Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Interfaith Parenting?

Religion driven conflict and culture wars seem to dominate the news cycle these days. What you may not be aware of is the counter-cultural movement of interfaith dialogue and social action. This movement is increasingly being led by a new generation. One example is Eboo Patel's Interfaith Youth Core, based in Chicago. Another is the work of Joshua Stanton, a founder of the Journal of Interreligious Dialogue. Even the process of theological education and training is embracing the principles of interfaith dialogue and pluralism, giving rise to a generation of 'New Interfaith Theologians'.

I believe that interfaith families are also a part of this movement. The Pew Forum on Religion in Public Life has data on the prevalence and patterns of 'mixed faith' couples in the United States:

The U.S. Religious Landscape Survey finds that more than one-in-four (27%) American adults who are married or living with a partner are in religiously mixed relationships. If people from different Protestant denominational families are included - for example, a marriage between a Methodist and a Lutheran - nearly four-in-ten (37%) couples are religiously mixed.

The survey, conducted by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life, finds that people who are unaffiliated with a particular religion are the most likely (65%) to have a spouse or partner with a different religious background. Buddhists (55%) also are likely to be married or living with a partner with a religious background different from their own.

In contrast, the individuals least likely to marry or live with a partner outside their faith include Hindus (only 10% are married to or live with someone of a different religion), Mormons (17%) and Catholics (22%).

Fig. 1
Source: Pew Forum U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, conducted in 2007 and released in 2008.

Among all religiously mixed marriages and partnerships, the most common combinations are Protestant-Protestant, where each partner is from a different denominational family (25%); Protestant-Catholic (23%); and Protestant-Unaffiliated (20%).Fig. 2
Source: Pew Forum U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, conducted in 2007 and released in 2008.

I read an interesting piece recently about a program in New York for children of marriages between Jews and Christians that got me thinking. Check it out:

"Last year, I taught for an organization called Interfaith Community, based in Manhattan. Interfaith Community, or IFC, aims to educate children of Jewish/Christian interfaith households in both of their traditions. It offers an alternative to the familiar "just pick one" route that most of these families are presented with. The couples who sign their children up for classes with IFC are almost always breathless with relief at having found this resource. Religion is important to them. They love each other because of their differences, not in spite of them, and they aren't willing to sacrifice one tradition for the other." (Read the whole thing here)

The implications of interfaith marriage and partnering for how children are raised is something I'm really curious about. As I've said before, if interfaith marriages have a positive contribution to make to our society, then we all have a stake in seeing that they succeed (sadly many of them do not). This is equally true for parenting across faith traditions. We need to understand what works and what doesn't.

I'd love to hear from readers who are in interfaith marriages and have kids. How are you raising your children? In one tradition, both traditions, neither tradition? What have you learned works and does not work as far as interfaith parenting goes?

1 comment:

  1. If you are interested in some new ideas on the interfaith movement and the Trinity, please check out my website at www.religiouspluralism.ca, and give me your thoughts on improving content and presentation.

    My thesis is that an abstract version of the Trinity could be Christianity’s answer to the world need for a framework of pluralistic theology.

    In a constructive worldview: east, west, and far-east religions present a threefold understanding of One God manifest primarily in Muslim and Hebrew intuition of the Deity Absolute, Christian and Krishnan Hindu conception of the Universe Absolute Supreme Being; and Shaivite Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist apprehension of the Destroyer (meaning also Consummator), Unconditioned Absolute, or Spirit of All That Is and is not. Together with their variations and combinations in other major religions, these religious ideas reflect and express our collective understanding of God, in an expanded concept of the Holy Trinity.

    The Trinity Absolute is portrayed in the logic of world religions, as follows:

    1. Muslims and Jews may be said to worship only the first person of the Trinity, i.e. the existential Deity Absolute Creator, known as Allah or Yhwh, Abba or Father (as Jesus called him), Brahma, and other names; represented by Gabriel (Executive Archangel), Muhammad and Moses (mighty messenger prophets), and others.

    2. Christians and Krishnan Hindus may be said to worship the first person through a second person, i.e. the experiential Universe or "Universal” Absolute Supreme Being (Allsoul or Supersoul), called Son/Christ or Vishnu/Krishna; represented by Michael (Supreme Archangel), Jesus (teacher and savior of souls), and others. The Allsoul is that gestalt of personal human consciousness, which we expect will be the "body of Christ" (Mahdi, Messiah, Kalki or Maitreya) in the second coming – personified in history by Muhammad, Jesus Christ, Buddha (9th incarnation of Vishnu), and others.

    3. Shaivite Hindus, Buddhists, and Confucian-Taoists seem to venerate the synthesis of the first and second persons in a third person or appearance, ie. the Destiny Consummator of ultimate reality – unqualified Nirvana consciousness – associative Tao of All That Is – the absonite* Unconditioned Absolute Spirit “Synthesis of Source and Synthesis,”** who/which is logically expected to be Allah/Abba/Brahma glorified in and by union with the Supreme Being – represented in religions by Gabriel, Michael, and other Archangels, Mahadevas, Spiritpersons, etc., who may be included within the mysterious Holy Ghost.

    Other strains of religion seem to be psychological variations on the third person, or possibly combinations and permutations of the members of the Trinity – all just different personality perspectives on the Same God. Taken together, the world’s major religions give us at least two insights into the first person of this thrice-personal One God, two perceptions of the second person, and at least three glimpses of the third.

    * The ever-mysterious Holy Ghost or Unconditioned Spirit is neither absolutely infinite, nor absolutely finite, but absonite; meaning neither existential nor experiential, but their ultimate consummation; neither fully ideal nor totally real, but a middle path and grand synthesis of the superconscious and the conscious, in consciousness of the unconscious.

    ** This conception is so strong because somewhat as the Absonite Spirit is a synthesis of the spirit of the Absolute and the spirit of the Supreme, so it would seem that the evolving Supreme Being may himself also be a synthesis or “gestalt” of humanity with itself, in an Almighty Universe Allperson or Supersoul. Thus ultimately, the Absonite is their Unconditioned Absolute Coordinate Identity – the Spirit Synthesis of Source and Synthesis – the metaphysical Destiny Consummator of All That Is.

    For more details, please see: www.religiouspluralism.ca

    Samuel Stuart Maynes