them a burden that many adults cannot handle. Children do not have the life experience and or critical reasoning to make this kind of decision. It is an adult decision and it is unfair to place it upon them. It is like giving them the option of going to school, you cannot do it.
As a proud Jewish man I am going to be an advocate for these couples to select Judaism as the faith that they raise their children in. But just so that it is clear, I’d rather see the children raised to be Christians than in a household that attempts to merge the two.
This is similar to my position on gay marriage. I see no reason why it should not be legal, but if I had to choose what I consider to be the ideal environment for raising children it would be with a man and a woman. That being said I would rather see children raised in by loving gay parents than a dysfunctional traditional marriage.
Returning to the topic, I recently read statistics that were used by an interfaith couple to try and justify their position on a holiday card business they started. I am going to comment on a few things. I’ll list them next to the line items.
Interfaith marriage statistical tends and opinion poll summary:
– Nearly 1/3rd of all married American Jews have non-Jewish spouses.
This doesn’t say what is being practied in the home. Just filler material – The highest level of intermarraige among married Jews are in the Western states – 42%; the lowest in the Northeast – 25%.
More filler material. – 56 % of Jewish Americans surveyed were supportive or neutral about intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews.
This is a very broad question that doesn’t really address the topic. It doesn’t provide real insight into their feelings, pro or con about this. – 32% of Jewish Americans surveyed believe intermarriage is a great threat to Jewish life.
Only one third of those surveyed were concerned about the potential impact on Jewish life. Very troubling. – 50% of Jewish Americans surveyed agreed with the statement “It is racist to oppose Jewish-gentile marriages.”
This is a knee-jerk type reaction. The issue is not about whether gentiles are good people. They are and many are the finest examples of humanity. The issue is a little deeper and a little more complex.
It doesn’t have to be a case of saying that you are completely opposed to it. The other spouse could convert. Beyond that what is wrong with wanting to maintain the line and connection with a tradition and people that extends thousands of years. What is wrong in wanting to celebrate that, to ensure it’s continuation.
I wonder if these people observe holidays like Thanksgiving.– High Profile British Rabbi Dr. Johnathan Romain of Maindenhead Reform Synagogue has come out to express his support for Chrismukkah.com. On 11/12/04 The London Times quotes him saying: “It is a a very useful way of getting round the delicate religious problem of what greeting card to send a Jewish-Christian couple without upsetting either. The only surprise is that such cards have not been on the market before in view of the high number of mixed-faith marriages in Britain today.”
This is kind of like the statement that 3 out of 5 dentists advise using Trident. How many did they interview? It might have only been 5 in which case it is too small a sample to be significant.
One of the things I enjoy about blogging is that this is similar to holding a conversation in my living room. These argument s may not be very polished and there are likely multiple holes in them, but I am interested in hearing the responses.
This does not have to be a zero sum game and it is not how I view it. I do not look at Jews as being superior to others just by virtue of being Jewish. We have our share of jerks just like any other group.
I think that there are a couple of things that drive my frustration here. I know so many Jews who will fight to free Tibet, who marched to end apartheid in South Africa, but when it comes to their own tradition and background it is as if they are looking at an alien civilization.
Why is it that they celebrate diversity until it comes to their own lives in which they suddenly have to be just like everyone else.