Friday, January 13, 2012

A few thoughts on interfaith marriage: The ocean refuses no rivers

Lina, a Columbia University journalism student, has come to interview me about intrfaith marriage. It’s actually a break to talk about something other than Occupation for a change. She comes from a city in Russia with a tradition of a place where Muslims, Jews and Christians live together. From a secular Jewsih background, she’s married to an Italian recovering cathoic.(For me, there’s no such thing, you just always are. In ways you don’t even realize. Deepet than what you believe.) She’s got a special interest in interfaith marriages with Muslims, with Muslims seemingly at the center of so much controversy in the western world right now.  
I remeber the marriage where the one partner walked out the day of the ceremony. And the stressed yet beautiful marriage between a Korean Presbyterian and a Bosnian Muslim. The couple had worked out their issues, the parents, well, another issue. 
She asks me if interfaith marriage is good or bad. Doesn’t matter, I say, it’s inevitable. What we do with it makes it good or bad. Why inevitable? Because we live in a word where we live side by side with one another. The other is always right in front of us. And our whole word is increasingly global. Sooner or later, we get curious about the neighbors. Sooner or later, we want to join and make a new reality. It’s the story of civilization. Who thinks they can hold that back is like trying to keep the earth from spinning. Can’t be done.
It’s also good because it challenges each party to wrestle with who they are in the world. What is religious? What is just cultural? What is imoortant to me? What I can’t give up? That’s where it starts. And there are no rules. Each couple is unique. But this much is clear: the more together a couple is on what they want, the more clear they are,  the less problematic the parents will be. 
Planning the wedding ceremony itself is a good  in critical  clarification. And can be the first experience in what makes interfaith partners stronger, having to work through these things together.  But also that any decisions made front end, about children, etc.,well,  you never know how you will feel when you actually face the siuation. For example, the woman                                                                                                                                         who converted to Judaism but feels a profoubd pain when her  a child won't be baptized. It goes beyond the rational to the very depest palces of the heart. 
As for children, yes, basically raise them one way or another. But children  will say they are both. Because they want to feel connected to both  parents And belong to both. And as they grow up, they’ll make their own decisions as to how to live that out. 
All our traditons are just the confluence of everflowing streams and how they have come together at  a paticular  point in time. As Rumi said, the ocean refuses no rivers. 
It’s a good conversation. I rememer how back in the ’90’s I chaired a task force that wrote a pastoral guide for interfaith marriages for the presbyterian church. We were one of, if not the first, to wrestle with Christian-Muslim as well as Christian -Jewish marriages. Remembering what a big part of my life this once was.
Philip, the free lance Wall Street Journal photographer has come to do some portrait shots for their article. For an hour he follows me all around the church, taking different shots he follows me up to the 4th floor where Jason and a crew are hard at work repairing and installing new showers. He’s from Berkeley, knows for now he’s in love with New York City, but knows thay some day he’ll be back to the Bay Area. Another Williamsburg(Brooklyn) kid who loves what he sees at West-Park. 

Occupiers at West-Park

Then its the Associated Press on the line. They’re onto their own story. They’ll be coming tonigt for photos. As this is  becoming more a story, how do we control the narrative? 
Soon it will be time to meet Jane at Starbuck’s for conversation. And then dinner with Katherine. I may well pass on tonight, AP or not. 

The Wall Street Journal article:

The Associated Press:

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