Sunday, July 26, 2009

Helping Interfaith Marriages Succeed

I was just poking around the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life site and found this graphic about interfaith marriages:

June 4, 2009

Early summer is a traditional season for wedding ceremonies in the U.S. Data from the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, conducted by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life in 2007, shows that many marriages are between people of different religious faiths. According to the survey, Buddhists and the religiously unaffiliated are the most likely to have a spouse or partner with a different religious background, while Mormons and Hindus are the least likely to marry or live with a partner outside their own faith.

Marriage chart

Source: Pew Forum U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, conducted in 2007 and released in 2008. Based on respondents who say they are married and respondents who say they are living with a partner. Results for other religious groups are not reported due to small sample sizes. Due to rounding, figures may not add to 100.

1. For mainline Protestants,
evangelical Protestants and historically black Protestants, this category includes marriages and partnerships between people from different Protestant denominational families (e.g., a Methodist married to a Lutheran).

Baha'is are free to marry outside of their faith and many do so. Because the Baha'i community is numerically small, the pool of potential mates (what marriage researchers call a 'marriage market') is also small. Thus for many Baha'is, getting married at all means marrying someone who is not a Baha'i. To the best of my knowledge, there is no data about the success of such marriages vs. marriages where spouses are both Baha'is. Anecdotally however, I have heard that interfaith marriages can be challenging in a variety of ways. I believe that similar to interracial marriages, interfaith marriages have much to teach us about what unity in diversity means at the most intimate level. If this is true, helping interfaith marriages succeed should be an imperative of the Baha'i community. This means that addressing those challenges which may be unique to interfaith couples should become an explicit part of marriage education in the Baha'i Faith.

"A family is a nation in miniature. Simply enlarge the circle of the household and you have the nation. Enlarge the circle of nations and you have all humanity. The conditions surrounding the family surround the nation. The happenings in the family are the happenings in the life of the nation. Would it add to the progress and advancement of a family if dissensions should arise among its members, fighting, pillaging each other, jealous and revengeful of injury, seeking selfish advantage? Nay, this would be the cause of the effacement of progress and advancement. So it is in the great family of nations, for nations are but an aggregate of families" (Abdu'l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity, p. 100)